What's the hardest thing to do on a guitar? According to this humorous short video that's been making the rounds on YouTube (and GuitarWorld.com), it's ... well, I don't want to spoil it for you if you haven't seen it.
The video is below -- give it a quick viewing. Don't worry, it's really short:
OK, I'm guessing you've seen it now.
Ha ha, right? It's a complaint as old as music-making itself, and one that's particularly in vogue in the Internet/DIY era in which we live. How, exactly, DO you make money being a musician these days?
Glad you asked! I'll probably end up sounding like some pseudo-zen Mr. Miyagi-type, but that's fine. It's the message that counts. Which is ...
Maybe you do nothing.
That's right. Maybe you make money doing something ... by doing nothing.
At the least, can we agree that picking up a guitar and saying you want to make money with it can be counterproductive to the art form itself, to the art of making music (more zen-like zeal, I know)? Not that making money from playing music is wrong -- it isn't. And having an overarching goal of making money isn't wrong, either. Anyone who wants to be a full-time musician obviously has to find a way to make money.
But maybe a shift in philosophy is needed. Why are you a musician? This might be a sweeping generalization, but it's probably NOT because you hate music but happen to possess virtuoso-level skills, right? I'm guessing you're a musician because music-making is a wild, indescribable drive that satisfies your soul in a way no other pursuits can compare. So don't let the pursuit of dough be your prime mover. Do something you find interesting and rewarding. If it's good enough, or intriguing enough, chances are that others will also be interested.
I've been taking my own advice. Lately my company has been working on several projects that we recognize will be money losers. Take our Hipster Orchestra — to date, it's lost $50,000. We've also dipped our toes into some endeavors in pop writing and pop packaging. Not only has it yielded no financial results, but there is no business strategy in place. Perfect, right?!
HOWEVER, if what you're doing is good, unique and creative, there will be an interested and engaged end user. Could be a regional fanbase. Could be an A&R person who has larger-scale ambitions. Could be someone who wants to invest in your idea.
Those projects my company is working on, the ones that aren't generating revenue? They're producing valuable results that will manifest themselves in other aspects of our business, whether it's branding, skill development or some other potentially tangible intangible. And hey, there's always the possibility that these initiatives WILL make us money someday.
So my reply to that admittedly funny video clip? Don't pick up a guitar simply to make money. Pick up the guitar, make good music, make music YOU love, and see what happens.
Until next time ...
Jared Gutstadt (b. 1977), is an American music entrepreneur and CEO of Jingle Punks Music. Jingle Punks Music has been featured in Billboard, Wired and Variety and was named "one of America's most promising start-ups" by Business Week. His band, the Hipster Orchestra, performs fresh and modern orchestral versions of alternative and indie classics. You can find out more about the Hipster Orchestra online and at iTunes or Amazon: Hipster Dinner Party Vol. 1 ... Nirvana Sessions.