1. Please take 30 seconds to register your free account to remove most ads, post topics, make friends, earn reward points at our store, and more!  
    TalkBass.com has been uniting the low end since 1998.  Join us! :)

How Many TBers Make a Living Out of Playing

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by manfish, Feb 6, 2014.

  1. manfish

    manfish Supporting Member

    Aug 2, 2005
    How many working players are there in the TB community? Do you (A) make your living primarily off of playing (B) Supplement your income substantially but also have a day job (C) Make a little here and there but less than 10% (D) Don't really make money, just a passionate hobby.

    Maybe you could briefly tell us about yourself, your work as a musician, experience level, genres, your gear, location, how you got your break if youre an (A) or how you find work... etc etc...
  2. manfish

    manfish Supporting Member

    Aug 2, 2005
    Ill start then. (A) I play for Hugh Cornwell (of The Stranglers), Chrome (San Francisco Punk Industrial Art band), Trashbeat (new rock n roll band) and do session work. I also write. Im in L.A. but from London

    Vintage basses, various for different gigs. A 74 P refin w rounds is my main workhorse but use other Fenders, Ovation Magnum, Burns, Harmony, Aria, Ibanez, T40, funky MIJ basses. rounds, flats etc. Gretsch upright, fretless. I don't use 5 string unless asked to. Ampeg B15 for studio and tube or hybrid amps live. 30 yrs exp... started young. Do most genres but mostly rock n roll, altv, punk and classic rock. Also funk, punkfunk, pop, hiphop, soul, dub and experimental.

    Id played with James White (shared job with Flea). Met Guy Pratt in a shop in London... he knew James stuff. He was doing Pink Floyd the next day. I asked about cast-offs and he'd forgotten about Steve Nieves (Attractions) band. He sent me. I got it.
  3. AaronVonRock


    Feb 22, 2013
    C in a good month, but usually a D.

    Edit: Who am I kidding? I'm a D.
  4. vbchaos


    Sep 5, 2011
    Groningen, The Netherlands
    Uncompensated endorsing user: fEARful
    Mostly (D) - it is a hobby, I have a well-paid job to fund my hobby. Our band more and more goes to level (C) - we usually do not play unpaid gigs anymore. We have our costs paid (gasoline, supplies) and most of the time, some money remains that we use to fund recording hours and production things like CD pressing etc

    A and B have never been on my radar. I talked to too much of those folks and saw them goiing up and down. Not saying it's a bad thing, it's just not my thing
  5. Mostly (D) I have something in the works to get some decent income but that's going to take a little time. Finding pro or almost pro level players is not too easy here, so we need time& rehearsals.
  6. When I was younger, it was in the B category, as a couple of gigs a month could make a nice pile of pocket money when I was at college (though with practise, rehearsing etc, probably a lot more hours for less money than say flipping burgers); now it's definitely C/D category.

    I make more money now off other people's playing with a camera than I ever used to do with my own bass, and in festival season here it can be rather interesting to say the least; but it also means I can meet people who I'd have wanted to be when I was younger (and some of the time I'm glad I didn't end up that route, though I've also made friends with quite a few folk I've worked with), also at times I can get a bit of noodling time on kit that a lot of people wouldn't have the opportunity to access. And it's also a great access to music that I may have not encountered before as I do like to have a listen to the bands I'm going to be working with before I go out and work with them.
  7. punkjazzben


    Jun 26, 2008
    I'm in the B category and have been for about seven or eight years. Things are currently looking like they'll be moving towards C, but I'm working on that at the moment.

    As a music student at university, some months I'd pick up more in payments for casual orchestral gigs than I did from my Youth Allowance payments (which is a bit like welfare for independent full-time students whose parents don't earn much). Of course, as a student, that money was promptly blown on drinks, music, gear, food, clothes, and other fun things.

    This was mostly, as I said, orchestras and playing double bass in a section. I usually had three concerts a year as a sessional player with a university orchestra (not my own), plus usually a number of other orchestras in between. It was fun; there was usually two weekends or so of rehearsals plus a concert, and I was paid by the hour. Most months I could rely on having at least one of these gigs.

    I didn't pull an income from electric bass until recently. During 2012 and part of 2013, about a third of my income was from bar gigs (or should my gig income was worth about 50% of my day job income?) 'Music money' paid for quite a few new bass-related purchases over the last couple of years. This was all electric bass, playing mostly local venues (up to an hour drive away), and playing mostly covers.

