I've been debating on going full time in the music world. Does anyone have any creative suggestions on how to finance it? I know I could gig all the time or teach, but I don't want to get burned out.
closed as too broad by Matthew Read♦ May 23 '14 at 18:42
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Here's my semi-autobiographic answer, because I know I tried so hard!
I started playing in small clubs as the singer and one of the two guitarists of a hard alternative rock band during the college years. We slowly built a reputation and got promoted to better clubs. I quit college around this time.
The problem was (this is going to be the refrain) that Istanbul, the town I live in, didn't have a big enough hard alternative scene. The audience was basically the same 2-3 thousand college students. They loved us but they simply didn't want to see the same band every night. Once in a week was OK though and, with occasional gigs in neighboring towns it sustained us until the next stage.
During this time, we recorded, out of our pocket, our first album. Before that we only had a mediocre demo EP and a mediocre demo video that miraculously caught the attention of a rock TV channel, so we became moderately well known in the scene. There were offers from different record companies but we were very paranoid about the contracts (maybe rightly so). So we started our own indy label, just to release our own album.
The problem was that we were in the middle of the arrival of the illegal mp3 craze to Turkey. Our mediocre demo had sold more than our album even though the latter was supported by a few above-average videos heavily supported by that TV channel (for some inexplicable reason the head of the channel was in love with us). Overall, what we spent for the making of the album and the videos was more than what we earned, including the money from the support tours.
Running an indy music label
At this point we were pretty much broke. But we could still sustain ourselves thanks to our club gigs, for which we were now payed better, since we were somewhat famous. On the other hand now we had a roadie and a sound man that we had to pay. We used to do those things all by ourselves before. Anyway, overall we earned about the same amount.
One day this younger band came to us and asked if we could release their album. We said that we were broke and in no position of doing it. They didn't care. They paid for the expenses themselves and we just made a few phone calls and sign the legal papers. We also helped them getting their video played on that TV channel and some radios that we'd built good relations with over the years.
The problem was that the CD sales at that point went to non-existent from poor. We didn't make a dime. Neither did they. One can of course do a better job here. But it requires more connections and more investment. We simply didn't have any money to invest.
Running a studio
While working for our second album we realized that we could get away with less money if we owned our studio. We had some extra money (see next chapter) so we built our own studio. We didn't look for any customers because we were using it almost non-stop, working on writing our second album. But around this time we broke up (mostly personal reasons) and sold everything. We never released the second album.
Now this could be carried further. In where I live, people mostly leave in apartments; very few have a garage to convert to a studio. So you have to pay for the band practice. Some of my musicians friends are in this business. It's not lucrative but they manage to survive. It can be a viable option if you live in a similar place and have some money to invest. Beware though, it's hard work. You have to do most everything all by yourself to cut the expenses. You have to learn to be a roadie, a sound engineer, a maintenance guy, a sales person etc. My opinion is that, you may as well open a liquor store or something, running a studio has very little to do with the actual making of music.
Making commercial jingles
Before the studio thing another miracle happened. We tried our chance in making the music for a huge TV commercial. I don't remember why exactly we did that. But we simply ignored the brief that they gave us. And out of tens of experienced jingle writers, ours was by far the best one. It got picked. It was an huge international ad campaign, so we made an incredibly good start.
After the band's breakup, I've worked as a commercial jingle composer for a few years. You need to know many kinds of music, for my country including the Turkish folk and classical traditions in addition to the usual pop, rock, blues, jazz and western classical. You need to know when to ignore the briefs and when to get valuable ideas hidden in that corporate non-sense. You need to manage the creative advertising team (who have no clue about music) and make them believe that you actually follow their lead, not the other way around.
If you have these skills, it's an awesome paying job. With just one good deal a month, you can lead an almost normal life. With two, you can even save money. With three, it's party time :) And most of the songs take you two to three days. Sounds easy. But you actually do work for 2-3 days, i.e. 48 to 72 hours, non-stop. They're always on a tight deadline. But other than that, you're pretty much free during the rest of the month.
Well, then I quit. The problem was that it's very tiring to deal with people who ask you to make your music "greener" because it's too "orange" as it is. They never pay on time. If you threaten legal action, they pay and never call you again the next time. In short, I didn't have the nerves to deal with those Mad Men wannabes who knew nothing about music except "make it louder". Also, admittedly, it's very hard to come up with an inspired piece of music on command. It's like: "Can you make us a demo for tomorrow. We have a meeting at 8". The you have to work all night with zero inspiration. It is tough.
Oh, also, you can never get 3 good deals a month anyway. So it was rarely party time :)
I'm not even going to touch that. I hate giving lessons, both guitar and music theory. Kids have no patience and I have no patience towards them. Adults are better, but they never ever do their homework. Well, let's just say that I am a bad teacher :)
PS: Now I'm working as a freelance translator and occasionally compose music or do gigs just for fun. To be honest, I'm happier.
If you say carreer in music, I presume you mean as a musician?
I ask this, because if you just want to "do something with music", there are many options available. I for one, started out as an economical engineer and I am a music informatics researcher now.
Have you considered being a music teacher, being in an academy and with fellow musicians might get you the necessary connections. If you don't have a degree, you can teach in private, or start your own school.
In your case, I would look for a music related job that will help your connections/practice and gradually go from there...