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Musicians: Do not read


zircon
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Maybe the most depressing article about the state of the industry I've read as of late.

http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/display.php?id=8081

Edit: For anyone with a short attention span, it's an article centered around a band named "Hotspur" that has a massive internet presence, tours around (even got on the Warped tour), recorded in a pro studio, and generally works their asses off to promote and hustle, yet end up making nothing, or close to it. And NOT because they're getting screwed by a label. They're indie and they still can't make it, despite lots of fans and generally positive reactions to their music.

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Dude, thanks for the heads up on this. Took a while to read (I'm mostly dumb) but it was a good read (intro was lousy, though).

Anyway, I appreciate this article very much. I'm sending it to all my bandmates and I hope that a lot of people read this.

This has been very similar to my Life for the past 7 years.

Gotta keep on truckin'...

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I think the enthusiasts around the VGM community have a tiny bit more of a chance given the niche VGM has, but even then the odds don't become much stronger. The networking that goes on around here is at least more tangible.

Great read. Tons of facts of a figures regarding the industry, which put things into a lot of perspective for artists trying to break through. Hopefully the article will be of great help to them. It was a very thorough piece.

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I'm going to make the assumption that most of the OC musicians are not live performers. Or at least not playing out regularly.

Pretty much one of the best things I've ever done was enter the Dwelling of Duels competition regularly. It built up my recording chops to the point where I can forgo the traditional studio route.

Recording in the studio and getting a professional sounding recording is fucking expensive. It said in that article that they spent $10,000 on their recordings, and thats totally believable. Time is money when recording, and you can't just shit out a full band recording without taking some SERIOUS time.

Lets say you want to go on tour? Where's that van gonna come from? Trailer maybe? Merch? $$$$$$$$, fuck maybe you have to pay for your practice space and equipment too!

Luckily, I did the poor local musician thing for a long time. Learned a few tricks and avoided a few pitfalls. Close to free pro sounding recordings is a godsend.

Could I do Armcannon full time and live off it it? No. Not currently anyways. However the level of success we achieve on the part time level never ceases to amaze me, and in some cases we make more than some of that bands in that article, with barely any merch sales, and no CD available.

---------------------------------------------

Now I DO know a few professional musicians. One of them is in a hardcore band signed to Trustkill records, has several music videos that have been played on MTV, was on Ozzfest and Warped tour the past couple years. They didn't make money for a long long time. And zero profit came from CD sales. When in California their van was stolen and around $10,000 plus in gear and merch was stolen. So that's tough to recover from. They had merch guys stealing money from them. They were able to sustain themselves when touring the country. I think theyre making money now, finally.

The BEST way to be a pro musician and pay the bills?

Be in a good rock or classic rock cover band. Get about 2-3 hours worth of material and play it well. Pro sounding gear is mandatory.

You can get gigs playing a circuit of bars around your city, paying anywhere from 500 to 1500 a week. You can just alternate bars and cycle them weekly. Built in crowd, no promotion necessary. Then during the week, teach lessons to kids or something. I know a few people who do this, and it's do-able. Soul-less, but do-able.

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What I take away from this is that you need to really need to hustle to make any money, and DON'T limit yourself to the standard paradigm. Without giving specific figures, I can say that I've made almost 1/3 of my take-home cash income this year from SYNTH PRESETS, of all things. I probably spent a total of 20-30 hours on two banks of 64 presets for the Zebra 2 software synth. I paid $160 for the software and use the presets regularly in my own music. I've made my investment back quite a few times over.

At the same time, my total profit from Antigravity is hovering around $0 - since it costs money to manufacture the CDs. THAT project took hundreds, maybe thousands of hours. Yet when all is said and done, this year, my gross income from it is only slightly more than the synth presets. Go figure.

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Just goes to show that the internet is a blessing and a curse to those of use that want to earn money on pursuits other than the typical 9 to 5 grind. Mass communication was never considered fully before it was implemented, and now we have pirates pirating from the poor. Sad times indeed.

But part of the dilemma is that many of the pirates never heard the music before, so even the pirating can work as a form of advertisement. It's hard to find any loyalty towards purchasing music outside of the metal scene though from what I've gathered from floating around various scenes.

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I take it for granted that people have to work regular 9-5 jobs even though they're in a known band. As mentioned, recording in a studio is way too expensive. I suppose gigs don't pay off very well, considering the costs vs the income. There's merch, which doesn't really hit home (at least when it comes to less known bands) unless there's something really catchy about it (at least this is my observation, having worked at my local scene for a couple of years). There's more to selling out than just greed...

