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  • Amy Ward-Wurst

Show Me the $, Pivot, or QUIT

In the 1996 film "Jerry Maguire", Tom Cruise tells his agent, "SHOW ME THE MONEY!"--The iconic line that most of us know and love. This catchphrase is something that many of us have thought of at least once in our careers. When it comes to being an artist, money is a tricky subject. Recently, someone asked me, "how do musicians make money" ? I paused for a moment to see if he had any clue about the music business. After the pause, he continued with "it has to be really tough to make money as a live performer these days". This got me thinking....Does the average non-musician think that musicians make money primarily by performing live? It made me realize that I NEEDED to write this blog:)

How DO musicians make money?

Well, part of that question is valid. Many musicians solely rely on live performances to pay the bills. It is NOT an easy road, I can tell you that. When starting out, bars/venues pay musicians $100 per player for a 4 hour gig on average. With all the song prep, practicing, set up, dragging equipment to and from venues, and commuting, it ends up being an all day event. This life style is full of very high highs and very low lows. This was my life for 20 plus years. The crazy part: it's a full time job that I LOVED without the benefits. (and for the record, I did not have health benefits for many years, as most the gigs were non-union) To make ends meet, I was a K-8 music teacher by day, a private music instructor after school, and a touring gigging musician by night . (a weeknight show typically was 10pm-2am. ) During this process, I was also writing, recording and releasing music independently. (before digital media, when artists had CD release parties and physical CD's:) Artists are known for wearing many hats because they HAVE to. I don't regret any of those things, but it wasn't easy and I was sleep deprived for years. I firmly believe that when you aren't married and don't have kids in your 20s, it's the time to live it up! -- "Gonna live while I'm alive and sleep when I'm dead"--#BonJovi #Jonbonjovi #RichieSambora #desmondchild


Yes, there are other ways to make money as a musician. (besides local live shows and teaching) The ones that are fortunate to tour with big acts, or have a successful tour of their own start to generate income through ticket sales and merchandise. I have worked with some AMAZING players that still to this day haven't landed the gigs that they truly deserve. The music business is a mysterious beast. Starting a profile on #LinkedIn and expecting work is wishful thinking. It's a a very rare field where resumes really don't mean much. It's about your #craft and the #connection. Successful musicians typically land opportunites from the old faithful saying,

" being at the right place at the right time" . #networking

Music Licensing.

Yes, musicians CAN write songs and make money! According to #Wikipedia, Music Licensing is the licensed use of copyrighted music. It is intended to ensure that the owners of copyrights on musical works are compensated for certain uses of their work. In 2001, I was at the right place at the right time, performing at a small venue for a Berklee Alumni event in New York City. I reconnected with a former professor who had a publishing company in LA. One of my original songs aired shortly after that event on ABC and CBS. That was the beginning of #synclicensing as a career for me.. Sync Licensing is a license granting permission to synchronize a song with moving images on a screen - generally in television, film, or advertisements. One of the perks of placing songs in a TV show or movies is royalties for life. The success of the production determines how well the songwriters get paid. It really is the luck of the draw.


Yes, musicians do give up, even if they don't want to. It's a fact that many can't support themselves and/or their family. The unfair part: It's a bug--if you have the music bug, you never really quit. That's the hardest part--it's in your mind, your hands, your voice, your body. It's your passion. So how do musicians live their lives with the bug? Well, no one can deny the music bug. It's in the blood, for good. So, take it as a compliment. We are born into this world with the gift of music and have something to share, no matter what level of success. So, keep your chin up and keep playing the music. #nevergiveup

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