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  1. #61
    Agreed RP, recognising where your real strengths (and interests) are is very important. I also feel that a lot of people in the entertainment business really do believe their own marketing hype.

    And beyond that there really has been major social change since the heyday of jazz. Record sales are down, gigs are down, session work is down, and that trend will almost certainly continue.

    The ratio of supply and demand for labour (ie musicians) is completely out of kilter: there's an over-supply of labour (musicians) with an under-demand for their services, all in a continually shrinking market. Ouch.

  2. #62
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    If I could roll back the clock to college jazz days I would really attempt to do what Steve Vai references as the Zappa advice...always sock away to savings 10% of any income you bring in, period. Make it a non negotiable...Start this while in college and resist the classic debt path that the CC dealers on campuses are pushing and you might be able to better pursue your dream of music for years to come.

    It doesn't hurt to consider both a short and long term view...I know I really wanted to play in a band and make music my living more than anything when I was college aged ...but as life carried on that lifestyle appealed less and less to me.

    Yes you could say I became my parents (eek! :-) but as the years went on having a family, a home, etc. just became much more important.

    Point being I guess there are MANY paths to happiness; for some that calling to make their living as a musician is just too strong to ignore and if that is your goal above all else then by all means pursue that to the hilt! Those who I do know were successful did have this drive/calling that was undeniable.

    I know post college I resented my parents and others for their advice to get a back up plan and felt/blamed that somehow for me not "making it" in music....now that the years have gone on and I've seen what those actual career paths have amounted too its not as bad advice as I thought it was....

    It seems to me that successful musicians coming up now days really need to focus as much or more beyond performing locally as an online presence and offering lessons, teaching and music and so on....yes its a crowded field but as this forum well shows, there is a large pool of people hungry for this info....

    Best of luck!

  3. #63
    I had a discussion about this recently with a local pro.

    His impression was that the people who are making a middle class living in this area do it with a combination of teaching and union work, mostly shows in the big downtown theaters.

    The players I know who do that are uniformly very highly skilled and enjoy that type of work. Not everybody wants to play the same show multiple times a week. The way that I know them is that they play in jazz groups for very little money, I guess to have an outlet for that side of their musicianship.

    The players I know who make a decent living teaching, have day jobs at schools. I know a couple of people who teach at music stores but I think it's hard to make a living that way.

    And, with the exception of the union guys, who I believe can get a pension, it's very hard to build for the future.

  4. #64
    Quote Originally Posted by sunnysideup View Post
    It must have been great to be a jazz musician back in the day, but c'mon guys times have changed.
    Unless the recent biographies of Monk, Duke, and Bud Powell as well as most other autobiographies are very inaccurate, it was most definitely not great to be a jazz musician back in the day.

    Monk's wife supported the family for a long time, maybe most of his active time playing.

    Duke's band was a financial roller coaster and don't forget he was playing gigs at Ice Capades prior to his Newport resurgence.

    Very few of the players at even the highest levels seemed to have very much stability, not to mention the many cats who weren't famous.

  5. #65
    @pcsanwald yes exactly, and they were the golden days!

    But despite the financial hardships, Jazz was a vigorous popular art form back in those days; it no longer is.

    Also, as per my opening comment quoting Charlie Parker, the African Americans who really created Jazz, and provided almost all its innovations, didn't have many other choices.

    Jazz is predominantly now a white middle class hobby. Nothing wrong with that of course.

  6. #66
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    An industry insider talking about making a living playing music.

