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View Poll Results: To what extend making music is your career

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  • I make a living completely from performing and creating music.

    4 13.33%
  • I make a living from music related activities (includes teaching, publishing, youtube channel etc.)

    9 30.00%
  • I have a secondary day job outside of music. I still consider music to be my main occupation.

    2 6.67%
  • I have a full-time career outside of music. I still gig at a high-level when I get a chance.

    15 50.00%
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Results 1 to 26 of 26
  1. #1

    Gigging jazzers - Earning a living from music poll

    This is a much discussed topic in this corner of the forum. A poll may shed more light into the current realities of living as a jazz musician for those who entertain pursuing such adventures at some capacity.
    Last edited by Tal_175; 10-18-2018 at 03:27 PM.

  2. #2
    I guess I'd be choice 5-- I have a full time job outside of music, but music (mostly teaching, some gigging) provides a good amount of supplemental income (that I wouldn't want to have dry up!)

    Generally, with gigs, unless it's going to be really fun, I don't leave the house for under a certain amount...

    I have had a situation in my life where for a period of time, music was my only source of income, and it was TOUGH. Had I discriminated on gigs and tried to play only jazz, I would not have been able to pay the bills.
    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

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by mr. beaumont View Post
    I guess I'd be choice 5-- I have a full time job outside of music, but music (mostly teaching, some gigging) provides a good amount of supplemental income (that I wouldn't want to have dry up!)
    That's a good one too. I would add it but only administrators can edit polls apparently. Are you an administrator? If so, please feel free to add that category.

  4. #4
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    A number of art professions are struggling. My wife and I have made our living from our portrait studio for over 40 years. In 1978, when we joined the state pro photographers organization there were almost 500 studios paying the dues ... and had to have at least one full time owner to do so. In "little" Oregon.

    About six years ago Miriam and I taught an evening class to the surviving "pro" organization. Intro said we'd made our living from the studio. Spoke an hour, break, final hour.

    During the break a couple people came up and asked me questions. Then "So what is your other job?" I just looked at the woman a moment and said my only job for 35 years has been the studio.

    "Oh, so what's your wife do besides the studio?"

    Um ... as stated for 35 years our family income has been our studio.

    Silence.

    Both people looked around and then at me like I had three heads and stank. And slowly turned and walked away. That's an idea that for "modern pro portrait photographers" is ... just ... well, too bizarre.

    We had a meeting with a couple old friends in our studio last week. They each still live off their studio, have been proud to be a fine professional and business owner ... and we talked of who besides the four of us still lives completely off a studio in our whole state.

    We only could think of around four others. And about four past that which would maybe be netting above $30G/yr but got most income from a spouse.

    And we're all working hard just to hang in there.

    Even 20 years back it was a very respectable profession with a decent living. Now ... you're scaring normal people.

    Jazz guitar has always been rough financially, a studio was actually a far more profitable and stable life for most purposes. My early teacher and mentor was an incredible player in the 50's but ... you travel with a band, four horns, couple saxes, drummer/bass.

    Club owner stiffs the bandleader $50 in pay Saturday night. Guitar player wakes up in hotel alone, band gone. With a room bill to pay.

    Then Will fell all in over a babe in Texas, who was not marrying any fool jazz guitar player no matter how good. End of career.

    During the disco era, most clubs that had booked bands of any kind in our area stopped doing so, and it never came back. We had a bunch of guys and a few gals making a decent living playing them in the early 70's. By 1980 there were only 3-4 clubs "hiring" bands, but it was mostly like $50 for the band ... total ... and tips.

    Not enough to buy the dang guitar you needed to play.

    Anyone even near to making a living playing jazz now, wow ... that's an amazing feat. I tip my hat to you!

    Sent from my SM-G930V using Tapatalk

  5. #5
    These threads pop up regularly here, I guess people wanna know if anyone was crazy enough to stick to their guns, and not chicken out?

    Well, like a band I saw recently said, if you like us- tip us, if you don't- tip us twice! There is a wisdom in it somewhere...

    It's funny, sometimes I think it's almost living like a criminal, you always hassle, you live from 'hit' to 'hit' (a gig announcement- 'hitting' such and such place with such and such band haha)

    Another funny thing- jazz actually can make you more money, or at least more steady money than being in a rock/pop band. Those guys, unless they hit it big, don't make $hit! I thought in a distant past it was the other way around?

  6. #6
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    This study is 6 years old now, but it was the most comprehensive survey ever done since the advent of the digital era. I don't think things have improved, as there is still no standard business model established.

    Jazz Musicians and Money from Music | Artist Revenue Streams | Page 4

  7. #7
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    Recapitulation

    Its been said a few times by players here...I'll say it again.. if you want to make a living playing jazz and aren't somehow being noticed by the already "made musician" crowd youre probably out of luck. If you mean, "I'll play the shit out of any music you put in front of me'" you CAN make a living. Doesnt mean you will, books on contracts, and how to survive by ways of music can also help.

