Learning how to make a living out of music


Job and income security in the modern world is becoming harder to achieve, unless I guess you’re a medical worker, technical engineer, or lawyer the lack of continuity of employment can be stressful.

Unemployment amongst young people in Europe is very high, many overqualified for the available work.  There was an article in the Telegraph Online titled “ ‘New Deal’ to tackle Europe’s mass youth unemployment” that says that almost 1 in 4 young people in the Eurozone is out of work.  The best employment rates for younger people are in Germany so I guess I best keep up with my German Lieder practice.

A music career is only possible if people want to pay to hear you sing or to watch you perform.  I wonder what percentages of musicians, specifically vocalists, get to work continuously.  If it’s around 20%, how do you ensure that you’re in that 20%?  I need to showcase my work and make opportunities for myself in order to help to fund my studies and develop a platform from which to promote myself from in the future.

Whilst discussing this topic with my Mum she sent me a link to an article on the Guardian website which I would also like to share with you titled  “In the digital economy, we’ll soon all be working for free – and I refuse” by Suzanne Moore.   Within the piece Larnier, a computer scientist and musician, sees musicians, artists and journalists as canaries in the mineshaft of this new economy. Who will pay them?

The final comment says  “Technology is here and it’s often great. But we must find a sustainable way of using it so that the stuff we do or make is paid for in living and not virtual wages”.

It’s a good thing I’ve heard that singing may positively influence the immune system through the reduction in stress.  🙂

48 thoughts on “Learning how to make a living out of music

  1. Glad to hear singing reduces stress!!
    I know I always feel amazing & exhilirated after singing!! 🙂

    1. Thanks for dropping by and taking the time to leave a comment. However you would not have thought so last week at the Conservatoire when we were all doing our final year end assessments 🙂

      Come back soon

  2. Interesting article. But I feel it is more about the digital industry, where content is created and spread for free, rather than the live music industry. In the live music industry, sure we are asked to perform for free and sometimes it is a good thing (if it will reach a wide audience or is a particularly important experience) but as freelancers, we are usually free to decide what work we take on which is a good thing. It is getting the work in the first place which is the hardest part…

    Btw the link you posted doesn’t work – I had to change the url slightly to find the article which is here:

    1. Hi Jess, I think this is one area that classical music could use to it’s advantage. Classical music is more about the whole experience of the performance and the digital medium may present us with the means to allow people to sample what is available and tempt them to attend a live concert, recital or the opera. Time will tell 🙂

      Glad you made time to contribute, it is appreciated.

  3. Humm. Writing also has a huge calming, & necessarily, healing effect, which is why I write for free. And also my relationship with old-fashioned roses (at work) heals through the emotions of grief & love. Income matters less, to me, than fulfilling my creative potential, any way, any how. Rosa villosa pomifera ‘Wolly Dodd.’ I will give you the knowledge of its grey woolly leaves: for free. Evangeline

  4. Good article, it’s a widespread discussion and there are no clear answers, although the quick one is that it is very difficult for most musicians to make a living from music, and you have to work hard, there are no easy short cuts. I work very hard composing, recording, promoting, selling my music. I make money from it, and the harder I work the more I make, but it’s tough, although having said that I love doing it, so it’s good tough 🙂 Best of luck to you, you are already successful and I am sure you’ll continue to be 🙂

    1. Hi Mike, I a no stranger to hard work and I am often asked how I manage to fit everything that I do. When I was helping out in Ballet after school the little dancers would call me busy busy Charlotte because I was always having to dash off at the end of the lessons 🙂 I have listened to some of your tracks on your blog and I enjoyed the feel of the music.

      Keep in touch and thanks for the advice.

  5. Good points. As an author, I experience some of the same challenges. Digital access novels creates a much greater potential audience and also increases the number of books by authors all over the world which are available to that audience. Getting noticed in the ever increasing and noisy crowd of authors, then convincing someone to spend 99 cents (US) on my novel, only to make 31 cents from it is somewhat discouraging, but it’s the game we have to play in the current market as eBook sales continue to eclipse print sales.

    1. I appreciate your predicament and I know that many creative people will face the same challenge in coming to understand how to survive in the digital age, but creative people are exceptionally resilient and I am sure we will find a way.

      Out of interest what income could you expect to receive from a either a paperback or hardback copy of a book?

      Kindest Regards

      1. There are some have already made millions, the great majority do it from love/optimism (the ‘vanity press’ is alive and well in freebie digital land too).

  6. I think it is tough for musicians or any other artist. Both my daughters work in the arts (theatre director and artist). They both work at their professions for free at times – and this has paid off, but they have also developed other skills to make ends meet. I don’t think this is new. The sculptors already in history books when I studied them at University in the 1960s, later taught me at art college in the1970’s. Very few writers get by without a day job.

