Work has been good this year; actually, it’s been really good! Not only have I never made more, I also get to do mostly gigs I truly enjoy. From traveling to distant lands, to weekly performances with Jeff Robinson and at St. Paul’s that have given me a chance to really get some time on the keys, to some awesome recording sessions for various talented folks, it’s truly been a blessed year. So far I’ve made just over $36K, more than in all of 2013, and with plenty of stuff coming up, this should be the best year I’ve ever had! Now with my health insurance premium at $70 a month instead of the $560 it was going to be, rent at $1100 and my basic monthly nut at around $1700 without food, I’m actually making a good living! I have two of everything I need, am in good health and have fantastic friends. Most of the money I got from my mom’s inheritance has been spent, but not much of it frivolously; I’ve invested in gear, making my albums, the mini-tour to Holland from promoting the first, and upgrading my computers.
Every time I hear people bitch about how only the rich benefit from the stock market, I feel a little sad. I just sold my ING stock I bought for $1100 for $1800. Made 60% on my money in 3 years! When I told one of those complainers (alley buddy!) he said: “That’s not such a great return!” Why do we argue with idiots? Some just don’t want to be happy… It seems I’ve timed this well; I’m left with about $8000 in stock and savings and a pretty solid outlook for work to come, making more than I need. Now it’s time to start building up some savings and investments. At 44 that’s pretty late, but at the same time, I certainly don’t plan on retiring at 65, and seeing Ronnie Gutierrez’ dad still kicking ass at 82 I feel good about it. My published music catalog brings in about $1000 per year these days and hopefully I can add to that in the years to come.
When I first really thought about moving to L.A., and I was reading the Musicians’ Institute catalog and such, I’d been doing some research about the business here. In magazines like Guitar Player these were occasional stories about working musicians. What sold me on it was that at that point, guys on a solid tour would work 6-9 months out of the year and make, if I recall well, $60-$90K. When I first got to Hollywood, a 1 bedroom apartment much like the one I live in now cost $500 per month. You don’t have to be a math genius to realize that times have changed. Not only are there very few tours anymore that go out for that long as music has splintered, simultaneously the advent of computers and backing tracks has taken away the need for real talent and thus lowered the pay tremendously. Most big Pop stars will pay their band members $1500 a week if they’re lucky. Even if you go out for 6 months, you’re only getting $36K. And I’m talking playing stadiums! Most of the time, you’re lucky if you can work 3 months out of the year.
Thankfully I’ve always been taught to keep learning, to try and figure out where the needs lie, and try to find a way to develop skills to become needed. The decision to really study piano/keyboards again has turned out to be a good one. These days more than half my gigs in town are not on the bass anymore! I’m on track to doing close to 150 live gigs this year, which is just about the perfect number; plenty of time for studying and play, enough to keep my chops up.
So, this year might be the first year I’ll make more than the median income for the US which currently stands at $43K. That is for a family by the way, although I live in one of the most expensive areas in the country of course. I guess it makes me decidedly middle class which is pretty awesome considering how much I actually enjoy my work! Now, the ‘mean’ income, or what most would consider the average, is $60.5K; that’s my next goal, although it becomes increasingly difficult when you realize that most regular gigs around here pay $100 and 600 gigs in a year is beyond impossible! With most big shows or weddings at $400 per gig I would need to do 150 of those, which is realistic. So far, my own music has only cost me, but I still believe that can be turned around if I keep at it.
In the meantime I’ll just keep at it! I love learning new music, new instruments. Perhaps it’s time to take some singing lessons……