Hi, it's so nice to meet you.Do you love music? Do you want to make money with it?
I’m going to assume that’s a yes. You’re here, after all. Let’s help you build a career in the music industry that’s sustainable long term. And resilient even through unexpected challenges.
Whatever genre, on stage or behind the scenes, there’s someone here with a story that can encourage you, and maybe teach you something new.
There’s someone here like you.
What is Musicians Can Thrive?
Musicians Can Thrive started as an audio documentary. And in just a few years, it’s become so much more than that. I wanted it to be a community that could help like-minded musicians find each other, and it grew into that much faster than I expected. Or even than I could have imagined it would. So what do you do with this? What do you do when you start building momentum in a certain direction and it takes off faster than you expect it to?
Often you start building momentum towards something because you think you want to go there. And when I started building momentum in the direction of being a recording artist, of pursuing the spotlight and being the star… That didn’t feel right to me. Even though it was something I’d been focused on for several years, and I thought was the thing I wanted most in life, the reality of that day to day experience didn’t feel like what I was supposed to be doing. There was just something that felt off, like I was stifling something important that I needed to make space for.
So I pivoted. And I created Musicians Can Thrive. At first, this podcast was honestly just an experiment. It was me testing out something different, something new, but something still in the music industry. Something that I thought maybe I would want to do. But I hadn’t ever done it before, so I couldn’t be entirely sure.
Now, Musicians Can Thrive has become something that’s not only what I want to do. But it’s a thing that feels right. Call it your “zone of genius,” or call it “the path you were meant to find,” whatever words you use to describe this phenomenon… When you find it, you know.
When you find something that you’re especially good at in ways that other people are not… And you find something that energizes you, that brings you joy. Something that makes you feel like you’re working on something a little bit bigger than yourself. That’s what this podcast has become to me.
Musicians Can Thrive, as cliche as it sounds, is a way of life. A way of doing things. A way of choosing to pivot, or to continue in the direction you’re already building momentum… Especially when it comes to deciding what kind of career you want to build in music and deciding how you want to build that. So, Musicians Can Thrive is not going to be for everyone. And that’s okay. Your music is not going to be for everyone. My music is not going to be for everyone.
But as musicians, as creators involved in the world of music. Whether that’s in front of the mic, or behind it; whether that’s writing the songs, filming the videos, taking the photos, promoting the music… Whatever it is that you do to contribute to this ecosystem that helps artists thrive – that’s important work.
And it’s something that we celebrate here. It’s something that we celebrate on the good days. And it’s something that we celebrate on the days when things feel especially hard. On the days when it feels like “You know what, I’ve been banging my head against this wall for 5 years, 10 years. And it still doesn’t feel like that’s paying off. What if all this effort is for nothing?”
It’s especially hard to go through those days alone. And we all have our friends. We all have our individual support networks of people who believe in us, who encourage us, who help us when we need it. And here with Musicians Can Thrive, I’m building an extension of that. A place where independent musicians can learn from each other. Or we can get inspired by different ideas and strategies that we wouldn’t have come up with on our own. A place where we can hear how other people are going through struggles very similar to ours. And where we can help each other celebrate the wins, small and big.
Building a career in the music business that’s resilient through ups and downs, that you can sustain for decades, it’s not something that’s going to happen overnight. You need to be ready to run a marathon. And that will help you break through the noise. Many of the people you consider to be an “overnight success” actually put in about 10 years of work building momentum before they got to that breaking point.
So Musicians Can Thrive is not stuck on any one genre, or even any one age group. Men, women, non-binary and transgender folks. Anyone who makes music or wants to be involved in the world of music. You are welcome here. And maybe I can encourage you to check your assumptions at the door, when you come into this community. When you listen to this podcast.
Just because someone is a classical musician, and you have a rock band. Or just because you’re a folksy singer-songwriter, and they’re a rap MC… That doesn’t mean you have to dismiss their experiences. Building a resilient career as a musician is a marathon, with lots of failures teaching you what it takes to be successful. This is not an exact number, I need to do the research. But only about 3% of the artists out there go viral and stay successful at that high celebrity level for decades. So as an independent creator in the world of music, there’s usually a little something that you can learn from people across a variety of genres.
Looking To the Next Phase
Now, I’m preparing to launch season three of Musicians Can Thrive. One of the things that has me most excited about doing this… Is this fall marks the second full year that I’ve spent just exploring this journey of what it means to thrive as a musician. Both to me personally, and to any musician that I come into contact with. It’s given me an excuse to have these wonderful conversations with people about things like how do you make money? How do you strengthen a connection because you want to have that relationship with this creator? Or this person who has business knowledge that you can learn from?
How do you balance that with also the need to pay the bills? Because if you can’t survive, if you can’t pay rent… The music, it’s just a thing that brings you joy. Creating music is a luxury in many ways. And it happens to be one that many of us cannot live without. And so we do these creative things to figure out – Okay, how am I going to pay the bills? How am I going to design a life that I love every day? How am I going to invest in myself, so I can earn an income in the music business?
