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So you want to be in a rock band?: Finding extra cash off the traditional stage

Rose Cora Perry | Interrobang | Lifestyles | February 11th, 2008

Although in these past few weeks I've demonstrated many of the horrors that take place in the music industry through my examination of popular scams, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. For every rip off artist out there, there is also an opportunity upon which aspiring professional musicians can capitalize.

Many moons ago, musicians (well, any artists really) were able to generate profits from solely performing and marketing their original material, but unfortunately a lot has changed, and even some of the top grossing artists of our day are so far in debt to their record labels that they are struggling to make ends meat.

This doesn't mean that success isn't possible, it just means currently musicians cannot afford to wait for our big break. Instead, if music is truly in your soul, I suggest that you rock ‘til your heart's content, but in order to satisfy creditors, treat your craft as more of a part-time gig while pursuing other more stable employment.

From licensing one's music to teaching private lessons to playing in a cover band on the side, there are a multitude of avenues that artists can pursue on a part-time basis in order to supplement their income.

Teaching music

Teaching can be a personally enriching and rewarding experience, but the benefits do not just stop there. Scheduling is flexible, it can be quite financially lucrative (average going rate is between $25-$40 per hourly lesson), and you will rarely fall short of finding employment opportunities whether you're working as a freelancer or as an employee of a music academy.

There are students of all age ranges who want to pick up a new instrument, and unlike other teaching positions, being a music teacher does not necessarily require having formal credentials (though it will help). Often, playing experience, professionalism and customer service abilities are all that you need. As a bonus, usually the preferred music lesson nights fall on days of the week that don't produce large turnouts at venues, so it will not interfere with your original act's touring schedule.

Jesse Tomes, local freelance guitar instructor says that getting your first student is as easy as asking around your friends and acquaintances to see if they know of anyone looking to learn your instrument(s) of expertise. If that doesn't generate any results, there are several discussions boards and/or social networking sites such as the Facebook “marketplace” section in which individuals post want ads for teachers and as well, you can post your own ads (free of charge I might add) advertising your services. But, if you just don't have enough time to squeeze in looking for students, as mentioned, getting hired by a music academy is possible as well. Though music academies take a percentage of their teachers' earnings (varies, between 10-to-20 per cent), remember, in this scenario, the students will come to you, and thus, there will be less leg work in terms of promoting one's services.

Some of the more notable music academies in London include: The Royal Conservatory of Music, Walters Music School, Noteworthy School of Music, and Yahama Music School.

Special events performance

Believe it or not, in the current music marketplace Adam Sandler's character in The Wedding Singer would have had a pretty sweet gig because when it comes to spending money on entertainment for special events, celebrators don't seem to believe there is such a thing as being too lavish.

There have been several occasions throughout the career of my band, ANTI-HERO, in which we've been approached to play anything from bar mitzvahs to fashion shows to wedding receptions to birthday parties, and every time there's always been a tempting sum of money offered in our direction. Though typically these types of events employ cover acts or DJs, if you've worked rigorously at developing a die-hard fanbase, a reputation for being a solid live act, and you have a strong online presence, you may just find yourself at the other end of one of these offers. But, I always advise bands not to become immediately swayed by the offer of cold-hard cash, and to inquire about all of the pertinent details relating to the gig (just as though it were any normal show) prior to accepting the invitation, because there is a common overseas party entertainment request scam that has been circulating online for the past year or so.

Although it would be impossible to depend on special event performance offerings as a stable auxiliary income (unless your band became a working tribute act or got signed to a party planner talent agency), playing one or two of these shows every few months can set you for quite some time. With usual payments starting at $500 with professional lighting, sound and stage equipment provided, a band is able to make a killing with very little effort exerted on their behalf. There are no promotional concerns as these are private “invite-only” parties, drinks and food may be complementary, and often, to include in goodies bags given out to their attendees, celebrators will purchase mass amounts of your merchandise in advance, leaving you with nothing but straight profit.

There is one slight downside for the pure-blooded original act however; often adding cover songs to your setlist is required. Though it's a small price to pay for the exposure, and financial rewards, some bands are adamant about maintaining their reputation as original songwriters. Additionally, unlike a standard gig, you may be required to play up to three sets in a given night with breaks filled in by a DJ. I can tell you from personal experience, this process can be exhausting, especially when good old granny has had one two many drinks and will not get off the dancefloor, even though it's pushing 4 a.m.
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