It’s not easy to make $100,000-plus as a musician. But if you are willing to put in the work, go all-in on your career, and accept the idea of trading what you do well for money, the rest is pretty simple.
Did You Become a Musician to Make Big Money?
Be honest. You probably weren’t thinking of cashing in like that when you first discovered your talent. But as you refined your sound, how long did it take to figure out you didn’t want to play for tips the rest of your life?
True, many musicians go through the starving artist phase. It’s called paying dues. Now that you’ve paid yours—and more—earning six figures or more a year sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?
Did I just hear a yes? Great! Read on to find out how you can earn without compromising your principles.
Never Underestimate Yourself.
There’s a tendency in all competitive environments—music among them—for people who weren’t born with an instrument in their hands to shortchange themselves.
Keep in mind, though, just because some people are higher up the pyramid than you, it doesn’t mean you don’t deserve a spot at the top.
Take your talent seriously. Believe in your goals because if you don’t, nobody will. Be your biggest advocate, supporter, and cheerleader—especially when times get tough.
Push yourself and your career to the next level. Play through the doubts and anxiety because if anyone ever asks you how to get to $100,000, you know the answer: Practice, practice, practice.
Dress for Success.
Look sharp, be sharp. It sounds trite in an age when people wear pajamas on airplanes, but it’s true. Style never goes out of style. Whether you’re a teacher or performer, no one will pay attention to you until you look like you’re worth it.
Ask yourself: does Beyonce dress down?
If you want to up your hourly rate or ticket prices, look the part. Not sure how to up your wardrobe game? Check out musicians you admire who are successful and model your style choices on theirs. Don’t be a complete copycat. Everyone wants the real “you” to shine through!
Get Outside Your Regular Environment.
If you haven’t noticed, the pandemic is over. Get up, get out, and get playing!
If you teach, offer your services to a nearby school or senior center. If you play music, play gigs at street fairs, schools, and other alternative venues. These are great ways to find new audiences and make new connections. It will help you make up for some of what you lost in the last two years.
Never Stop Learning.
Music is changing all the time. There’s always something new to learn. And how can you expect to earn more if your skill set is stuck in neutral?
If you didn’t do it while you were locked down, do it now: Learn something new!
Act Like You Earn Six Figures.
Think about it: How do six-figure musicians act?
Some of the words that may come to mind include:
Come up with your own list. Then start practicing the attributes on it.
This is taking the idea of fake it until you make it to the next level: Practice it until you achieve it.
A word of caution: Don’t try to live like you’re earning $100K until you’re actually earning it. Living beyond your means can put you so deep in the hole so fast it could take years to dig out.
Do Something Different.
You can’t change your income until you change up your life.
It’s great to have a plan for how to take your career to the next level. If you’re feeling stuck and can’t come up with a plan, just do something different.
Doing something new doesn’t take a big commitment, but it could inspire a new path into your future.
Consumers will pay a premium for a brand product that enriches their lifestyles.
Do you give people a reason to choose your brand of music over that of other musicians?
If you want to get ahead, your sound and style has to resonate with people who will pay a premium to hear it.
Explore a guide that explains how musicians can brand themselves, so they stand out with their own brand personality.
Sell More Than Music.
Why limit your income possibilities?
Those little value-adds add up and can significantly increase your income. Get creative and think about what you could sell to generate extra cash.
Work Smarter, Not Harder!
Many musicians work themselves to death trying to earn more.
Why not carve out a little time to figure out how you could work less, yet still earn more?
Make it a priority to take time to figure out how to upscale and upgrade your career so you do less but earn more.
Accentuate the Positive, Eliminate the Negative.
They made a song about that, so it must work. People who give off negative vibes will hold you back even if you do all the things on this list perfectly.
It’s time to take all the bad stuff and get rid of it!
Eliminating what holds you back will propel you into the future.
The first part is simple enough. You know its’ time to record your music when:
Now you know when it’s time to record your music. Knowing how to record your music—and do it right—is a little trickier.
This is not your grandfather’s music industry.It’s only been a couple of generations since competent musicians could get together in a garage or do-it-yourself studio, hit the play button on a tape deck, and play. Some of the eventual greats started by producing their own demos well enough to catch the ear of people who made things happen for them.
To get a recording that’s worthy of your talents as a musician and composer you’ll need time in a studio—preferably one that records 24 to 48 tracks—an experienced producer and savvy production team. In short, it’s more complicated and more expensive to create a professional sounding recording fans will find acceptable when they download and listen to it.
When it comes to music producers, there are two kinds: good ones who take your music and make it amazing, and all the rest. A good producer can launch your career. A bad one can leave you with a handful of muddy recordings and take your money.
Most producers freelance and rely on agents to handle fees and negotiate with record companies. The companies for their part try to match producers with artists who can benefit from working with them. However, producers’ fees can price up-and-coming musicians and groups out of the market.
Consider your options.It will take some work and time, but if you look hard enough you just might find your dream producer.
Option A: Top-tier producers will sometimes work with an unsigned artist—you—on spec. That is, they will produce newcomers if they believe they have talent and work ethic to break through. If a producer agrees to work with you in this way, money is negotiable. They may skip the down payment or up-front fee or reduce them in return for payment when you get a record or publishing deal. This could end up being a percentage of future income or royalties rather than a flat fee.
Keep in mind, though, that producer is betting on the future and will want the odds to be in his favor. Unless you are a lock for stardom, you might want to consider Option B, which is:
Find an up-and-coming producer. They have to start somewhere, too, and a newbie who knows his way around the soundboard may be more likely to work with you than a proven professional. Working with undiscovered but top-quality talent—you—is their opportunity to gain experience and build their portfolios. If the partnership clicks, you both will benefit from working with each other.
You’ve tried Option A—a producer who will record you on spec—and Option B—a new producer who is hungry—and neither is working. Time for Option C, which is:
Produce your own music.
You’ll still need to hire a sound engineer to set up recording equipment and handle much of the technical side of a studio production. If you find one with eyes on becoming a producer, you may be on the brink of a beautiful friendship. If you have studio contacts, you might also ask if they have an engineer with producing potential who would want to take shot at producing new talent.
Where to look.Here are some ways you can find the production help you deserve:
If you find a producer or engineer you want to work with, check online ratings and reviews of them or contact references to ensure you’ll be working with someone who is reputable and experienced. While most music professionals are good people, there are some bad actors, and you want to make sure you don’t get involved with one of them.