Here is an excerpt from a chapter on success and failure from a health-oriented career guide for artists, Sound Advice, written by MBW Contributing Editor Rhian Jones and PhD student and musician Lucy Heyman.
The book covers the mental and physical health problems musicians may encounter and offers many tools and techniques to aid in prevention.
Expect original interviews with leading researchers, health professionals, business people, and a variety of artists including Laura Mvula, Will Young, Imogen Heap, Wayne Hector, MNEK, Nina Nesbitt, Lauren Aquilina, Ella Eyre, Jonathan Higgs, Lady Leshurr and many others. It is now available from Shoreditch Press.
Unfortunately, the vast majority of musicians won’t make it.
As we detailed in the Money Management chapter, the average salary for a working musician in the UK is £ 23,000. This can be made up of income from playing and writing music, but also from teaching, trading, selling goods, and possibly selling music.A totally independent part-time job, either for necessity or to achieve a change of scene and a sense of perspective .
Even acts that might look like they hit the big time did another job on the side. Idles drummer Jon Beavis was a restaurant manager and bar worker most of the time and couldn’t afford to quit until their second album was released in 2018.
Bassist Dev (Adam) was the venue manager, guitarist Lee was a worker and teacher, singer Joe was a social worker, and guitarist Mark was a (very tired) dentist.
Beavis says: “On the 2017 tour, Mark had to drive from work in London to shows and then shut down after the gig and work and start up again the next day because he couldn’t take everything with him on the days off. I don’t know how he did it! “
They all left work in August 2018, during roughly a three-month tour.
In today’s streaming age, having a day job may be necessary when lots of streams result in a relatively small amount of money in your back pocket. According to The Trichordist, it would take over 3,000 streams per hour on Spotify to earn the UK minimum wage and over 1,600 on Apple Music.
In today’s streaming age, having a day job may be necessary when lots of streams result in a relatively small amount of money in your back pocket.
The reality is that only a tiny fraction of the files get enough streams to make a living. Have you ever heard of the statistics that half of the world’s wealth is owned by the top 1% of people? This also applies to the music streaming world.
In 2017, 22,000 of Spotify’s ‘Top-Tier’ aka. The highest earning acts made up just 0.7% of all artists on their platform (three million). So the remaining 99.3% took home either a medium or a low paycheck. Other sources of income such as touring and sales of goods take a while to build, which is why most musicians make multiple records.
A typical example: Idles could only get a decent wage for music after almost 10 years of hard work and frugality. “Album one was paid for by all of us in the band and we all saved some money for album two,” explains Beavis.
“Even when we started in 2009, we got around £ 50 for every show we did, and we always put it in a band pot and never touched it. We would use this pot for gasoline or pay for t-shirts the first time we run goods. There was always that business element even though we were playing shows in pubs in front of about five people. “
Because of the low chance of hitting the “big time”, it’s important to have realistic expectations for a career in music. You might be the next superstar, but do you have a backup plan in case that doesn’t work out? And at the end of the day, is that kind of success and all the nonsense that inevitably comes with it even what you really want?
Adam Ficek, who began his career as a member of Babyshambles and grew up with the ambition to make it (whatever that meant), now balances life as a musician with his work as a trained psychotherapist. His musical income comes from a combination of crowdfunding (thanks to a strong fan base that supports his releases) and a small tour every few years.
“It works just fine for me,” he says. “There’s no pressure and I don’t have to deal with some of the more common aspects of the commercial music industry. I don’t feel like I have to go out of my way to get a third-party perspective. I can do everything the way I want, which is much more pleasant, and I can be more creative with what I want to do. “
“When I was younger I wish someone had told me to really work on yourself and the music you want to make and make sure it’s 100% something you love as a brand and a product and would hear and idolize. “
If you manage to get some big hits, Ella Eyre, who had a number one single and a BRIT Award early in her career, encourages artists to enjoy it but also focus on the bigger picture. She says, “I’ve been in the business since I was 16 and my first experience was very shiny, dazzling, glamorous and exciting. But it’s really important to maintain perspective and goals and take your craft seriously.
“When I was younger I wish someone had told me to really work on yourself and the music you want to make and make sure it’s 100% something you love as a brand and a product and would hear and idolize.
“I think it’s very important, especially in your younger years, to keep an eye on the bigger picture and have people around you who are aware of that big picture and aren’t necessarily looking for quick numbers. Long life to develop and develop takes a long time, and it is not the music industry’s reality to win a BRIT and become number one for the first time. “
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