Homegrown Music: Make Money With Music

The author, a performing musician and advocate of homegrown music, describes a few ways you can make a little money with music.


| March/April 1979



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Marc Bristol and his Washington state homegrown music-making pals demonstrate how they make money with music on jugband instruments: the gutbucket bass, washboard, and jug (the axe at far right is a gag).


PHOTO: TOM ALLEN

Even homesteaders need to relax and enjoy themselves from time to time, right? And almost everybody these days wants to cut his or her cost of living. So how about a little do-it-yourself entertainment?

That's what this column is about. Homegrown music... and sometimes homemade musical instruments to play it on.

Since most anybody can use a few extra bucks every now and then, I'm going to plunge right in and tell you how you might be able to make money with music. By that I mean picking up an occasional job to finance a pair of new strings, pay for a trip into town, or even cover the rent check once in a while.

However, before you attempt to parlay your pickin' into cold hard cash, It's best to be sure that you've reached the point in your study of music where you feel like sharing it with folks other than close friends and relatives. (Trying to play professionally before your ability is up to the task can be a mighty disheartening experience!) And, once you have enough proficiency at your chosen instrument to perform "in public," you still need to find an audience that's willing to pay to be entertained.

And that's where this issue's column comes in. I've been earning a share of my income by pickin' and singin' for several years, so I can make some suggestions that might just help you find a few of those groups of paying listeners.

I'd like to point out right from the start, though, that I'm not promoting the notion that you can become self-sufficient by playing music. In most cases (the exceptions being mainly tiresome gigs in nightclubs or bars that will support you for a year or so) the only way to actually earn a living from music is to spend a lot of time on the road.

Now, this sort of work could provide an acceptable lifestyle for nomadic individuals who don't mind living in a truck or school bus, but the constant wandering that it requires would be pretty much out of the question for those of you who prefer to spend time around the home or farmstead. On the other hand, If you already keep your expenses to a minimum—either by growing your own food or owning your home—an occasional "extra" source of income may be all that you need. Either way, whether you hope to become a full-time "pro" or just aim to feed the cookie jar every once in a while, you'll probably have to start at the bottom.

Give Yourself a Job!

And that starting point, in terms of playin' for pay, is the kind of gig that you don't have to audition for, because you hire yourself . I'm talking, of course, about busking. Singing on the street! There's usually not a whole lot of money in this sort of work. In fact, $20 a day for three or four very strenuous sets Is about the best you should expect unless your act is extremely novel and you happen to be playing during the Christmas season.





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