In The 21st Century, To Be A Musician Is To Be An Entrepreneur (Forbes Article)

A quick “pre-read” word:

Here’s an article I found on Forbes.com. The article uses an example (Kolar) to show us a bit about looking at music as a business. One statement from the article I personally disagree with is:

“At this point, don’t bother being a band if you aren’t willing to tour, and by tour I mean minimum 50% of the year,” says Kolar.

It’s great that it’s worked for Kolar, and it’s good advice but it’s not the only way. The point is this:

Nobody can define your music business but you. Being a music entrepreneur is about creating situations where you can use music to succeed. It’s about growing and diversifying what you do.

I’m glad to see articles using the term “Music Entrepreneur”. We are a very entrepreneurial generation and this extends to the arts. It’s not enough to call yourself a musician. Even if all you want to do is play music, you could be:

  1. Touring
  2. Selling your music and merch
  3. Start a Patreon account
  4. Etc. etc. etc.

There’s SO MUCH you can be doing with music. By thinking: “I’m an Entrepreneur” you can unlock more of your potential (which is the whole point of the TME Website!). Up next, the article:

 

In The 21st Century, To Be A Musician Is To Be An Entrepreneur

, Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.

Technology has been a great enabler of entrepreneurship across many industry sectors; one of the latest to feel its disruptive impact is the music industry.

Where previously an artist would have to find a record label in order to gain access to the market, today, with the help of digital technology, business savvy musical creatives all over the world are doing it for themselves.

Paul Pacifico, CEO of the Association of Independent Music (AIM), says: “Artists today are pretty much by definition music entrepreneurs and owner-operated companies, building their businesses and their brands. For them, technology has been the principle driver, reducing the barriers to entry in terms of lower costs and the democratisation of industry supply chain resources, such as production equipment and support services.”

What many music entrepreneurs don’t have is access to funding, and in fact the under capitalisation of music companies is evident at almost every level of the industry, but that could be also be about to change.

“The reality for any startup, in any sector, is working smart, boxing clever, and making best use of available resources,” says Pacifico. “What’s encouraging is that in Europe we are seeing the green shoots of an independent capital market in the music industry, with strong interest from one or two of the larger European investment funds whose expertise is in IP investment. They haven’t historically done music, but want to start that conversation of ‘what if?’”

Until then, music entrepreneurs are boxing clever and seeing results, KOLARS, a California-based band comprising husband and wife team Rob Kolar who writes, sings and produces the material – music spanning multiple genres – and Lauren Brown, the band’s tap dancing drummer.

Having spent his teenage years begging space from the local authorities for weekend gigs in exchange for a small cut, making flyers to pass round school and getting a friend to collect five dollars at the door, Kolar was well seasoned in the DIY approach.

“What we’re doing now holds many of the same principles but on a larger scale,” he says. “Basically, don’t wait for anyone to show up with the carriage, take the reins and drive it yourself.”

Several years – and bands – a few failures and some successes later, the pair launched their current project, KOLARS. They needed capital to build their band into a successful business model, but did not want to be at the mercy of a record label, music publisher or outside investor. In 2014, their decision to bootstrap received an unexpected boost in the shape of an unsolicited email from Hollywood producer Steve Pink asking Rob to score a new TV pilot.

“Lauren thought it was too good to be true and asked me if it was spam,” he recalls. “I said ‘Well I’m glad you have that much faith in me’, but it was real and after jumping through a few hoops, TBS picked up the show, ‘The Detour’, which became a big success for the network and one of the top cable comedies on TV.”

The income the work generated provided a financial catalyst for the Kolars’ plans. “A band needs tour support, a producer, a mixer, they need to press records, produce merchandise, advertise, buy instruments; it is very expensive,” says Brown. “We decided to build the business from the ground up and use our own income to make it happen. We became our own investors, while our growing fan base becomes our emerging investors, as we put the money they spend on us back into the growth of the business.”

Kolar has also invested in crypto currency, in his view, the future of money. He says: “I believe that one day it will be used by the whole world as a means of transaction, and bands and artists who invest in the right coins now will have the ability to fund their art as the market grows.”

Success in the music business is predicated on the relationship between artists and their fans. While the digital space provides multiple ways for music entrepreneurs to promote themselves to a highly engaged fan base, the key to building that engagement is touring.

“At this point, don’t bother being a band if you aren’t willing to tour, and by tour I mean minimum 50% of the year,” says Kolar. “It’s the most authentic way to connect with fans, make new ones, and share an experience that can be fun, profound and meaningful.”

 

Succeeding as a music entrepreneur requires creative talent and commercial awareness, and for many, developing the business acumen is a steep learning curve.

“You make a lot of mistakes,” says Kolar. “We still have merchandise sitting in our garage from previous projects that didn’t last. But I’ve shifted my perspective, and where I used to see those things as signs of failure, I now see them as signs of progress and a reminder of how far we’ve come.”

As technology continues to turn industry tradition on its head and create new pathways to market for a new generation of music entrepreneurs, Paul Pacifico is upbeat about the future. He says: “We are moving away from old world, top down, supply side economics, and music entrepreneurs in the 21st century are using technology to work much more dynamically and creatively than artists in the previous century were ever able to do.”

Follow Alison on Twitter @alisonbcoleman and https://plus.google.com/+AlisonColeman/posts

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November Announcements

Hello, I hope your having a great week so far.

I wanted to take this opportunity to reach out and let you know of some exciting things that are going on with myself, the Music Entrepreneur Blog, and by extension, yourself!

First off, as of this week I am creating and sticking to a schedule that will see new articles released twice a week.

1. Scheduling:

On Tuesdays: On Tuesdays I will be releasing informative articles such as the content you have become used to seeing on the TME Blog. This means more information and content about succeeding as a professional musician.

On Fridays: Every Friday I will be featuring a new Artist (Starting with the talented Delon Om, featuring this Friday). I love finding artists that are working hard to succeed with music. There are so many different ways of doing things and it is by opening our minds and learning new things that we can truly be inspired and expand our horizons. On top of celebrating these individuals I will be highlighting specific strategies and strengths exemplified by my featured artists so that we can all learn from what has made them successful in their own ways.

Consistency is key and so I am committing myself to this schedule to ensure the greatest amount of growth possible for all TME followers.