    Rick Beato's description of the video

    In my latest installment of Rick's Rants, we discussed how to make a living after graduating from music school, making money in the music business, promoting your music on social media, why Steve Albini didn't keep his royalties from Nirvana, can you make money as a songwriter in today's music economy, is it worth it to go to music school, how to get paid more as a sideman, the truth about studio internships!!
    B+
    Frank (aka fep)

  7. #67
    Quote Originally Posted by BGulecki313 View Post
    Those of you who pay your rent by just gigging and teaching lessons, how do you do it?
    One guy who is doing it and could probably give you some good advice is right there in Ann Arbor. Jake Reichbart seems to work constantly in the area, and is well-known for his teaching videos, which he posts in this forum. He's had a regular restaurant gig for something like 20 years and does lots of other gigs in Detroit and Ann Arbor. He may be the rare exception that stays fully booked, but if you check out his videos, you can see that he's a) an excellent player b) extremely versatile - he knows a ton of pop tunes and carry a solo gig playing them without breaking a sweat, and then turn around and do another gig just playing jazz and standards, and c) quite industrious - he's constantly putting out videos and "building the brand".

    I don't know him personally, but he seems like a good case study for what it takes to pull off a full-time career playing the guitar. If you don't know him already, you should probably seek him out.
    Last edited by unknownguitarplayer; 02-10-2018 at 02:21 PM.

  8. #68
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    The demand for musicians keeps decreasing and colleges churn out more and more graduates every year. The supply and demand is out of whack. The vast majority of those in college won't make it in music without a day job. They'll be hobbyists. If you have what it takes to be a full time musician, you don't need college.

    Stop accumulating debt (maybe not if you're still living off your parents?), just get out there right now and be a musician.
    B+
    Frank (aka fep)

  9. #69
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    This may have been mentioned, sorry if it's a repeat.

    There may not be one magic answer, but if you keep asking, you'll see that the answers keep falling into certain categories, and that people who are maybe five states away from each other are saying the same things.

    So, to start with :

    1. What have you heard / learned so far ? You're not allowed to say : " You're the first person I asked. " - You're only allowed to say that once, then you'd better get to the business of getting answers.
    2. What other classes besides 'jazz studies at a university' are you taking ? If you're doing the usual ' rocks for jocks ' , and 'ballroom dancing' , etc etc. is that something you'll ever ' fall back on' post graduation ?
    3. What non-music jobs have you had, and is there something you liked ? And this means having a Boss who wasn't your Mom or Dad.

    Start there - and good luck.
    PS
    I had a local pro tell me he gauges gigs ( money making vs money losing ) - by how much gas it takes to actually get to it. Now those are thin margins.

    And again good luck.
    Last edited by Dennis D; 02-10-2018 at 07:20 PM.

  10. #70
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    Quote Originally Posted by BGulecki313 View Post
    I'm a sophomore majoring in Jazz Studies, and I don't want to fall back on a day job when I graduate. Ideally, I'd like to get gigs and teach private lessons right off the bat. I know some people who just gig and teach lessons, and they're able to afford decent one bedroom apartments. But I know other people who have day jobs in offices or banks, and only get one gig a week. I live in the Ann Arbor/Detroit area, and it's a great scene for Jazz.

    Those of you who pay your rent by just gigging and teaching lessons, how do you do it? How many lessons do you teach and how many gigs do you get a week in order to get by?
    TBH, I think any advice I give will already be out of date by the time you graduate.

    Keep your eyes and ears open if you want to find a niche and make some coin. There'll be some ideas, new technology or something that early adopters can get in on.

    OTOH, if you want to be professional jazz guitarist, cultivate bloody mindedness as an artform.

  11. #71
    I think the OP has already committed his tertiary education. And I'm sure everyone respects that and wishes him well.

    This thread has opened up a lot of points that are off topic, but interesting. Another one...

    A university-qualified architect, doctor, or lawyer, or marketing executive etc etc can always be a part-time jazz guitar player.

    But a university-qualified jazz guitar player cannot be a part-time lawyer or doctor etc (I hope!).

  12. #72
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    You could always do what I did... develop into a mediocre player and marry a gifted singer who's a booking agent.
    Some days it's not even worth chewing through the restraints...

