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Re: making money off your music

My story is similar toy yours, Rick - good periods then a trailing off to 
the lean times of today - but since I live in France, I still don't need a 
day job.  I also still sell CDs and books at gigs. I teach a bit (I 
definitely need to do more) and I get a couple of workshops a year. It all 
helps, but without the French welfare system, I'd be teaching English 
somewhere to make ends meet.

If you don't know how the system works - about half of the money I make 
goes into a government program. From that, they estimate my average daily 
income per month. Each month I get some money back based on  the number of 
days I worked and how much I made.  I have to do about a gig a week to 
qualify. At income tax time I pay taxes on the combined income of my 
gigs/teaching plus the benefit, so it is far from a free giveaway, but it 
works and I couldn't survive without it.

I have a good project going based on 18th century French dance music, with 
funding and everything, but now that we're ready to record, the producer 
informs me that the money has dried up. Great, eh?  Still, if the agent 
does his job, we should have a couple of years of concert and festival 
gigs based around this project, supplemented by CD/DVD sales.  That's the 
hope...  By the way,  I can't be at the looping festival this year because 
I'm about to leave for a week-long residence in Corsica with this band. 

I'm doing what I want to do. I didn't start playing because I had stars in 
my eyes or because I wanted to get rich and famous.  I play because I love 
it. I took about 10 years off to do a PhD and be a university professor 
and I was miserable even though I'd kept doing gigs.  Now I'm broke but 
healthy and happy and more creative than I've been for years. Self doubt 
rears its ugly head often mostly because of the economics of the whole 
thing - Why am I broke? Why don't I have more gigs? All those questions. I 
wonder whether the cycle will start going back up again.

I guess the moral of my story is that socialism - even the very soft kind 
that we have here is France - is allowing me live the life I've chosen 
even in times of very little work.

Have a great time at the Looping festival - 

Doc Rossi

On Oct 8, 2010, at 4:55 AM, Rick Walker wrote:

> Okay,  that does it.
> That's the single most depressing website I've ever visited.
> This then leads to the argument,   yeah, but what about
> playing live gigs with their inherent revenue stream?
> This then, is my own personal story.   It may sound like a lament
> or a plea for pity but it truly isn't.  I'm happier than I've ever 
> .....just much poorer as a professional musician.
> I put it out there as an adjunct to this particular article:
> In 1969  the Cataylst in Santa Cruz was paying a 4 piece band $300
> to play there.   $75/person
> In the 1980's the money was flowing.   You could frequently
> find gigs that paid anywhere from $100 - $300 in this area
> or in Monterey/Carmel  or San Jose (where the pricier hotels
> and resort centers are).      There was a lot of studio work too
> which augmented income quite a bit.     There was a phase in the
> late 80's and early 90's where I wouldn't walk out of house to
> play a gig that paid less than $200 but I was also quite a bit in demand.
> At the end of the 90's and before the dot com bubble burst,  there
> were many gigs that paid extremely well (but the studio work
> had completely vanished)
> Then the bubble burst and that was that.  I went from having between 12 
> 20 very high paying corporate gigs to finally having only 1 a year and 
> none.
> I had raised my rates from $30 a lesson (40 minutes) to $40 a lesson (40 
> or $50 a lesson (60 minutes) sometime in the early 90's.
> I haven't raised my rates since then (though my skill level and 
>knowledge base is
> vastly higher than 20 years ago.
> Then the recession hit and it's really been rough ever since.     I 
> refused to lower my rates but my teaching schedule dropped rapidly.
> Commensurately around 2003 or 2004  people stopped buying CDs (at least 
>in my
> world).   I went from selling 20-upwards of 50 a gig to the point where 
>I no longer bring CDs to gigs because it's a waste of time and energy.
> Additionally,  the number of gigs that pay in this area has just dried 
> I'd dearly love to do $50 gigs in this region.    There are still some 
>$100 - $200 gigs out there
> but way too many professional musicians vying for them to be viable as 
> And I've been blessed to be one of the most lucky and fortunate 
>professional musicians
> in this area.   One by one, most of the professional musicians I came up 
>with have left
> the field because there just was no way to make a decent living.
> So,  it looks like the paradigm has changed irrevocably and the life 
>that I have known as a professional
> is coming to an end.
> It makes me infinitely sad that things have gotten so bad but it is just 
> I also realize that my own story may be anomalous.............after all, 
> I've successfully been able to have
> an unencumbered artists life that sat along side of my 
>professional/commercial work.
> Also, Santa Cruz is just a weird,anomalous place demographically.   The 
>average family makes
> $83,000 a year in Santa Cruz according to census figures just released.  
>  The price of housing is very high compared to the price of low waged 
>jobs (a professional musician being lumped in with
> most minimum wage jobs in terms of monthly income).
> It would be interesting to hear from professional musicians on this list 
>who live in other regions
> and countries.
> yours, in the spirit of music and community,
> Rick Walker