2. New (powerful) Content:

I’ve been hard at work playing gigs and settling back into life at home in Canada. I would have to say that my main area of focus has to this point been to teach you how to find performance gigs and students to teach. Being a music entrepreneur is SO much more than that though.

Since arriving home I’ve begun new partnerships co-writing and recording with several artists, am playing bigger and better gigs, and am partnering up with several companies to increase the range of content I am qualified to provide you with. The whole concept of being a “Music Entrepreneur” is evolving as I go and is growing to include many more opportunities that I did not see happening during TME’s first year. This includes me working with Long and McQuade music store to give in-store seminars about succeeding with music. It also includes me doing all kinds of other random things such as partnering with Uber to find success as a full-time musician. The sky really is the limit for us and the content coming in the next few months will truly help you step up your game and live the life of an artist. You will be your own boss! I can’t wait.

3. The YouTube Channel timeline:

The TME YouTube Channel which I have been discussing for some time now is almost ready to launch. I am currently filming so that I can have a decent amount of content to browse so we can hit the ground running. You can expect to see this content being uploaded as early as January.

So…

TME is stepping up its game with consistent releases, great new content that will make life as a music entrepreneur more achievable, and a YouTube Channel to compliment the blog portion of TME. I would love your feedback. If there are any challenges you are facing as a musician then please reach out to me. I’d love to incorporate your feedback into an upcoming article and answer your questions. Feel free to comment down below or on the TME Community page.

The future is exciting..keep working hard you are on your way!

Brad

 

What’s been up (Now that I’m moved home)? What’s new? And what’s coming soon?

The Music Entrepreneur blog inspires and educates musicians to succeed as pros.

Hi there music entrepreneurs!

I hope things are going great and that all kinds of doors are opening for you. This truly is such a rewarding field of work to be in if you are able to focus your energy, book new and exciting work, and stay busy.

What’s been up and what’s new?

Every time my life circumstances change I learn something new about how awesome this business is. It’s been about a month and a half (Already, wow) since I’ve moved back home to Toronto from Edinburgh. Although there have been some similarities to the previous chapters in my life, it’s been unlike any other phase of my career as a musician.

It’s been similar because the driving force has to be there. The passion. The do-or-die attitude that it takes to set yourself up for success as a full-time musician. That essence is unchanged, and that’s how it needs to be ESPECIALLY in the early days of finding gigs and forming relationships with colleagues in the “scene”. What’s different is the scene itself.

Since leaving Toronto for Scotland in August of 2015 a handful of local live music staples have closed their doors, unfortunately. An even greater number of venues have begun booking exclusively with centralized entertainment booking agencies. Before I left in August, I found most of my gigs myself or through the network of my music colleagues/friends (i.e. Subbing in and out with other artists/friends, that sort of thing). I also worked with a couple of independent booking agents to fill in the gaps. But now there’s a couple of large companies that have conquered most of the market, making it so less venues are available to perform in unless you can find a way into the agency.

I always felt qualified to tell you about my story and to help guide you because I left the 9 to 5 lifestyle and became a full-time musician in Toronto. I then moved to Edinburgh (as you know by now I’m sure…lol), and was very successful at establishing myself and thriving within the local music scene as well as the private music scene (playing weddings, hotels, birthdays, and even playing for the Royal Marines). I’ve learned so much from all of this and now I’m learning that my “Music Entrepreneur” idea is still evolving to encompass a new range of experiences. It’s my hope that you will benefit from these new lessons I’m learning.

What Now?

I’ve been as busy as ever, not only learning but also setting myself up for a new kind of success with playing live shows. I’ve managed to be hired by the large booking agencies in Toronto that I was talking about before. By keeping in close contacts with my network I’ve managed to open new doors (such as being placed on the talent roster of a wedding booking agency). I’m also looking to colab with other bloggers and influencers to get other opinions and viewpoints into this blog. The “Live your Dream, be a Music Entrepreneur” Video was so well received and I’m very proud of it. Thank you so much for liking and sharing it. It’s had an organic reach of about 5k people since I uploaded it about 3 weeks ago, so thank you!

More video content is coming. Look out for my articles to appear as fun and informative vids on YouTube. I’ll also be working with my mate Enzo Boldrini to record videos of us performing our favourite songs (which will be dynamic and rich with vocal harmonies as well as texturized guitar work).

What kind of articles are on the way?

In the weeks to come I’ll be releasing consistent content based off of both my old and my new lessons. I want you to know everything that has worked for me. Perhaps not everything I say will resonate with you but I’m positive a lot of it will, and that you’ll be able to apply a lot of my content to your own life. Some things I’ll be covering:

  1. How to make beats at home (Not everyone is a guitarist or singer..and I wanna give tips to you too)!
  2. How to keep busy during the day as a musician (We have tons of time during the day if you teach, play gigs, etc. Let’s maximize the daytime hours).
  3. Music and Mental health. We’ve seen a few unfortunate examples of musicians succumbing to mental health issues this last year. It’s terrible. I want to talk about managing expectations, mindfulness, stress (including financial), and knowing that there’s always someone to listen to you. You matter and you should know it!
  4. How to book gigs with venues that use large booking agencies.
  5. Increasingly your social media awareness.
  6. How to increase your chances of getting tips at gigs.
  7. A ton more!

The future holds amazing things for us, I can feel it. Believe in it and never stop hustling. You are your hustle, even if it doesn’t seem to be paying off today it will tomorrow. Keep that hunger burning and I wish you the best success. Please share any ideas for articles in the comments section below, or message me direct. I love hearing from you guys so please don’t be shy.

Bradly

Edinburgh Toronto Musician
Back Home In Toronto

 

The first Music Entrepreneur video is coming SOON! Also, prepare for TME to go YouTube and bring you great video content!

The

The “A day in the life of a Music Entrepreneur” Video (Release Date: September 2017) :

So…I moved to Scotland where I lived/travelled for two years…as a full-time musician!

Wow. That was awesome! Can’t believe it’s been two years and the story which was once “a future full of wonder” has been written. It’s had great heights as well as terrible lows (most notably the loss of Cheyne Halliday, a true gentleman and friend whom I miss sorely, every day). So much has happened.

