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! 

If this was helpful to you then please share this for others to read! IF you have any questions/comments/anything to add then hit up the “Community Page” of the TME website menu and please feel free to leave your comments. Cheers.

 

A few song ideas to add some Fun and “Classiness” to your Live Shows

Heya there everybody. I want to suggest some songs to play that will get you noticed in all the right ways and that will give your set a bit more of that “classy” and fun edge. This is part of the answer to the age old question of “What should I play at my live shows?”.

If you play live music then I’m sure you put a ton of work into creating your set lists (Right!?). Not all songs are good for every occasion which is why knowing a ton of songs in different genres is so important. A lot of performers ask me how to “find more private party gigs?”, or how to “class up a setlist to be able to play more fancy venues?”. There’s no easy answer to these questions as there are a few different things you need to do to achieve these goals (sounds like a great topic for the future!). One of the best things you can do is to “class up” your set list. What I have noticed is that one particular style seems to trump all the others when trying to do this.

That style of music is Old School R’n’B. Old School R’n’B music is classy, recognizable, upbeat, fun, and most people enjoy it. I’ll give an honourable mention to jazz as playing jazz standards definitely helps to class up a set list. It is a bit more of a niche style though, so we will focus on R’n’B. Songs like “Wonderwall” and “Galway Girl” (and a ton of other songs many of us performers don’t like to play, lol) are always crowd pleasers and thus have their place in our set lists. But if that kind of stuff is all you play you can risk being branded as too “campy”. No offence to people who like and want to play pub gigs but to play in more upscale joints (and book more private parties) it’s great to know some R’n’B. Old school R’n’B is classic and a classic never dies. Wherever I play, I KNOW that “(Sittin’ on) The Dock of the Bay” by Otis Redding is classy guaranteed crowd pleaser.

Here’s my list of 15 songs you could benefit from including in your performance repertoire (click song names to hear the songs on YouTube. Songs will open in a new window/tab):

  1. (Sittin’ on) The Dock of the Bay” by Otis Redding
  2. Let’s Stay Together by Al Green
  3. Sunny by Bobby Hebb
  4. Mercy, Mercy Me by Marvin Gaye
  5. Lovely Day by Bill Withers
  6. My Girl by The Temptations
  7. Cupid by Sam Cooke
  8. Under the Boardwalk by The Drifters
  9. Wonderful World by Same Cooke
  10. Ain’t Too Proud to Bed by The Temptations
  11. Sir Duke by Stevie Wonder
  12. Blame it on the Boogie by Micheal Jackson
  13. In the Midnight Hour by Wilson Pickett
  14. September by Earth, Wind, and Fire
  15. Listen to the Music by the Doobie Brothers

I know that 15 tunes is an ambitious start but it gives you a ton to work on. These songs are a great addition to any night of music. I’ve been told by many of my venues that the customers AND the staff loved how much R’n’B I have in my set list. I’ve even been hired for private parties, over other musicians, for this reason. I know you play a ton of great stuff (stuff I may not yet play and should learn). I know you’re working hard to put on a great show. I just hope this is helpful for you to add some of that fun and soulful “classy” edge to your set.

As always, if you’ve found this helpful than would you please share it on your social media so that others may benefit from it as well!? Also feel free to comment below to add any songs you think I may have missed (or to comment on my list). I appreciate the share and thanks for reading. I’ll have more content coming real soon here at The Music Entrepreneur.

Good luck killing your gigs!

I thought I’d close with one of my favourite Old School R’n’B tunes, enjoy!

 

For my dear friend, Cheyne Halliday.

Friday May 5, 2017

It is with both the heaviest of broken hearts and the deepest of pride that I introduce this week’s Featured Artist:

Cheyne Halliday (Musician, Performer, Recording Artist, Looper, dear friend, beloved son and brother, and so much more.) We lost Cheyne this week as the result of an accident he suffered in Malta. He will be sorely missed.

I’ll always remember walking into my gig at Madogs Club in Edinburgh in April 2016 and seeing Cheyne’s smiling face as I put down my guitar to begin setting up my stuff to play some music. We had met once before (a week prior, at Madogs). He approached me and said “Hey mate I’m a looper too” as he enjoyed what I did with my looping pedal. He told me he would come and see me again the following week and when he actually showed up I snickered to myself, “Who is this shaggy haired blonde kid? He’s quite keen and so friendly”.

