Creating music for a living is an interesting concept. First and foremost, you (hopefully) make music with because you enjoy it – its your way of expressing yourself. So when you become serious about it, aiming to make a career out of doing what you love, you want to ensure the above remains the priority. Being a materialistic person is not going to get you very far, because you have to be prepared for the struggle of the journey which will likely play out (hopefully only in the early days).
Monetising your talent isn’t always that easy, even if your music is incredible. Talent is the most important thing, but it’s far from the only thing – and this article concerns itself with those other things.
A big jump from being an isolated artist to sharing and monetising your music is getting a professional set-up. You may feel as though your beloved instruments are good enough, but the music needs to be of a certain, very high standard to the professional ear. It’s not all audio engineering though, simply getting high quality guitar products is part of the fun here. For example, you might buy guitar effects pedals as part of your investment in your music career, and shouldn’t shy away from having a professional music battlestation – the home studio is where it starts for most artists.
On the other hand, you want your own income to be the source of your reinvestment in equipment where possible. Whilst you need a professional-standard foundation, upgrades can come later on when you begin to find a more steady income.
Focus on passion or money?
Making a living whilst maintaining artistic credibility is an internal conflict that you will likely encounter. Deciding whether or not to cater to a clients’ needs that you begin to resent is certainly one way to squash your passion and love for this career choice. If you find yourself in a position where what you’re passionate about isn’t paying as much as something else (i.e. commercial soundtracks), then the answer can be found in diversifying.
The age old truth in finance is diversification – having multiple assets (or in this case, income streams) means that you’re less exposed to risk when one dries up. This applies to keeping your sanity, too. Having some jobs that are purely to pay the bills, and having some that are pure enjoyment is a great way to balance this predicament.
One this will hold true though: if you completely sell out just for the money and become miserable doing so, this is not a viable long-term plan. Your music will become stale, your edge will fade and you will not be able to sustain the lifestyle. Likewise, if you’re going into this career choice for the money, you will not have the artist hunger to be good enough (and will likely be left disappointed when there’s less money to be made that you previously believed.
During the early days, you will likely not have the back-catalogue, contacts and ability to live comfortably. This is the vital struggle that passion where your passion for art will help you through it – but cannot be relied on entirely. You need to learn how to live this self-employed lifestyle, and it all starts with keeping your expenses low.
The biggest expense is rent, so house sharing is a great option. This is actually your chance to find other musicians (so they don’t mind the noise levels), and live in a creative, affordable incubator.