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How Can I Financially Support My Musical Career? by Tyler Cohen

As musicians with bills to pay, we often have trouble figuring out where our next meal is coming from, let alone paying the utility bill or buying new equipment. If you find yourself in this boat, what can you do to financially support yourself while you are trying to make it in the music industry? Actually, there are a lot of options and you don't have to sell out to make money as a musician.

One of the best things about being a musician is we play for the sake of the music. It doesn't matter where the gig is scheduled. We just want to be in front of the crowd with our guitars in our hands and a microphone. Since the music is the main reason you play, ask local establishments if you can arrange a gig to entertain their customers. Offer to share revenue with them by setting up a cover charge to be paid by customers as they enter and include the purchase price of your CD in the cover charge. At the end of the night, split the money with the house.

If the owner of the establishment balks at the idea of making customers pay a cover charge, offer to play for free if they will allow you the courtesy of setting up a tip jar and a merchandising table. On the night of the performance, put some cash in your tip jar before anyone arrives so it looks like you are already collecting tips. This is a little trick used by bartenders everywhere and it works to get the money flowing.

You also need to have your table stocked with your CD's, T-shirts and other merchandise. At the beginning of the night, and even a few times throughout your performance, drop subtle hints about the tip jar and a little bolder hints about the available merchandise. Live performances sell merchandise and help the establishment to draw a larger crowd so you may see a great deal of cash flowing into your budget using these methods.

As musicians, most of us possess a skill which others would like to learn. Why not teach someone else how to play your chosen instrument? Place an ad in the local paper, on Craigslist or on bulletin boards at the grocery store. In many places, charging fees of $25 or more for a one hour tutoring session is considered very reasonable. If you can find four students, you can easily make an extra $100 a week by just teaching someone else to play an instrument.

If you own your own recording equipment, why not use it to make some spare cash? Offer to record and edit the music of other musicians or bands for a small fee. A single two hour recording session, plus an hour of editing and creation of a CD or a USB thumb drive with a copy of the edited recordings, could easily be worth $100 or more to a local band that is seeking to gain popularity. If you own a CD burning tower, you could even offer the additional service of creating duplicate CD's at an additional charge. If you have artistic skills, you might even make a few dollars more designing cover art for the jewel cases.

Learn how to avoid being taken advantage of by greedy record label owners, managers, promoters and others. Visit the world's largest free music industry community, Music Biz Center at to learn more.

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