Kinda rare for someone to follow through on their word like that, especially someone you don’t know very well. But that was his character. He was so incredibly genuine. He was a hell of a guy and an amazingly talented artist. In no time he became like a little brother to me and I was so proud to see him playing shows and recording his EP “Tempus Neminem Manet”. That was his motto and it means Time waits for no one. As a person he knew this and lived accordingly. By age 23 he had lived such an interesting life. He had spent time in Ireland, South Africa, Scotland, and had sailed across the world working on yachts. Everywhere he travelled he left an undeniable mark on those lucky enough to meet him. His spirit, playfulness, and zest for life was so remarkable and irreplaceable. The world’s “hue” has changed indefinitely, it’s colours and shades are slightly more dull today.

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As we grieve, let’s remember the amazing guy that Cheyne “Shiggy” Halliday was. He was  kind, charming, ambitious, talented, humble, great looking, and for all of the great things he had going for him it never got to his head, one bit. It is clear that he comes from a family of amazing people.

As an artist Cheyne loved using his looping pedal. He had a great energetic live show and wrote fantastic music. He even produced and recorded a song for me and wouldn’t accept anything in payment as he just wanted to help me out. He would always put others first, I couldn’t understand it sometimes. I can get stressed if I don’t get the things I need to get done during my day (and be kind of selfish that way), but not this kid! This was a special, special guy. His legacy will always live in me, in teaching me to be better with people and generally a more open person towards others.

His musical legacy will also live on. His “Tempus Neminem Manet” EP was a finely crafted piece of art that needs to be cherished and enjoyed forever. Cheyne’s EP was comprised of 4 songs (I’ve placed the YouTube links below, click the song name to enjoy it):

  1. Lives to Love
  2. Here it Goes Again
  3. Tempus Neminem Manet (Time Waits for No One)
  4. Best Last Day

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He had many other great songs as well. One of my absolute favourites was “I Just Might”. However Cheyne touched your life I’m sure his impact will be long lasting and profound. This playful soul brought so many of us together. What stood out the most for me was his desire to bridge gaps between people. Whether you were a musician or not, no one was being left behind. He brought musicians together to jam and create together. He brought people who didn’t play an instrument to the jams just to enjoy and share and create a community of great people enjoying music and life together. He was always looking for new ways to spread to love and unity.

As I browsed his YouTube channel today I was appalled with myself to see that I had not yet subscribed to it yet. After everything he did to bring us musicians together as friends, after how much genuine support I’ve received from this great man, I was ashamed that I didn’t think to do something so simple as so subscribe and support Cheyne with everything he tried to do. After all, click over to the “Community Page” I created (top right corner of my website) and take a look at the one sole comment I have there. It isn’t to complain about anyone so please don’t take it that way, but Cheyne was the only person who took the time to go to that page and leave a comment as he knew how much this project means to me. The energy and time that this lad had for people is one in a million, if that. We lost an insanely amazing young man.

I’ve taken that lesson to heart. Support your friends and family in whatever they are trying to do. Create the community that people need to feel a part of something. Be there for each other and not because it will bring you something, but because it will make the world better. Cheyne was wise beyond his years, and I shall never forget him for the rest of mine! All my love lil’ bro! Rest in Peace.

Cheyne’s YouTube Channel

Cheyne’s good friend Micheal started a crowdfunding page to help with Cheyne’s medical treatment. The link below will take you there if you wish to donate. All proceeds are being donated to a charity in line with what it is felt Cheyne would have wanted (From what I’ve heard it involves providing musical opportunities for marginalized youth). Please feel free to get involved with that. Thanks Micheal for setting that up and helping Cheyne’s Family:

Cheyne’s CrowdFunding Page

My deepest condolences to Cheyne’s friends and family.

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Opportunities teaching music lessons

Hello once again! I hope you’re all keeping busy and doing well with your music! So far I’ve been pretty focussed on how to succeed by playing gigs. I want to shift gears here and talk about another opportunity for us musicians to make a living with music. Teaching.

By teaching lessons you can supplement your gigging income as you will most likely have your afternoons/weekday evenings free to teach. If you don’t play shows than you’re free to try and book up as many students as your schedule will allow. There’s pretty good money to be made teaching. It all depends on your ambition.

