It’s an unavoidable fact that making a living purely off of music is harder and harder to do these days. There are plenty of exceptions, but in a world turning to streaming, playlists, and music subscription services more and more, money is a constant concern for serious musicians. But if you’re fully intent on earning a living purely off of listening and performing music, there are options you may not have considered. Here are five examples:
Okay, this one’s a bit obvious, but bear with me. Lots of musicians never consider the cover band option out of fear of not being taken seriously and because they’re not interested in playing another artist’s music, but the cover band route has sizable benefits. Depending on location, style and experience, some bands can earn up to thousands of dollars a month playing clubs, weddings and events. And while the very thought of playing in a cover band might make you ill with trepidation, it’s a great option for musicians set on making a living only off of performing.
This is a phenomenal option for musicians interested in doing tangible good with their talent. From pain management to special education to helping people cope and heal from trauma, music is proven to deliver massive benefits to those in need. It is not, however, something any musician can just walk up and do. There are rigorous exams, months of training, and a certification involved, but there might be no better way for active musicians to give back to their communities and pay the bills at the same time.
From private lessons to structured music teaching positions in schools, teaching is one of the most reliable ways for a musician to make money. It should be noted, though, that it’s not for everyone. Many musicians will no doubt recall working from a burned out, jaded instructor at some point during their musical training. Students, especially kids, demand an incredible amount of attention and energy. Not all musicians can be teachers, and the patience you developed learning an instrument might not translate to a lesson setting. But if you’ve got time, energy and the right attitude, teaching is something that might just help put food on the table between performances.
Having a knowledge and background in music gives you a couple of essential credentials needed to critique and write about music. Press outlets and blogs are often in search for music lovers who can write, and the flexibility often offered through this kind of work is ideal for musicians. But, like with all of our side-jobs, not every musician can hack being a critic or blogger. Even if you can write well, it doesn’t mean you’ll enjoy writing about music that’s not yours. The gig also requires you to listen to a bunch of music you probably won’t like or be interested in. But if you can get past the hurdles, music criticism is a challenging, flexible, and sometimes financially rewarding profession.
With listeners and businesses alike turning towards playlists, music curation is a job more musicians should consider. What are the qualifications? Knowing a ton about all styles of music and having impeccable taste. Now, before you leap out of your chair and dance around the room in excitement over your newfound plans of becoming a professional music curator, think about a few things here. First, simply loving music won’t make you successful in this job. You’ll need to show you that your taste in music involves a massive depth of diverse knowledge and appreciation. Secondly, to be taken seriously, you’ll need some sort of proven experience––playlists for different moods or events, for example.
Patrick McGuire is a writer, musician and human man. He lives nowhere in particular, creates music under the name Straight White Teeth, and has a great affinity for dogs and putting his hands in his pockets.