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Music Career Advice and Inspiration


Music CarEer Advice 2012

Kurt Vonnegut "A Man Without a Country", 2005:

"If you want to really hurt your parents, and you don't have the nerve to be gay, the least you can do is go into the arts.

I'm not kidding. The arts are not a way to make a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable.

Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven's sake.

Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem.

Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an enormous reward.

You will have created something."

From Building bands in the Digital Age:

I can tell you first hand that to live in a place like SF (or the greater Bay Area for that matter), you will need several income streams. And if they are the level of income as teaching music, you are setting yourself up for a life of squalor, turning your passion into a "job", and not leaving yourself any time or energy for the creative process in your life. You'll have plenty to write about, I'll give you that... just no time or energy to write it.
I feel there is a new breed of musician emerging out of the South Bay that has figured out how to enjoy their music to the fullest, yet still afford a decent life. These are middle-aged professionals that are just as passionate about music as the young twenty-something seeking advice in the email below. The revelation that they have had is that you will not be able to live a comfortable life relying on income from your music. There, I said it... the 800lb gorilla is out. I'll say it again: You will not be able to live a comfortable life relying on income from your music.
This is neither a good thing or a bad thing, just a statement of fact. Are there those that live off of their music? Sure. Are their those that become professional baseball players and make millions? Sure. What are the chances that YOU will be one of them, especially since the cards are stacked against you? SLIM TO NONE. So why not accept it? This is not accepting defeat, it is pulling your head out of the sand and getting past the denial phase. Get a job that makes enough money for you to live comfortably, with enough job security that you can sleep at night. Then, consider your music a serious hobby. You can allow yourself enough time to write, be in a band, play live, produce and market your own music on your own terms and not have to answer to anybody except yourself! You will enjoy music tenfold!
... Unless.... of course.... you want to be a rock star millionaire. ~ Mark Jacobs

When I first went on the road playing guitar professionally with Canadians "Ian and Sylvia" (Felix Pappalardi on bass...) in 1965, I was making $125.00 a week with all expenses on the road covered. I had half of an old duplex in Cambridge (Mitch and Louise Greenhill had the other half) and my rent was $65.00 a month...and I had a roommate covering half of it. So my rent was $32.50 a month...yes, 6% of my gross income for a funky but decent place all of half a mile from Harvard Square with nearby neighbors like Taj Mahal, Richard and Mimi Farina, Tom Rush, guys who became the Younbloods, the Kweskin band, etc. So of course I could afford to be a musician...then... In '66 I moved to a small loft in what's now called NoHo in New York...13 Bleeker St. The rent went to $75.00. Didn't own a car...didn't need one. Utilities were practically nothing since Con Ed couldn't get into the building to read meters and just sent us an estimated...based on what appeared to be barely post WWII costs. Schlepped gear on the subway or just played near by and rolled the amps from the practice room (rented by the Lovin' Spoonful and loaned to us since our bass player was Steve Boone's brother) to the Cafe Au Go Go. Ate on the cheap at home or somebody's girlfriend or wife always seemed to be waitressing. Lived on practically nothing and played music all the time...
Even moving to Marin was cheap in '68...a cabin for $50.00 a month in Pt. Reyes. Of course then I had to have a car...which cost all of $200.00 for a powder puff Studebaker Lark.
That life is as gone as the '20s in Paris...
And now my band from the New York days ( Autosalvage) is about to be profiled on Terry Gross' "Fresh Air" in a piece by Ed Ward. What goes around, and all that...and I'm still living in a warehouse...and it's kind of nice. ~ Rick Turner