Edinburgh to Toronto
The music entrepreneur flies home

I’m now 37,000 feet in the air flying home on the connecting flight between Rejkyavik (Iceland) and Toronto. The trip from Edinburgh to Iceland was short so I figured I’d try (and failed) to get in a cheeky power snooze. I’m not feeling any benefit from sitting with my eyes closed for about an hour. Regardless of that, I want to put down some words now that I’ve got a few hours to sit, think, reminisce, and reflect on my journey. As I scroll through the photos on my phone many feelings are coming back to me. The wonder of diving into the unknown. The excitement of discovering my surroundings as a new resident on foreign soil. The joys of cheap European travel. The pride I take from having lived by making my music passion work for me. I arrived (In Scotland) not knowing anyone in the music scene and learned that with hard work, being persistent, and being a nice person, it’s possible to set up shop away from home and create a success story. I’m heading home now, engaged to an amazing beautiful woman, excited to be back with my friends and family, and ready to tackle the Toronto music scene armed with all of my new lessons about work and life.

I’ve been quite silent in the last week or two as far as posting blogs here has gone. In Edinburgh the entire month of August is consumed by the Edinburgh Festival. It is the biggest arts festival in the world. There are pop up food stalls and bars left, right, and centre (I wasn’t drunk the whole time, I swear). There’s the “Underbelly”, the “Udderbelly”, and hundreds of other locations to enjoy live music, comedy, dance, theatre, and sooo much more. The high street is lined with buskers playing to hoards of tourists that have made their way from all corners of the Globe. It’s a rare opportunity to mingle with the world and celebrate every facet of the arts. For us musicians who live and work in Edinburgh year-round the Festival gives us an opportunity to squeeze in as many performances into one month as humanly possible. Beyond that even. In summer 2016 I performed over 80 shows and experienced the toughest grind I’ve ever faced in my adult working life. It was physically demanding, I was sleep deprived, I lost my voice, and I loved it. I felt so successful going gig to gig, sometimes playing as many as 4 shows a day. Sure, it was hard. Sure, there were times I didn’t wanna get out of bed or sing. Truth be told though, being that busy with music charged my spirit back up in other ways. Plus there’s nothing about working hard that a little vacation or two in Amsterdam won’t cure.

I did all this while living with my girlfriend (fiancé as of December 2016), making tons of amazing friends, and having the time of my life being a foreigner living as a local. I managed to save up a bit of money and also found the inspiration needed to begin The Music Entrepreneur project. There have been speed bumps like losing my voice and having surgery to remove polyps from my vocal chords, but everything worked together to bring me to this exact moment in time. This August I’ve been super busy once more, not only playing shows but spending a tone of time with the people I care about and enjoying the great city of Edinburgh. On top of this I’ve been packing away my things and getting ready to move home. It’s been hectic. Apologies to all of you for the lack of content on the Music Entrepreneur site during this time.

I always hope that this website can inspire people. That’s why I knew I had to document what I’ve experienced! With the help of the talented and bearded Mike Dodds from G6 Productions I’ve put together a video that follows me on a day in the life of a Music Entrepreneur during August (August 8th to be precise!) in Edinburgh. On that day I played multiple shows, checked out buskers/the Festival, and found time to party with my friends (and much more). I don’t want to give too much away but I do want you to know that the launch of this video marks the beginning of the Video/Vlog/Youtube aspect of the Music Entrepreneur. I’ll keep you all posted about the video launch and will post it to the website here as well as to the new YouTube channel I am building. In the weeks to come I will be sorting everything out and will be uploading regular content to YouTube.

My hope is that the video is entertaining, inspiring, and puts a smile on your face. I want you to understand what life as a Music Entrepreneur has looked like for me (and what it could look like for you). I want you to get to know me better. I love having my stuff read and I think videos will also be a great way to reach you guys with great new content. Also, in kind of a selfish way, I wanted a video to serve as a personal souvenir for myself and my friends. Kind of like a time capsule. Whatever purpose the video serves for you, I hope you are able to take something away from it that will contribute to your enthusiasm and excitement to move forward towards your life as a pro part-time/full-time musician! Stay tuned and expect much!!!

As I write in this moment I’m flying home over the mountains and tundra of Greenland, and it’s pretty magnificent!

The Music Entrepreneur writing in the sky
The Music Entrepreneur writing in the sky

 

 

The One-Two Punch that is Gigging AND Booking Gigs!

Hello! I hope everyone is having a great, fun, and productive summer.

I used to work for a booking agent that will remain nameless. This guy would show up at the venue, where he booked my buddy and I in as a duo to pay us $200.00CAD, in person. We found out from the bartender that he was paid $300.00 and taking a 33% cut from the budget as his booking fee. We didn’t like that number and neither did the bar. This person ended up being fired as the booker because of this and my mate took over from him. The venue was able to lower the budget and artists were able to be paid more. That’s a win-win I’d say, plus the shady booking agent lost his job at that venue proving that dirty practices will only hurt you in the long run. This story is quite relevant to today’s article.

Today I want to talk about playing shows AND being a booking agent. Being really good at playing live gigs gives you an exclusive opportunity to be the person in charge of booking talent into that venue. I want to explain how the two “jobs” work hand in hand and I want to discuss the upside of using this strategy. Playing shows AND being a booker can be a one-two punch that really pays off if you’re able to balance both responsibilities well.

Here’s how I fell into it and why I loved it.

I’m a musician first so I don’t consider myself a booking agent, but I’ve done bookings at many venues, so technically speaking I’ve worn that hat and done that job. I never set out to be a booker initially. I kind of fell into the position because I had pitched my music services to a venue in Toronto and was successfully hired on. The venue did not previously offer live music so I was laying the foundation for that venue’s live music initiative. After playing my first gig there I received rave reviews from both staff and guests alike and I was asked how often I could return to play. I was pretty busy at the time and so I couldn’t offer them more than one or two shows a month. I have a ton of friends that are great musicians however so I told the manager that I can book artists in to play on days I couldn’t make it. They liked how I did business and so they decided to give it a try and trust me as a music booker. I created a schedule and hired my friends/musician colleagues from the Toronto music scene and I was successfully booking my first venue. I enjoyed the perks of being a booker so much that finding more venues to book became a part of my overall strategy as a pro musician.

Why be a music booker?

Once I started booking in colleagues to perform for me I realized that there are several great benefits of being the music booker at a venue.