Specifically, I’m going to talk about 3 different ways to monetize music lessons. You can;

  1. Teach lessons for a music school,
  2. Teach private lessons yourself (freelance), and
  3. Create your own music school (where you can teach and/or hire teachers to work for you).
  1. Teaching for a music school is a great way to teach and not have the headache of finding students. You sacrifice a bit of money this way as the school you work for will most likely take a bigger cut. Many music stores offer music lessons. Also there are companies in most large cities that send teachers to students’ homes, providing their clients with teachers without the inconvenience of leaving home. In Toronto I know of a company named “Stay at Home Music” for example that boasts a roaster of hundreds of students. They even put on a recital every year. Search in your area for the music schools available to apply to and get in touch with them.
  2. You can also freelance. You can put up flyers advertising your teaching services or go the online route and advertise on websites like Kijiji, Craigslist, and Gumtree, depending on where you are. This one is pretty straightforward. You book up as many private students as you can and set up a weekly lesson time at a rate you negotiate with your client. I liked freelancing as the money is better but you have to work harder to get the work.
  3. This option is a more long -term commitment. It usually starts with step number 2. If you can book up so many students that your schedule can not take on any more than you can hire someone to teach for you. This keeps going based on good advertising and word of mouth until you need to hire a third, fourth, fifth…(you get my drift) teacher. It’s VERY important here to do background checks on people you want to hire as you will be liable for any unforeseen incidents. This option has the most risk yet yields the highest payment. I’d advise speaking with a business lawyer and making sure all the angles are covered. You don’t want any unforeseen trouble, you just want a smoothly run business that you can make a living from while providing a great service to your clients.

I used to teach 20something students a week and play shows. Lately I’m so busy with shows that I don’t even teach but lessons were crucial in the beginning stage of being a music entrepreneur. When I quit my job at an insurance company teaching was half (or more) of my income and so I’ll always be indebted for the opportunities it provided me with. You have to do what works for you.

One downside I noticed was that lessons could seem mentally draining, especially with kids that didn’t care about learning. It was quite frustrating. On the other hand I had some great students with which lessons flew by! If you want to know more you should try it out for yourself. It’s not that hard to do, a lot easier than you might think. I remember when I had my first lessons I spent an hour planning for it. When I got to the lesson everything I planned went out the window because every student is different.

In my next post I will talk a bit more about the business aspects of teaching (so, different options for lessons lengths and pricing, and some teaching strategies). This was just a quick blurb to inspire you and open your eyes to another great way to earn a living as a pro musician. It’s great to make money and make a difference (for kids that care enough to try). Teaching can leave you wanting to bang your head off the wall, lol sometimes the struggle is real. Stay professional, be patient, and try to have fun!

As always if there are questions head on over to the community page and leave your comments. I would also love it if you could sign up to my blog to receive notifications of new content! I’m working hard to bring you the best content I can and want to help as many of you as humanly possible, so please share this if you’ve found it useful!

Good luck guys, you CAN teach music lessons and even start your own school! You can live your life as a full-time pro musician. I’m wishing you all the best with it!

Bradly

The new “Featured Artists” opportunity

Share your original music, gain followers, impact the World!

I’m really excited about the new “Featured Artists” feature here at TME. I’m dedicated to furthering opportunities for independent musicians such as yourself and this is just one of the services I am offering, totally for free!

Every Friday morning I will be updating this page (as well as the TME Instagram/Twitter feed) with photos, bio info, and links to one artists webpage and their social media accounts. I want to promote you and all your hard work as a music entrepreneur. Let’s grow this together so that we can be inspired by each other and share our love of music.

How can you be considered for this opportunity? It’s easy. Simply visit the “Featured Artists” page and sign up when prompted by leaving your email address. I’ll scout out the artists that apply and I will select artists that are keeping their social media accounts updated with great content (whether you’re playing gigs, recording music, or what, I wanna see you doing your thing with passion and dedication!).

I’ve chosen a great artist to begin the “Featured Artists” campaign with a bang. I hope you check him out. He’s one of the busiest music entrepreneurs I know and is an insane guitarist! Head on over, sign up, and enjoy the content as it unfolds. One of these weeks I’m sure it will be you up there! I can’t wait to get to know you as artists!

Sign up to be featured

Find Paying Gigs Pt. 2 – Finding “non-bar” gigs!

I’ve been getting some great feedback on my “How to Find Paid Gigs” post. Thanks for reading it and for taking the time to comment. One suggestion I received via Facebook was to talk a bit about finding gigs other than bar/pub/restaurant gigs. There’s many ways to “gig for a living” so I’d like to include some options to play shows that don’t involved playing in bars for hammered patrons. “Freeebird!”. When it comes to trying to find paid gigs you have several options.

I’ll cover a few different things here. If you think I’ve missed something then please free to comment below and leave your two cents!

I’m going to discuss:

  • Busking
  • Playing at the marketplace
  • Caterers/Private Parties
  • Cruise/Hotel/Casinos
  • Municipal Events
  • Further Diversifying
  • Final thoughts: Playing music for the less fortunate

Busking: The feature photo for this blog post was taken in Aug 2015 in Edinburgh during the International Festival. It is a picture of the first time I busked, ever.