And inevitably, there’s going to be a shitty day every now and then. It’s part of life. But it’s entirely possible to build a life that you genuinely love, majority of the time.
I think one of the most beautiful things to me about what it means to be a musician right now, in this world that we live in, is you don’t have to be a rock star, you don’t have to be a rap star, you don’t have to be a top 40 hit list regular to be able to be succeeding and thriving in the music industry. There are so many different ways for us to build careers that can be resilient, through things like a pandemic. Never thought that was going to be something I would live through.
Especially not when I was 13 years old… Watching Justin Bieber come up on YouTube and thinking, huh, this guy’s my age. How is he world famous? Back in the day, I felt like “I’m sitting here playing my guitar and writing my songs, but how will I ever compete with that superstar?” It honestly gave me a lot of anxiety and stress when I was a teenager. And if I could look back and talk to my younger self, I would say, “Guess what? It’s a trick question.” Because you don’t need to compete. Not at the exact same level as a worldwide superstar.
Because the interesting thing about success, and even what it means to thrive, is it’s unique to every person. It is as unique as your sound, and the style of music that you create. Because it’s your life. Think about it – what do you want?
Me? I want to make music. I want to write it. I want to help orchestrate the parts I hear in my head into a song that people can stream as part of their daily lives. I want to work with people that I enjoy working with. I want to have time to read books. And I should probably become a better guitar player. But also, I love spending time outside and I love dancing. I got into marketing just as my day job – my survival skill to pay my bills. And turns out, I really like it. It’s not something that I want to build my lifelong career in. But it’s good enough right now.
It definitely beats waiting tables. Especially, again, coming back to this pandemic… How do we find ways to move forward and adapt? As people and artists and creators. Because, yes, we’re musicians, but we are so much more than that. And maybe I’m going to go off on a little tangent here. But this is something that’s important for all of us to be aware of as we decide what things we want to prioritize with the time we have each day.
I haven’t shared much of my personal story on this podcast yet. But one thing I will share now is when I recorded my first EP, in 2017, that was a time where I felt like if I wanted to be a musician, and “make it”… If I wanted to be a professional, full-time artist, I had to put about 99% of my time, into music. It had to revolve around music in some way, even if it wasn’t directly related. Like sitting here playing a song, or going to a venue and playing a show.
I felt this pressure that if I had any free time outside of working, sleeping, exercising, and the rare social outing because I’m an introvert… It had to be spent doing things like learning about different kinds of music, or working on songs I’d already started but weren’t quite finished. Or just practicing for a gig. Getting photos taken so you can promote yourself. It just goes on and on and on. Because there’s a lot you have to do, and there’s no shame in doing that yourself, without a team to help you. Actually, it’s something that takes a lot of skill to navigate all those different pieces that you have to juggle as an independent artist.
You’re basically an entrepreneur. It’s just not the glamorous tech startup, Silicon Valley entrepreneur culture that our society has started to sort of idolize. And that’s a topic for another day. But where I’m going with this is… If everything you do, becomes this compulsive, “it must relate to music” habit, then that can actually undermine the music you’re creating. Because it is the very act of experiencing diverse things, and going to new places, meeting new people, spending time with the people that you love and trust. Those new experiences give you material and inspiration for the new music you create. That is a valuable use of your time.
Even just taking care of yourself needs to be a priority. Because if your body is not healthy, if things aren’t right in your head, you’re gonna have a hard time handling all of the responsibilities that come with basically being your own boss. Like figuring out “what am I going to do this week to move the needle a little closer in the direction towards a life that I want?”
My point with this is we are musicians. And we can be painters, illustrators, architects, software developers, bartenders, filmmakers – literally anything you want. Because it turns out having skills that are complementary to creating music and performing it, those skills make a big difference.
Especially when it comes to figuring out “how am I going to make money off this in a way that I can scale and that I can sustain over the next 20, 40 years?” Because I don’t know about you, but I’m not trying to be touring every summer for at least three months when I’m 50 years old. When I’m 50, I want to play a couple of shows here and there. Shows that I’m really excited to play. They’re not shows where I’m going “Oh, gotta get another couple thousand in the bank this month. Guess it’s time to go book a show.”
You can decide which situation you end up being in at that point in time. Developing revenue streams based on things like Patreon, like songwriting royalties from publishing. Things like making an effort to get songs synced for film, so that you’re not just reliant on streaming royalties. Because we all know it pays next to nothing.
There is no shame in having a day job until you reach a point where either the work you’re doing is not a worthy use of your time, or you’re making so much money from your music, that you can afford to leave the day job. There’s a reason why most of the millionaires in the world have on average 7 different streams of revenue.
So I’m gonna leave you with this: what does it look like for you to thrive? What priorities do you need to focus on to make that happen? How can you build relationships with people who energize you and motivate you, instead of drain you? And what can you do, to build relationships with the people in your audience, so they have the motivation to become a loyal repeat customer, supporting your music career for decades?
These are the kinds of things I’m exploring with lots of indie musicians and creators, as part of the Musicians Can Thrive podcast. I’d love to have you join us.