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Those who make money with their music: how?


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I did what Brandon said: Got good at mixing and now I offer those services to local bands and to a few select VGM bands.

If you're good at what you do, and you know* you're good, then go to local colleges, libraries, bars, clubs and post papers with your contact info and skillset. Note that your rates are fair and negotiable, you work within any budget, etc. Also do the same thing online by posting on social media, forums like OCR, and very tastefully offer your services to bands who you feel could use it. Buy their album and email them "Hey just bought your album and it sounds great! You guys have a unique sound that could really catch on. If you don't mind me asking, what was your production process like?" and then you can slowly suggest that you would love to mix their stuff (it REALLY helps to actually like the music, since you will naturally do a better job).

All you need are a couple of people to hire you before you start forming a repertoire and a reputation. Getting started will be slow and tough, but once you do get going you'll have a good side income, and eventually you'll be able to support yourself if things take off for you.

If you're an instrumentalist your route is different: play in bands and practice till your fingers fall off/limbs explode/lungs combust/throat vaporizes etc. And then start playing with bands to build your chops and get your name out, and then start uploading performance videos on youtube of you playing your own songs, cover songs, giving lessons. Eventually you can start getting into session work and then you can make it as a session musician.

If you're a composer than write music 24/7, put it out for free everywhere you can, make sure your name is on it, get as much exposure as you can and start doing as many projects as you can. Work for little, work for free (for a VERY short time), until you get somewhat of a name for yourself, then start charging a fair rate.

If you want to be more involved with sound design and the technical side of music, learn to program sound drivers in game engines like unity. Learn to implement MIDI into all kinds of programs, learn how to create sound effects and how to program them into a game environment. Most importantly stick with learning how to write good sound drivers and audio environments. Learn how to sample properly and build sample libraries if you want to get into that field.

Everything here takes a LONG time to get good at and a long time to get into professionally, so be prepared to give 100% at all times. From my experience there's no such thing as luck. Get to know yourself, your skills, your talents and your level of commitment, and then get to know other people, as many as you possibly can who are involved in some way with what you're aiming to do.

*knowing means that you have a valid frame of reference and external unbiased factors that give you confidence in your abilities.

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Everything here takes a LONG time to get good at and a long time to get into professionally, so be prepared to give 100% at all times. From my experience there's no such thing as luck. Get to know yourself, your skills, your talents and your level of commitment, and then get to know other people, as many as you possibly can who are involved in some way with what you're aiming to do.

*knowing means that you have a valid frame of reference and external unbiased factors that give you confidence in your abilities.

There is luck involved in every career path. You can never do anything that will guarantee you success - you can only do things that might increase your odds. You can't just kick in the door to the boss's office, hand them your resume, list your qualifications, ace the interview and give yourself the job. You can only do your best and hope they pick you out of a sea of other hopefuls.

Every musical success story I've ever heard, like literally every one had this one aspect to it that was more or less beyond the person's control. If that one incident would not have happened, things would have played out very differently. Take Tommy Tallarico for example, he was one of the first super successful video game composers financially. His story is well known. When he was in his early 20s, he packed up his stuff and moved to California hoping to make it in music. He got a job as a keyboard salesman and it just so happened that the first customer he spoke with worked for Virgin and offered him a job testing games. He offered to do the music and soon became their full-time music guy. As I recall, Uematsu actually got a pretty similar start.

But what if that customer didn't talk to him that day? What if he went to a different music store? There are an infinite number of "what if" scenarios here that were more likely to happen. Regardless, if that customer hadn't have met Tommy that day, Tommy would probably just be a cynical middle-aged dude today who'd tell you that making it in music is hard even when your cousin is Steven-freakin'-Tyler instead of driving a Lotus and having an arcade in his house.

