Many of my music buddies ask, how do I go about making a good living playing music... like you? This picture is how I do it... $1 at a time.
So to answer the question is difficult, but I'll try hear while the thoughts are fresh on my scattered brain.
1) You have to define for yourself what you mean by "a good living". For us it's being comfortable. We don't splurge on a lot of things. We cook a few times a week, eat leftovers and go out to eat every now and then. We enjoy the simple things in life, that fortunately do not cost too much. If that's not you too then in this music market I'm betting you'd have a difficult time making what you'd need to call "a good living".
2) You have to work at your craft. Being good at just doing what you do is just not enough anymore. That means hours of practicing, even though you're already good enough. That means nights and nights of tweaking your set list to fit the crowd and never being satisfied with just playing the same old thing. It means being OK with the fact that you, as a musician/artist, are going to evolve and change. Embrace that and make the most of it.
3) You have to genuinely love people... talking to them, being friends with them and genuinely loving each one of them as a family member. My journey from working a Fortune 50 job to being a full time musician has been a trip of getting to know and love one fan/friend/family member at a time. People are naturally inquisitive about how I make my music and that leads to tons of conversations and friends. Those friends/fans are what we as struggling, small musicians thrive off of. We're never going to fill a big arena with fans that have never met us and are just there because a friend of theirs said we were the stuff. But that doesn't mean you can't have a following of family that continually grows and helps shape you as an artist and person. 100s of you reading this know that because we have become like brothers and sisters on this journey. It honestly means more to me than my music does and inspires my music in ways you'll never know.
4) You have to be a good businessman or business woman about how you approach things. You have to tell the world who you are in a way that they want to hear it. Through Facebook, Twitter and your www presence. You have to manage your finances and your music's finances. You must keep impeccable records. For me it's critical to look back at last year's trip to Florida and see what worked and what did not. It will be the same with you.
5) I think you have to be relatively debt free to be able to make it through the hard times. At least be in a position where you can make your mortgage payment easily. Be OK with driving an old car that's dependable. Be OK with wearing the same shoes for years. If you can have a budget of say $1,500 to pay your monthly bills then you can easily do that. But if you need $4k a month then that's just a lot of pressure on you and your art.
6) You have to be dependable. Just this past Friday a venue that I'm friends with posted several derogatory remarks about their booked musician not showing up. That's just totally unacceptable and it's those things that make it hard for those who treat this as a business to overcome. No wonder venue owners resort to a juke box... unless the power goes off it will be there. You, as a working full time musician, have to be like that juke box. Sick, happy, lazy... however you feel... you still have to go to work. You don't get sick days or vacation days. "The show must go on" is something we've all heard and there's a reason for that. You have to be willing to show up early and stay late. You have to be willing to take very few or no breaks. You have to be willing to play what the crowd wants to hear, not what you like to play. It's a business, not a hobby and you have to treat it that way. You have to communicate with the boss, whether it's a bar owner or a bride. If I'm running a little late I always text. If I'm cutting it close I always call. It makes a huge difference but honestly just goes back to treating others like you'd like to be treated if you were in the same place.
7) You have to be willing to do "whatever it takes" to make it (legally). That means having multiple means of income from your music. For me it breaks down into 5 ways of making money with my music, listed in the order of what I consider the most financially rewarding. 1) Wedding events, private parties, corporate events and festivals. 2) Bar/pub/restaurant gigs/shows (there is a difference between a gig and show). 3) Busking and Markets: Some of you will say never will I to either of these, but you're missing out of great experiences, friends and $$. Did you know Ben Franklin was one of the first buskers. He'd stand on the street corner reciting poetry with his famous hat in hand. Folks you know that have done or busk regularly include Sir Paul McCartney, John Butler and even Bob Dylan. More on that soapbox later. 4) Recording music for others... ie... writing songs for those who have words but can't play music. I have a few guys who keep me pretty busy and they're like brothers to me with way more money than sense. 5) Music licensing and publishing. I'm relatively new to this. As some of you know I have one song that's been picked up so far and hope for many others. That's a long term money stream though so until that river starts flowing you just have to keep pushing the pump handle by continuing to write and put your music in front of folks. I use Broadjam and Taxi online and my busking puts my music out there in the masses, from which just this trip I've met a publisher and a record label.
8) Share the journey with your musician friends. Lift them up, support them and make them better and be happy with their successes. Many of you who read this are in this list for me. Guys who would do anything for me and who I'd do anything for. It's a sad fact that some musicians, usually good ones, are pretty much A@@holes. But, for every one of them there's a true, caring friend who you know you can count on because they count on you in the same way. It makes the journey so much sweeter too. I learn so much from many of you on a regular basis and that music buddy friendship is a gift I cherish. If you're not doing this you should try to start. You're gonna need some paw-bearers one of these days and other than blood family, for a musician it will probably fall to your musical brothers to carry you out. Just be willing to do the same.
Whew... there you have. My Dummies Guide to What It Takes To Make A Living As A Musician. At least part one of it. One friend, one fan, one family member, one song, one show and one dollar at at time.