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How to Keep the Wolf from Your Door

Once upon a time there were three little piggies, each struggling to make a cool buck in the music biz. They played as many gigs as they could book, created sizzling Facebook pages and uploaded music like grandma sending prayers to Jesus.

But try as they might, the bread wasn’t rising. And the Big Bad Wolf was at the door, demanding to be paid. Rent, utilities, food.

Now these were determined little piggies. Creative and street-smart.

Piggy No. 1 was a singer/songwriter. He booked a gig or two here and there, but the networking was exhausting. He wasn’t a marketing guy. Selling himself wasn’t his thing and he couldn’t afford to hire someone to do it for him. Perhaps he was now wondering, how do I promote my album?

Desperate to keep the wolf from blowing down his dream, one Friday evening he took his guitar downtown. He found a busy street corner where people just getting off work were heading for their weekends. He opened his case, took out his guitar, nudged the open case forward and started playing. A woman dropped some change in the case. Then a guy dropped a couple bucks. By the end of the night, Piggy No. 1 had made a couple franklins.

He made it a regular gig, and people on the street started taking videos and sharing them with their friends. His downloads tripled.

He’s also been asked to teach and produce, which brings in more cash and allows him to write and perform on his own terms.

The wolf has gone away.

Piggy No. 2 plays R & B. And she and her band did all the stuff people told them to do. They subscribed for an effective “online music distribution package and  uploaded performance videos on YouTube, tweeted from the stage and uploaded their music on Spotify and iTunes. They even blogged. But the wolf was at the door and time was running out. So when a friend gave Piggy No. 2 the chance to perform at an after-party for a company’s annual sales meeting, they gave it a try. The gig was solid. People danced and eight of them asked for business cards.

The band’s been playing corporate gigs and foundation benefits for the past year. One woman at a benefit asked the drummer if he’d play on a recording they were making. Word got around and now he’s playing studio sessions all over town.

The band sells t-shirts and other merchandise when clients allow them to, sometimes offering a nonprofit a cut of the proceeds. This gives them a tax write off at the end of the year. And all of this gives them the cushion they need to concentrate on their music and other opportunities.

They haven’t seen the wolf in years.

Piggy No. 3 writes all his own songs. And people respond to them at the gigs he plays. He found a website that pushes his music out to platforms for his fans to download. And the results show he’s doing something right. He writes songs that people like.

He also got in touch with an artist promotion agency. They dug his songwriting and together they made it possible for other people to cover his songs. His royalties paid the bills. He even got asked to write some songs for a couple of commercials. Those royalties bought a new car.

He gave the wolf the finger.

The moral of the story is: Keep your options open. There are ways to make money doing what you love, things that will give you the cushion you need to keep going and steer your ship where you want it to go. Rome wasn’t built in a day. It took time and there were a ton of bricks to be laid. But look what they have to show for it.

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