When I was a kid talking about being a musician when I grew up was unanimously met with a single response: “Well…you better have a fall back.”
It seems like to my parents’ generation, making it as a musician meant one thing: being famous, like Bon Jovi or Tom Petty or someone like that.
I heard time and time again how slim my chances were of ever earning a living, how hard the life was, how only a tiny percentage of people ever actually “make it.”
And that’s true if we’re limiting the definition of “making it” to that level of acclaim and wealth.
But is that the only definition?
I think not…and that’s what I want Cathedral Records to communicate to aspiring songwriters and musicians.
Let’s take things piece by piece…
First…times have changed. Gone are the days where you have to be in that magical right place at that oh so right time with that one person listening who will sign you to a record deal and make you the next Muse or Pearl Jam.
Never before have artists had the tools and opportunity to make their music available to so many people…with just a few clicks of a button no less.
Effective social media marketing, self-promotion, and the age-old hustle, can provide a group with everything from performance opportunities to media attention and, most importantly, eyes and ears. Musicians used to need heavy radio play to be heard…when was the last time you listened to terrestrial radio?
An artist no longer needs a major label to get their music into the same channels as everyone else. You can publish your music to Google, iTunes, Amazon and all the other streaming sites, you can make your music available for download and there are incredibly budget friendly options for pressing both discs and vinyl to sell on your own site and at your shows.
What you might lack in quantity you make up for in terms of share of the profits as well as profit margin.
BUT…that’s just talking about going out there and gigging and trying to make a living as an original artist.
What about the incredible wave of cover/tribute bands making great money playing clubs all around Houston? These players are masters of their craft, enjoying themselves playing the music that inspired them to play in the first place.
There’s also a thriving performance community playing at casinos, on river boats and cruise ships as well as theaters in cities like Branson Missouri. These guys can FLAT OUT PLAY…some of the most mind-boggling musicianship I’ve ever witnessed has been in tiny theaters in Branson played by people who “lived the life” and realized they could make more money, spend more time at home, and work better hours by gigging for these types of shows than they could touring.
YES…it is hard…YES many of these players do keep day jobs or play several gigs with different acts each week…but they’re living creative lives on their own terms. Would you rather spend 40-plus hours in a cubicle or at a retail counter or would you rather spend 40 hours playing?
Now…what about all the people you DON’T see on a stage?
Do you ever think about all the music you hear in movies, TV, commercials, cartoons, children’s shows or other media?
That music is written, recorded and produced by somebody. Who do you think these people are?
These are musicians who, by and large, work from home or from co-op style studios and agencies doing what they love…and generally being paid quite well.
They followed similar career paths as any other professional…school, school, school, internships, school and more school. They typically have education in composition, production, recording, computers, as well as business administration and communications/marketing.
They are just as skilled, educated and professional as those lawyers, doctors, and dentists so many of us were encouraged to become…but at least in my case, I never really knew or thought about this kind of career path.
Bottom line…there are more ways to “make it” in the music industry than just becoming famous.
If fame is what you strive for, well…fair play to you and good luck.
But if you want to make a solid living doing what you love, don’t immediately think you have to hang up your guitar or put away your drum sticks and get a “real job.”
And…never let anyone tell you being a musician isn’t a real job.
As someone who has spent years writing, rehearsing, studying, learning, and yes performing…let me tell you…it’s as real as it gets.