Creating a Life On Purpose can mean many things to many people. Some chose to pursue financial freedom, some choose to travel, some choose to spend more time with their families. There is no right or wrong, what matters is having a clear reason for why you do the things you do…and then just do them
For me, Colin, my WHY is quite simple. I choose to do what I am doing so I can be a musician.
I know what you are thinking already…
‘Why don’t you just go be a musician then?‘ – inner dialogue
For those of you who might not fully appreciate the trails and tribulations a musician goes through let me see if I can help explain.
Long gone are the days of musicians actually having a fighting chance at a decent living. Creating a life as a full-time musician might be one of the most challenging ways to make money and leaves you with literally not enough hours in a day and not enough money to live off of. Music is at its best when performed live so of course that is the first place that most people want to pursue a living in. Its a ton of fun, stress relieving, social, and well, just the best!
However, when you first start out as a group most musicians succumb to the ‘play for exposure’ scenario. Now to be fair, musicians should NEVER agree to do this as it diminished the value of your work and also sets a precedent that your product or service carries little to no value. But it is what happens and for some reason we all do it.
People are not willing to spend $5 to come see your show or buy your album or some merchandise but will gladly spend twice the amount on a Chocolate Mocha Orange Alpuccino. Its incredibly infuriating to see just how little people are willing to give back to musicians yet depend on it so heavily in their day to day lives. Albums, merchandise and digital downloads are the tangible things that the consumer gets to take home and incorporate into their own lives. Its stuff that people want, use and need but for some reason expect should just be available at no cost.
Live shows are the one thing that helps to support musicians but when you’re collecting gas money it really becomes a challenge making a living wage. For a short period of time I played with a 19 piece Big Band. The music was challenging, the people were supportive and the work was fun. The problem was that I was spending about 25 HRS per week studying to only have the opportunity to gig once, maybe twice a month for a $100 paycheck. Lets say it was a good month and we played 2 shows, that would mean that my income from that stream was $200/100 HRS of study time. That would mean my time was worth $2 per hour. No one would ever accept a day job, no matter how much they loved the work for $2 HR. Its impossible to sustain a living.
Teaching is the ‘day job’ of the average musician. There are many ways that this can be done but typically its done in one-on-one sessions with an instructor educating and directing a student through their own musical journey. Now this is all fine and dandy but the challenges within this is that teaching, as much as some might think, doesn’t really pay that well. I’ve worked for schools that pay $30 HR which sounds great on paper but you might only have 3-4 students at half hour sessions per day. And all too often those students wouldn’t be scheduled back to back, they would be spread out over 5 hours. When I was teaching some days I was literally driving across town to make $30-60 for 5-6 hrs of my time.
Others have figured out that you need to be online. Now don’t get me wrong, there are a few guys and gals out there doing an incredible job of making a living as an online musician. They offer online courses, eBooks, education, gear reviews, Skype lessons and do it at a level that is astounding. But for the average musician who doesn’t have the financial backing or the technical ability to develop a website, create education material for a niche, market and advertise and develop a reputation online this just doesn’t make sense. It takes years to grow in this way and just isn’t attainable for most
Session work is another way to create an income as a musician. Now unless you live in cities like L.A, New York, or Nashville you’re not really going to have a ton of opportunity to knock on doors to ask if someone needs a session player. Luckily, this can be solved with the advent of some incredible technology. Musicians can set up home studios and record just about anything with better results than ever before. The challenge here is that studio gear is INSANELY expensive and even more complicated to figure out.
Personally, I spent about 5 years of my life actively pursuing any and all of these areas to barely be able to make rent payments. Its a struggle and not one that I wanted to live anymore.
There was however a solution this entire problem right in front of me….
During my time with the Big Band I got to know some of the guys quite well. They we’re all retired or semi retired guys in their 40’s, 50’s and 60’s. One gentleman, the drummer of the band stood out the most to me. I actually taught at his school so I got to get to know him well. He was tall, quirky, kind of awkward but also hilarious, foul mouthed and just an all around cool guy. He wore suits, drove a Mercedes AMG, lived in a gorgeous house in an upscale neighborhood and just walked around with a nonchalant attitude towards most things. It was as if he was never stressed about anything and seemed to know something the rest of us didn’t
One night after playing a wedding reception at a very nice Italian restaurant, we both sat down at a table and split a bottle of Limoncello. I’m actually suddenly realizing that this might be where my love for Limoncello came from. While we drank and shared stories of our love for Jazz and all things music I interrupted the conversation with a question. I wanted to know how it was that he was able to make so much money with music and how I could do the same?
He laughed at me and said ‘I’m not rich because I made a living as a musician, I’m rich because I made all my money outside of music’
He continued to explain that a very young age he was in Real Estate. One home turned into two homes which turned into a fourplex and on and on. Eventually he was able to purchase the Heritage Building that his very school was taught from. He had about 6 other tenants that rented from him in that building and he kept his school tucked away in the basement. He literally played the real life version of Monopoly.
He told me ‘No one makes this kind of money as a musician unless you’re Beyonce or something like that. I chose early on to build an empire outside of the music industry so I could spend the rest of my life playing music on my terms. I study what I want, I play what I want, I socialize with who I want, I do what I want. And because I don’t have the stress of collecting a paycheck I get to enjoy it more’
It was in that conversation that I realized that I had this whole thing backwards. My mindset was that I needed to work my way up a ladder in an industry that had about 20 rungs missing in the middle. How was I, or anyone for that matter able to get to the next rung?
One of my current favorite VLOGS is from Bob Reynolds who plays sax for Snarky Puppy. He talks about the importance of having a cushion for yourself when you choose to be a musician. Its the most strategic and best way to really give yourself a fighting chance out there. The world changed, and that’s fine. So I decided that instead of fighting the fact that being a musician didn’t look like it did in the 60’s and 70’s I was going to need a cushion…but what was my cushion going to be?
There are many reasons why Tonia and I chose Network Marketing. Yes, we want to be financially independent, who doesn’t? Yes, we want to buy land and build our dream home. Yes, we want to travel to where ever we want whenever we want.
Mostly, we chose our company because their belief system is exactly in line with ours. We use the products religiously, believe in the organization and can therefore speak authentically to people about why we chose to align ourselves with them. We also chose this company because they give back to the world through their philanthropy work in ways that a company should when they have huge success.
For me there is one more layer to why I chose this industry. Its because it actually gives people like myself a fighting chance! And just like the advice given to me over that bottle of Limoncello, It let’s me make money outside of the music industry so I can do whatever I want inside of the industry without the stresses associated with it.
THIS is my cushion….and it could be yours too!!