Busking may be viewed kind of negatively (by some) but as my time in Edinburgh during the Edinburgh International Festival has taught me-it doesn’t have to. I’ve busked before here and there and it is a great way to make some quick money. It’s not my method of choice for making a living but it has it’s merits.

The secret to making the most of busking is to find a good location with lots of foot traffic being in a “touristy” part of town doesn’t hurt either. Check local laws regarding busking and amplification. Some places allow amps and others do not. Some cities also sell permits to busk so check with your city council to inquire about these (I know in Toronto you can apply for a busking permits to play in subway stations. If you have a good spot and everything is legal then I would say that the other secret to maximizing the potential of busking is to have CD’s available to sell, or a website containing your music that folks can purchase your music from. You can hand out business card with your website on it. You could also have a sign with your web address on it and a note “inviting people to take a picture with their phones”-to have your webpage and social media links saved in their phones.

This is music and performing in it’s most raw form so it is really about the connections you can make with those listening to you. Many people will walk by as people’s lives are happening feverishly around us as we know. Some will stop though, to listen and take part in what you’re offering. Encouraging further connection through social media/CD sales really depends on how you work it. The most successful buskers I’ve seen know how to command a crowd and often say things like “Please everybody move forward, get nice and close here. I don’t want you to be standing close to the traffic, let’s make a circle”. Another thing to keep in mind is the length you play for. If you find a killer spot and other buskers gather around waiting for their turn it’s generally understood that you’ll play for 45 minutes to an hour. After that you go look for another place to play. That’s how it was in Edinburgh.

If you can get one person to stop and pay attention odds are more will follow as it is basic human psychology to not want to be the first to commit to leaving the “comfort zone”.

Marketplace Performer:

Farmer’s markets and other types of marketplaces are a great opportunity to play music for people, make some money, and make some great connections. In Edinburgh I would often play at the outdoor markets on weekends-the Leith Market on Saturdays and Sundays at Stockbridge. I love playing the markets as it is a vibrant setting where you meet tons of people. I love being outside and being around people. I made friends with amazing people from different walks of life by performing at the market.  I also love the energy and atmosphere of vendors interacting with shoppers looking for great food, products, and services. It’s different from a typical bar gig as there isn’t the pressure to play songs you may not like to play. It’s always wise to play mostly upbeat music, but you do have a lot more leeway here than when performing in a pub or restaurant.

Another difference between bar gigs and playing at markets is that typically the markets don’t pay you a fee to play. If you get into this scene and manage to get a fee then good for you, but I always played for tips. It is essentially busking, but on steroids. You play for tips but you are the one scheduled to be there, almost like a featured artist. I prefer this to street busking as it is seen as a bit more “legit” to people. This helps sell more music and to convert more social media followers.

I became a marketplace performer by visiting the market and asking for the manager. I chatted with her about the idea of having me come and play some guitar to enhance the atmosphere further and she loved the idea. It was an easy sell as I did not require a fee and would play for people’s generosity.

Hint: After playing a few songs and getting a few tips I always thank everyone “for their generosity” in tipping me. I don’t know if my gratitude is endearing to them or if I make them feel bad (not my intent lol) but it always works like a charm. I’ll say this a few times throughout the day as there’s a high turnover of people at the market, but try not to overuse it!

Oh and the food at the market is my guilty pleasure and often the vendors are very generous are give you stuff at a discount or free even. Mmmmm paella!

 Learning to make Spanish Paella with my friends over at the Paella tent in the Grassmarket Saturday Market in Edinburgh, 2016. Great people, great food, great fun!

paella

Go visit you local farmer’s markets, flea markets, etc and inquire about providing live music for tips. It’s a great way to make money during the day while meeting amazing people, enjoying great food, and supporting locals venders!

Events/Caterers/Private Parties:

You can contact caterers and offer you musical services. Many caterers have clients that are interested in live music so you are an asset to a caterer. You can allow a caterer to easily reply “I have a guy/girl for that” any time they have a potential client asking about music.  From employee appreciation days for office workers, to Christmas parties, art gallery events, weddings, and tons of other possible events, this is one great way to find work that doesn’t require you to play in bars.

Handing out business cards at live shows (in bars, marketplaces, wherever really) is a great way to book private parties (such as birthdays, weddings, summer BBQ parties, holiday parties, etc). Playing private parties feels very rewarding and flattering as the client chose you specifically for their special event. If you’re friendly, work hard, and care about your clients and their event than you will often be handing out more business cards at these events as well. By nurturing these values it’s just a matter of time until you are receiving frequent calls out of the blue to play more private parties!

