Money & Music & Music & Money

This is me on the phone, closing deals left and right

Hey there! I've decided to start a blog to share some of my thoughts about living life as a creative person! The hope is that it will connect with and encourage other creative people and I suppose it's the blog that a younger me could have benefited from reading. Thanks for taking a chance on it and giving this first post a read!

So, let's talk about money.

The not so secret dream of every musician is to be making music and making money at the same time. How much money though? A bit of side cash is nice, of course. Enough to earn a basic living would be great, yes, but what a lot of us really want is enough to show our friends and families that we are comfortably well-off, middle class people, so they can either stop worrying about us or stop looking down on us (hmmm, if that’s what they’re even doing—it turns out most people are too busy worrying about themselves to truly care what other people are up to). Of course the very young among us may want more than all of this and so may be aiming for many millions of dollars and much fame. Great! If you don’t buy a lottery ticket you can’t win.

But the *less young* among us have perhaps come to understand that a lottery ticket is exactly what million-dollar-music-success is, and so we’re hoping for that comfortable middle road instead.

Is that road there?

Yes and no. Surprise!

Indeed, there are extremely hard-working, gifted mid-sized artists and bands with dedicated followings who tour for a living. And yes, there are people who are making six figure incomes from music licensing alone. These are super-talented, super savvy people who are generally able to self-produce and crank out songs very quickly. They tend to also do a lot of custom work. They are few and far between and if you’re able to become one of them, I absolutely salute you.

What you are not required to do is buy into the hype. Most people who make money from music licensing also have a few other income streams - they teach, they tour, they perform, they run a business or they do something entirely separate from music, like accounting, dog-walking, bartending or whatever it may be.

It’s ok to be an artist and also work at another job. It’s ok to not have a life that you can sum up easily at a cocktail party. It’s ok if some people don’t get it. If you’re ok, it’s all ok.

Many normal people in regular office jobs will choose to prioritize getting a steady paycheck over doing something risky that they love. You may choose to do something super fun and creative and find that security is more of a struggle. Everyone wants their decisions to be validated and to feel like they did the right thing. The truth is, all the choices are fine.

But one thing to keep in mind, for the sake of your sense of self-worth, is that society’s metric for success in music is pretty warped. Among many non-music people, there’s a perception that if you’re not in the top 0.05% of earners (i.e. famous) you’re somehow a failure. Well guess what, if those are the metrics, you have a 99.95% chance of failing as a musician. Hmmm, ok. Do you judge the painter whose work hangs in a small, local gallery by that metric? For that matter, do you judge your cousin Greg based on whether he’s in the top 0.05% of earners of all engineers? No, because that would be dumb and you’re not dumb.

So don’t let Greg’s passive-aggressive comment get to you. And more importantly, don't let your imagining of what Greg *might* be thinking about you get to you. He may or may not have had some judgy idea about you 2 years ago, but even if he did, it's only because he's a human, thinking the things that an objectively destructive society has conditioned him to think. It's not because there's anything wrong with you.

I’m guessing here, but I suspect that your goal is to lead the least soul-crushing, most fulfilling life that you can. So go make your money however feels the least painful, and in whatever way allows you to cover your expenses and also have time for music. If the music can make the money for you, that’s AMAZING. But if you’re making art and keeping a roof over your head you have every reason to be proud. Don’t let a shallow, capitalist society that is bent on consuming the earth out of livability tell you otherwise.

Just keep making things!

50 views4 comments

Recent Posts

See All