  1. As an artist I could book myself in to play very regularly and so it was nice to have some control over my destiny. There’s no such thing as 100% job security in this business but at least matters were more in my hands. I had no commission to pay to anyone which means I got to keep all the money I was paid for the gig.  There was also no chance of falling out of favour with a booker and being replaced at the venue (getting the shaft for whatever reason).
  2. It pays ($$$)! As a music booker you negotiate a fee from the venue for a music performance. The trick is to get paid enough from the venue to be able to pay the musician/s fairly as well as keep a booking (finders) fee for yourself. If you can book a few venues per week then you can actually make a nice bit of money for it.
  3. You get to employ your friends and deserving musicians. It’s great to be able to employ people you care about and respect. One of my favourite thing about booking a new room is that it expands the music scene and gives musicians more opportunity.
  4. When you scratch people’s backs, they scratch yours. Offering musicians work means you will be on their radar when they have work to offer. Musicians often get offers to play gigs on days that they are already booked up. If you have offered someone work then there’s a good chance you will be high on their list of contacts to offer work to when they can’t do a job.
  5. This is a DIRECT way that YOU can influence your music scene, for the better. When more venues offer great live music it can influence non-music venues to consider offering music as well, to compete with the “new music venue”.
  6. You can gain a reputation of credibility. Having work to offer makes you a valuable member of the scene. Imagine being the person that books some of the city’s best talent into some of it’s best venues! Achieving this would make it even easier to find new work as a booker as your reputation of success would speak for you. This means the better you do the more opportunities will arise, taking you to heights you may still not even realize exist.
  7. You will be able to watch artists you hire and enjoy if you have the evening off or finish your gig in time to catch your hired act’s last set. You can get to know artists that you hired better and you have the opportunity to foster new friendships with musicians you enjoy and respect.

 

How do you go from performer to “booking agent”?

The first step is to find a venue that is interested in having you come in and perform. *Don’t try to be the booker in venues if someone else sent you in to play! That’s a no-no which can wreak havoc on your reputation so keep that in mind!* Find your own bars/restarants/club/etc. and pitch yourself as an artist providing an evening of music for a fee (See the “How-to find paying gigs” article for more info). Get in and do a great job. This means show up early to set up and start right on time. Be friendly, play music that matches the demographic of the venue, take requests, don’t take long breaks. Basically give the best value possible. Think about what other artists do and be the best at it. Be the absolute best you can. The devil is in the details and it’s little things like what I mentioned above and dressing sharp and being an absolute pro that will ensure the venue knows you are on top of your game.

Once the gig is over you can chat with management and get their feedback. There’s a really good chance they will want you to return if everybody likes what you do. Only you will know how to proceed at this point but if you’re interested in booking then let them know that you “can’t play every week as you have other commitments, but you do do bookings and have a great roster of talented reliable artists and that you’d be glad to work out a schedule to accommodate the venue’s needs”. Basically think like a business person. They have a need/want, which is music, and that is the product/service that you provide. That’s the dynamic. They aren’t doing you a favour anymore then you are for them. It should be mutually beneficial.

Simply put, kick ass and then put your businessperson hat on and sell yourself as a booking agent.

Pricing and paying artists

You can underpay your artists if you want to (yikes!). There’s no law against it. After all, artists will agree to a gig or not (for better or worse) based on their own circumstances. That being said you will earn a reputation of being greasy/sleazy and not a good person to work for. On the other hand, paying your artists well and being professional and respectful for them will have the opposite effect of making people want to work with you and work hard for you. Try to ask for a fair rate of pay from your venue.This depends from place to place but I typically aim high. In Toronto I always aimed for $250.00-$300.00 for a 3 hour show (3 sets). If this I’d keep $25.00-$50.00 for myself as a booking fee. Seeing as how many artists will play for $150.00 I believe that paying $225.00-$250.00 is very competitive.

In Edinburgh the British Pound is worth more than the Canadian Dollar so I would charge £150..00 and keep £25.00 as a booking fee.

These are just guidelines to serve as an example. If you can get a venue to pay £125.00 and you take £15.00-£25.00 it is still quite fair as many people would play shows in Edinburgh for £80.00-£100.00.

This is where your experience as a performer comes in handy. You have to know the scene and understand what constitutes a fair pay in your city/area. If you’re offering someone more pay then they would make elsewhere than you can take a bit more for yourself as it was your negotiating ability that made the higher budget available in the first place.

A booking fee of %10 is very fair when all else fails.

But do bookers really deserve a “bookers/finders” fee?

Its might seem like a booker’s job is really easy and that you do all of the work. If that were the case then you could easily wonder “what makes this person deserve a cut?”. The fact of the matter is that without the booking agent being a pro and earning the trust of the venue you probably would not have gotten in to play there. It’s business and the booker had to work hard to gain that trust.

Also when something goes wrong it is the booker that has to scramble to fix the situation, whatever it might be. Booking can be a pain in the arse and so the fee they collect is very warranted as long as they are not extortionate. The booker also has to arrange the schedule and deal with artists cancelling and a wide variety of issues.

They also need to make a living. They are contributing to the music culture in their music scenes and are creating venues in which music can be enjoyed and musicians employed. They definitely deserve our loyalty if they are good to us, find us regular work, pay us fairly, and have our backs in instances where there are problems (A booking agent has to have the interest of the venue at heart, true, but also the interests of the artist). Good bookers know this and show good leadership in these cases.

My challenge to you!

I challenge you to find a venue to offer live music and convert them. Become their music booker and hook yourself up with regular work. Hook your colleagues in the music scene with regular work. Start small and try it out for yourself to see how you like it! Get into this for the right reasons and treat people well and you will go far.  Comment down below to discuss your experience and/or ask for further tips.

Please share and like this article if you’ve found it useful, and please sign up for the Music Entrepreneur Blog to receive more great info and be a part of our growing community!

All the best Musos! I know you can do this!!!!

-Brad

(I wrote this article today (Tuesday July 25) in Holyrood Park, Edinburgh, Scotland. The Feature Photo has nothing to do with booking or playing gigs but the setting was a big part of the mood of my article. I hope this article inspires you like this scenery has inspired me!

 

Why many artists fail at being Music Entrepreneurs and have to go back to work: AVOID THIS!

Lack of talent is not why most artists fail. A bad attitude kills more music careers than anything.

Firstly I want to acknowledge that there are several reasons someone might have to quit music and get a job. I write this article without judgement. One BIG reason I’ve seen many people fail is that they had a bad work ethic or attitude.

