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  1. #1

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    When I first joined this forum years ago, I did not realize how much of a hustle life was trying to earn a living as a musician, much less as a Jazz guitarist.

    I thought that you just buy the darn thing, practice your butt off, improve, and then after awhile you finds some guys to play with and have fun making music and money.

    Wow, how my eyes have been opened, and my heart broke time and time again reading about the plights many guitarist have been in. I know it is easy to blame the individual guitarist but still, the facts remains that it is tough for most making a living as a musician without compromising.

    I never imagined the hustling that was involved until I read the many stories shared by forum members and links to other articles. And also, meeting and getting to know some of the local longtime players has been an education.

    So I conclude that to survive, a musician must have some business skills and savvy. Heck, just getting ones finances together enough to be able to pay these high medical insurance rates can be a challenge in and of itself. And there is so much more to it beyond that.

    My prayers to all you gigging musicians and in 2017, I vow to get out more and support some of out local players like I used to.

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    The Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary
     
  3. #2

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    Thanks for an excellent post, AlsoRan. In my experience, it's not just folks in the audience that don't grok the complexities or even the basics of the biz-ness end of the deal, but all too frequently, the players themselves. In many years of starting, booking, and promoting bands crossing/mixing multiple genres, I've encountered a good deal of lack of understanding about the essentials of playing music and getting paid for it. Getting together with your buds and playing stuff in your basement or your garage or (most frequently) in your drummer's basement is one thing; managing the logistical and psychological challenges to getting some venue to let you do your collective thing in public, for money, more than once​ is quite another. I think I'll leave it at that.
    Best regards, k

  4. #3

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    I still remember my first experience way back in grade school in my art class. I used to draw all the time on my own - but what I wanted to draw.

    Once I got in art class and had to draw what the teacher wanted, suddenly drawing was not much fun anymore. It became work.

    I can imagine another facet of playing for a living is that when you are at home, you can enjoy playing what you want to play, but you probably won't be able to do that during the gig.

    At that point, music would become work, at least for me.

  5. #4

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    Quote Originally Posted by citizenk74 View Post
    Thanks for an excellent post, AlsoRan. In my experience, it's not just folks in the audience that don't grok the complexities or even the basics of the biz-ness end of the deal, but all too frequently, the players themselves. In many years of starting, booking, and promoting bands crossing/mixing multiple genres, I've encountered a good deal of lack of understanding about the essentials of playing music and getting paid for it. Getting together with your buds and playing stuff in your basement or your garage or (most frequently) in your drummer's basement is one thing; managing the logistical and psychological challenges to getting some venue to let you do your collective thing in public, for money, more than once​ is quite another. I think I'll leave it at that.
    Well put as usual. And like you said, audiences normally are not aware of what a working musician goes through. I now am and I bend over backwards to support the artist now during the performance.

  6. #5

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    Your point about "work" is well taken. Meaningful work can be a positive joy. Playing in wedding bands taught me that playing all kinds of music, however humble or hokey, for people who are celebrating a social occasion can be downright fun. Doing a good job, delivering the goods, and helping people to experience joy and feel, however temporarily, a shared sense of goodwill, and getting paid for it, can be very satisfying.
    Best regards, k

  7. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by AlsoRan View Post

    I thought that you just buy the darn thing, practice your butt off, improve, and then after awhile you finds some guys to play with and have fun making music and money.
    .
    I've worked in the music industry as an entertainment lawyer for many years. "Practice... improve... have fun making music and money" have NOTHING to do with it.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

  8. #7

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    'So I conclude that to survive, a musician must have some business skills and savvy'.

    Gee, ya think? (LOL)...

  9. #8

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    'Practice your butt off, improve'

    'I NEVER practice. Every once in a while I open the case and throw in some raw meat'---Wes Montgomery

  10. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by fasstrack View Post
    'So I conclude that to survive, a musician must have some business skills and savvy'.

    Gee, ya think? (LOL)...
    That's why I like you so much, Joel. Just make sure you nominate me for the "Understatement of the Year Award."

    But seriously, I was just making the point that it ain't all about the fun like soooo many young musicians have found out the hard way. Just tune into VH1's "Behind the Music" or BET's "Unsung." Episode after episode of exploitation and misery that can follow you into old age as sad regret.

    What seems so apparent to us old farts is apparently not so easily seen by young or even inexperienced older musicians.

  11. #10

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    There's a basic floor of skill you need to meet to make it as a pro but beyond that it is all about business skills, marketing, professionalism, and hustle.

    I've worked as a musician for a while and am very happy at the moment to be working a good side gig instead of sweating it out playing bars and teaching.

  12. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by drbhrb View Post
    There's a basic floor of skill you need to meet to make it as a pro but beyond that it is all about business skills, marketing, professionalism, and hustle.

    I've worked as a musician for a while and am very happy at the moment to be working a good side gig instead of sweating it out playing bars and teaching.
    The part about having to "hustle" really catches my eye. I do have a couple of lifetime musician friends in other states. Through the years they would tell me there stories, especially of having to watch the gigs that they took.

    I appreciate much more the gravity of their stories now, and how they had to market themselves, make connections...basically "get off their butt" and get after it or pay someone else to do it for them.

    If you are not self-motivated and a hustler, it seems you are setting yourself up to be cannon fodder. I really respect the intellect, industriousness, and high energy of the successful working musician just as much as I respect leaders in other fields.

