Making the Transition from a Music Hobbyist to a Music Professional

It seems that I confused some of my friends and fans when I said in January that I had taken a day job.  Some thought that was a step backward.  Apparently some thought that I was already a music professional– making a living at music the past 4 years after I quit my previous day job.  But that was not the case.  Even during the past 4 years, my music expenses always exceeded my music income.  My savings from my previous day job not only paid my bills, but was subsizing my music.  So, even though I was doing music full-time, I was still essentially a music hobbyist from a financial standpoint.

2007:  Music Becomes my Career

It was in 2007 that I decided that music was my career.  Any job I had to pay the bills was now considered a “day job.”  From then on, when I met someone new and they asked what I did, I answered, “I’m a musician.”  I stopped identifying myself with the name of the job I did to pay the bills.  My career was music now.

However, from 2007 to 2017, I spent more money on music than I received in income.  I lost money on music each of those years.  Or, if you’re a glass half-full kind of person, you could say that I “invested” in my music career.  And I invested heavily– about $110,000– paid for by cutting my expenses and putting all income over my basic needs into music.

2018:  Semi-Professional Musician

At the beginning of 2018, however, I decided that I had “invested” enough.  It’s time for some ROI– Return on Investment.  So I set a goal for myself that, for the first time ever, I would no longer subsidize my music with income from any day job.  Music would have to stand on its own two feet and pay for itself.  This is a step away from being a hobbyist, and a step towards becoming a music professional.  I call this transitional phase being a music semi-professional.

It just so happened that my decision that music would now pay for itself coincided with my savings running out and taking a new day job.  Hence the confusion for some people.

Music Income vs. Music Expenses

It may sound like no big deal to say music income must meet music expenses.  But let me give you some numbers to show just how hard this is.

A typical gig this year with my acoustic group, Scupanon, paid $150.  Divided by 3 band members, that’s $50 for me.  The gigs were for 2 or 3 hours, plus and hour to setup the PA, and another hour to tear it down, and travel time.  It was typically 8 hours of work to make $50.  In contrast, I hired a lawyer to help me get out of a bad TV contract I signed back in 2011 out of ignorance.  One hour of the lawyer’s time cost $295.  So I had to play 6 of those $150 gigs, working about 48 hours, to make enough money to pay the lawyer for one hour of his time.

A gig last Spring for my rock band, Electric Poetry, paid us $2 for every person we brought to the show.  We brought 23 people, and so we got paid $46.  Divided by the 6 band members, that was not quite $8 each.  A new set of guitar strings for the guitar I played that night cost me about what I made for the gig.

So making enough music income to cover music expenses is not as easy as it sounds.

How Am I Doing in 2018?

I’m proud to say that I am meeting my goal in 2018.  With 3 months to go, my 2018 music income exceeds my music expenses.  Not by much– but I’m in the black.  I’ve never achieved that before.  12 years after deciding to make music my career, it is finally paying for itself.  It’s a big step forward for me.

I am achieving my goal thanks to 1) making tough decisions on spending; and 2) increased income from playing more gigs, and CD and T-shirt sales at gigs.

The Misfit Club and The Standing O Project

Another key to making my goal is the financial contributions of the Misfit Club.  This is mostly achieved by people subscribing to the Standing O Project and naming me as their favorite artist.  I have not yet had any fans sign up in 2018, but I’m hoping to get at least three more by the year’s end.

I urge you to subscribe to the Standing O Project, not just as a way of helping me and other musical artists, but to help yourself by discovering your new favorite artists.  Try it out for free by clicking this link:

Music Streaming That Supports Artists & Builds Community

Email me at rob@robroper.com if you have any questions about how it works and I’ll be happy to answer them for you.

-Rob Roper, September 23, 2018

 

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