The Economics of the Music Business at Street Level

Tackling the economics of any business is a task beyond my abilities but I am not going to address or resolve the industry here. This is merely an essay/observational on some strange things I have seen from my little corners of the world.

Actually it is less an essay and more a random thought generator. Some of these things I’m currently, or have been, guilty of and some are things I have observed. Not all of them are financial in nature but also included are the economy of time, resources, logic etc.

  • Using a $1,000 – $7,000 instrument on a $50 gig
  • Using your $30,000 music education on a $50 gig
  • Thinking that what you have done is indicative of what you are now
  • Thinking that what you have done entitles you to anything
  • Playing a commercial establishment for free
  • Promoting your gigs to other gigging musicians
  • Not playing charity gigs when you are willing to play commercial establishments for free
  • Thinking you can still ‘make it’ in popular music when you are either over 35, bald, fat or all of the above
  • Spending more on music than music makes for you
  • Making  an EP at a big studio with a leather couch when you could make a full CD at a smaller music studio
  • Playing any gig for less than the gas to get you there, back, eat and drink there
  • Thinking that a big record deal is still a viable career path
  • Undercutting your fellow musicians by putting in a 5 piece for duo money
  • Undercutting your fellow musicians by doing the same gigs for less
  • Thinking that now that you have a music degree you know all you need
  • Subbing out of a $100 night of teaching music lessons that ends at 9pm for a $20 gig that starts at 10pm
  • Calling yourself a professional musician when most or all of your income is from non musical sources
  • Not realizing that being a professional musician means being in business for yourself
  • Not running your business like a business should be
  • Playing places that pay the bus boy more for their time that they do for your time
  • Rehearsing once a week for gigs that come once a month…or less
  • Thinking that giving away your music will lead to people paying for your music when there is no evidence that it has worked for anyone ever.
  • Joining a co-op band where you have no say or pay
  • Starting a co-op band where where everyone takes equal risk and spends equal time but you still want to be in charge
  • Expecting people to pay for your music while you steal other music via downloading
  • Paying money to play music
  • Not realizing that your time, experience and education is worth something
  • Thinking that playing clubs is the only way to make money in music

Like I said, some of these things are items I have done or will do and some are things I have seen done. So what does it mean?

I’ll use the phrase I use a lot. “Music; you don’t do it for the money but you don’t (or shouldn’t) do it for free”

I won’t tell which are mine and which are others but if you are a non musician if some of these things seem insane… well that’s because they probably are

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