The biggest problem that exists for these musicians: poor judgement. This problem has nothing to do with income inequality or politics or getting rich or any of that. This has to do with prioritizing, and compulsively making good choices.
Why are these musicians trying to live in SF? Boston? NYC? starting out, big cities are a poor choice. they should live in small cities, where they can cut their chops in private, and where it also happens to be inexpensive to live. $300 a room per month here in East Nashville. You can make that playing ONE night in tiny bar town, USA, and you can keep your monthly cost of living below $700. You don't need a day job, you need time. A day job will pay for the clothes you need to look good at your day job. The "I need to be where the action is" line doesn't hold water either. Plenty of action here in Nashville. and street parking is free. The houses are big enough to rehearse and if you learn to cook, you don't have to eat out every meal. Have these musicians heard of potatoes? It's not just Nashville though - there are plenty "small ponds" out there too, where you can actually make money in your hometown.
And I'm sorry, but if you're actually booking $25 shows in "podunk," you're an idiot. i book all my own shows, and there are thousands of venues all over the US run by amazing people who respect good musicians enough to pay them at least $200 for a show. sure, maybe you can't get paid in Nashville or NY, but that's just supply and demand.
Not enough money? downsize your band. still not enough? stop buying clothes, booze, whatever: if you can't afford to live as a musician, you're doing it wrong, and buying a car has never been easier. We bought two ugly vans on craigslist in the last 4 years for $500 and $800 respectively, and I'm currently riding in one. It seems to be working just fine.
If you are a real artist, the journey is the reward. Music on the independent level is not cut out for lucksacks, fame seekers, wannabes, or fakes. People only want real artists. If you're not, well...natural selection. The money will come if it will, and you will pay your rent or you won't. I hate talking about the money though - it's seriously the LEAST important thing. It draws away from the art, which is 99.9% of it. Any real artist knows the joy is in the creation, the performing, and mostly, the voice you're given as a musician. Not the cash. ~anon

I thought to myself that I could probably hire frickin Neil Young to write with my kid for less than $250,000.00. And after much thought, darn it, that is what I did. Not with Neil but with another fantastic songwriter (from Woodstock) who is older, mature, wrote some famous songs, is a great person and would be a fantastic mentor for Jacob. After many phone calls and sending him a lot of Jacob's songs, he agreed to meet with us. We went to Woodstock, had a great meeting and he agreed to work with Jacob. He taught my son so much about writing, the process, the business, his experiences and everything that he did right...and wrong. Jacob had a blast spending time with this writer and a wonderful experience spending time in Woodstock. The songs that they wrote together are incredible. The rest of his story is yet to be written, but he now has a manager from Nashville and hopefully you will be hearing some of this music in the near future.
Just like the music business today, I think the old way of thinking (mostly Berklee but the others as well) in regards to contemporary music education does not work anymore. I believe that parents are just so thrilled that their kid passes the audition and gets into prestigious schools like Berklee, Frost or USC that they turn them over to the school, hope for the best and are sure their kid is the next John Mayer. Not likely. ~ anon

Music Career Inspiration

Thanks to Dr. Van Philpot copyright 2000 he wrote:
"Johannes Brahms is the biologist of music. His symphony #1 portrays the full dimensions of the life cycle with its majesty and minute perfection. Like the intertwining of molecules from air and soil into living cells-moving, breathing, reproducing, the symphony rolls gently and powerfully to intertwine itself with the melody, harmony and rhythm of the biological world. The pounding of tympani in the first movement takes one to the grandeur of nature seen from the top of a mountain. The soft strains of the second movement takes one to a moss covered glen in a wooded area where each molecule of chlorophyl is acted upon by a photon of light to catalyze the inorganic to the organic. The famous melody of the fourth movement portrays a scene by the brookside with its alga,. one celled organisms, fish, snakes fuse to become a single gently flowing organism. When science and music are blended by the immaterial component of the human mind, one has a vision of God."

Remember when music wasn't mainstream, but an alternative culture? anon

"The major labels create a culture that isn't based on music, but on celebrity."

Wall Street Journal":

"...if in 1994 you'd wanted to understand what our lives would be like right now, you'd still be better off reading a single copy of Wired magazine published in that year than all of the sceptical literature published ever since."

