Alternate routes – you can probably make $1,000,000 from music
Capitalism has some flaws, but one good thing about free-enterprise is that you're free to be as enterprising as you want to be in order to make money from music.
I made a previous post about my adventures in experimental touring. I’m half of a duo. We’ve done hundreds of shows around the U.S. in small places where nobody else is doing shows. Our system now works surprisingly well.
During the tours I’ve written thousands of pages of notes. We’ve taken thousands of photographs and made hundreds of hours of videos. That’s part of why we’re set up to make millions of dollars.
We make scouting trips in order to line up places to play. We do research before hitting the road on the scouting trips, but we really have to see a town in person before we can decide anything about it.
Different towns have different vibes. At this point we can tell within a minute or two if we want to do a show in a town. If we like what we see then we go to the city building to talk to the town’s experts. Small town experts are different than city-slickers.
In one recent town the city manager guy was enormous, as in NFL lineman type enormous, except this guy looked like he had packed on plenty more weight after his playing days.
He couldn’t have been any friendlier. When we explained what we wanted he told us that we could do as many damn shows in town as we damn well wanted. He threw in some extra cussing along the way.
We asked about potential sites. He yelled to someone in a back office to say that he was heading out for a while and then we got in his truck to take a site-seeing trip around town.
The obvious choice was a band-shell that fit into the backside of the town’s football stadium. We asked what it would cost to use the site for a show. His unsurprising answer was not one damn cent.
Once we line up a site we have a lawyer and some insurance people who handle the details, so our next step was to find some people in town who wanted to help us with our promotional campaign.
I consider everything to be an art form. A song is a series of notes. A show is a series of songs. A tour is a series of shows. A tour feels even feels like a long-form song. There’s an art to selling tickets to strangers.
The music industry might have been necessary in the past, but it’s obsolete now, and it’s probably even counterproductive for most people most of the time. It’s way easier to make money outside the industry than within it.
For this specific show several towns in the area added us to their Facebook pages. Local volunteers took over the job as our social-media cheerleaders. A newspaper did a short article about us and the show. We orchestrate our promotional timing.
The city manager guy was right about the non-cost of the band-shell. The city maintenance crew mowed the lawn a few days before the show and treated the ground with permethrin, which is evidently the safest way to kill any grass critters.
There were food trucks and booths. High school kids were selling an assortment of stuff. The restrooms at the football stadium were right around the corner and open to the public. It seemed like everyone in town wanted to cooperate.
The odds of public pandemonium were probably remote in the first place, but some people in uniform were around just in case, and the security didn’t cost us a damn cent either.
We made a lot of money from the show. There have been years during my adult life when I’ve made less money than we make in one night now. We’re a household, so the money all goes to the same place.
When people buy a ticket to a show we throw in some extras. Among other bonuses, they get access to thousands of pages of tour-notes and thousands of tour-photographs and hundreds of tour-videos.
We’ve been testing annual or biennial returns to some favorite towns, along the lines of Willie Nelson’s 4th of July picnic, except not as big and not on the 4th of July and not with Willie included.
The U.S. is jam-packed full of towns where nobody is playing shows, even though people in the towns are happy to go out of their way to help with a show. We get almost all of our sites for free. We travel fairly light, so it's an ultra-low-cost system.
Creating our own system is by far the best thing that we’ve ever done for our music careers. The people who build a system get to rig it in their favor, and in this case we’re the riggers and the riggees.
I think that people here are geniuses. I’ve been in music most of my life, and even with that background I’m clueless about most of the technical music stuff that people talk about here.
If you apply your genius-level intellects toward income strategies, and you turn your strategic planning into an art and a science and a business, you can create your own systems and probably get rich from music.