  13. #73
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    christianm77 makes a point in his "any advice we give will be obsolete" by the time BGulecki313 graduates. Mainly because the social media landscape will have changed a lot by then, and social media is currently a way for musicians to reach beyond the local scene for income. I would suggest having some classes in marketing, business, computers and social media/websites, etc., because in order to be successful as a musician (as opposed to just not starving to death) having those skills is crucial. You have to be able to get your name out there and, unlike the old days, there aren't ready ways to do that like jam sessions in most places.

    But not to just be Danny Downer: now that I think more about it, I do have one friend who is a full-time musician without a formal non-musical day job. She is a singer- standards and jazz tunes but not herself an improviser; her husband is an accountant and also her main accompanist as he is one of the top local jazz pianists. This reduces her performance costs as well as sharing costs of living, supported in part by his day job. They have a condo or townhouse which reduces or eliminates yard work and such out of their schedules. That also insulates them from the vagaries of living in rental property, which can be brutal especially at the lower end of the cost range.

    Managing and curating her brand, lining up gigs and projects, etc., is basically a full-time day job on top of music rehearsal and performance. She does social media for marketing and revenue (YouTube videos, for example, which can be monetized, as well as Twitter, Facebook, an e-mail list, etc.). She has been awarded a number of arts grants to put together specific projects, which helps defray costs and results in a better bottom line. She does projects with other musicians who have their own following as a way to mutually expand their fan bases; she's great to work with and thus has a wide range of collaborators. In addition to social media, she also attends personally to her audience (talking to them at gigs, recognizing them from previous gigs, etc.) which builds up a sense of loyalty. Sales of CDs and such at gigs as well as using online distribution (CDBay, iTunes, etc.) are also resources. She's willing to take a broad range of gigs large and small. She travels to New York and other places several times a year for performances- much larger markets than hereabouts.

    Basically she has created multiple small revenue streams- none of them pay great, but put together she earns as much as she did at her former day job.
    Beauty is as close to terror as we can well endure. -Rainer Maria Rilke

  14. #74

    Solo Guitar

    Thanks for the mention by Steve above, yes, I make a full time living as a jazz guitarist and I am fully and even overbooked. The "secret" is that at the center of all the sessions, sideman and wedding gigs I have developed a solo guitar ability. Walk into any establishment/cafe/restaurant/cocktail event with a guitar and a tiny amp, entertain the patrons as background music and collect money nightly. If anyone wants further advice/ideas/introduction into the style, feel free to email me jake.reichbart@gmail.com. You can easily find my videos on YouTube. Thanks, Jake

  15. #75
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    Quote Originally Posted by BGulecki313 View Post
    I'm a sophomore majoring in Jazz Studies, and I don't want to fall back on a day job when I graduate. Ideally, I'd like to get gigs and teach private lessons right off the bat. I know some people who just gig and teach lessons, and they're able to afford decent one bedroom apartments. But I know other people who have day jobs in offices or banks, and only get one gig a week. I live in the Ann Arbor/Detroit area, and it's a great scene for Jazz.
    Buy Hal Crook's book, "Ready, Aim, Improvise!" Besides being a book that all of us should own, it has a priceless section on music/jazz as a career.









    Well, did you order it yet?!?!

  16. #76
    Stop by The Earle sometime when I play, I play 5-10 gigs a week in Ann Arbor and SE Michigan.

  17. #77
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    I think you have to be a really good player, be versatile, be able to play other type of gigs as well, and have a professional attitude. Nothing wrong with teaching on the side, beats playing lousy music. Also the musicians profession is a networking profession, no networking no profession

  18. #78
    Something that hasn’t really been mentioned yet is indie writing and recording. Back in my misspent (?) youth the indie scene was in full swing in London. A comparatively modestly selling album distributed through an indie label could keep a 5 piece band in income for 2-4 years.

    Indie is kind of interesting because you can make of it what you want. Jazz-inflected, punk-inflected, rock, folk etc. Indie didn't happen because of the big record companies, it started because of musicians getting bored with the way big record companies did business, and figuring out how to do things themselves.


    About Jake Reichbart,I believe he has two world records

    • the longest running residency in the world
    • and the largest number of solo guitar performances on youtube


    not an easy act to follow!

