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Ruth Gerson

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Making a Living Making Music Part IV: Quit Your Day Job!

Posted: 01/28/11 03:15 PM ET

In parts I, II and III of "Making A Living Making Music," you have probably started to get the idea that all the work around the work of being a musician or singer/songwriter consumes a lot of time. I haven't yet even talked about radio, YouTube, publicity, promotion, social networking, etc., but I'm getting to it. Quickly, you begin to understand that if you're going to be successful turning a vocation out of your avocation, you're going to have to quit your day job. A working musician, singer/songwriter or the likes thereof -- someone who makes a living from music on her own has to be an entrepreneur.

Be your own boss, so you can make the right choices for yourself when you need to without the threat of losing your job. It is imperative that if you have a sideline while you grow your following, that what you do to pay your rent, your health insurance, car payments, etc., also keeps you thriving as a musician. If you have kids and if you happen to be a single-parent, like I was until recently, then your responsibilities are no joke.

Be as creative about your livelihood as you are about your music. You want your sideline to be a lifeline. For the sake of endurance -- if your job isn't sustaining you mentally and emotionally as much as it is financially, you're going to get worn down and it's going to affect your singing, songwriting and your performances.

There will be times you won't want to tour (hello, new baby) or you can't tour (skiing accident?), there will be times you might as well rob a bank as my friend Uncle Carl has suggested, because you cannot get arrested. Identify and develop other passions that will supply you with remunerations.

I love to teach. I feel a great usefulness and am deeply rewarded by my efforts. I never would've created The Singingbelt, which is the only device that trains singers in diaphragmatic breath support, if I hadn't been teaching my ass off when I decided not to tour. The Singingbelt is a result of my "10,000 hours" teaching. Singingbelt sales financed promoting "This Can't Be My Life," an album I made three years ago. That promotion landed me on The Late, Late Show with Craig Ferguson. Full circle.

If you love to teach and you are talented at it, it is a great job to do as a singer/songwriter and musician. It keeps your brain working with notes and words, so you can stay in the groove to write and practice yourself. However, for some it has the opposite effect, so you may need to explore alternatives.

NYC-based singer/songwriter Bari Koral decided to quit her temping jobs, because she felt like they were sucking her dry. She started playing and planning children's parties and performing at her local children's museum doing improvisational songwriting with kids. This combined two of her passions, kids and improvisation. Inspired and energized, she began writing children's music, while continuing to do her other songwriting work. Together with the director of the museum she began making substantial income playing children's music and she released two award winning albums. Koral is now recognized as "the IT girl in children's/family music" by New York Magazine and Rock and Roll Garden is her best selling album in her twenty year career.

Our efforts to sustain ourselves need to galvanize and intrigue us so we do them well. As Bari says, quoting Abraham Lincoln "Whatever you are, be a good one." Thus, what we do will not only sustain us financially, it will in effect, sustain our careers.

A job that sucks you dry will suck you dry in all areas. It's worth it to strategize carefully. Create a job that takes 25% of the time, while generating four times the income, so you can be free to practice, write, play, promote, market and sell your music.

Do you love hanging out with seniors? Are you great at math? Is it cooking? If you are devising a service business that uses your other talents and keeps you connected to music, consider what service people are lacking and decide how your business can fill the void (e.g. A catering company that matches music with food and provides both, could be a huge success. People like to kill two birds with one stone when they are planning an event.)

Sometimes we are in life situations that make it impossible. But If you can, do something you have a passion for that will create a maximum income in the minimum amount of hours, and allow you to steer your own ship, so you can go the long haul of making a living making music.

 

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