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How do you make a living off being a musician?

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DeLaVanta “Del”’s Answer

There are many different ways to make a living as a musician. One of the first things to define is how much you need to live. From there you can start to break down different jobs/gigs by how many do you need to do at $X to pay for basic needs.

Often many musicians have multiple streams of income. Gigs, teaching lessons, studio sessions, etc. There’s also long term contract gigs such as cruise ships or stage plays that can be really good money and also loads of fun.

As mentioned above, skill is an important factor. But the type of person you are also plays a part. No matter how good they are, no one wants to work with a d-bag.

Regardless, it is tough and not for the faint hearted. You’ve got to hustle and network a lot. Provide value more than just being a musician.

Nailed it man! Kevin Stiles

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Doug’s Answer

There are two main ways to making money as a musician: teaching and performance.

For teaching, this can be broken into two categories: steady job and private lessons. Steady jobs are things like teaching at a public/private school while private lessons you can manage on your own. You can make much more money and your schedule is much more flexible teaching private lessons, but you don't get any benefits like retirement and health insurance. I made a decent living teaching private lessons 20hrs/week for about 10 years. I would recommend this route even for those will full-time jobs as teaching private lessons can help you become a better musician.

For performance, depends on your instrument. My main instrument is not piano, but I made a decent amount of money playing for things like weddings, churches, and funerals. I also did the nightlife gigging scene for a few years (wasn't super my cup of tea) as a saxophonist, but I knew some people who did that 6-7 nights a week (sometimes multiple gigs a night) who made a decent buck.

A lot of people are saying you have to be an amazing musician to make money, but in my experience, reliability was the most important factor. People aren't going to hire an amazing pianist for church who has a reputation of being late. People aren't going to hire an amazing drummer who constantly misses band practice. People will choose the good-enough musician who is reliable. Build a reputation for being reliable, and you will have a much better chance at a bright future.

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Kyle’s Answer

Del's answer is perfect. When I was young I didn't know that there was lots of ways to make a living even if I never was famous. I thought it was either playing stadiums or else I'd be broke and playing on the side of the road or some awful bar. But like Del said, there's so many ways to earn money and most people who do it full time use several of ways to combine to make a full time living. And yeah, being super skilled is essential, but so is being a nice person.

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Ragon’s Answer

Diversify your revenue streams. Teaching lessons can be a solid consistent revenue stream and something you can do on line during Covid. If you can play and teach multiple instruments, even better. Recording doesn't pay very well, but being a studio engineer can pay well. Even before Covid, musicians really have to hustle several income streams to earn a living. Hope this helps!

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Kevin’s Answer

Hi... I know we all can agree with this..... Practice... Practice... then Practice again. Believe me if you have that god given passion and gift to create or play music.....one will want to practice and continue to be the best they can be. And never settle for being 'good enough'....... you will be 'the best'. That's the mindset. Now go for it!!!! Best wishes K.S.