  19. #79
    Quote Originally Posted by sunnysideup View Post
    Something that hasn’t really been mentioned yet is indie writing and recording. Back in my misspent (?) youth the indie scene was in full swing in London. A comparatively modestly selling album distributed through an indie label could keep a 5 piece band in income for 2-4 years.
    I don't think anyone makes this kind of money off records anymore. I cannot think of a single band I know of that has generated that kind of income off recordings.

    I dunno, maybe "indie" carries a different connotation in Britain? In the US, in the 90s, it used to be slang for "independent record label", the prime examples being Merge Records, Sub Pop, Alternative Tentacles, and SST. A bit later, maybe late-ish 90s, people started calling certain bands that were on these labels "indie rock": in my neck of the woods at the time (north carolina in the states), bands like Superchunk, Archers Of Loaf, Sleater Kinney, Pavement, etc were part of this.

    It used to be that you could make some good money off records, but I don't think this is the case any longer. Very few people are actually paying for CDs or LPs or any other kind of recording media today.

  20. #80
    Hi pcsanwald

    yes you're right, the indie scene is well past in the UK too, just like the jazz scene. Which comes back to my main point that the business of being a musician is harder than it ever was and getting harder all the time.

    Re indie, in the UK it grew out of the Punk scene. The best known label was Rough Trade which started in 1978 in London, but there were many other indpendent labels all over the country. RT had loads of bands including the Smiths, the Fall, Stiff Little Fingers, and US bands too. There was a lot of spill over of musicians between indie and Punk - the Clash, PIL and on and on. The early 80's was really hot. There were gigs all over London virtually every night, from pubs to major venues.

    One of the reasons that records sales have died is internet piracy of course. I think McLaughlin said in a recent interiew that his record sales are 10% of what they were - ie down 90%!

    A lot of that piracy happens through youtube doesn't it. So I guess the links to youtube on this forum just fuel the problem?

  21. #81
    First time poster here, I came across this thread searching for something else and felt compelled to reply.

    I've been a professional guitarist in a major US city (the "second" city ) for nearly 20 years. Here is what I have learned, summed up as briefly as possible.

    To "make it" as a professional musician, one of the following MUST occur in your life:

    1) You have a trust fund. Hush Hush! Most folks that have this arrangement are very secretive about it, because it diminishes their credibility as an "artist" almost instantly. But.... get some people drunk enough and they'll tell you all their business. You'd be surprised how many "gigging" musicians have a trust fund or get a monthly allowance (in the thousands) from Mom/Dad/Grandma/Grandpa.

    2) Your wife has a killer job. This would be the most common solution. Most of the "cats" I know that "just play" have a wife toiling away at some 40 hour (or more) a week job earning $70k or more a year. This affords them their days to rehearse, hang out, practice, record shop, etc... and then they are free to gig every night and contribute what they can to the family finances.

    3) You have a sweet teaching gig. The golden goose. Yes, this is akin to a day job. But if you're lucky enough to score one of the now incredibly rare full-time tenure track University positions that's actually located in or near a city that has a legitimate jazz scene, not Fargo or outer Mongolia, you have basically won the lottery. The fact here is that most colleges and universities are trending towards the adjunct model. This is very affordable for them as they don't have to pay ANY kind of benefits. While the hourly wage is substantially better than just teaching random private lessons, adjunct work is a means-to-an-end of sorts. There is no possibility for upward mobility in this new adjunct scenario.

    4) You must be exceptionally, talented. Like top .01% talented. Then you can tour the world and support yourself just playing "jazz". You MUST, in fact, tour the WORLD because the money is overseas. You might be careful what you wish for here, because 9-10 months or more of every year will be spent on the road. Mostly sitting in airports, on tarmacs, in customs, etc. So how does this model work if you have a family back home?

