‘Why Musicians Quit’ Part 1: Not Enough Money

© 2010 Vinny Ribas

It makes sense that if you know why most musicians eventually quit, you can put safeguards in place now to prevent those situations from affecting you. In this series I am picking some of the most common challenges, and make suggestions for minimizing their impact on your career.

The most common challenge is that the musician just doesn’t make enough money. There are many legitimate reasons why this happens, such as the loss of gigs due to the trends towards hiring smaller bands, DJs or karaoke. One solution is to re-invent yourself. When I was a drummer, the introduction of drum machines threatened my livelihood. My solution was to learn how to play enough keyboards to get by and to learn a little bit of guitar. I also forced myself to sing, though I was never that good at it. I was able to make my living on those instruments for many years for 2 reasons:

  1. there was more demand for keyboard players than there was for drummers, and;
  2. I was able to take solo and duo work instead of relying on venues that had larger budgets.

What can you do to adapt to the current work situation?

Many musicians fall into the category of having competitive talent, passion and drive, but just don’t know how to pay off financially for them. There are many solutions to this problem.

  • Study the business and learn how each piece of it connects to the next. Hang around people who are successful in the industry and learn what they have done and still do to maintain that level of success. You’ll then understand who gets the best jobs and how they get them.
  •  Network with other musicians. The more you stay in the loop, the better the chance of your hearing about open gigs. Also, the more you build your personal contact list of musicians, the more people you can call when you need to make it known that you are available for hire. Start your own mailing list of contacts.
  • Find a partner who is good at handling the business side of things. That person could be another musician, or it might be someone you hire to make phone calls, promote you etc. Some musicians have their own part-time manager to help them stay happily employed.
  • Diversify your incomes. For many musicians, the only way that they can earn enough money is to get some from performing, some from giving lessons, some from doing session work, some from songwriting, some from producing other artists etc. How else can you use your talents?
  • Take the initiative to put your own act together in which you can’t be fired or downsized. That way you’re no dependent on other bands or musicians hiring you. You don’t need to be the lead singer to do this. You can hire the singer(s) and other musicians. But it’s your name on the contracts and on the marquis.

Many musicians lack a vision and/or a plan for achieving what they want to accomplish from a monetary standpoint. In other words, you need to decide where you want to go and then put a plan in place on how you’re going to get there. The plan is completely different for a classical guitarist who wants to play performing arts centers than it is for a rock bass player. The plan is different for person who wants to become a top session player than it is for the person who wants to have their own band and spend 40 weeks a year on tour. Seriously think about what your ‘in a perfect world’ scenario would be, and then talk to other musicians who are living your dream and find out how they got there. Then put a step-by-step plan together detailing all of the things that need to be put in place ort accomplished before you can claim that destiny. Talk to a music career coach if necessary to get help with this.

Lastly, some musicians don’t make enough money because they need a mindset adjustment. Many are simply too lazy and just sit around waiting for the phone to ring. They won’t help themselves by marketing themselves, networking or even making a few phone calls to book themselves. Some musicians are not quite talented enough but see no need to practice and get better. Some are just not team players or have bad attitudes, so no one wants to work with them. The only solution for these kinds of challenges is a cold hard reality check. Do you want it badly enough to do all of the things that the successful musicians are doing? Are you willing to change enough to become a sought after player? If not, you’ll just keep on making room for the really serious musicians.


About The Author

Vinny Ribas

Vinny Ribas is the founder and CEO of Indie Connect, an artist management, consulting and training company. The company also hosts networking and educational events and has published an app that connects people to the Nashville Music Industry. During his 40+ year career, Vinny has been a full time musician, artist manager, booking agent, songwriter, studio owner, producer and the Entertainment Director for the NV State Fair. He has also coached over 1000 artists and songwriters. He is a sought after speaker and has authored over 400 music industry articles. Vinny is also the CEO of Top 4M Entertainment, an independent film and television production company.