Cruises, Hotels, and Casinos:

I’ve never really gone this route but I know a few performers that have. There are agencies that book performers to play on cruise ships and in hotels/casinos (domestically or abroad). I Googled “talent bookings for cruises and hotels” and found a bunch of companies in the industry. Always make sure to do a bit of research on any companies you’re thinking of working with (there are scams out there so beware). This type of overseas work can be great though depending on your circumstances.

If you like to travel, are single, and want to make money and have very little living costs, this opportunity might be right for you. From what I’ve hear you generally play 6 days a week so this is a great way to really improve your playing. From what I’ve heard there’s no rent to pay or food costs and you can make around $3,500.00 a month. Speak with musicians in your music scene (At open mics or on Facebook local music scene pages) and ask for some advice.

Play for the city (Municipal Events):

Visit your city hall/council to inquire about city organized events/festivals. Perhaps the town is planning a Rib Fest in the near future and could use a band. Most towns and cities have a department of recreation and culture. You can offer your services for consideration for upcoming municipal events.

Further Diversifying:

Besides the things I’ve mentioned in this post, you can use your imagination and entrepreneurial flare to think of other places to perform. Schools often put on concerts, why not call around to the different school boards to find out more?

Some daycare centres offer musical stimulation as part of the package to make their daycare centre more alluring to parents. Call around and offer this type of service to day care centres.

You can advertise to groups of parents to hire you to play music for all of their children for an hour.

Do you see where I’m going with this? This is why we must be music entrepreneurs. It’s not enough to take the mould of the status quo and apply it to our lives as musicians. You are far better off always trying to expand the services you offer and the connections you are making with people in different industries. The “box” of playing pub gigs exists and you can play within and outside the rules of this “box”. You’re the boss, do what works for you! Good luck applying these methods to your life. Be in touch on the “TME Community” page to let us know how everything is going for you.

Final Thought:

Like bar gigs, success here depends on hustling hard and being active in finding work. With everything mentioned above you should be able to find some paying work! I want to finish with this last thought. Music is a powerful thing. It creates memories, happiness, and has even shown powers of healing. If you are in a position where you’re working hard at it and making good money, please consider the notion of playing music for the less fortunate. Old person’s homes and hospitals are always looking for volunteers to give the gift of music. I know not everyone is in a position to do this. So as to set the example and encourage you, I am enrolling to perform in an old age home and I will write a post to talk about the experience at some point down the road.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this post and if you’ve found it useful than would you do me a huge favour and PLEASE share it! Also, please sign up for my mailing list to receive notices when I upload new content. I really want you to succeed with music and enjoy what you do! Cheers.

How to find paying gigs!

Heya there!

People are often surprised when they find out I perform gigs to make my living. For many musicians gigs are the main source of income as the pay can be pretty decent and it’s fun. Generally speaking there’s a lot of work available if you work hard to find gigs. Once you have the gig it’s up to you to do the right things to keep getting booked in by that venue. Finding gigs can seem like a daunting task, though. You may feel like a door-to-door vacuum salesman. This isn’t a natural feeling for many of us, after all, we are musicians! I’ll walk you through the method that I have used to be booked up to play 5-10 shows a week. This is a guide based on things that have worked for me to find paying gigs.

One thing to keep in mind is that live music has value! Not just intrinsically (that feel-good fist-pumpy feeling). Yes, everyone loves and cherishes music but I’m talking dollar bills. If a venue hires a musician who has taken time to perfect his or her craft (learned good songs, doesn’t take long pauses between songs, takes short breaks, engages the crowd when appropriate, can sing and play well…that sorta stuff) then customers are more likely to stay longer, call their friends to join them, and consume more. By doing this consistently the venue can create a buzz and become known as a great place to check out the local talent, or at minimum they can sell more food and drinks. You should never feel as if you are being done a favour by being hired to play live music. It is a service! Showing gratitude towards venues that hire you is still important and you do this with thanks, being an easy person to deal with, and by working hard for them. Still though, don’t consider being hired to play “a favour”. You took years to learn your craft, you bought equipment, and you took the time to offer your services. You’re a pro. You deserve to be here and to be paid for working hard and being good at what you do. PERIOD.

Now with that in mind, the most effective way that I have managed to book my gigs has been by visiting venues in person. I recommend having business cards (Vista print all the way baby-cheap, great designs, delivered to your door) and a website which should of course be shown on your biz cards. WordPress.com has free websites available. There are also other very user friendly web building sites such as wix.com and bandzoogle.com. Some of these will cost a bit of money but it is well worth it at about $100.00/year (for hosting and use of great web building platforms). I’ll have a helpful guide on making a website coming along shortly. With these two things in your arsenal you’re ready to enter venues to try to find paying work.

