The Difference Between Having A Dream And Having A Career

Posted by Aaron Davison on Wednesday, November 5, 2014

I’m convinced that one of the reasons more musicians don’t make it in the music business is because there isn’t a good map on how to make it, or what making it in the music business even means.  Of course we all think of things like becoming a rock star or playing in a well known band as qualifying as “making it”.  But, there’s usually such a huge element of luck and being in the right place at the right time in stories of musicians who reach this level, that there’s really no consistent way of getting there. It’s very hard to reach a destination without a map on telling you which way to go.

Imagine if to become a doctor or lawyer that potential doctors or lawyers were told that all they needed to do was take out a massive student loan, spend eight years of their lives studying and sacrificing to get their degree and then after all that, they need to travel around randomly with their degrees in hand hoping to bump into the right person at the right time that could help them, maybe, get a job in their respective careers and move up to the next level but that even then there wouldn’t be any guarantees and even if they did get a job they could lose it at any point and would have to start over and go do something else.  Sounds pretty crazy right?

Well, this is pretty much the map that most aspiring musicians have.  It was the map I had when I started out.  After studying music at Berklee College of Music and racking up huge student loans, when I finished I really didn’t have a clue what to do next, despite having improved greatly as a musician.  So I did what most aspiring rock stars do, I formed a band.  We were together for three years, reached a modest level of regional success and then we broke up.  So I formed another band that lasted about a year and a half then broke up.  Then I formed another band that lasted about six months and then… broke up.   I think you get the picture.

Now during all this time, I had to do things to survive. So I did a variety of things, I waited tables, I worked as a courier, I worked as an assistant to an internet entrepreneur, I worked as a sales rep for a guitar manufacturer.  I did a lot of different things, but I never looked at any of them as my real job or career.  They were just ways to make money while I was pursuing my dream of making it in the music business.

It wasn’t until several years into this journey that I started giving guitar lessons and making pretty good money this way, that I realized I could actually make a good living doing something at least related to my passion of playing music.  I did this for a few years, while continuing to play live as much as possible and writing as much music as possible. 

A few years later, I discovered music licensing and started licensing my music and making a little money from that. This was pretty slow going at first, but after a few years I developed a pretty nice part time revenue stream that I continued to nurture.

While I continued to write and perform original music, I also started accepting more and more gigs playing cover songs.  These gigs paid much better than most of the gigs I was getting playing original music and with most of these groups, we were still able to perform a good amount of original music too, as long as we emphasized cover songs that our audience knew. When I was younger I would have considered this “selling out” or not being “true to myself”, but now I look at these gigs as a way  to continue to develop my performance skills, get paid and try out new original material to receptive crowds. (Check out a video of me performing recently in the Dominican Republic here)

A few years ago I reached the point where I was able to live comfortably off of just music related endeavors; performing, licensing, teaching, my website and so on. It wasn’t until fairly recently that I had the realization that during all the time I had spent pursuing my dreams, I had stumbled into a career of sorts that is much more reliable and stable than some vague notion of “making it” through some stroke of possible future luck.

The problem with many aspiring musicians is that they’re often not really sure what they’re aspiring to exactly or how they’re going to get there. Musicians often have vague ideas of how to reach their goals that usually involve playing shows, promoting their music on the internet and hoping that someday, somehow, the right person or people will hear them and help them reach their dreams.

I want to encourage you to look at the path to making it in the music business a little differently.  I want to put the power back into your hands.  There are a variety of ways to make money from your music and your skills right now that you can build and grow into a solid career.  There is no one formula that’s right for everyone, but there are enough consistently reliable ways to make money from music that you can start building a career now, instead of waiting for some stroke of luck and big break that may or may not ever come.

I made a video recently called “How To Make $60,000 A Year Working 25 Hours A Week As A Musician” that presents on example of how to make a good living as a musician.  If you haven’t already, be sure to check that out as it will give you some concrete ideas on how to create a sustainable career in the music business.  There are many variations and possibilities, and the formula I present might not work for everyone, but it will hopefully inspire you to look at your career a little differently and give you some concrete ideas on how to go forward. Also check out my video on Balancing Art And Commerce for more of my thoughts on this topic.

