always be creating
I have a very strange “career”. It’s unlike anything I could have imagined when I was first starting out in the music business, studying songwriting at Berklee College Of Music. I imagined, way back then, that at this stage in my career, that I would be in some sort of rock band that, by now, would be attempting to make a comeback after already having had major success in the earlier stages of our career. Of course, that didn’t exactly happen. Like they say, if you want to make God laugh, make plans.
Although my dreams of becoming a rock star didn’t exactly come true, in another way my dreams have come true. You see, one of the reasons I think I was so drawn to the idea of being a musician and becoming a rock star, was that from a fairly young age, I was drawn to the idea of having the freedom to do my own thing and live life on my own terms. I was always opposed to the idea of having a “regular job” and living a conventional life. I wanted to be a rock star because I wanted to be “free” from the shackles of modern society, and I had this romantic sense that the rock star life was the ultimate expression of the sense of freedom I was pursuing. Whether or not becoming a rock star would have actually fulfilled that sense of freedom and adventure I was seeking, well, perhaps I’ll never know.
In some ways I think I actually have more freedom now, living the life of a fairly obscure, self employed, guitarist/songwriter/podcaster/course creator/blogger/marketer/entrepreneur. I wear way more hats than I ever imagined I would have to or need to wear, but for the most part I get to do my own thing and I consider myself enormously blessed.
I had no clue when I first started out that I would need to do so many things to carve out a successful career as a freelance musician. There are many reasons why things unfolded the way they did; the music industry changed, the internet happened, becoming a rock is actually pretty hard, a desire to learn new skills and try new things and on and on. There isn’t just one thing that happened. A convergence of things happened that resulted in my career path becoming the hodgepodge of things that it is today.
On the outside looking in, it probably seems like a lot of work, and in many ways it is. However, after 12 years of being my own boss, I’ve developed a rhythm and flow to my work, that well, works. Through multiple revenue streams I’ve created, all connected to my passion for music, I’m able to live life on my own terms and more or less design my own schedule. Truthfully, I’m not even sure I would want to be a rock star at this point, beholden to some record label executive, that would most likely have a massive amount of control over my music and my schedule. There are huge advantages to being independent. I might not have as big of a house as I could have, had I achieved mainstream success, but all things considered, I’m pretty happy with the way things turned out.
Although I do a lot of different things to create one, full time income, everything I do has two things in common: music and creation. Whether it’s writing a song, creating a podcast, creating a course, or writing a blog post, everything I do, in one way or another, involves music and creating things. Different forms of creation no doubt, but all acts that require a certain amount of creativity to execute.
My mantra over the last few years has become, “always be creating”. Some things I create net me a lot of money, other things very little, and most things are somewhere in between, but I’ve learned that there’s no shortage of ways to create value and earn a living. I figured out a long time ago, that if I wanted to keep putting food on the table, that I needed to keep creating value, in one form or another.
As a musician in our current climate, this way of thinking and approaching my “career” has been immensely valuable and has given me an extra sense of security in a fairly uncertain and unpredictable profession, in what are increasingly becoming uncertain times. By diversifying the ways in which I express myself and create value, I’ve given myself a variety of ways and means in which I’m able to provide for myself and my loved ones.
I’m currently working on a new course, called “Multiple Revenue Streams For Musicians” in which I break down what works for myself and the musicians I know. This is a course I have thought about creating for a long time and I think it’s a topic that is more important than perhaps ever before. If you want to make a full time living as a musician in 2021 and beyond, there’s a good chance you’ll probably need at least a few different revenue streams to draw from. Most freelance musicians and producers I know are utilizing several different skillsets in order to truly thrive.
The music industry has changed and the economics have shifted. What worked 10, 20 and 30 years ago, doesn’t work today. Rather than resisting reality and spending your time banging your head against the wall, it’s much more empowering to face reality, accept the situation, and come up with a game plan the does work. This will likely look slightly different for each of us. We all have different skills and strengths to draw from. You might be able to create a full-time income with just a couple different skill sets, or perhaps three or four. Again, we’re all different.
There are a variety of combinations of skills that, together, could create a more than sufficient income to live off of comfortably. Here are a few examples of what I see working:
But by having a few different skillsets and corresponding revenue streams to draw from, you can protect yourself against any unexpected downturns in any single revenue stream. This is just being smart. This is a strategy that proved really effective for me personally last year when the pandemic hit and almost overnight the income I was generating from playing live disappeared and several other revenue streams slowed down considerably. I was extremely grateful I had developed multiple revenue streams in the years prior to 2020 and would have been much worse off if I hadn’t.
In my upcoming course I’ll be outlining and diving in deep into a couple dozen or so potential revenue streams that are currently available to most musicians. The aim of the course is to help you diversify and become completely self-sufficient as a musician, taking into consideration the current state of the music industry and the very real challenges musicians face when trying to make a living in the music industry.
“Multiple Streams Of Revenue For Musicians” will be available freely to all members of HTLYM Premium upon release. More information coming soon.
8/11/2021 11:05:11 am
I have several friends who have released far more music than me. They are always creating, but consequently, never marketing. Their streaming numbers are minuscule, so after all the creating, they still have day jobs. The vast majority of musicians want to be onstage playing, and have no appetite for digital marketing, or learning about it.
8/11/2021 11:55:56 am
Stay tuned for part 2 of this post called, "Also, always be marketing"
8/11/2021 11:16:50 am
I have had musicians pay me for an hour of consultation about licensing. They are hoping it is like selecting a Dentist or a PRO- find one and you're set . When they find out it is constant pitching to ever-changing targets they lose interest.
8/11/2021 11:48:41 am
It's a lot of work! Definitely not for everyone.
8/17/2021 04:28:07 pm
Great post Aaron, this alone will get me into HTLYM for the following year. I have a few of those skills and a degree but it's not easy doing it full time. All the best
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