When I talk about your work ethic and attitude. I’m talking about your outlook. I’m talking about Professionalism!

Lack of talent is not why most artists fail to succeed as music entrepreneurs! Your talent is responsible for maybe 33% of your success!

I’ve seen many artists come and go in this business (in Toronto and in Edinburgh). It always sucks to see a colleague (especially when they are talented) “hang up their gloves” because they couldn’t make it work. There are different reasons why someone might quite the music entrepreneur career. One big reason I’ve seen many people have to pack it in is a crappy attitude. For whatever reason, whether it’s ego, lack of awareness, or what, I’ve seen and heard of many artists in need of tuning their attitudes. I say tuning because you can fix it Much like tuning an instrument, it isn’t a permanent problem. It involves opening your mind to different ways of thinking, being professional, and giving people the benefit of the doubt.

We are offering services. People and organizations that hire us are our clients!

I’ll use the example of playing gigs. When we are hired by a venue to play a gig we are being hired to provide a service. The bar has chosen us (or a booking agent they trust-whom we are representing at the gig) to play music and create a vibe consistent with what they expect. Our job is to:

  1. Show up on time and with whatever equipment you need ( by on time I mean with plenty of time to spare to set up and be ready to go right away at the agreed start time),
  2. Be sober (Don’t show up high or drunk to gigs),
  3. Play music that matches the setting (Don’t play gangster rap of heavy metal to a crowd of 60-something year olds),
  4. Play music at whatever volume the venue determines to be reasonable,
  5. Be courteous (if someone asks for a request don’t tell them to “sit their ass down”, generally speaking just don’t be a dick to people-staff or guests),
  6. Not take crazy long breaks,
  7. Not drink as if we were at an open bar wedding,
  8. Be flexible and work with the venue wherever able in order to enhance the guests’ experience,
  9. Be reliable (We work for ourselves so your word means a lot. If you say you’ll be somewhere BE THERE, or people will stop asking you to be anywhere!),
  10. Not expect things we aren’t owed (Getting a free drink or two and a meal is great but if you don’t discuss what’s included for playing gig before performing than don’t expect anything. Anything you receive in that case is a bonus and you are playing in a cool venue my friend. Friendly tip: You can ask “…And are a meal or any beverages usually included as well?” when discussing your pricing),
  11. The most important thing: Our job is to realize that the performance isn’t for us. It is for venues’ guests. If the guests are happy then you are doing a great job. If the manager tells you to turn down the volume or play different materiel, then just do that! It may piss you off but PLEASE…exercise control, be professional. It isn’t about how much fun your having or how loud you like the volume. If people aren’t clapping or listening don’t get all pissy and bent out of shape, IT ISN’T ABOUT YOU! The guests are the star of your show. It doesn’t matter if you play the same songs all the time. You chose to be a performer and thats the job. You should NEVER take that out on the guests or staff.

It may all sound anal but in this business the devil is in the details! It’s the collective of little things you do right that add up to make you a super valuable asset that venues will want to hire again and again. On top of that venues are constantly being approached by musicians selling themselves for gigs so you have a lot to compete against. Having a great work ethic and attitude will set you apart and carry you so far in this business.

Don’t have an attitude problem or be a Diva

It doesn’t matter whether you’re booking agent, music teacher, or performer, or whatever else. You should generally be upbeat, friendly, and respectful to everyone. Being a diva and having an attitude problem gets old REAL soon. I’ve know great artists that I’ve booked in to play rooms that I was told to “never bring back” because they had a bad attitude. Issues that caused a venue to turn on an artist were that they gave the staff attitude when being asked to turn down the volume; they refused to turn down the volume (what’s with people and not turning down? It’s so simple, I really don’t get it); they turned up late habitually and didn’t seem worried about it; they were upset with people not listening or clapping and lashed out at the audience (man, that’s just awkward, never go down that path).

If people aren’t listening then just finish the gig, as annoying as it is, at least you got to play and get paid. I’ll usually experiment with my setlist in these occasions. Funny enough people will often start to pay attention to you because you’re having fun and doing your thing. A desperate person is usually pretty easy to spot (whether it’s dating or performing or whatever). Be chill and do you if they aren’t listening.

Having a backbone is ok (even necessary) but know how and when to show it!

Straight up, I’ve told guests to “fuck off” on a couple of occasions. People can definitely be assholes and I’ll be the first to admit it. Just pick your battles wisely. We are people and should never be subjected to abuse, so stand firm. Don’t be shy to let disorderly people know that if they can’t respect you and your space you will have them kicked out. You can be professional about it.

In one instance, for me, the same drunken costumer fell on me multiple times, knocking my mic stand over and killing the song. I warned him every time he danced into my mic stand to mind himself and then he barrelled right into me. I was so angry (getting a mic in the mouth makes me see red, lol). Just a couple weeks ago I remember this really annoying drunk girl that kept asking for the same song I don’t know and started grabbing my microphone. I told her “Get away from me, if I see you again I’m calling the bouncers and you’re outta here”. These times I snapped were at venues where people can get pretty rowdy and the management knows I have to sort out customers from time to time. I knew I had that “leash”, otherwise I would have called over a bouncer/the staff. I knew that the managers trusted me to use my own judgement because I always act professionally and these weren’t “family places”. That context created the difference in my reactions.

Basically you have to use your judgement, but try to be professional and usually the staff will throw that person out or intervene in some way.

We are pretty damn lucky to do what we do. Please don’t shoot yourself in the foot with unprofessional behaviour!

Being easy to work with and having a friendly personality is soooo very important. Don’t be a doormat and don’t take people’s abuse, but also don’t get into shouting matches with staff or customers. It’s all about your attitude and work ethic. Be a professional. Realize that the guest is the star of your show and give them a great night of music and not only will you have a great time too, but you’ll always get called to come back and will be successful!

Why I started the Music Entrepreneur Project (My beliefs and philosophy)

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.

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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.

Bradly

 

Strategies for Reaching People Online with your Original Music (And be paid for it)!

Recording music has become increasingly affordable and accessible in the last few years. This means that it is easier than ever to get your ideas out of your head and onto a proper recording. More people than ever are able to express themselves and create shareable audio files. But what happens next? This very much depends on your personal goals and ambition.

I guess what I’m really saying is – it’s great that recording has become easier but the competition to get music out there is heating up!

