Musicians and the New Economy- Ideas to increase income


“I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by a conscious endeavor.” Henry David Thoreau

Having been an occupant of this music world, both as a performer and as a music business person, I’ve seen the music climate change many times. When the economy is healthy, fans flock to bars and restaurants to see new music. They eat, drink, purchase merchandise and support the live music scene. When the economy tanks, fans, understandably, turn fearful. Instead of spending at bars and restaurants and ticketed events, they hold onto discretionary money, impacting the entertainment, food and beverage industries.

Funds for music are often the first items to be subtracted from business budgets in tough economic times. Musicians are well adept at figure out side hustles and alternate sources of income when lean times become part of their economic picture. Side hustles usually include jobs in the bar or restaurant industry.  But these businesses are suffering during this downturn as well, leaving many musicians scrambling for other occupations.

If music is the way you make your living, and the economy is playing havoc with your finances, consider devoting time to self investment. Self investment is not self improvement, although it’s often an added bonus. Invest time in discovering skills that are linked to or lay totally outside your musical gifts. During a relocation and job change three years ago, I found my business floundering. As a former songwriter, I missed the ability to communicate with words to a wider audience than my daily journal. I started writing meditations, which led to the idea of music education booklets targeted at practicing musicians. Three years after my job change,  I self released Fifty Ways to Tour Without Getting in the Van, a 20 page booklet with 50 frugal marketing ideas for bands. Little did I know, the gas crisis would hit during the summer tour season of 2008, making getting in the van to travel to shows costly and many times impractical. People were looking for alternative ways to expose their music to wider audiences-which assured me of selling copies of my booklets. So now in addition to being a music publicist and booking agent, I can add writer to my resume.

As a musician, you’re adept at mulling things over. Think about alternate sources of income during this apocolyptic economy. If you’re besot by the lack of shows, turn your attention to performing for schools, churches or other civic organizations.  Offer to teach a class on songwriting at your local library. Look into providing music for weddings and small events. Play for a intimate group of friends. Write about your music experiences, review cds for publications or start your own publication or e-newsletter about managing as a musician during an economic downturn.

The Scottish geologist and writer Hugh Miller said, “Problems are opportunies with thorns on them.” Make the most of this economic uncertainty by uncovering your hidden talents and how to use them.

Thanks to Trent at The Simple Dollar and Jason at Frugal Dad for inspiring this post.

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