Make Money with Music – The Tools Of The Trade Part 1
So you’ve decided to take the plunge. You want to find success in music, and you’re ready to give it your all. You have your plan, and you know your niche. In other words, you have all the ideas. But what about the gear?!
To be clear, you do not NEED to spend silly amounts of money, and indeed time, on high-end equipment to make money with music. Much can be done, and has been done, with very little (Devo’s first album was recorded on a 6-track tape recorder!). Having a little more at your disposal is simply something that can help add more of a sheen to your work.
This article intends to outline, in the broadest parameters, some essential tools of the trade that’ll help you achieve success in music. Whatever your speciality, whatever your thing is, you’ll find something here that just might give you the edge.
This is by no means a shopping list; it’s a springboard. It’s going to ask you questions. Lots of questions. Some of them might be questions you haven’t yet asked yourself – about your intentions, about your end goal, or even about your chosen field. In this part, we’re going to be focusing on the ‘playing’ part of your career, and how some gear additions could greatly improve your chances in the gig economy.
With the exception of some session vocalists out there, chances are you already have these. Duh. This section is here to ask you questions about versatility. Session work can vary wildly across genres and disciplines, as can dep work for live bands, soundtrack briefs, and even students in tuition work. If you’re a fingerstyle guitarist with 2 acoustic guitars in your home studio, would investing in an electric guitar widen your work-net? As a classical double-bassist, should consider an electric bass?
There are arguments on both sides, but from experience, a versatile musician is a more useful musician, and much more likely to make money with music. The less work you have to turn down on these grounds, the better. If you’re a pianist with an electric piano at home, consider investing in a budget midi keyboard and some synthesiser plug-ins for your computer. This way, you’re familiar with different instruments and textures, and you’ll be well-prepared on the day you’re asked to play a Juno 6 instead of a baby grand. If you’re a drummer, think about buying some percussion: bongos, hang-drums, even a cajon. Whatever your instrument, is it versatile enough for the work you’ll be taking on?
Effects and Accessories
This section is a natural progression from the questions we’ve just posed. What more can you do to make ourselves versatile, and to make money with music?
There’s a rich world of musical accessories out there, from amplifiers to effects pedals, rack units to drum trigger pads, and much more in-between. Whatever your chosen niche, there are weird and wonderful things that can only make you more – you guessed it – versatile.
Studios tend to have rooms upon rooms of effects pedals, amps, compressors and instruments. You’re not likely to need more than your fine self and your instrument at recording sessions like this. But what about live work, or producing music from home? How about sending off rough demo tracks for consideration?
Without a bank of effects and devices at your disposal, you’re relatively diminished in your ability to cater to each client. If you’re a drummer, owning a sample pad adds that little extra professionalism to your service. Now you can trigger samples on behalf of the band you’re depping for, or add electronic drum sounds to your kit for extra colour in a writing session. As a guitarist, you can use effects pedals to access a library of sounds and textures, each of which can be tailored to suit. As for violinists, a piezo pickup and a compressor unit go a long way – you can amplify your sound for live applications, and contour it to your heart’s content. The key to success in music is the ability to choose your weapons of choice, gig-by-gig.
In Part 2, we’ll be looking at the ‘recording’ aspect of your career. How do you record your ideas at home? Does your career plan include elements of music production? How can you add a professional sheen to your best bedroom-writing?