I will share with you some things I have done to sell my music online using social media while furthering your brand and creating brand ambassadors.

Brand Ambassadors:

A “brand ambassador” is someone who supports you primarily by spreading the word about what you do to their friends, family, and colleagues. They are usually your first customers and are your most loyal fans. They are people from all walks of life that feel a connection with you and the music you create. A great piece of advice I’ve learned over the years for performing is that it’s better to think of the performance as “being for the crowd” (and not for you, yourself). The same is true about brand ambassadors and fans. If you can create a feeling in people that they enjoy and/or can relate with then you will be on your way to finding great people who genuinely love what you do. One great way to connect with these individuals is by using various social media outlets in combination with one another. Be friendly and genuine with people on social media and you will find great brand ambassadors to help you spread your music.

Social Media Outlets

Building a social media presence takes time, effort, originality, creativity, and consistency. You want to have something interesting to say, something useful to provide (such as music or information content), and a fresh and fun spin on how to achieve it.

For example: You are a musician. You use twitter to announce you will live stream your gigs on Periscope/Facebook Live/Instagram Live. You can live stream a portion of your performance to each of these platforms (Perhaps the first 15 minutes of each set. You can usually use the wifi of the venue you are playing in so that you don’t use up your data). You can have pictures taken you you playing that you add to Instagram and you can tag the location and add hashtags for others who don’t follow you yet to find you (A piece of advice, try finding hashtags that aren’t overused. Anything in the millions is so overused that your content will be pushed far down before people can see it ranking at the top of those hashtags). To be creative/stand out a bit try to do something different with your Instagram (such as using a black and white filter on every other picture you upload, to give a pattern effect when people are looking at your profile page). Add people with similar interests and interact with them by liking their posts and leaving comments when you have words of support, advice, or congratulations whenever you can.

That’s one example of how to use different social media outlets to begin a brand and spread awareness of it. But how do you find the brand ambassadors?

Consistent Live Streaming – Periscope

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Consistent live streaming once you have a decently established social media presence that you add to regularly is how I found my brand ambassadors and made money selling my music. I used the app Periscope initially. This was pre Facebook and pre Instagram Live. All I needed was a twitter account which let me log on to Periscope once I downloaded the app from the App Store. From there I would search for people by typing “Music”, or “Guitar, or “Singing” into the search field. The app is super interactive and gives you the ability to chat with people and follow each other.

I started streaming myself as I would play the guitar, sing, and chat with people for around an hour a day. It didn’t take long to gain momentum and I amassed a following of about 3,500 people. I had my most regular viewer who would tune in to watch me play my music and perform at my shows where I also live streamed myself. People loved this feature as it brought them from their homes and into my gigs. I’d make jokes to my viewers between songs and stay interactive with them. “Play Summertime Life!”. My regulars started knowing my songs and started asking where they could buy it. Luckily I have my own website where I have my songs uploaded into a store where people can buy my music. Most do-it-yourself websites (such as Wix or Bandzoogle) have options for uploading your own stuff and selling it. I figured it all out myself and I’m no wiz. If you try and have issues with it then feel free to leave a comment in the “Community” section of this website and I’ll get back to you.

In the first month (after I began selling original tunes) I made about 25 dollars. In the second month I made 50something. In the third month the amount was in the 60s. You can see the trend here. Consistency really was the key. It wasn’t a huge living but these things take time and it grows as you go. For a few short months this trend continued.

In the summer of 2015 I moved to Edinburgh to be with my girlfriend who had moved there to complete her masters degree. I had to change tactics and concentrate my efforts on finding paid gigs to pay the bills. Because of this my online efforts sorta fell by the way-side as my new mission was to conquer the music scene in Edinburgh as much as I could. Lately I’m trying to broaden my goals as a music entrepreneur and am getting back into it. Nowadays we also have Instagram and Facebook which have come leaps and bounds in providing free live streaming services.

For now I’m focussing on Instagram and am streaming live shows and information sessions live from my home in Scotland. I also use Facebook Live to stream to friends of mine and I plan on re committing myself to my personal music brand on Periscope.

Bottom Line

The bottom line is that if you have recorded music, and a place to sell it (Your own website, iTunes, etc) then there are platforms for gaining fans and super fans (or brand ambassadors) who will support you, buy your music, spread the word about you to their friends and family and interact with you regularly. Between Periscope, Instagram, and Facebook Live you have great options for growing awareness of you and your music, cultivating a following, and capitalizing on people’s desires to consume the great work you are doing.

There’s perhaps some things I’ve left out but keep in mind this is how I managed to sell my music online and gain a fanbase on periscope. It’s better to have fewer dedicated fans who care, share, and interact than 100,000 followers that never interact with you. There’s other avenues of spreading your music such as ReverbNation and Band Camp. I’m not too experienced with these (despite having used them in the past). I prefer the live streaming route as I think it’s more personable and interactive.

Best of luck with it guys and remember to PLEASE share this article if you find it helpful. Feel free to comment to add to what I’ve said or suggest any alternative angles I haven’t thought of! CHEERS

Bradly

Steps you can take to be a Pro full-time musician! (Don’t quit your job until you read this).

Hello!

I’m sat in a cafe in Edinburgh with my laptop doing some work. I had a great week of playing shows and finally have two days off, it’s been a little hectic. That’s kinda the goal though, to have a hectic, busy, and fun life making money doing what I love!

At this point in time I play anywhere between 5 and 10 gigs a week. I make all of my current money playing shows which is super cool but was not always the case. When I first started my music career I played shows, taught guitar lessons, did studio session work, and did some music booking as well. I had to diversify myself initially and as I went I narrowed it down the the things I prefer doing, which at the moment is gigging.

I used to work for an insurance company, which I thought was great at first. I quickly learned it ISN’T for me. Spoiler alert** I only lasted there for two months. I spent the entirety of my time there lining up enough work as a musician to quit that job. I have been making a living solely from music ever since. Because of this experience I know how make this transition and I want to offer up any words of wisdom to help others seeking to make a similar career change.

Firstly, it’s important to know that no two situations are exactly the same. This is a guideline. I really do want to give you a solid idea of what “being ready” to quit your job looks like.

Consider your Finances:

The first thing to consider is your finances. Do you have a bit of savings put aside? It never hurts to have a bit of money to fall back on in case things don’t go as smooth as you hope in the beginning. I realize how hard it is to save money and that most people don’t have a bunch of extra cash sitting around. As you still have your current job you can start saving now for this, whatever you can afford helps! Consistency is key here. You need to do an audit of your current expenses. Add up everything from your rent, to cell phone bill, car payments, coffee budget, EVERYTHING that makes up your monthly budget. You need a complete understanding of just how much money you will need to make with music per month to stay afloat. With that number in mind you can create an “Exit Schedule”.

Create an “Exit Schedule”:

Creating an “Exit Schedule” (for exiting your current career) is where things start to feel a bit more real. Drafting a rough timeline for when you hope to begin your life as a full-time musician helps to give your goals more context. Consider how long it will take you to save up your “safety net” (It’s good to have enough savings to carry you for a month or two at least, in a perfect world). You also need to give yourself time to network and begin booking actual paid work. This schedule is meant to be very open ended as you can only make this transition when you’re truly ready so don’t get bogged down with dates. Just try to set yourself goals as you save money.

I.E. By this time next month I want to have 1 gig a weekend and 5 music students. In two months I want to have 2 gigs a weekend and 10 students. In the 3rd month I aim to have 3-4 gigs a week.

Keep the goals realistic and attainable while also challenging yourself to stay within your timeline. Go to open Mics (you can find them by googling your town’s name followed by “Open Mics”. Play and meet the musicians, find out where in town is hiring musicians. You can visit my past “How to Find Paying Gigs” and my “How to find work as a Music Teacher” Blogs to learn more.

Become a Weekend-Warrior

If you can find yourself 3-4 gigs and 5-10 students per weekend (I’ll include Thursday in the weekend as it is a popular night to have live music) then you should be able to start thinking about giving your two weeks notice to quit your current job. Become a weekend warrior, meaning conquer the weekend first. By conquering your weekend you can put yourself in a position to make as much or close to as much money as you were making with your job. This, combined with your savings, should be enough for you to cover your expenses (which is why you need to have a handle on your expenses in the first place). Once you are no longer working at your current job you will have your weekdays free to focus on finding more work and your evenings free to teach more students and play more gigs.

You can speak to venues where you perform and offer your services as a booking agent where you send in musicians in your music network to perform and take a commission as payment for doing the legwork and setting everything up. 5-15% is usually a fair commission rate. You can also let your music colleagues know you are available to play or sing on their recordings and that your skills are for hire. Perhaps you are skilled at recording and producing? If so you can monetize that too.

Start as a weekend warrior and scale up your efforts once you make the transition. Be as diverse as you need, there are no limits and you are the one in charge.

Make the Transition

This is the best part. All of your prep and efforts come together and you quit your job and are now a full-time musician. I really hope that by this time you have been completely honest and realistic with yourself. It isn’t easy and it does take work but if you want it bad enough it is a very exciting path which is more a labour of love than a chore. Save some money, know your expenses, give yourself a rough timeline of goals, start conquering your weekends (diversifying where needed), and quit your job ONLY when you have taken steps to ensure your success.

Positioning

Becoming a music entrepreneur is all about positioning. I’ve met many people trying to make a full-time living that have had to resort to finding other means of making income (such as working in a cafe or somewhere in retail). There’s nothing wrong with that and it is better than falling behind on your bills. The point is with good positioning (considering your finances and preparing adequately) you will give yourself the best chance possible at finding success!

Feel free to browse the other articles on my page that contain more information about being a music entrepreneur. Remember, your music network is so important as you will meet amazing friends and find work opportunities within it. You don’t need to wait to start going to open mics, or to go watch live music and get to know the players in your city!

Good luck! (But with good positioning, luck won’t be too strong of a factor).

You’ve got this! Have fun guys!

Please Like and Share this article if you find it helpful, thanks!

What is the minimum required gear to be able to play paid gigs?

Everyone’s gear varies based on things like budget, personal preferences, and experience. You’ll want to own your own gear as soon as you can. Borrowing stuff from friends is cool, if they are kind enough to offer, but relying on other people for music gear can slow you down (and annoy your friends). Without going broke, here is the minimum equipment you need to be a self-reliant performer:

-Your instrument

-Your PA (This is your sound system. It can be an amp that your guitar and microphone plug into or a full-on PA meaning a speaker and a mixing board/sound desk).

-A Microphone and Mic Stand (Keep in mind the mic clip (Where the mic rests) comes with the microphone. Make sure the clip screws onto your mic stand. If not, you can use an adapter.

-A cable to plug in your guitar (Patch chord/lead cable) and a cable to plug in your microphone (XLR).

Many music stores offer great financing options which can be very helpful for buying gear. This is a great way to use your savings to increase your purchasing power. Its easy to get carried away in music stores though so a word of warning. Try not to overextend yourself. My advice, if you’re on a tight budget at first, is to keep it to the basics. Do you really need 9 different effects pedals for your first solo acoustic gig? Probably not.

If no such options to finance exist in your area, then you may have to just save up the old fashioned way. Checking online can save you some money. Websites like Kijiji, Gum Tree, and Craigslist have some used gear at a discounted rate. Make sure to always plug in and test the gear you want to buy from people you don’t know! (Sounds stupid right? But My roommate and I did that once with a TV, believe it or not!…big surprise, it was a lemon….go us!)

Now gear is a super personal thing. There’s many ways to achieve great sounding live tones. I recommend going to music stores and trying things out. Chat with the people who work there. Going and watching live shows in venues near you is another great way to find gear you like. I often have people ask me gear question at my shows and am happy to assist people when I can.

One key thing to remember is that you get what you pay for, gear wise. You can totally buy a setup using a $250.00 guitar, played through a $150.00 speaker but that probably won’t sound very good. Investing in something a little better will give you great sound (as opposed to being a liability). As live performers our reputation can be made or broken by our sound quality. Here’s a rough guideline on how to find great gear, which is also affordable.

