Life as an independent musician
We’ve just recently gotten back into doing music on a more professional level after many years of working in other fields. Back in the mid-90s, when we were full-time musicians in LA, it was pretty much impossible to live off your music - the clubs would not pay you for gigs (you were lucky if they didn’t charge you to play…!), pressing CDs was expensive and sales were slow, running a fanclub and sending out newsletters by mail was expensive, too… it was all money out and no money in most of the time. We had a crappy job at a local record store which made most of it’s money selling illegal bootlegs under the table which kept us (barely) alive and sometimes we earned a few bucks (and raided buffets!) as extras in movie shoots. So we were interested in hearing what full-time musician nowadays has to do to make ends meet - we asked our buddy Frank Palangi, a dedicated ("no Plan B") indie artist from Upstate New York.
How do you perceive life as a musician nowadays? Covid changed a lot of things and some areas are only now slowly getting back to live events. A lot of digital content creation and more about interaction on social media lately plus making lots of new content all the time - which is both good and bad, I think.
You gotta be always moving forward, hard working and seeking new opportunity. For me, its about how can I make a living at it and progress that way too.
What are ways that you found to make a living with music? Playing just isn't enough anymore for income - I did that for 10 years and it's only a piece of the puzzle. I branched out into guitar lessons, mixing/recording/mastering songs, Radio/Voice Over work, hiring out as a session musician or someone in need of creating a song. I also do video work directing/filming short films, interviews or music videos. You just have to really do many things - at least to see what takes off more than another, too.
Which aspects of being a musician do you enjoy most? Always the writing and recording studio life. I could live in the studio and be a "studio rat" lol. I love everything from the gear, the production, the art behind it. I could do it everyday as much as your ears will allow.
What made you choose this life? How did people around you react to this “career” choice? I fell into it more after high school and when I quit my day job they looked at me like I went nuts! I grew to love that feeling you get when you create and play so much more! That's where I'd like to stay. Interacting with people and hearing their stories and ways of life from all over is my 2nd reason I love this line of work. I met so many awesome people over the years. Not all friends I had or some family, I think, understood what it is I'm trying to achieve or do: It's not the "rockstar" thing with getting huge. I'm just living it and doing it - forever, hopefully!
Some people have problems with where you are in your career - "you're acting too small, too big, you should be doing this and that..."! But it's up to you and you know where you are and your goals in your career.
You have to advertise your music to make it possible, so you end up in a magazine or on tour. Great, but then to say you have a "low period" afterwards, that doesn't define your status and what you're trying to achieve instantly.
What are some of the biggest challenges independent rock musicians face today? Getting signed to a major label and having that status- if that's your goal. I find so many artists come and go and get so ripped off to the point where they (the label) are saying what's in and out of your music and you don't own it!! #1 issue is not owning your own material. Own it! It's yours!! Depending on your area and if they like the style of music regionally that can be challenging also, so relocating eventually may be best bet. Another challenge is a lot of musicians are getting paid 1998 pay scale ... hahaha . That has to stop! Inflation does not help anything and we never get a raise.
Would you say that there is more like a sense of camaraderie between independent musicians or a sense of competition?
Depends on what area. I'd say more competition - but I see camaraderie in areas with musicians that are spread out and not as local to each other, where more locally there definitely is competition.
Many thanks to Frank for sharing his views! Make sure to check him out: