How many of you make a living out playing BG?

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by dexter3d, May 11, 2018.

  1. dexter3d


    Jul 4, 2005
    Was just wondering if anyone here really earns enough solely out of bass playing? For me it's hard to imagine, unless you have some sort of tenured teaching position, are a multi-instrumentalist, or you are one of the 'big names' and can put your name on a bass cab or something :)
  2. Joe Nerve

    Joe Nerve

    Oct 7, 2000
    New York City
    Endorsing artist: Musicman basses
    I'm none of the above, and I earned as much this past year performing as I did on my day job for the past 20 years. I still hang onto my day job because I like it and I can, but I can support myself through music alone.

    For today, anyhow :).
  3. I did when I lived in a city of 2 million. Now I live in a city of 100,000 and there just aren’t enough performance opportunities to sustain full time employment in a city that small.
  4. sean_on_bass


    Dec 29, 2005
    I do not play music nearly full time, but i can at least offer my observations of those surrounding me that do. Generally teaching is their reliable, weekly income source, and then supplemented being a part of multiple gigging bands as well as being a good sub call. They can sight read music like a mofo which opens up alot of gig ops ranging from cover bands to theatrical gigs to big band dance hall stuff.

    I will say these guys are not particularly rich and would probably have trouble supporting a family with children. But they make enough to get themselves by.
  5. I concur with this assessment. The average non-reading bar bander was not making a living, even in a city of 2 million, but the versatile readers were playing non-stop.
  6. andawun


    Jul 13, 2009
    Yes when I was young and single. No when I got married/started family, but extra income from weekend gigs helped alot. Now retired I use money from gigs to pay for not so affordable health insurance.
    Malcolm35 likes this.
  7. JRA

    JRA my words = opinion Gold Supporting Member

    i can appreciate your skepticism, but lots of players can make a living from music: if they have the right skills for the opportunities which, although slim sometimes, do exist.
    edit: adding this: i used to make a living (family of four) from full time playing. i'm old now, so: i play part-time
  8. Cruise ships don't employ amateurs.
  9. Pacman

    Pacman Layin' Down Time Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Endorsing Artist: Roscoe Guitars, DR Strings, Aguilar Amplification
    I do.
    Jimmy4string likes this.
  10. mobdirt

    mobdirt Guest

    Jun 14, 2017
  11. mobdirt

    mobdirt Guest

    Jun 14, 2017
    ...wasnt there a poll recently that showed that around 4% of the members are full time musicians (?)
  12. HauntedDave

    HauntedDave Guest

    Mar 7, 2016
    Houston, TX
    I once made a living as a touring recording artist, but not today. There's little money to be made as a recording artist from actual music sales these days, and touring feels more like a traveling t-shirt salesman. Ahh, the good ol' days.
    bearfoot and craigie like this.
  13. Not even CLOSE :laugh:
  14. arbiterusa


    Sep 24, 2015
    Did back in the 1980s. It would be much harder today, and I suspect I would not be able to keep a roof over my wife’s and dog’s heads.
  15. Joe Nerve

    Joe Nerve

    Oct 7, 2000
    New York City
    Endorsing artist: Musicman basses
    Something that the OP might want to take into consideration...

    While there are no accurate statistics on this, my experience from talking with 100s of bass players over the years tells me less than 5% of them actively participate on Talkbass. I have a feeling also that the more successful ones participate even less. How many well known bass players do you see posting here?

    Earning a living by playing bass is incredibly difficult, but possible. The more skills someone has in their toolbox, the better their chances. The skills that carry the most worth, IME, are adaptability, dependability, and friendliness. People want to work with people they like and can trust completely. Doesn't matter what means you use to get the job done, so long as you get the job done. Gail Ann Dorsey (bass with Bowie) said in a small gathering at BP Live 100 years ago that she didn't know the notes on the neck past the 5th fret. That was inspiring to me, because I didn't really, either :). She got the job done though, and did it well. On the flip side, Jaco couldn't get a gig in the last year of his playing.

    I've been performing for almost 40 years. I've made some decent money in spurts, and had some awesome experiences. I however didn't start earning my living at it until last year. I'm a determined, positive thinking, no quitting no matter what MoFo though :). If I knew how to read, understood theory, and knew about the friendly/dependable quotient sooner - I'm sure I'd have been much more successful throughout my life.

    If anyone wants to play bass for a living, I say do it. You can if you want to badly enough. If you don't want to badly enough find something else to do.
  16. RoadRanger

    RoadRanger Supporting Member

    Feb 18, 2004
    NE CT
    Goes along with the old saying "There's no money past the 5th fret". I tune DGCF so get to play all the way up to the 7th :D. OTOH there's the occasional octave slide up or 7 fret slide down (woo?).
    Joe Nerve likes this.
  17. I did for years, and was quite comfortable doing so towards the end. I "retired" from the biz a few years ago, but still work in a few weekend bands for the fun and to still play.

    I don't think that desire to create music on a stage with other musicians will ever fully leave me, I just have a better handle on it now. I've traded the excitement (and chaos) of touring in on sleeping in my own bed every night, and spending my free time with my wonderful woman in my life, instead of sitting in a bus rumbling across various interstates. It was a blast, and the memories and experiences will stay with me for a lifetime, but it's nice to be home full time as well.
    juancaminos and RoadRanger like this.
  18. bassbully

    bassbully Endorsed by The PHALEX CORN BASS..mmm...corn!

    Sep 7, 2006
    Blimp City USA
    Part time for me and it helps pay the bills.
  19. Hurricane Jimmie

    Hurricane Jimmie Supporting Member

    Flew into Atlanta for a seminar in the early 70's... noticed the driver had a trombone case in the trunk of the taxi.
    Later that evening I went to the hotel lounge and Freddy King was playing with a 5-piece horn section...and my driver was switching off on trombone and bass. He was killin' both of them.
    I'd only been playing for a couple of years, but I realized that if this guy had to have a day gig...there wasn't much hope for my poor butt.
    So I play when someone offers me a gig, but have never let it interfere with my day job. I've always considered music a little bit of fun...and a little bit of money.
    And tip my hat to anyone who can make a living in music.
  20. ZachM


    Nov 19, 2010
    Nashville, TN
    I played bass as my sole income source for almost five years. During those years I had a ton of fun experiences, some lifelong memories were made, and I had the privilege to spend all my time doing something that I loved. And I had a pretty good run - got to tour in Asia, Europe and Africa, see every US state, and be signed to a record deal and have a single in the top 40 country charts. I was not rich, but it was an enjoyable life, which cannot always be bought with money.

    A few years ago I made the decision to step away from it, for a number of reasons. I still play as much as I can, but I'm now working towards a career where I can be fully location independent. And when I looked at day-to-day life as a single, young(ish) guy, there was no problem at all - but I started to wonder what was gonna pay my bills and provide the life I want to live 10-15 years from now, and I didn't really see the vision of music providing what I want in like, 2040.

    I have to say though, I miss touring. The camaraderie of being out on the road, with a group of friends, playing music and seeing the country, that's hard to beat in my book.

    Wise words and I completely agree. Every successful musician I know offers these basic traits above all else.

    If I had one piece of advice to offer, it's probably this: As a freelance musician, you're not selling your skill, per se... you're selling yourself as a service. There's a really good Maya Angelou quote that I think really sums up what you're trying to do as a freelancer:

    "I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

    So I guess, think about how you want people to feel when they've hired you. When people hire me, I want them leaving with the feeling that they had a great time playing music with a fun, dependable guy, and they didn't have to worry about anything.
    Bunk McNulty and Joe Nerve like this.