-Guitars: Odds are you already have a guitar. Your guitar may not be right for gigging though. If you do need to buy a guitar for playing shows, then there’s a few things to keep in mind. I highly recommend having an acoustic guitar for gigging instead of an electric. Make sure it is an acoustic that plugs in (a hybrid, acoustic-electric), otherwise, you’ll need some sort of pickup which you can buy in music shops. This will allow you to amplify your acoustic guitar if it doesn’t have built in pickups. I also recommend a guitar with a cutaway so you can get up there and rip solos at the higher frets. You’ll really have to play a ton of guitars to find one that feels right in your hands and sounds great to your ears. I’m partial to Martin acoustic guitars, personally. My DCPA4 Performing Artist Series Dreadnought just laid itself down so nicely in my arms and felt right at home. It sounded great too. At roughly $1,500.00 it wasn’t cheap but there’s a lot of value in having top notch gear. As well as Martins, I think Taylor also makes very good guitars. You can get away with spending anywhere between $800.00-1,500.00 and get a fairly decent to an excellent guitar for gigging.

-PA/Speaker/Amp: If you don’t have a way to amplify your plug-in acoustic then no one will be able to hear it. You also need a way to plug in your microphone. There are a multitude of options available. From Yorkville, in Canada, to Cubes, to Bose, which are everywhere, your music store will have something for you. The first speaker I ever gigged with was a huge Fender combo amp that I could plug my guitar and mic into. This amp had separate volume controls, EQs, and effects for both my vox and guitar channels. My friend Mark lent it to me to get started out and after a while it stopped working (It was really old and needed a part replaced). I decided I would buy a PA next.

I bought a Soundcraft 8-Channel Mixing Board and a Yorkville NX55P 550 Watt, 12- inch, active speaker. The debate about which is better between active VS passive speaker rages on. I like traits of both but decided I’d give this setup a go. Again, do the research and find out which you think will fill your needs better. This setup gave me more than enough power for any room I played as a solo act. It was also beefy enough for band gigs in smaller to mid sized venues. To play larger rooms I would have bought another of the same speaker, a sub-woofer, and a wedge monitor for the band to hear ourselves. At that point, a lot of bigger venues have their own PA setup so it was never really a concern. This PA cost me $1,000.00, with my mixer (which I bought new) costing me $550.00 and my speaker (which I bought used) running me $450.00.I continued using this setup for band gigs and bigger solo shows but my next purchase was my favorite yet.

About a year before I moved to Edinburgh I wanted to simplify my setup and purchased a Fishman Loudbox Mini. I can’t say enough good things about this amp. It packs 60 Watts of very efficient power into an easy to carry speaker in which I can plug in my mic and guitar with separate controls, EQs, and some effects (Reverb and Chorus). Instead of setting up a PA at every show I would just plug into my Fishman speaker and play. The tone is fantastic also. I spent about $400.00 on mine and it has been serving me well ever since. There are 3 fishman amps that make up this series of amps. There’s the Loudbox Mini which I own (LBX 500 – 60 Watts), a mid sized version (LBX 600-120 Watts), and a quite powerful model at the top of the scale (LBX 700-180 Watts). The Loudbox Mini is loud enough for 95% of my gigs, however in the future I may purchase one of the other, bigger models. When I moved to Edinburgh I brought my Loudbox Mini (Which requires a power source) and I left my PA at home. There were a couple instances, in large rowdy rooms, where I wish I had more power, but that was very rare.

 

Try out different things. Chat with other musicians. You will have to look at what works best for you but for $400.00-800.00 you can have a banging sound system with great tone that makes you sound super pro and super enjoyable.

-Microphone and mic stand: I’ll sound repetitive here, I know, but make sure to do research and try out different microphones. You will want a good dynamic mic for your vocals. In your search you may come across the Shure SM-58, the Senheiser E835, the AKG D5, and the Audix OM2. Each of these mics would do the job for someone looking to sing live on stage. The SM-58 is the industry standard, with it’s durability and great tone (especially for rock vocals). Each of these microphones cost roughly $100.00. On top of that you will need a mic stand which costs anywhere from $20.00 to over $100.00. You don’t need a super expensive mic stand but I would aim for one in the $30.00-50.00 range. Sometimes the more expensive ones go on sale and you can find something good at that price range.

Another option, the option I opted for, comes as a kit that includes both a microphone and the mic stand. The Seinheiser E-Pack comes with the E-835 Senheiser microphone which I mentioned above. This is actually my favorite of the pack. I’ve had mine for over 6 years and it is still going strong. I’ve used it night in and night out, on two continents, and it never lets me down. I like the SM58 but I find the E835 to have a lot more presence. I tested the two mics side-by-side though the same PA and noticed the difference immediately. The Senheiser E-Pack is available for $139.99 and has been a beast for me!

Cables/Leads: This one isn’t very complicated. You’ll need patch chords to plug in your guitar and an XLR to plug in your microphone. Make sure to get cables that are long enough. It would be super awkward (and hilarious) to watch someone try to set a mic up on a mic stand and use a 6-foot lead cable into the mixer. Give yourself a few extra feet/metres for comfort and practicality. The cheapest patch chords are pretty cheaply made so I usually go up a level or two. You can also spend a lot on very well insulated cables but to start out there is honestly no need for that. For $15.00-$25.00 each you can pick up a half-way decent XRL and guitar patch chord. I always have an extra of each in my bag in case I play with someone, forget one, or for when one stops working (which is a discovery always made at the most inopportune time).

Let’s add that all up and gain a bit of perspective on the start-up costs for the equipment to perform paid gigs.

The Guitar: Let’s say $1,100.00 (for a very decent starting guitar)

The PA: $400.00 for a Fishman Mini

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Mic and Mic Stand: $139.99 for the Senheiser E-Pack

Cables and XLRs to plug it all together: $100.00

The Grand Total: $1,739.99 (Give or take, remember, if you want to be a pro, you want to sound good!).

For roughly $1,739.99 CAD (£997.00 or $1,289.00 USD) you could have the setup I’ve been using for the past 3 years. For the first of those years I was living in Toronto, Canada and driving to all of my gigs. For the other 2 years I have been living in Edinburgh, Scotland and I walk/take the bus to all of my shows. This setup is portable enough that I can lug it anywhere with me. (Pic of me carrying everything, here in Scotland). This setup is just a guideline as I mentioned. Find what you think works well for you but remember, there’s merit in spending a bit extra to have an amazing setup if you can manage it!

Once you have all of your gear then you can set it up and figure out how to get the best sound out of it possible. At this point you’re ready to start thinking about what songs to play at your shows.

(This is me on the bus in Edinburgh, heading to a gig with all of my gear as mentioned above. I gig multiple times a week with this setup. It sounds great, it is portable, and has been the backbone of my life as a pro performer!).

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Good Luck! 

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