  8. #8
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    Hey Hep ...

    Went to your site, great stuff. Enjoyed your vids, especially with the licorice stick playing!

    And ... you think guitarists have it bad, try being a jazz/torch singer these days ...

    Sent from my SM-G930V using Tapatalk

  9. #9
    I know a few people who are supporting themselves as jazz performers, at least, as far as I can tell.

    They are not the great players.

    Rather, they are the players who inspire awe in the great players.

  10. #10
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    I heard a battle scarred old jazz veteran describe what it takes to succeed in jazz.....

    "You have to be so exceptional, that you CANNOT be ignored.

  11. #11
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    I don't think any of the musicians I know in my professional network make a living completely from playing jazz, at least not in the sense that most professionals in other areas would understand it. Most of us teach, at least, and we find ways to minimise outgoings. Others mostly play theatre or session gigs.

    Making a living from performing jazz to a listening audience I feel requires a convergence of a number of aspects. It takes a lot of time to build up a head of steam in a career, a lot of effort, networking, organisation, people skills and sales. Now, everyone's obsessed with your numbers of social media etc.

    There are courses you can go on to learn how to get better at all this stuff.

    That's before we get to music. So, writing, playing with others, building a band sound, doing the necessary admin, recording, mixing, etc etc. I have heard excellent players sound world class with the right band. The right band is a BIG part of it.

    Oh yeah, almost, forgot, musically, you personally need to be a badass. Here something I want to say - all the great players have an identity. It's not enough to be merely great at playing your instrument. If someone says 'X is great they can play anything' I think 'so what?' You need a SOUND.

    THING IS THOUGH - Metheny was a pretty rare talent, prodigy etc, connections early on, identity as a player etc - and EVEN HE had to book the gigs and drive the car.

    I don't think it's easy for anyone. Given a requisite baseline level of sheer ability, being a touring pro can get to be a drag for many. Some never fancy it. Others give up. Others are still going into their 80s.

  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by rNeil View Post
    Hey Hep ...

    Went to your site, great stuff. Enjoyed your vids, especially with the licorice stick playing!

    And ... you think guitarists have it bad, try being a jazz/torch singer these days ...

    Sent from my SM-G930V using Tapatalk
    Hey thanks! Not sure what the licorice stick playing is, but I take it.

    Being a jazz singer has its pluses, like you book your own gigs and be your own boss. And minuses, like not much sideman gigs if any, which is b&b for instrumentalists.

  13. #13
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    Clarinet reference ... been around a while.



    Sent from my SM-G930V using Tapatalk

  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77 View Post
    I don't think any of the musicians I know in my professional network make a living completely from playing jazz, at least not in the sense that most professionals in other areas would understand it. Most of us teach, at least, and we find ways to minimise outgoings. Others mostly play theatre or session gigs.

    Making a living from performing jazz to a listening audience I feel requires a convergence of a number of aspects. It takes a lot of time to build up a head of steam in a career, a lot of effort, networking, organisation, people skills and sales. Now, everyone's obsessed with your numbers of social media etc.

    There are courses you can go on to learn how to get better at all this stuff.

    That's before we get to music. So, writing, playing with others, building a band sound, doing the necessary admin, recording, mixing, etc etc. I have heard excellent players sound world class with the right band. The right band is a BIG part of it.

    Oh yeah, almost, forgot, musically, you personally need to be a badass. Here something I want to say - all the great players have an identity. It's not enough to be merely great at playing your instrument. If someone says 'X is great they can play anything' I think 'so what?' You need a SOUND.

    THING IS THOUGH - Metheny was a pretty rare talent, prodigy etc, connections early on, identity as a player etc - and EVEN HE had to book the gigs and drive the car.

    I don't think it's easy for anyone. Given a requisite baseline level of sheer ability, being a touring pro can get to be a drag for many. Some never fancy it. Others give up. Others are still going into their 80s.
    If someone says they can play anything, it's not a good sign indeed.

    Couple of cases in point... hey I need a trumpet, we do early jazz tunes and styles, can you do it?- sure, I can play anything (didn't know most of the tunes and played bop on everything)

    Looking for a drummer for Dixie style, can you recommend anyone?- Sure, call Jimmy, he can play anything (shows up in shorts and plays rock loud).

    hahaha. Seriously, yea, get a style, a sound, and identity, it's better than being the jack of all trades... Even though some of them are quite good and reliable. Employable for background jazz gigs at least.

  15. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by rNeil View Post
    Clarinet reference ... been around a while.



    Sent from my SM-G930V using Tapatalk
    But of course!