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You can get gigs playing a circuit of bars around your city, paying anywhere from 500 to 1500 a week. You can just alternate bars and cycle them weekly. Built in crowd, no promotion necessary. Then during the week, teach lessons to kids or something. I know a few people who do this, and it's do-able. Soul-less, but do-able.

One question: what's 'soul-less' about that? To me, it seems about the same as having a day job, only your day job involves something music-related. KF

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Even without paying for studio time, the amount of time you have to put into gigging in order to make a living is inhuman. We usually made about $200-300 each per gig (a gig often lasting an entire weekend) which is actually quite generous compared to many other bands. The problem is that out here in the middle of nowhere, there's nowhere to gig without driving hundreds of miles in a beat up van that gets 8mpg. We actually lost money on more occassion than one, thanks to the ridiculous price of gas, and not to mention lodging and food. Some places were kind enough to supply us with at least a place to sleep and some grub, but then those places often wouldn't pay us. The only time we'd ever make decent money is playing festivals. Socorrofest would give us $250 each, free food and alcohols, reimburse us for gas, and our bassist didn't live too far away so we could crash at his place if needed. Unfortunately, Socorrofest only comes once a year.

My bandmates and I have given up on trying to make a living like that. Now we just occassionally get together and rock out, and record shit in our DIY studio at NMT.

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I think it's kind of obvious by this point that I'm probably never going to be well-known to the point where I can make original albums for money (though that's really what I'd like to do). The industry is just too damn hard to break into. Ideally I guess the only outlet for me would be (once I get a bit better at it) to find things I could make music FOR. And that could be the end of the line, if I even make it that far, and I know it.

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There's always a cheaper way to do things. These guys are wasting a lot of money.
So true. I also bet that it varies greatly from area to area. In Auburn AL, you often get really good pay. Down here, not so much - Unless it's a frat party. The CD deal they have is good, but I can see where they waste a bit in the other areas.

Plus, what band doesn't have day jobs? Hell, even Dragonforce work day jobs.

By the way Danimal Cannon, I want to hear your Blaster Master mixes dammit.

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This reminds me of last Wednesday, when I went to my Composition workshop:

Prof.: "I've got good news and bad news, fellas! What do you want to hear first?"

Us: "Uh...the bad news?"

Prof.: "You are enrolled to a life of employment as of the moment!"

Us: "Ha, ok...so what's the good news?"

Prof.: "What good news?"

Then we learned that out of every industry that you can get into, video games have now overtaken Hollywood in the "Most Money" category.

Though I remember zircon saying this like, 6 months ago so I already knew...and it's not like you can just waltz up there to the top anyhow...

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All of this is why I hope to teach music rather than attempt to make a living as a performer/composer. A steady paycheck is a very good thing.

If that doesn't work out, I guess I'll move to LA and try to find a big-shot composer who needs an office assistant or a recording studio that needs someone to make their coffee.

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Believe it or not it IS still possible to make a steady income in music, w/o teaching. But it requires a lot of hard work, creative thinking, dedication, and motivation. You have to be willing to diversify. At the end of this year, I believe I will have met my income goal of hitting 5 figures on NOTHING but music-related activities. If (or more optimistically *when*) this happens I will write an essay about it and hopefully use it as a counterpoint to articles like this one, to show how you can still 'make it' non-traditionally.

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Actually, yes, I do. But I'm not a musician, and so this isn't a thread about my job.

Teaching kids music sounds kind of rewarding, actually, which is why I'm puzzled by your description of that kind of a set-up as being soulless. KF

I think he means that it isn't as truthful and sincere as doing your own thing in music, not that the performers are evil or losers. I've always been much happier writing, recording, and performing original music - And if I do a cover, I interpret it my own way and I try to put meaning into my music (thus it would be a rearrangement wouldn't it?). In other words, not mindless music only for entertainment purposes. Playing nothing but songs that have already been heard on Clearchannel radio 1,000 times will make you fall under this category. Playing it safe for people who don't want to hear anything new - It does seem a bit soulless to me.

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I was actually referring to the classic rock coverband as being soulless.

Making lots of money because you play exactly what the bars want to hear ("brown eyed girl", "mustang sally") and making it impossible for original artists to make a buck.

This thread should be called "Musicians looking to make a living profesionally: Do not read"

I'm perfectly content with not making money off of music, I just do it because I love it. As soon as you start putting an agenda behind it, you travel down the road to darkness.

Megadave, I submitted that song maybe 2 months ago. I imagine it has to get posted sometime soon.

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