Music is my passion. No matter what I’ve done for a living in my life (from army service, to owning my own home renovation company, and working for an insurance company) my music has always been along for the ride. It’s always been there. There’s no doubt that I’m meant to be a musician and finding out that I could do this full-time was one of the best things that ever happened to me.
Everything stems from this. When I accepted that I could “make it work” with my musical abilities I made it my full-time job to find out how to be successful at this game. It wasn’t an overnight thing. I (of course) had to learn to play my instrument and sing to a certain proficiency, which as a process was years in the making. I needed a support network to encourage me to continue working hard and to get better. It also took that inner flame and desire to excel at something, to drive through the initial pain of learning to play the guitar. I started off with an acoustic which you know is harder on the fingers, especially at 9 years of age.
Fastforward 24 years and here I am in Edinburgh, just shy of a month before my 2 year UK Visa expires and I head back home to Toronto. It’s been such an unreal experience moving here (to be with my fiancé) as a musician and starting from scratch without any contacts. There were no guarantees that it would work out but I had been successful in Toronto for 4 years and figured I’d be able to figure it out in Scotland.
To make a long story short (which one day I will lengthen) things took off and I started finding quite a bit of work in Edinburgh. I remember telling my girlfriend that I would be so happy to have 3-4 gigs per week. It wasn’t long before I was playing 5-10 gigs per week, making pretty decent money, and feeling great about the service I provided and the work ethic I had reinforced and developed.
August came and brought along with it the Edinburgh International Festival and I played more than double the amount of gigs I had in my previously most busy month. The promise of being busy and achieving the success I had imagined seemed within my reach. But things quickly took a turn for the worst.
Problems with my vocal chords…damn!
I had vocal issues which had caused me to cancel some gigs. I ended up needing surgery and couldn’t sing for well over a month. I hired singers to sing for me so that I could still perform and make some money, albeit 50% of my normal take. A full recovery was likely but was not a guarantee. This is something the doctors made sure I was aware of. Faced with this prospect I began wondering what I would do if I couldn’t sing anymore. What if I lost my ability to perform my way? With healing taking so long it was easy to feel discouraged, and like things would never get better. I knew there are other things I could do as an entrepreneur, but I love performing!
Chatting to singers I hired to sing for me, it became clear that success really shouldn’t be taken for granted in this business. A few of the people I was working with (who are insanely talented people) were having a rough time making a living off of music full-time. Some had resorted to getting other jobs and others have quit playing music professionaly altogether.
I thought it was a shame, “there’s not enough money in this” I heard a couple of times. It isn’t obvious how to succeed with music. I was fortunate to know many full-time musicians before I started doing this for myself. I had seen a lot of what works and what doesn’t work. I’ve learned about being professional and holding myself to a high standard, and all that jazz. But not everyone had role models to coach them through. When great musicians aren’t able to impact their music scene due to a lack of knowledge about how-to succeed, then I believe that the whole music scene suffers. This is part of a larger philosophy I hold.
“Knowledge is empowering” and “We can be great together”
It was at this point that I thought I could start a website where I provide information based on things that have worked for myself and other artists in the music scenes I’ve been a part of (Toronto, Canada and Edinburgh, Scotland). I wouldn’t say it was easy breaking into the Edinburgh music scene but with determination and a few guiding principals I managed to thrive and stay busy enough to not need a “job” for my entire time in the UK, it’s been pretty badass!
But why do I want to share all this knowledge with you? I’m not in this for the money as there’s no guarantee I’ll even see a penny for what I do here. For me, feeling fulfilled involves making my surroundings better than they were when I first showed up. We should all be doing better, and not at someone else’s expense. There’s enough work in this business to keep us all working. The best part is, the better we all do (turning venues that don’t offer music into music venues, for example) the more opportunities we will all have.
On the other hand, the worse we do (for example; a musician showing up late to a gig, being asked to turn down music halfway through the show and having an attitude about that request) the worse live music will be perceived by venues and their customers. That’s why its important for us to do good work, whether it’s playing shows, or booking gigs, or performing on people’s recordings, or even teaching music lessons. The better job you do, the better us musicians will all be seen. It’s hard to ask for $300.00 to play a performance from a venue with terrible experience dealing with musicians. Your effort matters to the whole music scene!
So that’s my philosophy. Collectively, by doing great work, we create a scene where musicians are respected and appreciated and not looked at through false lenses of old stereotypes. Theoretically, more music venues could then pop up and artists would always have to be learning and putting in an effort to keep getting better. That’s how you put music on the map.
I know it’s philosophical and I do have a very “theoretical” way of looking at the world, but it’s what I believe in. At very least I’m helping people, I hope, and I’m ok with that!
It isn’t easy as you will have to put in the ground work. It isn’t obvious if you haven’t met too many guys or girls doing music full-time. But you CAN do it. Information is half the battle as you will then have to apply what you learn, but I really hope to provide you with priceless information that will give you confidence and reduce the entry barrier to being a music entrepreneur.
If you have any questions, concerns, or are planning to shift towards being a music entrepreneur then feel free to get in touch with me privately. I don’t know everything, because who does, and I’m still learning. If I help you get closer to succeeding with your music passion, than this has all been worth it!!!
Best of luck.