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hep To The Jive View Post
    If someone says they can play anything, it's not a good sign indeed.

    Couple of cases in point... hey I need a trumpet, we do early jazz tunes and styles, can you do it?- sure, I can play anything (didn't know most of the tunes and played bop on everything)
    Well this how I can usually find a way to feel superior to all this foetal virtuosos that infest the scene, you know.

    hahaha. Seriously, yea, get a style, a sound, and identity, it's better than being the jack of all trades... Even though some of them are quite good and reliable. Employable for background jazz gigs at least.
    There are guitar players - I know some of them - who ace everything. Rock. Gypsy Jazz. Bop. Country. They exist. They all own about twelve guitars too. I'm not jealous.... honest :-) I just think I have a bit of a tendency to lean that way myself, because it's fun to try and nail it.

    Someone heard me playing Gypsy who knew me from modern/contemp jazz (I'd used to play with a fat chorus and a bit of drive like a low rent Sco) and said 'I would not guess you were the same player.'

    He meant it as a big compliment, but that got me thinking.

  17. #17
    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77 View Post
    Well this how I can usually find a way to feel superior to all this foetal virtuosos that infest the scene, you know.



    There are guitar players - I know some of them - who ace everything. Rock. Gypsy Jazz. Bop. Country. They exist. They all own about twelve guitars too. I'm not jealous.... honest :-) I just think I have a bit of a tendency to lean that way myself, because it's fun to try and nail it.

    Someone heard me playing Gypsy who knew me from modern/contemp jazz (I'd used to play with a fat chorus and a bit of drive like a low rent Sco) and said 'I would not guess you were the same player.'

    He meant it as a big compliment, but that got me thinking.
    Sure cats like that do exists. Hell, I'm pretty efficient myself in rock or country and whatnot. But you started talking about THE sound... Most I know who play 'anything' are good at it, but not great in anything in particular.

    That's being said, I'm open to all kinda music, folks, I'll play anything, you got a gig for me?


  18. #18
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    Gigging jazzers - Earning a living from music poll

    I think the trick is to play different genres but not try to pastiche them; do it in your own style.

  19. #19
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    There are some excellent (perhaps world class) jazz musicians in San Diego that play in resturants with sometimes just a handful of patrons half of which seemed annoyed that their conversations are being interupted by jazz. Not sure what they are being paid though.

    One of those musicians written about in a local paper, this week:

    After 53 years of laying down the bottom end for everyone from Art Pepper to Madonna, bassist Bob Magnusson is calling it quits and withdrawing from performing in public.
    I was talking to him at a restuarant once when he said, when there are fewer in the audience than on the bandstand, we just quit for the night.

    Years and years ago I saw him playing at a restuarant bar here in San Diego with Joe Pass, there where maybe 10 people there listening. This situation is getting old as is this topic.
    B+
    Frank (aka fep)

  20. #20
    I took up another career given the uncertainties of earning a living as a jazz musician. I had achieved a middle class lifestyle through a combination of performing, teaching, and composing/recording. Ultimately the 'backup' career took off and demanded that I be 'all in'.

    I go on 'tour', but my instrument is a laptop.

    Didn't Ellis Marsalis say that if you had something to fall back on, you would.

    For me it's all good. I'm not an entertainer and my taste runs to the outside, anyway.

    And I play what I like to play when I gig.

  21. #21
    Quote Originally Posted by fep View Post
    Years and years ago I saw him playing at a restaurant bar here in San Diego with Joe Pass, there where maybe 10 people there listening. This situation is getting old as is this topic.
    They don't make 'em better than Bob Magnusson. Sad that he's retiring, but it sounds like the right decision from a physical health perspective.

    I think in some ways Jazz has always had periods like this. The 70s was a notoriously bleak time. In our era, at least in terms of what I see, there isn't a ton of demand for live jazz music. There are certainly places to play and good audiences that regularly go to concerts, especially where I live in NYC, but otherwise, where is the market? I recently drove across the country and I would be shocked if anyone could make a living as a performing jazz musician in any of the cities I visited: Santa Fe, Nashville, Asheville, Baltimore.

    Having a career playing jazz today seems largely the same as many sports to me today: if you want a career playing basketball, you're either gonna play in the NBA, or do some combination of coaching and playing and keeping your costs very low. In jazz today, I think the economic rewards of playing jazz even at the very highest levels is considerably lower, but, the overall analogy seems roughly correct to me.

  22. #22
    I play fulltime. wish it was all jazz, but its not..i have to do smooth jazz, rock/pop variety band gigs, country gigs( i dont mind this really get to play mandolin), cheesy gigs, so whatever.

  23. #23
    Quote Originally Posted by pcsanwald View Post
    They don't make 'em better than Bob Magnusson. Sad that he's retiring, but it sounds like the right decision from a physical health perspective.

