I'm lucky enough to live in Nashville, home to some of the best musicians in the world and a big chunk of the music industry. I really enjoy a lot of aspects of Nashville, but I was financially successful at music when I lived in a smaller market, too (St. Louis). He are my five best tips for earning a full-time music living in a secondary market:
Some of the most lucrative gigs in the music industry are essentially cover band gigs. I play in several cover bands in Nashville, and they are always some of the top paying gigs that I do. It's actually surprising to me how many top-flight players regularly play in cover bands to fill dates that they don't have booked with major artists.
If you're in a secondary market, there's a good chance that the industry in your town will need entertainment for events, and a really well-done cover band can fill that void and make you a ton of cash for playing music that you love.
2. Solo performances.
If you play an instrument that can be played solo (guitar, piano, harp, etc) look around town to see what high-end restaurants or shopping centers might need live music entertainment. One of my first high paying gigs was at and airport bar which hired me for almost 10 hours a week to play music. A steady gig like that can pay the bills very quickly, while helping you to hone your chops for other music you enjoy.
I believe the teaching should be a fundamental part of every musicians job. It helps you to sort out what you think and believe about your music and how to be a musician, and also gives musicians a steady income every month. Do yourself, your wallet, and young musicians a favor and develop your skills as a teacher – you could literally pay your mortgage every month from it, while helping to shape the next generation of musicians.
4. Sync licensing.
Sync licensing (placement of music in movies, TV shows, commercials etc) used to be very difficult to do from anywhere in the US. That's changed with the advent of micro licensing agencies like www.soundstripe.com and www.musicbed.com. While it might not producer a tremendous amount of money, a couple hundred bucks coming in every month for your original music could be the difference between going out to eat a lot and eating oatmeal.
5. Church bands.
While many praise and worship groups have been moving towards all volunteer staffs in the last few years, there are still many positions in most towns that are paid. When I was working in St. Louis, I was on staff at a church where I really loved the people and got paid a small amount every month to play. Many months that little bit of income was enough to help me pay for my car and a few other things that I needed when gigs were a little sparse.
Remember, being successful as a musician is a game of attrition: little bits of money coming in from various sources over time add up to staying in the game long enough to become successful at what you do.
What is some of the best ways you know of to earn money in a secondary market? Leave it in a comment below!