Clay Shirky in the "Guardian":

A society matron approached Kreisler after a concert, and said: "Maestro Kreisler, I'd give my life to play like that!" To which the violinist replied "I did."
"I write [music] as a sow piddles."
- Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
No limits. That's the Net mantra. Enable free transferability. Just hope that you reach a ton of people, just hope that your project lives on.
Bob Lefsetz
"My sole inspiration is a telephone call from a producer."
Cole Porter
"Don't bother to look, I've composed all this already."
Gustav Mahler, to Bruno Walter who had stopped to admire mountain scenery in rural Austria.
"I would rather play Chiquita Banana and have my swimming pool than play Bach and starve."
Xavier Cugat
"[Musicians] talk of nothing but money and jobs. Give me businessmen every time. They really are interested in music and art."
Jean Sibelius, explaining why he rarely invited musicians to his home.
"The amount of money one needs is terrifying..."
Ludwig van Beethoven
"Only become a musician if there is absolutely no other way you can make a living."
Kirke Mecham, on his life as a composer
"Chaos is a friend of mine."
Bob Dylan
"There is nothing more difficult than talking about music."
Camille Saint-Saens
"I am not handsome, but when women hear me play, they come crawling to my feet."
Niccolo Paganini
"Of course I'm ambitious. What's wrong with that? Otherwise you sleep all day."
Ringo Starr
"What is the voice of song, when the world lacks the ear of taste?"
Nathaniel Hawthorne
"Flint must be an extremely wealthy town: I see that each of you bought two or three seats."
Victor Borge, playing to a half-filled house in Flint, Michigan.
"If one hears bad music it is one's duty to drown it by one's conversation."
Oscar Wilde
"Critics can't even make music by rubbing their back legs together."
Mel Brooks
"Life can't be all bad when for ten dollars you can buy all the Beethoven sonatas and listen to them for ten years."
William F. Buckley, Jr.
"You can't possibly hear the last movement of Beethoven's Seventh and go slow."
Oscar Levant, explaining his way out of a speeding ticket.
"Wagner's music is better than it sounds."
Mark Twain
"I love Beethoven, especially the poems."
Ringo Starr
"Berlioz says nothing in his music, but he says it magnificently."
James Gibbons Hunekar
"If a young man at the age of twenty-three can write a symphony like that, in five years he will be ready to commit murder."
Walter Damrosch on Aaron Copland
"There are still so many beautiful things to be said in C major."
Sergei Prokofiev
"I never use a score when conducting my orchestra... Does a lion tamer enter a cage with a book on how to tame a lion?"
Dimitri Mitropolous
"God tells me how the music should sound, but you stand in the way."
Arturo Toscanini to a trumpet player
"Already too loud!"
Bruno Walter at his first rehearsal with an American orchestra, on seeing the players reaching for their instruments.
"I really don't know whether any place contains more pianists than Paris, or whether you can find more asses and virtuosos anywhere."
Frederic Chopin
"When she started to play, Steinway himself came down personally and rubbed his name off the piano."
Bob Hope, on comedienne Phyllis Diller
"Never look at the trombones, it only encourages them."
Richard Strauss
"In opera, there is always too much singing."
Claude Debussy
"An exotic and irrational entertainment."
Samuel Johnson's definition of opera
"If a thing isn't worth saying, you sing it."
Pierre Beaumarchais, The Barber of Seville
"Opera is where a guy gets stabbed in the back, and instead of dying, he sings."
Robert Benchley
"I'd hate this to get out, but I really like opera."
Ford Frick (Commissioner of Baseball)
"Oh how wonderful, really wonderful opera would be if there were no singers!"
Gioacchino Rossini
"Movie music is noise. It's even more painful than my sciatica."
Sir Thomas Beecham
"I think popular music in this country is one of the few things in the twentieth century that have made giant strides in reverse."
Bing Crosby
"Theirs [the Beatles] is a happy, cocky, belligerently resourceless brand of harmonic primitivism... In the Liverpudlian repertoire, the indulgent amateurishness of the musical material, though closely rivaled by the indifference of the performing style, is actually surpassed only by the ineptitude of the studio production method. (Strawberry Fields suggests a chance encounter at a mountain wedding between Claudio Monteverdi and a jug band.)"
Glenn Gould
"A ponderous orchestral absurdity."
Frank Zappa on his rock symphony debuted by the Los Angeles Philharmonic
"It's pretty clear now that what looked like it might have been some kind of counterculture is, in reality, just the plain old chaos of undifferentiated weirdness."
Jerry Garcia
Music Glossary Definitions