  13. #12

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    I've had to rely on gigging as my sole source of income on several instances in my adult life. I wouldn't wish it on anyone.
    Jeff Matz, Jazz Guitar:
    http://www.youtube.com/user/jeffreymatz

    "Jazz is like life...it goes on longer than you think, and as soon as you're like 'oh, I get it,' it ends."

    --The Ghost of Duke Ellington

  14. #13

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    Everyone needs to learn how to budget including gigolos.

    I'm just a janitor now. I know my place.

  15. #14

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    In my experience it was about hustle and never leaving yourself broke. Easier said than done. i couldn't sustain it.

  16. #15

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    The tough part is if you've settled on a budget that relies on a certain income, and it's every two weeks "reliability," and then you find yourself outside of that situation. If you're on your own, it's one thing, man up and eat Ramen. But if you're married and got kids...one thing I told myself is not too sacrifice anything for the kids until absolutely necessary.
    Jeff Matz, Jazz Guitar:
    http://www.youtube.com/user/jeffreymatz

    "Jazz is like life...it goes on longer than you think, and as soon as you're like 'oh, I get it,' it ends."

    --The Ghost of Duke Ellington

  17. #16

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  18. #17

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    I know people who only music that interests them professionally. But they make it happen.

  19. #18

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    Down in Joe's Garage
    We didn't have no dope or LSD
    But a coupla quartsa beer
    Would fix it so the intonation
    Would not offend yer ear
    And the same old chords goin' over 'n' over
    Became a symphony
    We would play it again 'n' again 'n' again
    'Cause it sounded good to me
    ONE MORE TIME!
    We could jam in Joe's Garage
    His mama was screamin',
    "TURN IT DOWN!"
    We was playing' the same old song
    In the afternoon 'n' sometimes we would
    Play it all night long
    It was all we knew, and easy too
    So we wouldn't get it wrong
    Even if you played it on a saxophone
    We thought we was pretty good
    We talked about keepin' the band together
    'N' we figured that we should
    'Cause about this time we was gettin' the eye
    From the girls in the neighborhood
    They'd all come over 'n' dance around
    like...
    STOMP-CLAP,
    STOMP-CLAP-CLAP...
    So we picked out a stupid name
    Had some cards printed up for a coupla bucks
    'N' we was on our way to fame
    Got matching suits 'N' Beatle Boots
    'N' a sign on the back of the car
    'N' we was ready to work in a GO-GO Bar
    ONE TWO THREE FOUR
    LET'S SEE IF YOU GOT SOME MORE!
    People seemed to like our song
    They got up 'n' danced 'n' made a lotta noise
    An' it wasn't 'fore very long
    A guy from a company we can't name
    Said we oughta take his pen
    'N' sign on the line for a real good time
    But he didn't tell us when
    These "good times" would be somethin'
    That was really happenin'
    So the band broke up
    An' it looks like
    We will never play again...

  20. #19

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    Life... you only got one shot, no second chances...

  21. #20

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    Aside from skill, working as a musician depends on the same 3 things as selling real estate.....location, location, location...

  22. #21

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    Quote Originally Posted by cosmic gumbo View Post
    Aside from skill, working as a musician depends on the same 3 things as selling real estate.....location, location, location...

    Amen, Brother!

  23. #22

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    That's MISTER old fart to you, buddy...

  24. #23

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    when I was about 12 years old we had a guest conductor for our woodwind ensemble. I don't remember his name but he suggested we go for pro "only if you can't imagine yourself doing anything else"
    2014 Sadowsky Jim Hall
    1996 Gibson GRT18

  25. #24

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    I had a guitar teacher that said, "there are more people making a good living playing in the NBA than there are (making a good living) playing jazz guitar".

    Probably not true (unless you set "a good living" at several 100k or more), he was just making a point.
    B+
    Frank (aka fep)

  26. #25

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    Quote Originally Posted by Stevebol View Post
    Everyone needs to learn how to budget including gigolos.

    I'm just a janitor now. I know my place.
    'Just a janitor
    Everywhere I....

    Shit, there's NO RHYME for 'janitor'...

  27. #26

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    Quote Originally Posted by fep View Post
    I had a guitar teacher that said, "there are more people making a good living playing in the NBA than there are (making a good living) playing jazz guitar".
    How do you make a million dollars at jazz?

    You start out with 5 million.

    I'm here through Thursday. Remember: Tip your waitress, and she may just be 'nice' to you later.

    Cue exit music Aaaaaaand----blackout

  28. #27

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    In the 21st Century, limiting one's self to jazz may be self-destructive for those looking to actually pay the bills by playing the guitar. And, if one looks back at the history of, say, the electric guitar in jazz, one will find that most of our finest practitioners (Johnny Smith, Barney Kessel, Jim Hall, etc.) spent a fair amount of time in the recording studios or in television and radio show bands, reading the charts. Many of the less-well-known but very good guitarists rely on teaching as their "base" income.

    For most of my career, I played (and still play) jazz gigs, but the commercial work available, from functions to pit work to recording sessions, along with a limited teaching load, actually funded the jazz forays, since most of those gigs paid remarkably badly. I did manage about a full decade of mostly jazz performing work, but the hustle was intense, and now I play challenging gigs without worrying about the style, within my own personal limits (no metal, country, cover bands, etc.), and I am Music Director for two acts, which involves writing arrangements and running a band. My most stimulating gig was teaching business of music production courses at Berklee; investigating the business end with 75 production students was a real eye-opener, for me as well as them. No question: a little business knowledge can go a long way.