    I think in some ways Jazz has always had periods like this. The 70s was a notoriously bleak time. In our era, at least in terms of what I see, there isn't a ton of demand for live jazz music. There are certainly places to play and good audiences that regularly go to concerts, especially where I live in NYC, but otherwise, where is the market? I recently drove across the country and I would be shocked if anyone could make a living as a performing jazz musician in any of the cities I visited: Santa Fe, Nashville, Asheville, Baltimore.

    Having a career playing jazz today seems largely the same as many sports to me today: if you want a career playing basketball, you're either gonna play in the NBA, or do some combination of coaching and playing and keeping your costs very low. In jazz today, I think the economic rewards of playing jazz even at the very highest levels is considerably lower, but, the overall analogy seems roughly correct to me.
    Actually, the 70s were the only time period where there was a considerable revival in jazz. It was the latter half of the 60s where all the jazz clubs were closing like mad.
    In the 70s, jazz guitar especially became so strong that people like George Barnes and Bucky Pizzarelli, Chuck Wayne and Joe Puma, Kenny Burrell,, Sam Brown, Atilla Zoller and Jim Hall, were playing to full clubs and small concert halls all over NY. I used to see all of them, over and over again. Joe Pass became a huge star, selling a lot of records on Norman Grantz' Pablo label with oscar peterson The baby boomers were discovering jazz guitar, and even CG for the first time

    On the fusion side, MacLaughlin and Coryell were everywhere, playing to large audiences all over the place.
    Even big bands made a comeback, and people were discovering bands like Woody Herman, Count Basie, Buddy Rich, Stan Kenton, Thad Jones and Mel Lewis, when the newport jazz festival first came to NY.

    NYC had even started a program called Jazz Interactions, where little punks like me could have a free group lesson with Atilla Zoller every week. 802 was still very strong, and I found myself playing at Musician Trust Fund Jazz Concerts all over the city with cats like Ted Nash, Jerry Dodgion, Jimmy Knepper, Don Friedman, Jimmy Owens, Clark Terry, etc...

    Then the digital synth came along in the 80s, and it was all over...

  24. #24
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    Last years I noticed the development of smaller comunities in big cities (I mean really big) - it's like you can find anything... you know something like groups who watch silent movies or eat Italian food and talk Italian, whatever... often these groups have some similarities, some general trends.. I do not know how to name it, maybe some thing like indie.... often they lead relatively healthy lifestyle... look a bit marginal and subcultural but at the same time fashionable and trendy)))
    Often they meet in cafes taht have independent image (like vagan, no liquors, cafe-biikstores etc.) in Russia in big cities so-called 'anti-cafes' became popular... where yo pay for time and basic drinks (tea cofiie water) and snaxkes are included.. usually the are arranged in a way that you can read, work (even rehearse), coommunicate, very often they are focused on customers with kids...

    Also I noticed that 'serious interests' of such groups sometimes can be superficial... in general it remids the subcultures of 20th centruies but it is much less agressive and at teh same time imho much less creative and demanding.

    Why I am telling all this... it looks like small jazz groups (or solo guitar) and of course various cross-overs are wellcome in such places...
    I played ait the same vegetarian place in a group in a renaissance group, the barouque grou a couple of times and once a jazz group...

    What I do not like is that the audience mostly takes it very relaxed and does not make much difference what is played, it is more about 'something weird' 'somethng not pope'... and if for jazz things I can more or less live with that - for early music I felt really angry... because it affeceted musican too and they began to play everything in some universal crossover manner -jazzycountrybaroque - which is terrible... I feel disappointed and embarassed usually.

    But this is the way to earn too if you are smart enough... these places are small but there are lots of them, some pay fixed price, some offer donations (which I hate really).

    Another point is the internet - these places often arrange live-streams and some of them have regular audience... so basically there can be 20 people in fron of you but there can be a 1000 watching you...

    These small comunities together with internet make a sort of network and they can live almost absolutely independently from the society and tough demands of real showbiz, and some performers if they get the flow can be quite in demand there - they wont be millionaires but they can find a way to what they like and earn for living. At least I know a few...

    In my opinion if a young musician feels himself to be interesting and creative musically thsis where he should promote himself today...

    By the way... let's look and see... for me Bill Frisell is a legend... and Julian Lage is well kid of star today.. . but really what is there audience? Small clubs during tours (in Europe sometimes maybe bigger clubs), unuvercity halls, libraries etc. and the Internet... I would even say mostly internet

  25. #25
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    I think you would hate my band Jonah lol

    Good points tho.

  26. #26
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    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77 View Post
    I think you would hate my band Jonah lol

    Good points tho.

    One of the advantages (or distavantages) of this new way of liveing is that you do not have to hate anyone - you just move to another room...

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