    1. This is a good point Hilary and I have a feeling that the skills that have built up in telesales during the Summer and Winter breaks will help pay the bills whilst I am training 🙂

      I hope that your daughters get as much enjoyment from their work as I do.

      Kindest Regards

  7. One has no option but to continue. If I don’t write, depression sets in which only finds relief after putting words down. Keep going at what you do best and enjoy doing it. I did lots of things to earn a living and bring up a family. It’s been like that always. Mozart wasn’t rich nor was Rembrandt Van Rijn.
    I like your voice very much and you are young so…keep going!

    1. Thanks Gerard, good advice I will pursue my dreams and wish you well with your blog and hope that it gives you the pleasure that I get from performing.

      Best wishes

  8. Hi Charlotte,

    I know lots of very talented people working for nothing. We live in a culture where it tends to be all or nothing. The money goes to the celebrities and little cash to someone singing in a pub who has no chance of recording. Many writers I know have given up on publishers and publish themselves. I know I do! We have to find new ways to communicate and work with audiences. I have been asked recently to review an art exhibition. That would have been unheard of at one time, so things are improving! Good luck with developing your career.

    1. Hi Mike, that is a very interesting point and I am glad that new avenues are opening up for you. Please drop by when you can as any help or advice that I can get to help towards my goal is greatly appreciated.

      Thank you for sharing.

  9. Musicians have always made their living in multiple ways. Wedding and church gigs are a staple of working singers in NYC. Teaching music lessons is another parallel musical activity, but watch out, it can sap your energy and time. I also taught other music subjects: Music Theory, Ear Training, Music History (need university graduate credentials). Unionized artist organizations in the U.S. (rare) and Europe (more common) help to smooth out the bumps by getting better terms and contracts–join the one that best applies to you when the time comes.
    The comment above by jesswyatt http://jesswyatt.wordpress.com/ is right on target. Musicians in the vast majority have made money directly ONLY by performing–the business of recordings, before or after the digital era, has not been organized to favor the actual musicians. So when you’re ready, the money comes from performing live.

    1. Thanks for the advice as a member of the digital generation I have been brought up to accept it as the norm and practical guidance is always useful.

      After reading the responses to my post on Arts Funding I was curious as to how the different mediums are used by musicians to forge a career and pay the bills 🙂 If as pressure grows on governments to cut funding to the arts we have to become better able to self fund, then I believe the digital world is a potential opportunity to promote what musicians have to offer to a new and wider audience and encourage those people to attend live performances.

      Though I am a long way off becoming a professional singer I think it is best for me to be aware of the problems I will face and to try and work out how I should overcome them.

      My very best wishes

  10. I’ll say this, you are unusually level-headed and forward-thinking about your musical career! Since, as you say, we are in a digital world, there are some unproven or only partially proven possibilities. One is called “Long Tail” http://www.thelongtail.com/about.html For your future, the fine arts can be considered a niche market which needs to find its audience–the Internet *might* be able to make that happen. This is an unconfirmed economic theory. One thing it depends on is a unique product, so that’s something to think about as you choose repertoire and how you get your voice out there. The other is Social Media Marketing, which you are already doing a good job of starting. The full Social Media blitz includes coordinating several different pieces. Depending on exactly what’s being promoted, this could mean any or all of a blog, a webpage, Facebook, your own YouTube channel, Twitter, Tumbr or Flickr, and others as well, depending on what’s being marketed. Your initial thought, to use these platforms to get people to your live performances, is a very good starting point.

  11. Your voice is superb – thanks for providing some much needed chill out music. I always say that if I could be granted any one talent it would have to be music. I’d love to be a song writer or singer. Grade 7 piano is unfortunately the pinnacle of my talent.

    1. Thanks for visiting and for such a great compliment 🙂 Who knows what you will achieve as you travel the world. As a word of encouragement for you to keep pursuing your musical aspirations, here is what my composition teacher said about me in my year end report in my last year at the junior RNCM. “Charlotte is one of the most free thinking young composers I have ever taught in a group context, always deriving original and interesting solutions to the musical problems we encounter together. Unfortunately, sometimes the complexity of Charlotte’s ideas surpass her current technical capacity to execute them effectively on the written page – Matt Sergeant”

      But I wont stop trying 🙂

  12. Charlotte, thanks for stopping by my website and following Sheree’s Warm Fuzzies. You are a very talented young woman.

    I loved the article above and your opinion on the matter. I am confident you will find a way to make your passion a profitable one. It is better to do what you love, and love what you do, than to just settle.

    Good luck with your dreams.

  13. Is technology going to put us out of work, or just change the work? “Since the Industrial Revolution began in the 1700s, improvements in technology have changed the nature of work and destroyed some types of jobs. In 1900, 41% of Americans worked in agriculture; by 2000, it was only 2% . Likewise, the proportion of Americans employed in manufacturing has dropped from 30% in the post–World War II years to around 10% today” http://bit.ly/11eupZN Maybe art and music are what we have left in Pandora’s box.