Now of course, looking at your music career this way, won’t prevent your big break from happening or your dreams from coming true.  If anything, it will make it more likely.  The more you’re out there as a musician, doing your thing, the more likely someone who can help you will discover you and help you get to the next level.  The idea is to build a sustainable career now, so that you can keep advancing and moving forward. However, what you don’t want to do is resign yourself to the idea that you can’t advance because you haven’t had your “big break”.   Start building your career now and make your big breaks happen.

My  website is about giving you a reliable map of how to make a living as a musician and from you’re musical skills right out of the gate so that you can build on that and create a career as a musician.  This way you don’t have to contemplate giving up on your dream of making it big in the music business five or ten years down the road, because the big break you were hoping would happen never did.

Going forward with this website, I plan to continue providing tangible, pragmatic instruction and advice on how to make a living as a musician in 2014 and beyond.  Articles and advice that espouse ideas like “dream big”, “reach for the stars” and “never give up” are nice and make us feel good when we read them.  But the reality is that as musicians we need practical advice on how to make a living as a musician that we can act on and implement now.

To that end, I have a variety of niche courses to help you create your music career now.  These courses are based on my own experience and the experience of other musicians I’ve collaborated with, that are actually doing what we teach.  I don’t have any courses on “how to become a rock star” (yet) because I’m not a rock star yet, but if you want to learn how to make a living as a musician now, check out the following niche courses.  Much more to come!

The Art Of Sound Design

The Art Of Sound Design is a two and a half hour audio and video course taught by professional sound designer Greg Savage and facilitated by Aaron Davison.  The course is instantly accessible online and features a two hour audio, four video tutorials and supplemental PDFs.  The course features the most in depth information related specifically to making money as a sound designer available.

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How To Make Money With Stock Music Libraries

This is a brand new course led by Canadian based musician Aaron Saloman and facilitated by Aaron Davison.  Learn specific techniques for making money with stock and production music libraries.  100 minute audio course and bonus material.

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The Complete Musician’s Guide To Creating An Online Empire

"The Complete Musician's Guide To Creating An Online Empire" is an audio and pdf course taught by How To License Your founder Aaron Davison.  The course is instantly accessible online and features a 70 minute long audio course, a supplemental PDF ebook, and a free 45 minute long bonus interview With Aaron Davison about working online.  The course features the most in depth information related specifically to launching an internet business for musicians available.

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The A To Z Of Creating A Music Library

"The A To Z Of Creating A Music Library" is a 110 minute audio course taught by one of the founders of the music library Fliktrax, Pat Finnegan, and facilitated by Aaron Davison.  The course covers, in step by step detail how to launch and market your own music library.  You'll learn all the steps involved, from the legal aspects involved in starting your own business, the contracts involved, how to recruit artists, how to market your catalog and much more.  Learn how to create a music library directly from someone who has created a successful music library from the ground up.

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An Indie Musician’s Guide To Film Scoring

"An Indie Musician's Guide To Film Scoring" is a two hour long course taught by the Houston based musician Dave Merson Hess and facilitated by Aaron Davison.  The course is instantly accessible online and features a two hour hour plus audio, multiple samples of Dave's music, PDF files, screenshots and more.  The course covers everything you need to know to get started in the business of film scoring, including how to find work, how to score to film, how contracts work, how you get paid and more.

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How To Produce Music That Will Get Licensed And Make You Money -

"How To Produce Music That Will Get Licensed And Make You Money" is a 90 minute audio course with an accompanying six part, 60 minute video series, taught by the California based music producer Gary Gray and facilitated by Aaron Davison.  The course is instantly accessible online and and in addition to the audio and video portion of the course includes multiple samples of tracks Gary has produced, multiple screen shots of the recording techniques discussed, PDF files related to the concepts discussed in the course and more.  The course features the most in depth information related specifically to music production and how to produce music that will get licensed available. 

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The A To Z Of Music Licensing
The original program on music licensing that includes The 2014 TV and Film Music Business Directory, A Songwriter's Guide To Music Licensing Ebook, How To Audio Program,Three Audio Interviews with music licensing professionals, sample contracts and much more! The entire program is accessible online upon checkout.

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