Music Terminology

In an effort to keep you abreast of the ever-changing world of music terminology, we provide you with some terms with which you should be familiar:

Adagio Fromaggio:
To play in a slow and cheesy manner.
A musical composition that is infernally slow.
Angus Dei:
To play with a divine, beefy tone.
Referring to the prohibition of cell phones in the concert hall.
A Patella:
Unaccompanied knee-slapping.
A composition, solo or instrument, you regret playing.
A series of notes played by a performer, not intended by the composer.
A musical entrance that is somewhere in the vicinity of the correct pitch.
Bar Line:
What musicians form after a concert.
Concerto Grossissimo:
A really bad performance.
Coral Symphony:
(see Beethoven-Caribbean period).
Cornetti Trombosis Disastrous:
The entanglement of brass instruments that can occur when musicians exit hastily down the stage stairs
Dill Piccolino:
A wind instrument that plays only sour notes.
A note that is held over and over and over and ...
Fermoota: A rest of indefinite length and dubious value.
Fog Hornoso:
A sound that is heard when the conductor's intentions are not clear.
A sensible, inexpensive brass instrument.
Gaul Blatter:
A French horn player.
Good Conductor:
A person who can give an electrifying performance, or alternative use, one who obeys the orchestra and/or chorus
Gregorian Champ:
Monk who can hold a note the longest.
Gradually getting annoyingly louder.
A romantic song that's pretty awful.
Molto bolto:
Head straight for the ending.
Opera buffa:
Musical stage production by nudists.
Poochini Musical:
performance accompanied by a dog.
Pre-Classical Conservatism:
School of thought which fostered the idea, "if it ain't baroque, don't fix it."
Plucking of a stringed instrument to produce a bright, bubbly sound, usually accompanied by sparkling water with lemon (wine optional).
Tempo Tantrumo:
When a young band refuses to keep time with the conductor.
The annoying or irritating sounds made by extremely cheap bells.
A gradual buildup to a fiery conclusion.
Playing REALLY loud in order to wake up the audience.


The revolution will not be televised, it will be distributed freely over the Internet via peer-to-peer filesharing.
--- Rich Kulawiec, with apologies to Gil Scott-Heron

Never say anything in an electronic message that you wouldn't want appearing, and attributed to you, in tomorrow morning's front-page headline in the New York Times.
--- Colonel David Russell, former head of DARPA's Information Processing Techniques Office

"Computers in the future may weigh no more than 1.5 tons."
-- Popular Mechanics, forecasting the relentless march of science, 1949

"I think there is a world market for maybe five computers."
-- Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM, 1943

"I have traveled the length and breadth of this country and talked with the best people, and I can assure you that data processing is a fad that won't last out the year."
-- The editor in charge of business books for Prentice Hall, 1957

"But what ... is it good for?"
-- Engineer at the Advanced Computing Systems Division of IBM, 1968, commenting on the microchip

"There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home."
-- Ken Olson, president, chairman and founder of Digital Equipment Corp.,1977

"This 'telephone' has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us."
-- Western Union internal memo, 1876

"The wireless music box has no imaginable commercial value. Who would pay for a message sent to nobody in particular?"
-- David Sarnoff's associates in response to his urgings for investment in the radio in the 1920s

"The concept is interesting and well-formed, but in order to earn better than a 'C,' the idea must be feasible."
-- A Yale Univ. management professor in response to Fred Smith's paper proposing reliable overnight delivery service. (Smith went on to found Federal Express Corp.)

. In 1981, Bill Gates said that 640K would be enough memory for anyone.

