Want to make money doing something you love? Here, San Diego, CA teacher Maegan W. shares her tips for making your drumming a career — or, if nothing else, a lucrative side job…
What do you call a drummer without a girlfriend/boyfriend? Homeless! OUCH!! Funny but all too often true.
This is not just a common stereotype from the general public that drummers are known as “broke musicians,” but one I often hear drummers harshly labeling themselves as. I know because I used to do it myself — and in fact, I used to be one myself!
Not anymore, though. I made a decision that I would no longer settle for playing for free drinks or gas money. I made it my mission to find all the ways I could to get paid for playing the drums. I am fully self-supported through the money I make playing, teaching, and writing about drums, and I even wrote a book that became a #1 Best Seller called “Drum and Grow Rich” — so I guess you could say I am qualified to give you some helpful pointers on the subject.
Here are six ways, other than landing the dream gig and touring the world, to make money playing the drums.
You may think that teachers don’t make much money, but I assure you that you can make great money from teaching the drums. Depending on your skill level, experience, and confidence, you can make anywhere from $30-$200 an hour — and even more if you’ve played with big bands or have the right clientele. Most teachers bring in about $60 per hour, which means even working part-time you will make between $2,400 and $4,000 while still having time to play gigs at night.
2) Online Lessons
Similar to above, if you have the right experience, creating online lessons is another great option. You can film once, then create passive income from them over and over. This is becoming a very popular avenue for many fields, and is widely accepted as a reliable source of education. There are a lot of other drummers doing this, but don’t let that stop you. You have something unique that no one else has, and there are plenty of students for anyone who wants to teach.
3) Corporate Gigs, Weddings, and Parties, Oh MY!
This is where the big money is at, and you would be surprised how easy they are to get. As with any gig or drumming job, make sure that you are offering something of quality. You need to take pride in order to make the big bucks. The more songs you know, and the tighter your band is, the more gigs and referrals you will get, and the more you can charge. I have booked and played gigs that I charged more than $1,000 for that lasted less than two hours. Not bad! I have also been hired for other gigs where all I had to do was show up and know the songs, and I got paid $200 for an hour.
4) Musicals, Cirque Du Soliel, and Shows
Ah, who doesn’t love the theater? Playing for musicals and shows is a great way to make money and have a more steady lifestyle. These types of gigs almost always require above-average reading skills, but that is no need to worry. The way I see it, even a drummer at a beginner level of reading can grow his or her skills to above average (musical or show-ready) in less than a year if there is a serious effort to do so. Learning to read music efficiently will be one of the greatest investments of your time that you can possibly make. Even gigs like playing for Justin Timberlake or Lady Gaga require reading skills.
The best way to steadily improve is to read at least one piece of music each day. Even if you cannot practice or play it, just mentally reading through the form will dramatically improve your reading skills. Practicing hits, time changes, and odd meter is also imperative for these types of gigs.
Ok, so this one is not directly playing the drums, but it takes experience and knowledge of playing them to be able to write about them. Writing about drums has allowed me to grow my reach to drummers all over the world and educate in new ways I never thought possible. You can make great money from writing articles, books, and blogs about drumming, but the bigger picture to see is that writing makes you an expert. I have been fortunate enough to have success from writing about drums and it has opened doors that I never imagined. Plus, you can do it when you want, where you want, and how you want, all while helping people and tapping into another aspect of your creativity.
6) Playing Local Shows
Here is the catch with this one: If you are going to make any real money playing local shows or even touring on a small to medium level, you need to have a back end. In other words, you need to have stuff to sell. You can play shows and get paid $20-$75 on average, but this can be a lot of hard work for little pay-off. The key is to have CDs or T-shirts to sell to keep fans engaged and coming back for more. Now, you may be thinking this sounds shady or like it isn’t “about the music,” but if you don’t make money then you can’t keep making music. It is your responsibility to figure out how to make as much money as possible from each and every fan (ethically of course).
This goes back to giving value. Ask yourself and your band, how can we give our fans the most value? If this is genuinely your focus, you will come up with all sorts of ways to give them more, and make great money for doing it.
These are just six ways out of thousands to make money playing the drums. I hope these are helpful and inspire you to use your gift as more than just a hobby. Don’t give up! I was ready to give up completely on making a living from playing the drums, even though it was my dream, until I made a decision to keep on. It wasn’t always easy, but as soon as I committed to making it happen, everything changed. You can do it too, you just have to believe, be creative, and be committed.
Maegan W. teaches drums, songwriting, and more in San Diego, CA. She earned a degree in Percussion from the Musician’s Institute, and has been teaching private lessons since 2004. Learn more about Maegan here!
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