As a disclaimer, a lot of the stuff I’ll be writing in this post doesn’t concern you if you haven’t had enough playing experience to warrant getting paid.
To market yourself as a guitarist worthy of pay, you’ve got to know your stuff and have some chops to boot. If you don’t, or if you’re not confident in your abilities. It’s too early to start looking for work as a paid musician.
Go back to the drawing board and work on development. We have a whole slew of material in the lesson index that can help you out.
On the other hand, if you have been playing awhile and feel like you’ve got what it takes, check out my post on characteristics of a hireable guitar player and see if you have some of the character qualities that’ll help you get the gig.
It’s a good precursor to these five points.
Making Money Playing Guitar
Like most financial pursuits, it takes work and time to turn something into actual revenue.
Also consider that your success will in some cases depend on your location and whether or not you live in an area with lucrative venues and people who are interested in local music or independent artists.
Keep in mind when I say “money” I’m usually talking about a part time income at best. I’m not a big believer in quitting your day job to pursue a music career; at least not until it makes good fiscal sense. What I am advocating is using your guitar to compliment your normal cash flow.
If you love you instrument and you’re good at what you do, it can’t hurt to try.
Small, Local Restaurants and Coffee Shops
If you live in a college town or someplace with a lot of homegrown, locally-owned restaurants, you’ve got a real opportunity to make some cash as a musician.
What they’ll pay you will vary, but to be sure most of them will pay something. A word of advise here:
Don’t play for free.
You’ll probably be asked to at some point, and if you are, politely explain that you’re providing a service just like they are and that you expect to be compensated reasonably. Let’s be honest; they’d never cater a dinner party for free, so why should you play at their restaurant for free?
Be willing to provide them with a demo of your music; perhaps a YouTube or website link, but don’t play free of charge.
Your music will attract more customers and generate income so you should at least get commission for whatever sales they make that night.
If you’re being paid by the hour, I would expect somewhere around $30-$40 for every hour you spend throughout the evening, including traveling to the location, loading and unloading equipment and tearning down.
This can be anywhere from 3 to 6 hours, so I’d expect to be reimbursed somewhere in the neighborhood of $90 to $250 for the evening.
I’ve always said that the part of your mind that learns guitar is very different than the part of your mind that will teach it.
That means teaching isn’t for everybody.
However if you’re a people person, a good communicator and you enjoy one on one dialogue and discussion, you might be a natural at teaching guitar lessons.
Start with younger students if you can and work your way up. Be sure to come prepared with material in hand and customize their lesson plans ahead of time. As far as the market price goes, I’d ask around to see what other people are charging and for what amount of time.
Don’t cheat yourself here.
What you’re providing is personal consulting which is never cheap. Another thing I would keep in mind is that a lot of people will only want to do 30 minute lessons. It’s fine to provide this as an option and I wouldn’t turn people away just because they want a shorter time commitment, but use your prices to funnel people into one hour sessions.
For example, I charge $25 for 30 minutes, and just $35 for a full hour. You’ll end up with more students in a one hour slot, which helps you out in the long run. Besides, if you have just 10 students a week taking an hour lesson, that’s an extra $18000 a year.
In-Home Recording Studio
I should probably start out by saying this is not the easiest option you’ve got available. However I’ve seen it done successfully, in which case the return is often a full-time income.
The details, equipment and work that goes into this could be a whole groups of posts all on its own, and since I have limited studio experience, I’ll leave that to others to explain. However if you have an audio engineering background and an entrepreneurial spirit, this could be a great option for you.
The guys I know who have tried either made solid part time income or eventually quit their day job to work in their home studio full time.
Blue Sprocket Sound in Harrisonburg Virginia is a great example of this.
Selling Original Guitar Tracks
Again, this is an area where I don’t have much experience, just input from reliable sources.
If you’re going to go this route, you need to know someone who is somewhat well established in the music-recording industry. If you do, and that person knows you and can vouch for your playing ability and creativity, they can probably submit your material and get it sold.
I’ve been told you can get anywhere from $200 to $2000 for a riff or piece of music.
Again, this is secondary information, so I could be wrong. Though I do know in the music business, people seldom sit down and write their own material, so its gotta come from somewhere.
YouTube Partner and Monetization
Just to warn you, this is probably the slowest burning out of the five options I’ve listed.
However, if you have a well established online following and a lot of original material, recording it and putting it on YouTube could be a solid option for you. Getting subscribers and views is the first priority, but if you develop a following from your original content, monetizing your videos is made really easy by YouTube. A
gain, you have to be in the right situation, but if you are, this can be a better option than the other five.
- Ultimate Guide to Easy Guitar Songs
- 50 Ways to Become a Better Guitar Player
- Ultimate Guide to Developing Speed
- 18 Great Guitar Songbooks
- Where do I start?