In a recent article by Darren Levin on the FasterLouder music website, the harsh reality of being a musician and making ends meet was discussed. One of the interesting factors to this piece was when Violent Soho’s guitarist James Tidswell admitted that at one of the highest points of the band’s career, being nominated for an ARIA for their 2010 debut album and touring America, he had to apply for a job at McDonald’s just to keep the wolf from the door.
Most musicians work hard for very little monetary reward, so the big question is: How do you keep yourself afloat within such a dog eat dog world? First, you have to define why it is you are in the music business. In most cases, it is for a love of music and the satisfaction of playing songs of our favourite artists with friends. Yet we would all like some commercial success and reward for our hard work, wouldn’t we?
In a recent documentary called ‘The Truth About Money in Music’, many acclaimed Australian artists sit down and chat about the honest truth behind making a dollar from the music business. Pete Kilroy from Hey Geronimo puts the equation in simple terms: “If you have a $50k a year job, it means that for four or five members of a band to earn that, with all the commissions and expenses, your band would have to turn over $1million a year.”
Turning over $1million seems like quite a task, so where does the journey begin? Why don’t you just head down to your local music venue and ask them for a gig? What have you got to lose? The worst that the venue can say is no; however, most times they are generous to local up-and-coming musicians that are just starting out.
Before Angus and Julia Stone hit the big time, started touring Europe and creating albums with Rick Rubin, Angus Stone was hiding away in his bedroom writing some of their early and most intimate songs. If it hadn’t been for Julia’s idea to head out to some open mic nights, then who knows whether they would have ever broken into the world’s music scene.
In the context of young and local musicians who are not really ready for the world stage, the opportunity to showcase their talents in a welcome and friendly environment is the best place to get started. There is an old saying that as a musician you should play every show like it’s your last because you never know when your last gig will be. Also, you never quite know who is going to be in the audience watching your performance. (Over the last decade there has been countless numbers of acts discovered and gone on to the big time.)
If nothing else, it is a fantastic avenue to test out some new songs on a new crowd of people and also a great opportunity to meet some likeminded musicians that could help out with your musical career. From looking in the local papers (Forte included), there is a number of local open mic’s around the area that all want to hear the new fresh original talent. Most of the spots are fifteen or twenty minutes and allow you to gain valuable experience.
The past few years has seen the demise of many of Geelong’s signature live music venues. From The Nash to The Wrong Crowd, it seems to be quite a sad state of affairs. Despite this, there is still an enthusiastic live music scene around. From Battle of the Bands at Courthouse ARTS to the Live and Local stage at Motor City Music Festival, there are countless opportunities to get your name out there and music heard.
The Sleepy Hollows Blues Club Jam is also a great venue to showcase your talents and material with the option of getting other musicians up playing your tunes. Having taken up on this opportunity a few times, I can’t recommend it highly enough. It throws you in the deep end and challenges your musical skills and is also a great meeting place.
There are many musicians out there working to make ends meet and playing for the love of it. Monetary rewards are an added bonus to one of the greatest vocations around.
By Tex Miller