The best time of day to enter a bar for a gig pitch depends on the venue. You get better at judging it over time, but generally you’re going to want to go in for a chat with venues on their off-peak hours. Don’t bother them when they are busy, don’t be “that guy/girl”. They don’t have time for you then and you won’t get the chance you need to make what I’m sure is an awesome killer pitch for your awesome killer performance. Now assuming you’re at a venue and it’s off-peak hours, and you have biz cards and a cool website with info and photos, and vids of you playing, and maybe a calendar showing your upcoming shows… then what? The person to talk to is the bartender! (I like the bartender (Ooh, if you’re lookin’ for me) I’m at the bar with her (Uh huh, okay)….sorry Tpain fans (do they still exist?), but moving right along lol).

Ask the bartender if there is a manager in at the moment that you could speak with about live music. Often the person behind the bar is the manager so perfect, otherwise the bartender will go and get that person for you or take your contact deets in their absence. A great tactic for starting your pitch is to ask the manager: “Do you offer live music to your guests?”. First off it sounds more professional. I’m also making it about them, which changes the playing field mentally. I prefer this then to flat out say “I’m looking for gigs”. It frames “offering live music to guests” as a thing of value. “Guests would enjoy if we offered that” the manager might think to him or herself. This can have the effect of making a venue feel like they should be offering live music. Also, this opening line is not pushy at all, which makes a good first impression. The venue will either;

  1. not be interested in any way, shape, or form in having live music,
  2. does offer guests live music,
  3. has been thinking about doing live music.

Unfortunately with option one there’s not much you can do except for maybe leaving a card in case anything changes. Option 2 is what you really want to hear. Your real pitch can begin. Mine usually sounds something like this:

“I’m a performer looking for new venues to perform in. What would I need to do to have a chance to come in and play for you guys?”

It’s simple and to the point. I won’t walk you through every word because I’m sure you can handle chatting with the manager. Keep in mind that you will want to know what to tell them when they ask “what kind of stuff do you do?“. Another thing for your consideration is if you have a following or not. You can always mention your local following which may sway the venues decision in your favour. I never reference this though. I play 5-9 shows a week on average currently. I can’t expect my friends or family to have that level of commitment at this point, mayyyybe in the beginning but not even really for me. Also, being from Toronto, which is massive in size, means I travelled all over to play, sometimes going as far as one or two hours drive away. I don’t have pull in those areas as I’m not local so I’m very upfront if I’m asked about “bringing a crowd with me”. That’s not the service I offer. I bring myself and my music and a great time for guests and staff. Trying to sell more than that may complicate your life beyond what you should, especially in the beginning. That’s my two cents, just know I have your interest at heart and that I’m trying to reduce your learning curve!

If the venue seems interested but unsure then you can suggest that they give it a try. Offer your services as a one off paid performance with the possibility of booking more shows if their guests and staff team enjoy the experience. There’s little risk in giving you a try, especially if they know you sound good from being able to hear you on your website. What have they got to lose?

After having this chat with a couple of venues you will learn to know what to expect,  what to say, and what not to say. You’ll learn what works and what doesn’t. Experience is the best teacher so get out there! When I moved to Edinburgh, Scotland to be with my girlfriend (fiancé now WOO!) I had no gigs booked and I knew no one. I had £800.00 to my name and HAD to make it work so I hustled my ass off. I had business cards made with my UK phone number and my website on it and I went door-to-door for two weeks straight. It was my full-time job to find work. If you’re serious about playing shows then act like a stranger in your city. Chose a place in town to start and walk/drive through every street stopping in every bar, club, restaurant, or venue. It took me two long weeks of walking all day but I managed to book enough gigs to pay all my bills and save money too. When you think about it, two weeks, it’s not that bad. Decide you will find gigs and make it happen.

When you’re chatting with someone about live music in a prospective venue you can always ask if there are any venues nearby that offer live music. Even if the place isn’t interested in hiring you they are usually very open to helping however they can. Some venues use booking agents and visiting many venues is a great way to find out who the music bookers are, wherever you are located. You can always try and google bars in your town, add them to Facebook and chat to them through there. Phoning in is another option but it’s less personal. I just think being face-to-face is the most effective.