    That band is now defunct, and I'm working with some older guys on a new covers band to play locally. Occasionally I do fill in gigs and once-off house band jobs. My gear setup is simple and sounds good (see my profile), and most people respect me for how I play and not the gear I bring.

    If I wanted to be category A, I think I'd have to take up teaching. My area just doesn't have enough work around to rely on gigs. I currently lecture at a university and gig on the side; it's an interesting life, though it can be strange meeting your students out at a bar. At this stage I'm happy to be in the B category because I love my research/lecturing job. But I believe I have the skills and experience to transition to A if I ever feel so inclined, especially as someone with formal training on both double bass and electric bass.
  8. bass_case

    bass_case Maintain low tones. Supporting Member

    Oct 23, 2013
    Miami, FL
    I was A for a few years in my twenties, but have been a D for a long time. Hoping to move back up the alphabet with retirement and reduction in responsibilities.
  9. experimental bassist

    experimental bassist

    Mar 15, 2009
    "D" now and only occasional "C".

    Plan to move up a few letters if I'm lucky in my retirement years, assuming I live that long! :)
  10. I don't play a lot of paid gigs (1 per month at most), so I'd say I'm a passionate hobbyist. I'm fine with keeping it that way.
  11. lomo

    lomo passionate hack Supporting Member

    Apr 15, 2006
    Most definitely D. I have a satisfying but demanding day job. I took up bass as a hobby 12 years ago at 39. I jam with friends and am in a crappy cover band that plays local bars and parties about 6x/yr, which is as much gigging as I would enjoy, but the nominal cash doesn't begin to cover what I blow on bass gear. . More frequent gigs would take up too much of my free time. Right now the mix is maximum fun.

    GODSBASSMAN Supporting Member

    Feb 2, 2005
    S. Carolina
    ok. Was in A category for 2-3 years when I was much younger playing anything and every gig that came along. Played bass, guitars and harmonica. Ruined 2 marriages. Now I am happy at the C level. Mostly play at church and school functions. 62 years old so don't need too much excitement or travelling. I play Clement 7 string fretless and 6 string fretted custom built basses almost exclusively. Backing choral groups, blended church music of all types, community functions... what ever I have been asked to supply the low end for. :D
  13. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
  14. Wesley R

    Wesley R Supporting Member

    Years ago A, then D, Then B, now D.
  15. SoVeryTired

    SoVeryTired Endorsing nothing, recommending much

    Jul 2, 2011
    Milton Keynes, UK
    D, as a volunteer musician at church. I treat it like B, just without the money. :)

    AMJBASS Supporting Member

    Jan 8, 2002
    Ontario, Canada
    I assume this would be moved to Misc.

    I am currently in the "A" category. I make my primary income from music as a full time bass player(supplemented with teaching here and there). Mostly within the corporate jazz and r&b entertainment areas. This would be about 80% Upright bass with doubling on the R&B gigs. However I also do quite a bit of theatre/show work and have spent time working on cruise ships and hotels. All show band gigs are electric. I use a Sadowsky MV5 and Aguilar amplification for almost everything not a Jazz gig.

    Its not an easy process to become a full time player(nor do I think its sustainable unless you are incredibly business savvy). It took me a good 10 years to get established as a full time bassist. In all honesty I probably would not recommend this route unless you are kind of lead down this road. You really have to want it. Much easier to establish yourself with a good day gig, and supplement that with gigging.
  17. fabubass


    Jan 13, 2006
    A in my 20's, B for the last 40 years. Retiring in 4 months and will once again be an A..........YAY!!!
  18. Spent

    Spent Supporting Member

    May 15, 2011
    Upstate NY
  19. Richland123


    Apr 17, 2009
    Playing was my primary income for the last 12 years. Before that, it was secondary income. I recently bought an insurance agency I now own as of December 1st; so, playing is back to being my secondary income (I hope!)
  20. headband


    Oct 18, 2013
    Lake Havasu City
    Category B - I have retired early from a miserable day job and now play full time to supplement income. I count on the money but it is not all that I have. My bandmates are in category A, and we play 2 to 4 shows per week and travel within the southeast/midwest. We are more selective about the work we take, and are making pretty good money per show these days.
    In my twenties I was an A, then moved to C for several years.
    I have played all kinds of genres, and the last two bands have been "heavy blues". Been playing for 44 years.