    I have close friends that are in each one of these categories. Each one has it's ups and downs. For me personally, it has been a mixed bag. I have ONLY ever done music related things, including a TON of gigging but I have also always taught in some capacity. I have never been able to see myself outside of the world of music. I am happiest when I'm living life "inside the arc" of music. Listening to it, playing it, talking about it, discovering it with curiosity, teaching it, reading about it, etc.

    Follow your truth and you'll find a way! Good luck!
    Last edited by 1958Wes; 02-15-2018 at 03:32 PM.

  22. #82
    Quote Originally Posted by 1958Wes View Post
    First time poster here, I came across this thread searching for something else and felt compelled to reply.

    I've been a professional guitarist in a major US city (the "second" city ) for nearly 20 years. Here is what I have learned, summed up as briefly as possible.

    To "make it" as a professional musician, one of the following MUST occur in your life:

    1) You have a trust fund. Hush Hush! Most folks that have this arrangement are very secretive about it, because it diminishes their credibility as an "artist" almost instantly. But.... get some people drunk enough and they'll tell you all their business. You'd be surprised how many "gigging" musicians have a trust fund or get a monthly allowance (in the thousands) from Mom/Dad/Grandma/Grandpa.

    2) Your wife has a killer job. This would be the most common solution. Most of the "cats" I know that "just play" have a wife toiling away at some 40 hour (or more) a week job earning $70k or more a year. This affords them their days to rehearse, hang out, practice, record shop, etc... and then they are free to gig every night and contribute what they can to the family finances.

    3) You have a sweet teaching gig. The golden goose. Yes, this is akin to a day job. But if you're lucky enough to score one of the now incredibly rare full-time tenure track University positions that is not located in or near a city that has an actual jazz scene, not outer Mongolia, you have basically won the lottery. The fact here is that most colleges and universities are trending towards the adjunct model. This is very affordable for them as they don't have to pay ANY kind of benefits. While the hourly wage is substantially better than just teaching random private lessons, adjunct work is a means-to-an-end of sorts. There is no possibility for upward mobility in this new adjunct scenario.

    4) You must be exceptionally, talented. Like top .01% talented. Then you can tour the world and support yourself just playing "jazz". You MUST, in fact, tour the WORLD because the money is overseas. You might be careful what you wish for here, because 9-10 months or more of every year will be spent on the road. Mostly sitting in airports, on tarmacs, in customs, etc. So how does this model work if you have a family back home?

    I have close friends that are in each one of these categories. Each one has it's ups and downs. For me personally, it has been a mixed bag. I have ONLY ever done music related things, including a TON of gigging but I have also always taught in some capacity. I have never been able to see myself outside of the world of music. I am happiest when I'm living life "inside the arc" of music. Listening to it, playing it, talking about it, discovering it with curiosity, teaching it, reading about it, etc.

    Follow your truth and you'll find a way! Good luck!
    Oh cmon, if ya wanna be anonymous, might as well tell da truth. 'mixed bag' .. You got a wife with a killer job, don't ya!?

  23. #83
    Quote Originally Posted by Hep To The Jive View Post
    Oh cmon, if ya wanna be anonymous, might as well tell da truth. 'mixed bag' .. You got a wife with a killer job, don't ya!?
    I wish! My wife works in social services... if we depended on her income alone (after taxes and insurance) we'd be at the poverty line, or below.

    My mixed bag has been:

    1) Teaching: a lot of this. Slowly working my way up the ladder to better teaching gigs over the last two decades.
    2) Playing Saturday nights in various wedding bands. Again, working my way slowly up this ladder to better bands with better pay, better band leaders and better musicians.
    3) Taking every. single. gig. I got called for. This would include regular gigs with "jazz" "singers" that are sorely lacking in the fundamentals of music. Oh, and I worked my way - slowly - up the ladder to working with better and better and eventually world-class singers.
    4) Doing recording work, copy work, transcribing and charting out tunes for $50 a piece.
    5) Playing "jazz" gigs. I put this one last because while it is the most important artisticly, it is without a doubt the least important financially. I've done more than my fair share of $20 gigs, $15 gigs, free gigs. And then the occasionally "properly breaded" jazz gig where you play real music for a real audience and get paid real money. These are few and far between.

