I’m not a major label artist. I’m unsigned. Independent. You’ve probably never heard my songs. You’ve probably never heard of me.
Most people in my shoes would have quit a long time ago, or officially designated their music as a hobby. Mainly because they don’t make a lot of money with their music.
I don’t make very much money from music. I’ve thought of quitting several times. I have quit several times. The only thing that’s kept me from not quitting is that I love making music, and magical little things always seem to happen to me right when I think I’ve quit making music.
Like the time I performed at an open mic in Houston that led to a couple guys buying some beats I made. I pocketed $500 from that and I needed money bad at the time.
Or the time a music publishing agent in Los Angeles paid me $500 for one of my beats and got a placement for it with an MTV show, which unfortunately did not air and was cancelled. The show was called “I Used to Be Fat” and had the show aired I could have been looking at $5,000 – $10,000 in royalties.
Then there was the time when I was flat broke working a part time job in a restaurant in LA and taking nearly a full college schedule of music courses online, and I got a mysterious check in the mail for $350 made out to my name from BMI, the music publishing company. Turns out they were paying me for someone else with my name, and they paid me up to $1250 before they figured out the error and stopped.
The funny thing is they have not asked me to repay much of the money back even with me offering, just requesting a few hundred dollars, but there’s no one I can even contact at the company to actually pay it back, which I have already tried and offered to do. Turns out they made the most money out of any music publishing company last year too.
Then there was the time when I became voluntarily homeless because I was fed up with a lot of things happening in my life at the time. I just went camping for a while. At the time I was making about $36,000.00 a year and from a laptop computer (I have an internet business).
Regardless of making that amount of money, if you have no official home and are camping a lot, people will get suspicious and believe me, the longer you are homeless the more marginalized by society you start to feel and become.
I was also offered the opportunity to feature some major label artists on upcoming songs (I had to buy the rights and the tracks) which is interesting to say the least and never hurts to have an album with some big names on it.
I’ve had more than a couple downloads of my songs on iTunes in Australia and Europe, and some of my beats have appeared on World Champion martial artists’ instructional and highlight videos. Currently one of my newest songs is being reviewed and shopped around by reverbnation.com for potential placements, so I’m hoping this time I will get some real airplay or TV play.
I bring this all up to say that I have had some success and gained satisfaction from this interesting journey along the way. I’ve become a far better artist than when I started out, and I’ve had some interesting things happen to me that have convinced me on a cosmic level that I’ll never get away from songwriting and producing music, period.
It seems like every time I was ready to quit music, a strange new opportunity or unexpected victory would come my way.
Music is a good thing to make. Music is a truly interesting and uniquely magnificent thing to create and experience. On many levels it’s far more complex than the most sophisticated machinery and software we have today. It hits the human listener on so many levels, even down to a cellular one.
So making music should be a guilt-free thing for you, if you’re going to make it.
Music becomes a guilty activity when you feel like you’re wasting time on something that will never pay off for you. You realize that bills don’t get paid by themselves and relationships tend to work better when you’re not completely broke. People want to have kids and move up in the world and do all that normal human life stuff, and music tends to get in the way (at least in our minds).
Music then starts to seem optional, but let me tell you why it’s not optional for me.
By consistently producing music throughout the years, I have exercised and cultivated a hidden ability in myself that makes me way better at everything else I do. It’s an X factor that gives me a creative perception and awareness in every aspect of my life.
This is helpful for me because I make most of my money from various internet sites or helping companies market themselves online. I need to see the big picture, and the details. I need to come up with solutions based on what’s happening, and what I think will happen a few years from now.
Making music has taught me that there are some things in this life you do because you love to do them and that alone makes it worthwhile. The person you become eventually having made it is usually a unique and authentic person. The people who were experienced performers I met at open mics were often the coolest people around. They were full time musicians who loved to smoke cannabis, drink, and just have a genuinely positive and good time.
Producing art and music especially has given me an awesome approach with how I run my online business, how I get the graphics done, how people respond to what you write and show them. After all, getting someone to like your music can be tough. In the ears of the listener it’s “who are you and why should I care?”.
But make a website for a product or service that people already need and want, and put up a few nice pictures and say some fun things that are educational and help them solve their problem, and people will throw money at you all day like a stripper who works at a club which blows up on Tuesday.
I realized really fast waiting tables that it was killing me as an artist and a person. I saw it as a dead-end creativity-killing job with no real future. I quit my job and got serious about making more money on my own, away from the traditional 9 to 5 (or waiting tables working part time at a restaurant).
I realized that in order to make the music I wanted, I’d have to reach a place financially to secure the time and money for resources. Essentially you realize that working a regular job means a bad trade of all your time and energy for a little bit of money.
It feels great to be able to go to sleep and wake up whenever I want to. It’s nice to be able to say “If I lost my apartment tomorrow, I could just drive across the country until I felt like stopping, because my income is from the internet”.
Now I have lots of time to make music, and I feel obligated to do so and I enjoy it. I look forward to making many more songs, and hopefully some of them will be hits.
Now I have time (and money) to practice guitar. I have time to build a song and a beat piece by piece from scratch, no hurries, and no worries. I don’t have to worry about whether anyone likes my songs any more, because my income is presently quite secure and I do very little work in reality on a daily basis except for clicking a few buttons to ship a product from a warehouse in Chicago.
I don’t have to worry about writing songs that are popular or fit some kind of preconceived mold for a record label executive. I can focus on just making a great song and doing it for fun, for all the right reasons, to make art and express myself in a genuine and artistic way.
I don’t have to worry “will my music ever make me another dime?” because again, money is not a problem.
So really then I have no job and I’m not broke right now. This means I can make music from a place of freedom and liberation, and celebration. I can share my unique experience. I can come from a place of abundance, power, and hope when I write songs.
I can focus on the finer aspects of existence and get past the soul crushing poverty and adversity of a menial job in a crappy economy.
And honestly, the economy, the country, and consumers need new solutions from people like me and you. They don’t need more of the same. This is where the money is to be made, in innovating and helping people. Most traditional jobs will scoff at and punish you for your creativity, not reward you.
No politician or college counselor will tell you that, but I’m telling you.
I’m grateful to finally be able to make music with my time and energy now without having to make ends meet at some high stress low paying job. It took a lot of hard work, sacrifice, confusion, defeat, adulation, excitement, and persistence, but I can finally produce art and make music forever…
for all the right reasons 🙂
Need a concrete idea of how to kill your day job? Watch this guy talk about how he turned his YouTube channel into a full-time job. (For a while there my YouTube channel made enough revenue per month to pay for a car payment for a used BMW)
tags: how to become a music producer, how to make money with music, advice for recording artists, advice for musicians, how to get paid to make music