"So we went to Atari and said, 'Hey, we've got this amazing thing, even built with some of your parts, and what do you think about funding us? Or we'll give it to you. We just want to do it. Pay our salary, we'll come work f or you.' And they said, 'No.' So then we went to Hewlett-Packard, and they said, 'Hey, we don't need you. You haven't got through college yet.'"
-- Apple Computer Inc. founder Steve Jobs on attempts to get Atari and H-P interested in his and Steve Wozniak's personal computer

"640K ought to be enough for anybody."
-- Bill Gates, 1981

A good engineer works within the constraints given -- a great engineer questions the constraints and gets fired because the constraints serve a policy need higher than mere science or reality. --- Bob Frankston

Teacher Quotes

"Life is not measured by the breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away." ~ Annon.

The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable. --- George Bernard Shaw

The burning of an author's books, imprisonment for opinion's sake, has always been the tribute that an ignorant age pays to the genius of its time. --- Joseph Lewis

"Professor Goddard does not know the relation between action and reaction and the need to have something better than a vacuum against which to re act. He seems to lack the basic knowledge ladled out daily in high schools."
-- 1921 New York Times editorial about Robert Goddard's revolutionary rocket work

"When making a decision of minor importance, I have always found it advantageous to consider all the pros and cons. In vital matters, however, such as the choice of a mate or a profession, the decision should come from the unconscious, from somewhere within ourselves. In the important decisions of personal life, we should be governed, I think, by the deep inner needs of our nature." --Sigmund Freud

"The heart has reasons reason never knows." --Pascal

"All visible objects, man, are but as pasteboard masks. But in each event- in the living act, the undoubted deed - there, some unknown but still reasoning thing puts forth the mouldings of its features from behind the unreasoning mask." --Captain Ahab in Moby Dick, Herman Melville


clickety-clickety...hey! I know this film! I *love* the Funk Brothers! Well done, *really* well done. Wow.

"Who the hell wants to hear actors talk?"
-- H.M. Warner, Warner Brothers, 1927

"I'm just glad it'll be Clark Gable who's falling on his face and not Gary Cooper."
-- Gary Cooper on his decision not to take the leading role in "Gone With The Wind"

"A cookie store is a bad idea. Besides, the market research reports say America likes crispy cookies, not soft and chewy cookies like you make."
-- Response to Debbi Fields' idea of starting Mrs. Fields' Cookies

"We don't like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out."
-- Decca Recording Co. rejecting the Beatles, 1962

"Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible."
-- Lord Kelvin, president, Royal Society, 1895

"If I had thought about it, I wouldn't have done the experiment. The literature was full of examples that said you can't do this."
-- Spencer Silver on work that led to the unique adhesives for 3-M "Post-It" Notepads

"You want to have consistent and uniform muscle development across all of your muscles? It can't be done. It's just a fact of life. You just have to accept inconsistent muscle development as an unalterable condition of weight training."
-- Response to Arthur Jones, who solved the "unsolvable" problem by inventing Nautilus

"Drill for oil? You mean drill into the ground to try and find oil? You're crazy."
-- Drillers who Edwin L. Drake tried to enlist to his project to drill for oil in 1859

"Stocks have reached what looks like a permanently high plateau."
-- Irving Fisher, Professor of Economics, Yale University, 1929

"Airplanes are interesting toys but of no military value."
-- Marechal Ferdinand Foch, Professor of Strategy, Ecole Superieure de Guerre

"Everything that can be invented has been invented."
-- Charles H. Duell, Commissioner, U.S. Office of Patents, 1899

"Louis Pasteur's theory of germs is ridiculous fiction."
-- Pierre Pachet, Professor of Physiology at Toulouse, 1872

"The abdomen, the chest, and the brain will forever be shut from the intrusi on of the wise and humane surgeon."
-- Sir John Eric Ericksen, British surgeon, Surgeon-Extraordinary to Queen Victoria, 1873

"A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is still putting on its shoes." Mark Twain