    I wanted to post my experience to help the o.p. of this thread. I wish I would have had a forum like this with some real-world perspective 20+ years ago. I went to "jazz" school - for a bachelors and then 8 years later to get my masters. There was very little talk about what was on the other side of jazz academia. Talking about the true realities of making a living as a musician in music school can be counter productive to the core ethos of the "jazz performance" educational system. They want you to believe that the music business is vital and viable because the university construct depends on student enrollment to survive. I feel, in many ways, that I was sold a false bill of goods in music school, but that is another post for another thread.

    More than anything, I encourage my students at the College / University level that wish to have careers in music to become as musically diverse as possible. Yes, you can focus on jazz but also learn how to play many different styles effectively. Learn Pro-Tools or Logic and start working on home recording and/or electronic music. Get really good at playing behind singers. Learn how to play solo. The list goes on and on!

  24. #84
    Maybe he is 4) top .01% talented and is 1) keeping his trust fun for retirement. That is my guess.
    -----------------------------------

    "The instrument keeps me humble. Sometimes I pick it up and it seems to say, "No, you can't play today." I keep at it anyway, though." Jim Hall

  25. #85
    Quote Originally Posted by medblues View Post
    Maybe he is 4) top .01% talented and is 1) keeping his trust fun for retirement. That is my guess.
    Hey! I never said that I "made it" in this business....!!! The OP wanted to know how to "make it work" without a day job. These are my honest observations from real world experience in a city with a big music scene, these are generalized of course, and not including the option #5 which is scraping by at the poverty line and living month to month with little or no savings. In the past, we were on unemployment and medicaid for a long stretch. My wife works in social service. Neither of us come from money. My personal "mixed bag" has largely consisted of years of gigs and years of teaching... earning better employment and opportunities the "old fashioned" way.

  26. #86
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    • Be an extrovert. A so-so guitarist with excellent BS skills is generally more successful than the introverted genius.
    • Learn to play a 2nd instrument well (and I mean well), either bass or keyboards or both.
    • Learn to sing
    Check out my new book, Essential Skills for the Guitarist on Amazon.

  27. #87
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    Business is the primary skill, music is just the product you hustle.

  28. #88
    Quote Originally Posted by Dana View Post
    • Be an extrovert. A so-so guitarist with excellent BS skills is generally more successful than the introverted genius.
    • Learn to play a 2nd instrument well (and I mean well), either bass or keyboards or both.
    • Learn to sing
    Well, I dunno about that... How did you get to that statement?

    First, you can't really choose. By the time you are an adult looking for work, you are already who you are. I'm more on introverted side myself, and I'm always amazed how in America being loud, outspoken, and overtly friendly are often considered good traits. Not to me though. So for some being extroverted means faking it, which is a bad thing. Being natural and comfortable is more important, no?

    Then it might work in a short run, but eventually people get tired of mediocrity, no matter how good at BS you are. So introverted genius will get the spot in the end anyway.

    So I'd rather substitute it with Don't Be A Jerk, Be Nice To People. Now that's the important rule in getting work! And it's a good rule to follow in general

  29. #89
    The bands I worked with and knew all had management. Trying to mix creative skills with management skills is hell imho. But then I've only played with creative bands.

    Why would anyone want to put a university commitment and all of the thousands of hours of practice into playing weddings and funerals for a pittance?

    It really doesn't make sense to me. Wouldn't it be more satisfying to do a degree in something else and earn a lot more more money in a secure career?
    Last edited by sunnysideup; 02-17-2018 at 04:30 AM.

  30. #90
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    Musicians without day jobs, how do you make it work?

    Yeh I don’t think introverts choose to be introverts.

    As a bit of a loudmouth myself it’s taken me a long time to appreciate where introverts are coming from, since they can seem haughty or unfriendly at first.

    So many great musicians are introverts, though, it’s an essential skill to get on with them!

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