The Secret to a Successful Music Career

If you asked me to distill my twenty years of musical success into a single word of advice, that word would be diversify.

Savvy financial advisors have been giving that same word of advice to investors for years.


Because by diversifying your investments, you reduce your overall risk of loss and create a more secure scenario for your interests.

How does that advice apply to your music career?

Your investing your valuable time and your hard-earned musical skills into the creation of your ideal job. Spreading that investment out across a wide range of income opportunities will create a nice safety net. This net will provide a feeling of confidence and security when facing any unexpected financial challenges that may pop up and try to get between you and your musical dreams.

Since a large portion of my audience is presumably made up of folk musicians, I’ll restate this idea in a more colloquial manner:

Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket.

It’s a simple formula. If all of your eggs are, indeed, in one basket and something happens to said basket, you might just loose all of your eggs.

If your eggs are spread out among many baskets and something happens to one of the baskets, the eggs lost will only represent a percentage of your total egg fortune. You should be able to absorb the loss without shutting down your whole egg operation.

Most musicians want to concentrate on their performance career and feel that other facets of the industry are less fulfilling. I used to agree with this eggs in one basket mind state, but experience has taught me that the opposite approach (creating income from a diverse mix of musical activities) is a much more effective method for achieving financial freedom and creative satisfaction.  

You don’t have to quit performing.  Performance is likely the aspect of your music career that you find the most fulfilling. But, for most musicians, it’s not the most profitable or stable aspect.

Consider the overhead alone. How much do you spend on promotional materials, press kits, postage, merchandise, tour vehicle maintenance, tour vehicle insurance, fuel, instrument purchases, instrument repairs?  How much did your last CD cost to produce? I did my last one on the cheap and I spent $5,500!  

That’s why it’s so important to tap into other income sources…to diversify.

The more “alternative” income strategies you can weave into your musical porfolio, the more stable and sustainable your career will be. Luckily, a lot of these options are easy and inexpensive to employ.

Let’s start with some broad strokes:

Here are some of the ways I’ve diversified my musical income and changed my life in the process. I believe these suggestions will prove equally useful to you.

At the very least, this advice should inspire some helpful, original ideas of your own.


Create and Share Video Lessons           

Host an Open Mic Night

Start a Concert Series or a Festival                  

Present in Schools, Libraries, and Colleges

Produce CDs for Other Artists                         

Offer Services as a Session Musician

Offer Services as a “Sideman” (or woman) to Local Bands

Organize a Square Dance

Found an Organization that Blends Your Music With Some of Your Other Passions and Interests

                                                                                                                                                      Exploring alternative opportunities within your musical field will open your mind to completely new areas of musical achievement and fulfillment way beyond your current expectations.

Give some of these ideas a try and let me know your results.


It is time for parents to teach young people early on that in diversity there is beauty and there is strength.                                                                                                                                                                          – Maya Angelou

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