    1. Hi Kate, I believe that we need to find ways to use the technology available to us to engage with our audience. If used correctly the digital methods of communication could help encourage a whole new audience to listen and enjoy classical music.

      Thanks for your contribution please visit again soon.

  14. Charlotte, You have a beautiful soprano voice! I enjoyed listening to the music clip posted on your blog. I wish you all the best in your career!
    By the way, thank you for viewing and liking my photo blog “Lotus Rose”.
    Please come back and visit my blog again soon!

    1. Hi Miki, thanks for drooping by and listening to my singing and I am glad that you enjoyed it. I love the colours that you find everywhere in nature and you capture them so well.

      I hope that you can visit again soon.

      1. You’re welcome Charlotte. When I was in high school, I sang soprano in choir and enjoyed it very much. I will definitely visit your blog again soon.
        Thank you for the feedback and compliment on my photography! I photograph a variety of subjects but I must say I love nature…to me it’s magical.

  15. Hi Charlotte,
    That was a great link to the article on working for free. Very depressing. I know many visual artists have their images stolen by online print houses so it’s not only musicians and writers who lose potential income. I actually believe we have reached a tipping point of a downward spiral because of the erosion of middle class jobs. The economy in the west has fundamentally changed. There are simply less people with disposable income because of all the reason’s listed in that article.

    The only hope is to be really, really good – as one of my art teachers used to say: “there is always room at the top.”

    Thanks for following my blog, and I enjoy yours.

  16. I know nothing of music (other than what I like) and failed pathetically as a writer—so trust me, I haven’t a clue what I’m saying:

    # Yehudi Menuhin wasn’t above free samples in the street at the Edinburgh Festival.
    # Arts is often a numbers game
    # red dominates any photo (just look at that shot of you in the group)
    # people will pay for what they perceive as value

    When it comes to the crunch Polonius’s advice to Laertes (Hamlet) is as true today as ever it was: (couldn’t find a link so I copied it in full for you—please forgive 🙂

    See thou character. Give thy thoughts no tongue,
    Nor any unproportioned thought his act.
    Be thou familiar, but by no means vulgar.
    Those friends thou hast, and their adoption tried,
    Grapple them to thy soul with hoops of steel;
    But do not dull thy palm with entertainment
    Of each new-hatch’d, unfledged comrade. Beware
    Of entrance to a quarrel, but being in,
    Bear’t that the opposed may beware of thee.
    Give every man thy ear, but few thy voice;
    Take each man’s censure, but reserve thy judgment.
    Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy,
    But not express’d in fancy; rich, not gaudy;
    For the apparel oft proclaims the man,
    And they in France of the best rank and station
    Are of a most select and generous chief in that.
    Neither a borrower nor a lender be;
    For loan oft loses both itself and friend,
    And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry.
    This above all: to thine ownself be true,
    And it must follow, as the night the day,
    Thou canst not then be false to any man.

    1. Thanks for the time and thought that you put into your comment, it is very much appreciated 🙂 I am doing a Shakespeare appreciation module next year at the Conservatoire to help with my acting skills so thanks for the passage. I think that the sentiment of the text is excellent and I am grateful that you sent it over to me.

      With my best wishes from Italy and I hope that you will drop by again soon

    1. Thanks for dropping by Brittnee and for reading through some of my posts. I wish you every success with your own business and I hope that our paths cross again soon.

      Best wishes

  17. I have always stood by art being a field reliable enough for a steady income, yes I know it’s hard because it’s not like a regular 9 to 5 job however there’s so many people, such a wide variety of taste out there, all over the world and who doesn’t like music? Everyone does. I don’t know the first thing about classical music, but I simply loved your songs, I’m listening to them as I type this…does sound magical to me 🙂 I believe that money can come from anything provided we’re steadfast enough and never give up. I hope someday I can make a living out of poetry, because I’m so done with working a 9 to 5 job, and I always wanted to only write poems, maybe someday I will. Thanks so much for dropping by and following my blog, much appreciated! 🙂

  18. Your voice is beautiful! I hate to think of your inner calling being hampered by a somewhat elusive goal of “being in the 20%.” It sounds like you have a nice balance of perspective and pursuing what you love. All the best to you. Thank you for following my blog, sereneartist.com. I will follow you, too.

  19. Here’s to anything that helps our immune systems,
    But – and I am sorry for this – you have to balance keeping the wolves from the proverbial door and using that marvellous talent you clearly have.
    Best wishes in all you are trying.

  20. I definitely use singing to de-stress. You use all these muscles that you do not normally (well I don’t normally) and you can get out all of your emotions! Great post 🙂

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