I've heard people say time and time again that it's "not luck", but you hear rockstars, composers or whatever who've "made it" tell their stories and I promise you that you will find this one moment in their history that, if it hadn't happened, their career would likely be in a very different spot. I'm not saying they would have necessarily "failed", but they wouldn't be as successful.

If, in your experience, there is no such thing as luck, then you have to realize that your experience is dramatically different from an overwhelming majority of people who've both succeeded and failed alike.

You can network, be professional, be good at what you do and whatever else you want, but where it all ultimately leads to is in the hands of fate - not yours. The same is true of many career paths. Ask most retired people if they really wound up exactly where they hoped and I guarantee that most will probably tell you events didn't play out exactly as they hoped. Sometimes it turned out for the better, sometimes for worse or more often it's a mix of the two.

Making money here isn't really the issue - work hard enough and you'll probably make some money. It's about making enough money or making a career out of it, which is what most people intend to do. That requires hard-work and a little bit of luck. It's possible for careers to be made solely on the latter, but unfortunately, the former ingredient requires the latter to truly go somewhere.

I'm not trying to sound like the discouraging, ultra-realist types I was parodying earlier in the thread. I don't even disagree with your post minus the luck bit. It's just that, if these people we tell "oh, it's all you" when the statistics of how many musicians are able to actually forge a paying career of out this thing say otherwise, we're just blaming people for failures when for all we know, they did what they could with the cards they were dealt.

Edited by AngelCityOutlaw
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Make sure to put out original stuff as well as remixes. If all you do are remixes, how does anyone know you can make your own melodies entirely from scratch? Put out some original albums on bandcamp or wherever.

Also, if you could imagine being hired to create a certain type of music (eg. spaghetti western, tissue commercial), put some of that out there as a portfolio. If you don't show it, how will people know you can do it?

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(So as I began typing this, I got a call and an email about potential work. Go figure!)

A couple of my friends have used this quote, so I don't know who to cite, but I like to follow the rule that "Luck is just the combination of opportunity and preparation". Here's my story:

The first job I got straight out of school being hired at Western CT State University as an adjunct professor of percussion. This is the perfect job for somebody of my education. What was crazy about it is that I got this job not by applying or looking for jobs--rather, I got it in the form of a Facebook message from the professor who is now my superior. It seemed like dumb luck, but it actually could be explained:

First of all, I've been practicing my ass off for the past nine years. In the process I got pretty bad tendonitis, so I took about two years off. After I recovered, I became interested in becoming more of an activist for musicians suffering from tendonitis--especially students. That prompted me to write this article in my blog, which was reposted on a percussion website called DrumChattr.

I got a message from a student studying at WestConn (the school I'm teaching at now) who happened to find this article and asked for advice--he was suffering from tendonitis. I invited him over to have a (free) lesson, specifically for trying to target what he was doing in his playing that could be aggravating the condition. I never taught him again. A few years later, another WestConn student emailed me asking for a lesson--he had been referred to me by the previous student. I ended up teaching a couple lessons to two WestConn students that year.

Meanwhile, I ended up on the sub list at a couple different orchestras and wind bands--specifically, the Coast Guard Band and the New Haven Symphony Orchestra. Once again, that was prepared luck--I took a lesson with the principal percussion of the Coast Guard band, which prompted him to put me on the sub list. One of the other percussionists at the Coast Guard band happened to be the son of the principal percussionists of the New Haven Symphony, and recommended me there when looking for a sub. The principal percussionist of the New Haven Symphony is the primary percussion instructor at WestConn.

So, while getting a Facebook message seemed like dumb luck, it would not have happened without these events. I could have easily screwed it up along the way:

*Not putting myself out there (with my writing and web presence)

*Not offering to help

*Not having busted my ass practicing for nine years and therefore playing/teaching poorly

*Not being a nice person to work with

So my "luck" was simply an opportunity that arose as a result of my preparation. Luck happens all the time--nobody can predict things like these. But with good preparation--networking, practicing, etc--you can be ready for them when they arise.

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