As the title asks… What would you do to make it? When I say “make it”, I mean to be successful in the music business and essentially be a musician for a living. Now, the things that entails might be much different than you are thinking. Let’s just start with the work ethic. How hard you might be willing to work. Back in the day, my band had the mantra of “whatever it takes”. It meant that the band was priority one. That the band needed to come first under all circumstances for us to get ahead of the other bands working hard. That ran us through quite a few musicians to find the ones that would stop at nothing to accomplish our goal. Anyway, what would YOU do? Let’s say the band gets an incredible short notice touring opportunity.
It’ll cost a couple thousand dollars between travel expenses, merch stock up, and promotion. What do you do? Are you enterprising enough to come up with the money? Or do you turn it down? Would you sell some personal stuff? Ask for a loan? Would you quit your day job if you had to for a good opportunity? I’m not recommending that you quit your job to go play a couple of shows, but I AM saying that you should ask yourself and your band members some of these questions when the time comes. Ask yourself and your band what they would do. See where everyone’s priorities are. One of my bands was ready to tour. We had worked through the ranks. Were doing weekend warrior loops around our home base. We were getting paid for shows, selling a lot of merch at shows, had a multi-state following, national representation and a well-known booking agent lined up. Then all of the sudden our guitar player says he can’t tour. He had obligations that when it came right down to it… he had to choose them over the band. We had never had that crucial honest talk about where everyone’s head was at and what they were willing to do to get to the next level and be a touring band.
Does the thought of working on your band get you out of bed excited to start the day? Do you do something for your band every single day? Are you willing to work as many hours on your band as you do your day job? From my experience, having a band and being a musician for a living is very much like being an entrepreneur. A business owner. And every business owner I know had a day job that paid the bills while they worked more and more hours on their own business. Growing it until the day that their own company could replace the daily grind paycheck. See the connection? As a band you are building something that will eventually require more and more of your time.
Hopefully it will also compensate you monetarily. That is the part you may not be thinking of. A good hard-working touring band tends to make just enough to keep them on the road. They usually aren’t making enough to pay bills back home. In comes the side hustle. So, what do you do to make it as a musician? We know several professional musicians that give lessons while on tour. Others sell online courses for recording engineering. Most have endorsement deals to help with equipment costs and some get paid to appear in ads. But as you move into that next level of touring, rather than just a couple of tour-cations a year, how do you get paid while you are on the road? Do you have your side hustle in line? What would you do to make it?