What about the poor musicians?

A while back, I reframed my business to help working musicians, not just independent musicians. That’s because I fear that too many independent musicians suffer from “poverty chic” or “starving artist” syndrome. Most “working musicians,” either signed or unsigned, care much less about that distinction once they’ve got income rolling in.

If you’re an artist, and you’re starving, your duty to yourself and to your audience is to get yourself fed. That way, you can share your light with the world. (That comes right from the Pressfield book we’re discussing this week.) Sometimes, that means dual-tracking, or holding off on that tour so you can keep some money in your pocket.

Music does not have to be a “zero sum equation.” If you’re struggling to make ends meet now, let the folks who hang out on this site (not just me) help you earn a little more at each gig. Let us show you how to plug those holes in your budget and encourage your fans to support you financially. As soon as you’re earning more than you’re spending on your music, you’re a working musician.

A reader e-mailed me to ask how I could justify charging $67 for our membership service when so many musicians cannot make ends meet. It’s easy — our members learn quickly how to earn much more money from their music. We’re not asking anyone to carve out money from a strapped budget. We’re asking folks to open up to the idea that they can jump tracks from “hobby” to “business.” If we can’t help you, I don’t want to take your money.

Here’s the e-mail exchange I had with Tristan, a reader who framed up this dilemma more eloquently than anyone else:

I am not a member who pays $69 a month, but I do own your book. I got some good things out of reading it, and I thank you for that. But what I wanted to ask you is…if you’re doing all this, your whole program + book, to help independent musicans, then why are you charging $69 a month? I’m not calling you a sellout, or a bastard, or what have you. And I don’t want to sound like someone complaining about money. I am a musician, and play because I love to create. If somehow I make a career out of it, great! Anyways, a lot of the independent musicians that I am aquainted with who have dropped everything to tour and release records and all that (and who are actually pretty successful at what they do) barely make enough money to live. One band, who I will not mention, has toured the US countless times, Europe at least 5 times, they’re HUGE in Canada, and have toured elsewhere, they basically live in their van. They sell upwards of around 40,000 – 50,000 of all their records an d 7″ singles each year worldwide, and have a fairly high guarantee. Right now they are on the whole Vans Warped Tour. Through all that, and after such expenses as: van repairs, new merch, food, lodging, and gas, they are each left with $200 a month. They’re basicly homeless. To me, that is pretty rediculous. I doubt that they, a very popular band in the ska/punk scene, could afford your service despite their success. Maybe they’re doing something wrong, but they take a very DIY approach to touring and music, they have an accountant, and stretch their money as far as it goes. Even if they did take a risk and pay your monthly $69 payment, what could your service offer them that would help them and their current situation as a band?

Again, I’m not complaining, I’m just stating some facts and want to know what greatness paying $69 a month out of a very small income would get you as a musician.

Here’s my response…

Thanks for such a thoughtful question. I do this work to help bands like the one you describe avoid that situation. If a band has all the trappings of success but doesn’t have $69 per month (or even $29, which is the current promotional rate) to invest in professional development, then there is something really, really wrong under the hood. There’s a money leak somewhere, and I help my clients seal up those kinds of leaks while identifying new ways to bring in revenue.

Even if they only joined for one month, I would think we could accomplish a lot on our group calls and on the group blog that would help them keep more of their earnings for themselves. If I help them bake a bigger pie, they’re keeping more of it and giving less of a percentage to me each month. And if I couldn’t help them one lick, that’s why there’s a money-back guarantee.

Would you mind if I republished your note and my response on the public blog? I’m sure that you’re not the only one that’s had that question in the back of their mind.

Thanks again, and please let me know if I can be of further service.

What Tristan describes is far too common. It’s what I depict in Grow Your Band’s Audience — musicians that, despite outward success, have still not been able to fill their own cup. Our mission here is to change this. Join us.