Prior to my graduating high school and, particularly, when my
family and friends realized that I was going to attend college
as a Music Education major and, subsequently, make music
my career, the eternal words of "be sure you have a real job to
fall back on" were forever etched in my mind. As a musician, I
am fairly sure you have heard similar words from well-meaning
family and friends. And, if you have not, you certainly will at
The difference between most people who are in the literary arts,
whether music, writing, acting, art, etc. and people who are not
within these particular areas is that there tends to be a "spiritual
calling," if you will, to these vocations that begins very early in
one's life, culminating into an ever increasing passion over
time. And, this is an element that people who are not involved
in the arts cannot seem to understand.
However, in getting back to the "ace in the hole"/"fallback jobs"
issue, many artists desiring to respect the wishes of their
well meaning family and friends will either attend college and
study an unrelated course, i.e., accounting, engineering, or
take jobs to satisfy others in the interest of eliminating ridicule.
Also, artists who are not confident that they can earn a
satisfactory and consistent income from their chosen art will
often opt for a "day job" that appears more acceptable and as
The caveat emptor of doing so is that the artist often spends
his or her time in misery with the day job that "pays the bills,"
often feeling like a sell-out since more time is often allocated
to it while sacrificing their preferred and desired profession.
As an example, the average performing musician who has a
day job works approximately eight hours (or more), then rushes
home to rehearse with the band for approximately two to four
hours several times per week.
This particular musician often spends the time at his/her day
job desping (even hating) it while imagining how wonderful this
day time would be better spent rehearsing, planning and
charting a music career. Over time, this can become sheer
One of my closest friends, who is an incredible music producer
and who was also a recording artist on RCA Records in the
1970s for several years, is in a similar situation.
After his career with the label ended, he went to college and
majored in Accounting, becoming a Certified Public Accountant
with the Internal Revenue Service (I often refer to it as the
*Inferno* Revenue Service due to its innate ability to often and
diligently issue third degree burns to your bank account).
My friend has spent the past 20+ years or so working for the
IRS, often wishing he would have had the courage to go fulltime
in the Music industry.
Now, at age 56, he is counting down the last remaining days
(897 on the date of this article) until his retirement while often
having relayed to me through the years his regret in having
opted for falling back on his own "ace in the hole" and allowing
it to become his frontline wage earner.
I suppose in having said all of this up to this point, my advice is
for musicians who find it exceedingly and increasingly difficult
to land enough well-paying gigs or to sell enough of their music
to support themselves is to find a "day job" that is still in the
Music industry that will, at least, be a day gig that you can live
with, so to speak, while not causing you major depression and,
ultimately, regret. As such, please consider the following areas
that you may find beneficial:
* CD Cover Design
(I have met a number of musicians and recording artists who
are also gifted artists and painters. If this describes you, why
not use your art skill to provide unique and original CD cover
designs for other artists?)
(If you are a composer and songwriter, of which many
musicians naturally are, you could offer to write, arrange for, or
assign some of your songs to other recording artists. It is my
experience that many musicians often have a great number of
songs that they never intend to use, however, allow ego to
supersede beneficial common business sense. Therefore, why
not put these particular songs that you are likely to never use
personally to good future income-earning use by allowing other
artists to get them out there for you and produce royalty
* Voice/Music Instructor
(Are you a gifted, seasoned or professionally trained singer or
musician? If so, check out area high schools or colleges to
learn if they have artist residency programs that will pay you to
teach in their workshops? You could also contact community
colleges to request to become a part of their Continuing
Education programs to teach your skill. These tend to pay very
decent salaries as well).
* Equipment/Electronics Craftsman
(Do you have equipment building and/or electronics skills? If
so, and you are also a musician, you are likely somewhat of an
expert in sound technology. So, why not create your own side
business while creating your own line of sound products?)
* Equipment Rental/Repair
(Many musicians have a lot of excess sound or musical '
equipment that they no longer use. Why not put this
equipment to generating a side income by renting it out? Also,
if you are good at repairing music and sound equipment, this is
yet another great income that musicians would find useful,
particularly, if your rates are lower than other repair shops).
* Van/Truck Transport
(If you own a van or truck, you can make some good money
transporting equipment back and forth to gigs for other bands)
* Your Own Studio As An Income Generator
(If you have a studio that has more "bells and whistles" than
many or most in your area, generate funds by offering its
services to local recording artists who do not have such. And,
if you can also engineer, you can increase your rates even more).
* Your Record Label
(Obviously, with your own music, you likely have established a
label. So, why not turn it into an even greater money-maker by
signing other local artists who are not familiar with how to
operate a label on their own, or have no interest in doing so?)
* Jingle/Ad Writer For Local Businesses
(Contact local businesses to learn if they would be interested in
your creating unique/original jingle advertisements for them that
they can run on their local radio or cable stations. Better yet,
why not go ahead and create a customized (maybe, humorous)
jingle for a few local businesses, then give it to them on CD for
their review. You are likely to pick up a few accounts this way
* Live Sound Engineer
(Many bands do not have their own sound engineer. Can you
run good sound? If so, why not offer to do so for local bands?
You can even charge more if you use your own equipment.
Also, you can add even more income if you run stage lighting
along with the sound).
* Live Video Recording
(As with the previously mentioned Artist/Painter, I have also
met a few recording artists who are filmmakers and film
producers. So, why not put this talent to use by offering local
musicians the chance to get some video footage from their gigs
that they can use in the future or produce their videos?)
* Band Manager
(Do you run your own band? If so, why not consider managing
another band (or two) from your own local area for a fee?)
(If you have local theatres in your area, another income outlet
can be generated by contacting local producers who may
welcome the opportunity to hire your band's musical services
as background/supporting music).
* Flea Markets
(Why not start a sideline business by picking up some used
musical or sound equipment at repair shops, then re-selling it
at a higher price for a profit at local flea markets?)
* Music Gig Photographer
(Are you good with a digital camera? Then, for a profit, use
your digicam to take live photos of local musicians'
performances that they can use on their websites and in their
* Rehearsal Space Rental
(If you own a decent size soundproofed rehearsal space that
you practice in, or you simply have a space that is vacant, why
not soundproof it and rent it out to other local musicians?)
* Equipment Cases
(Can you build customized equipment cases? If so, this could
be a great line of products as well).
* Recording Studio Player
(If you are a creative or diversified player, consider hiring out
your services for recording artists who cannot play or who are
not as well trained).
* Studio Engineer
(As with the Live Sound Engineer above, if you are an
exceptional engineer, offer your services to local bands in
order to help them get the best sounding product).
* Studio Producer
(The studio producer, often interchangeable with the studio
engineer, is more of a project manager who makes sure that
all elements of the recording process are met and in a timely