Most of us working musicians haven’t had the “luck” to have a wealthy father buy our first record deal, or the “ingenuity” at 17 to sell blunts to pay for recordings, or to be born with perfect pitch, or a booty like J.Lo… AAAYO!!
This isn’t a rant to say that artists with fortune, foresight or natural good looks aren’t talented and didn’t have to still work hard to make it, but rather, it’s a question… What assets or liabilities are in your wheelhouse that you can use to your advantage right away? If you live and breathe music and art, what are you willing to do to “make it”? And what does “making it” mean to you?
For me, it’s very basic: Get paid to do what I love. And I’ve had the incredible luck to be able to do such a thing in an unconventional way, by creating my own weird path through the music industry landscape.
Don’t get it twisted, I’d definitely hit up my fam for money if they had any, but back in the day, we were literally in line for government cheese (yes, it’s a real thing). We weren’t crazy rich Asians, much less, rich whites! We were crazy, but that’s besides the point…
It does take money, however, to make money. We as artists aren’t paying attention to what we have, to LEGALLY put them to good use for us! (Don’t sell crack, kids…) So with this in mind, here are some practical things you can start doing right away:
Get That Money
• Got a car? Make extra money via Uber/Lyft/Postmates/whatever. Put that into your recording fund.
• Got a spare room or couch? Rent it out on Airbnb or Craigslist, or sublet when you’re on tour.
• Do you already make websites and graphics for your own band? Duplicate your system for other bands and friends for a fee.
• Know your DAWs or have an audio engineering degree? Use Soundbetter.com or Fiverr.com to record, mix, songwrite, sing topline for others.
• Have a music education background? Offer lessons in-between tours, or even on tour! Research online teaching sites like takelessons.com.
• Do cover gigs: Most bands doing cover sets or tribute shows are making great money. Plus, it’s a great way to practice and hone your skills! The Beatles, Van Halen, Pantera, Led Zeppelin, Ed Sheeran did it––are you above the Beatles???
Be Mindful, Live Frugally and Minimally
• Cut down your alcohol, smoking and stupid lottery tickets. If you’re having six drinks a week, that’s over 3K per year! More, if you’re buying fancy fru-fru cocktails for all your Tinder dates (Yeah I’m talking to you...)
• Got a home studio with tons of gear? Make sure to write it off during tax season, or sell your unused gear and instruments on reverb.com or OfferUp.com, or rent them out at fatllama.com.
• Stop buying unnecessary things, or promise yourself to sell some old stuff before you buy a shiny new toy.
• Live light: When you hit the road, you won’t want to pay for public storage, or moving all your stuff to your parents’ house. Less is more in this respect.
Create Time to Practice Your Craft
Driving to my day job in congested Los Angeles traffic, I’d do vocal warmups every morning on my way to work. I still do this on tour every show day, driving cross country. Bonus points: it helps pass the time!
Apps and Shizz:
• Learning: Yousician/MetronomePro/Melodics/Youtube/
• Songwriting: Use voice memos and Siri to mumble out lyrics in the car or on the subway.
• Use the Notes app to write down song ideas in the middle of the night. (For you Android users, I have literally no idea what you do…)
Add Value: Instrumentalists… learn to carry a tune! Many of us hire live musicians who can also sing harmony or chant chorus lines, etc. So while you’re developing your guitar/piano skillzzz, hum along with your scales at the same time. It will also improve your ear training immensely.
• Singers… Don’t depend on others, pick up at least one instrument, learn how to produce your own music, or dance like Beyonce. 😉
Likeability and Trust
Basic hygiene and health/weight are huge factors. People are more likely to trust people who look like they take care of themselves. You may be leaving money on the table if you are disheveled, overweight, have horrible breath, or go psycho and fight the bouncer after three beers. This is not about getting butt implants or lip injections, but just basic physical/mental care. And most importantly… BE NICE! RETURN PHONE CALLS! CHECK YOUR EMAILS! BE RESPONSIBLE! SHOW UP ON TIME! DON’T MUMBLE! NETWORK! (You have no idea how all this impacts your success.)
I worked every kind of odd job to pay for college… One day I actually found myself in J.Lo’s Hollywood house, setting up a balloon drop for her New Year’s Eve party! She was very nice to me. Her one-eyed dog was following me around all day. She doesn’t know I accidentally hit her one-eyed dog with the end of the ladder… in the good eye!!! (aaargh!!!)
Gabe Kubanda is a singer-songwriter, co-creator of the Epic Proportions Tour (now over 700 concerts in three continents), and the Non-Profit EduMusication program, promoting "modern music education" in schools. Eligible artists can submit to tour with Epic on its website.