Pretty much everyone knows the rich and famous rappers and rock stars who have cut their teeth in Seattle. But that barista steaming up your latte, the bartender pouring your IPA and the bespectacled book worm ringing up your graphic novels? They’re all in bands. The problem is, they all can’t quit their day jobs.
Which is why The City of Seattle’s Office of Film & Music has just introduced a new infographic called ‘This IS a Real Job! How three Seattle musicians are making it on music alone.’
“What we’re trying to do is demystify what it takes to make a living making music,” says the Office of Film & Music director James Keblis. “So this stems from my longtime passion of helping musicians.”
The newly released infographic features three, real life Seattle musicians.
“We have a hip-hop artist who’s making about $50,000 a year, you have an indie rocker who’s making about $32,000, and then a violinist who’s making over $65,000 a year,” James explains. “That is what we wanted to show. This is a real job for mom and dad and these are all local musicians who you probably have never heard of who are making this money.”
He breaks down six different components a musician can mix and match to make a good living.
“Licensing their music to film and commercials; music sales, whether it’s digital or physical; merchandise, selling t-shirts, selling products; live performance, actually getting paid for the concerts; studio time, going out there with your buddies and playing on other people’s music; and then, of course, teaching.”
Seattle’s Victoria Parker is a professional violinist.
“I grabbed my mom’s violin out of her hands at the age of two. I always knew I wanted to play the violin,” said Parker.
She has never had a day job. Instead, she pieces together a living with her violin.
“I play as an extra with the Seattle Symphony, the opera, the ballet here. But what my week can look like is maybe I’m subbing with the symphony, and then I teach one lesson in the afternoon, and then I run out and maybe do a rock show. Also, I record soundtracks,” says Parker.
The music part comes naturally, but the other part of being successful is marketing yourself and knowing how to manage money.
“I mean, I had to train myself in business, actually, because I know nothing about it,” Parker says. “So that was a lot of self studying about that. At the end of the day, if you have a passion for it, you’re just going to figure it out and make it happen for you. There’s really no model that I have seen. Everybody’s sort of doing their own thing, in a way.”
But Seattle jazz guitarist, Michael Powers, says it never hurts to get some advice.
“I think cross pollination is a good thing because obviously, anybody who is potentially in the same pool as you, and maybe your competitor, isn’t going to try and help you too much,” says Powers. “So the idea of it being a successful real estate person, a successful land developer, especially the ones that are kind of self made people, and very independent, they can give you some of those ideas.”
One of the most recent musical opportunities given by the Office of Film & Music is hiring musicians to play live in Sea-Tac Airport.
“The average tips that live musicians are making in three and a half hours is over $300. And they’re getting paid $25 an hour. There was one instance where someone in three and a half hours made over $800 in tips alone,” says Keblis. “Busking is a legitimate place to play. Seattle’s a really great busking town. Pike Place Market, any street corner, and Seattle Center. People are really generous in this town. They love music and they give to that.”
So the next time your barista is moving a bit slowly, give them a break. They were probably up late trying to make a living on a stage.