Let’s face it, the economy sucks. And it’s not going to get better anytime soon regardless of what the idiots in DC promise. How does a musician survive then?
Musician Wages.com has an excellent article with some pointers.
My own pointers would be NOT to put all your eggs in one basket. Don’t “just” play Tenor. Or alto. Play as many as possible. You never know when you might get that baritone sax and soprano sax gig. If you can’t afford all the instruments, at least own mouthpieces and reeds that you are comfortable playing those instruments on. For example, I don’t own a Bari, but I do own a bari mouthpiece and reeds.
Another pointer, be flexible in your playing styles. Know how to shape your tenor sound to a good mock Boots Randolph if the gig requires that. Or a more classical style. Not every gig requires your full on Michael breaker 1980s sound.
Another pointer…..double. It is essential. Try to get one or two instruments close to your main instruments level. Theater gigs can help play for rent, etc. You never know when someone is going to need a sub for the latest production of “Wizard of Oz”. Clarinet and flute have to be in your bag of tricks. A double reed will open additional doors.
Another pointer….be fluent with technology. Know a music notation program. Know about DAWs like ProTools, logic, reason, Ableton, GarageBand, reaper, etc. You don’t need to be a certified expert, but know how to open and record something in the program or programs. I see way too many musicians who have no clue how to do anything with technology. They perhaps know how to do three things but that is it. Showing that you can be useful to people in music tech can lead to possible studio work behind the console…..which generally pays more.
Another pointer…..know how microphones work. Seriously, I am amazed at the total lack of understanding of how a microphone works and where it should be placed. Sound guys are generally the worst at knowing where to properly put a mic, mainly cause most of them are rock and roll guys. Know where to put a mic on your sax, or flute. Practice playing into one (you’d be surprised how many people once they start playing drift away from the mic). Know what you sound like through a mic.
There are probably other pointers/tips I’ll add if I think of them, but these are ones that I have used that have kept me employed so far in the business.