So that’s it for now, it may seem like a lot but the good news is if you have music equipment, biz cards, and a website you can start doing this TODAY! Otherwise you can start setting these goals and working towards getting there. But know this, it isn’t this big impossible thing. You CAN do it! The last piece of advice I want to leave you with for now is to log everything. After every meeting, phone call, whatever, LOG IT. After speaking with someone I would jot down the:

  • Venue name
  • Who I spoke with
  • Brief summary of what was said

If you have any questions I’m here to help you, as always! Click the “Contact” tab and get in touch! I’m out for now, it’s my day off today and it’s a gorgeous spring day in Edinburgh. I’m going to hang with my lovely lady! 🙂

…if I could only get that Tpain song out of my head! Me and my pop culture references. HAHA Peace!

For my article about finding paying gigs outside of the pub/restaurant scene, click here!

To be inspired by my Music Entrepreneur Video (a day in my life), click here!

Your stage awaits!

how to find gigs
Finding gigs is very doable – your stage awaits!

What is a Music Entrepreneur? Does it sound like “monkey business”?…lol, fair enough, let’s take a deeper look!

What is a Music Entrepreneur? Taking a deeper look into this “monkey business”!

My girlfriend at the time and mom thought I was crazy when I first quit my job at an insurance company to be a “full-time….musician?” (Yikes, right? What’s this dude going to be able to afford?)! They assumed that I was trying to be a rockstar and play stadiums rock shows. Maybe I didn’t communicate effectively to them that I had very modest and realistic goals. I didn’t properly explain to them that I had a game plan and that I had taken steps to make sure I’d be alright without my traditional job (that gave me security but little else).

The reason I knew I would be okay in my new endeavour as a music entrepreneur is because I:

  • Surrounded myself with people who in some way or another were making a living solely with music,
  • I started working as a musician and getting paid before I quit my full-time job. I made sure I had bookings extending a month or two into the future as well as a bunch of guitar students to teach lessons to,
  • I was diversifying. This is super important, especially when starting out! This means doing a few different music related things to make a living.

If you have the skill to play and/or sing but have never considered being a music entrepreneur then you understandably may not know all the ways to make money with music. Hell, I’m still learning and I’ve been doing this for the better part of a decade. That’s the best thing about music, you are always learning. Every new lesson opens a bunch of new doors you never knew existed. It is true with your playing and it is true with your business skills. Here are a bunch of ways that you can turn your passion of music into a career (Thats RIGHT! A career! I know music entrepreneurs that own their own homes and have normal lives that they enjoy very much!);

  • Busking (Wherever able, check local laws concerning where and what regulations apply)
  • Playing live shows (Pubs, clubs, restaurants, hotels, etc)
  • Playing private parties (Birthdays, anniversary parties, special events, etc)
  • Playing weddings/having your own wedding band
  • Playing on cruise ships/overseas hotels or casinos
  • Teaching music lessons
  • Booking and/or promoting live music
  • Selling original music and merchandise
  • Licensing original music for film and television
  • Owning music industry assets such as your own music school, booking agency, recording, or production company
  • Scoring music for artists/bands in your area (or online…another business opportunity for starting a company!)
  • DJ-ing or hosting Karaoke/Open mic nights
  • Writing songs for artists, ringtones, etc
  • Recording local artists’ music
  • Doing session work (playing in studio or on someone else’s home recordings)
  • Gaining a following playing online (YouTube, Periscope, etc. Other business options become available here such as leveraging your influence for network marketing).
  • And more!

As you see, it isn’t all monkey business indeed! It is a lot of fun to play shows to make a living, it’s the best decision I’ve ever made! But you can see how I’ve had to consider a wide range of options available to me to make money. It literally is a business, not a loosy goosy way to rock out, do whatever you want, and answer to know one. You should take it seriously and not lightly. When you are your own boss (as you will be as a music entrepreneur) then you have to have the discipline and business sense to cover your ass and line up enough work to succeed. I’m blunt about this because you need to know this going in! If you can’t take it seriously then there is still money to be made part-time (you’ll get what you put in) but being a music entrepreneur requires more commitment to really reap the benefits of this life (This paragraph was brought to you by Captain Buzzkill)!

Real talk guys, it is a fun life. You do rock out, you do spend most of your time doing whatever you want, and you generally don’t answer to too many people. You answer to yourself though, and if you don’t approach this business properly then it will be you that you are letting down! It is all about positioning and it really isn’t that hard. It just isn’t THAT obvious if you’ve never done it or haven’t got the time in OR connections with the local music scene.

My next few blogs will expand upon the idea of positioning yourself for success in this business. That means doing stuff that will make it easy to shift your life towards a life as a pro musician. My tips and tricks will be designed to give you things you can start doing immediately to get you closer to your goal of being a successful music entrepreneur. Practicability and applicability are everything to me. My future content (which btw is coming very soon) will also give you insights as to what this life looks like. I’ll talk about the pros, the cons, how to overcome obstacles, and how to kill it in this business. I’ll show you the life you are considering and give you the confidence to make your mind up for yourself…Is this “Monkey business” for you?

