Lessons about performing, lesson seven: Learn to budget.

My goal is to tell you the things that you don’t learn in music school and that you should probably know. For the complete list, click on this magical bit of blue.

These are usually pretty short (for me – I’m pretty wordy) and I try to take a lighthearted approach to sharing these lessons.

Today, there’s not much levity. (It’s also a holiday. So, I don’t have much free time.)

Rule #7: Learn to budget!

Have you ever heard the phrase, “Starving artist?” Well, that’s not some high-minded koan or riddle. It doesn’t mean something about how you need to be hungry to be an artist.

It means the industry pays for shit.

The odds of you becoming wealthy from playing music are really, really low. Consider that every single person who went to a public school was required to learn to play a recorder, a violin, or something like that.

That’s right – every American is pretty much at least able to say they’re a musician. Granted, nobody wants to hear a bunch of people playing the recorder at the third grade level but that’s not actually the point I’m trying to make.

Out of all those people, a small (tiny) subset ends up playing for money. Out of that subset, a tiny amount makes enough money to actually perform exclusively. Many have other sources of income. And, from that group, only a few manage to make it rich.

In other words, if you decide to become a performing musician, you’re not going to be a rock star. But, you can be professional and actually make a pretty decent living at it. Maybe… The odds are pretty low, but life’s too short to not share the music.

But, in the end, it’s all about getting paid.

See, if you’re not making money (somehow), then you’re not going to be able to afford even gas money to get to a show. You’ll need to do important things like eat – and that takes money.

I’m sorry. Utopia isn’t real. What is real is that your electricity bill is overdue, your spouse is really hungry, and your kids last ate three days ago.

So, how do you avoid that?

Well, you learn to budget – and you know that you may have to seek alternative forms of income. A fairly common source for musicians starting out is felonious – so let’s just skip that and suggest maybe you take on a few students, lug concrete forms, or get a part-time job at the car wash.

This is a music blog, not a financial advisory blog. I’m pretty sure a search engine of your choice will help you learn how to budget and, perhaps, learn to live frugally. ‘Cause starving artist isn’t just an adage, but is pretty much the norm.

I suspect that whole “starving” bit is why there’s not a whole lot of us. ‘Cause, you know, you gotta eat.

Before you laugh, I’ve made dietary choices based on caloric density per unit of cost. I play covers. I sometimes need to take a half dozen guitars on the stage. I have to pay for those.

So, track expenses. Track income. Figure out what you need. Figure out what you’ll need in a week, a month, a year, five years, etc… Use this here network of interconnected computers to learn how to budget.

Otherwise, you go hungry. Until next time…

Shut up and play us a song!

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One thought on “Lessons about performing, lesson seven: Learn to budget.”

  1. My mindset with my music is I am just so happy to be able to share it at all that making money off of it is not what I am concerned with. I just want to have an audience. I love to play music, and it’s even better when others enjoy it. If someone wants to pay me to play my music that’s just the cherry on top of the ice cream.

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