Arlen Roth on How to Make a Living as a Musician
The very concept of making a living as a musician may seem like an impossibility to many, and though the task is daunting, it’s certainly not hopeless. I can still remember the first time I got paid for doing anything musically, and just what a “shock” it was to me then! I mean, it felt like “you mean we actually get paid for doing something that is so much just for fun?!” Well, we can fast-forward nearly fifty years, and sometimes it still feels like I am asking that same question, but the idea of “making a living” within music is something that is largely up to each of us, individually.
One of the great things about being a musician is that no matter how “high” you aspire to get in your career, there are infinite ways that your music can make money for you in much smaller, yet still significant ways! It can certainly harder for other professions as you are coming up, such as acting. I mean, we can’t just go to a restaurant and go “act” in the corner for people’s entertainment. Or we can’t imagine “background” acting, but music, either solo or with other players can certainly be played in infinite venues, at various levels of importance to both you, and the listeners!
These days, even for many of the major acts, it seems a battle to keep expenses down. Without lowered expenses, we really can barely even hope to “break even” as a musician, and for myself, it seems like my only chance of making any money at gigs, especially after I make sure my band gets paid, is to sell CDs! It’s ironic, because even though the world of cd buying even seems passé, when an audience sees and likes you, they always are willing to part with a few extra bucks so they can take “a piece of you” home with them! It’s also a great feeling for me, as I know that these folks enjoyed the show enough to actually want to buy some of my music to keep!
There are infinite things one can do, and some even happen “spur of the moment.” A couple may hear you play at a restaurant, and the next thing you know they are asking if you’d perform at their wedding for example. Or someone may hear you at an “open mic” night in a club, and ask you to do a major tour, or to be in their band. Whatever it is, that catalyst of musicians and others mixing and mingling together is still the most tried and true way of having things happen that can lead to making a better living with music! Look at all I always did over the years to teach whatever it was I knew! And believe me, nobody showed me anything! It’s all been the “school of hard knocks” for me, but I figured out not only how to pass it on, but also to enjoy that process! So whether I gave one lesson or a thousand, it has always remained a rewarding and often lucrative process! I promise to try to do more blogs in the future which will help you become better at “making a living as a musician!” Believe me, with a little creativity, you can go a long, long way on this journey!
Gibson.com’s Arlen Roth, affectionately known The King of All Guitar Teachers, is music lesson pioneer and the quintessential guitarist. An accomplished and brilliant musician — and one of the very few who can honestly say he’s done it all — Roth has, over the course of his celebrated 35-year career, played on the world’s grandest stages, accompanied many of the greatest figures in modern music and revolutionized the concept of teaching guitar.