Be well!

Image courtesy of Ron Pereux, Dec 2012)

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It’s been a long time coming and I’m so pumped to be here at The Music Entrepreneur. A bit on what I’m doing here…

Are you an artist trapped in the life of a 9-to-5er? I’m here to help you to use your musical skills to break out and live the life you are dreaming of!

Hi there! Welcome to the Music Entrepreneur page. I’m beyond excited to get going with all of this so that I can help you achieve your goals of making money playing music…and maybe even quit that job you don’t like! So here we go!

I know that for many of you I am a total stranger at the moment, but that will soon change (I hope). This post is meant to be a very quick n dirty introduction to me as well as to let you know what to expect to find here in the coming days, months, and hopefully years.

My name is Bradly Cooper and I’m a full-time musician from Toronto. I drew kind of a crappy deal having the same name as a major Hollywood actor but I’m rolling with it! I’ve dabbled with using the stage name Bradly Mitchell (my middle name) just so that I’d be able to rank on Google at some point BEFORE page 5,000… lol! I’m in the middle of organizing a ton of exciting content that I will be uploading here as the days go by.

Question 1: “What kind of stuff should I expect to learn from you Brad”? 

Great question! (what an awkward self Q&A huh? :P) I will be imparting all of my knowledge about how to go from working a regular-ass traditional job to becoming a full-time musician. For anyone who is already playing music for money I want to give you other tips and tricks that I know will help you step your game up to the next level. I’ll cover things like:

  • How to find gigs
  • How to crush (and I mean absolutely SLAY your gigs and get paid tips while growing your social media)
  • How to find students to teach
  • How to start your own brand and market your music to generate sales (Through your own website or platforms such as iTunes).
  • What equipment you need
  • How to know when you’re ready to quit your job
  • and so much more!

Question 2: “Ok, fair enough. Who doesn’t want to quit their boring job? But why should I listen to you Brad”?

Another great question! I’m just some dude writing on the internet and I understand the cynicism that goes along with that. The reason you should lend me your ears is two-fold.

  1. First I care immensely about you succeeding. I love what I do but the next level for me is to help others achieve success with music too. I’m passionate about being the best musician I can be and helping others to do the same so that together we can improve the quality of live music in our cities around the World! The better we are as music entrepreneurs the more seriously musicians will be taken, and that bodes well for all of us!
  2. The other reason why I am able to help you grow as a music entrepreneur is that I’ve done it! I’ve done it myself not once but twice. As I mentioned, I’m from Toronto, Canada. In the summer of 2015 i already had a few years under my belt as a full-time musician and things were going great. I was playing a ton of gigs and private parties and teaching as many private students as I wanted to. When my girlfriend moved to Edinburgh, Scotland (what a class city) to complete her masters’ degree (sugar momma!!!) I followed her and thought “I can do music over there full-time to support us”. I didn’t know 100% that it would work as there were a lot of question marks. But I believed in myself and knew I’d give it 100%.

This is me, arriving in Glasgow (another class city, I love Scotland!) on August 18, 2015, struggling to carry all of my music equipment and ready to make a name for myself!TME002

I used a lot of my old tricks to find work in Edinburgh however I could not count on the network of musicians in my inner circle that I had fostered back home in Toronto. I was a lone wolf! I had no musician friends to have my back and help me so I had to learn a ton of new stuff to find success.

The #1 thing I learned is that you have to treat it as if it’s Do or Die!HAD to act fast. I HAD to fight hard and desperate. I learned that as an outsider I had to make myself known. I went door-to-door to every pub, club, and restaurant I would find until FINALLLYYYYY somebody gave me a chance and I had my first gig booked in at the Black Bull in the Grassmarket, in Edinburgh. The rest is history really. At this point I play 6-9 shows per week and don’t even teach anymore as I grew kinda tired of that (always an option to go back to though!). By acting like a stranger in your own city you will have the right mindset to get out there and make things happen for yourself! Growing a network of music friends is a must too but firstl you gotta have that hunger and desire to make it on your own! When you have your own gigs you get treated seriously.

So there I go, rambling when I said it’d be quick n dirty (I don’t know why I like that expression so much?) but in reality I’m too excited to get started with helping you kick ass in this business and get you on the path to living your true life! There’s so much more coming very shortly.

Are you an artist trapped in the life of a 9-to-5er?

P.S. just for fun, here’s a video I put together when I first moved to Scotland! Be well!