Originally Posted by Jeremy Bender
This is just the sort of topic I was discussing this evening with an old friend of mine.
It has alway been so bewildering why the subject of money (in music) is almost taboo.
We spend thousands of hours practicing, thousands of hard earned dollars buying gear, analyzing techniques of other players, transcribing beats to songs and solos, discussing every possible detail regarding drums, cymbals, hardware, electronics, heads, sticks. Hell, some of us are loyal and passionate about our drum cases.
I can't imagine any other profession on this planet that requires such an in-depth knowledge but will not discuss income. Imagine this...12 years of medical school then another four years or more of residency and not ever focusing on your careers income!
I once asked a drummer many years ago when I was younger, what a professional like himself could expect to earn. I was told to "mind your own business". Ridiculous...
That's too bad you were told that. You could actually see how much musicians get paid by looking up the Musicians' Union online. They have different rates depending on if you're just a sideman, or a mid-leader, or a full-leader (I think that's what they call it). Back in the day (almost 20 years ago now, wow) as a sideman at Disneyland, I was making about $180 a day take home (so your gross is more). I've never been a leader but I understand it jumps up 50%, I have to look it up.
But I think alot of people don't like to talk about it because either they're not making as much as they'd like, or they're working out side of the union and taking whatever they can get, which could be more, or they're not working at all. As you get older, working outside the union means you have to be able to pay your bills, and that means making enough to take care of your health care and to put in to your retirement if you're lucky. You also need to be paying your taxes. Life gets really rough when you're not doing those things and you're getting into your 40s.
I would just calculate out how much you need to live comfortably and make it your goal to provide that number with your drumming. Take into account everything
(health care, insurances, cars, housing, food, etc.) Once you're comfortable, that's how much money you can expect to earn as a professional musician! I earn roughly $70K a year as a sound engineer and the wife has an income as well, and that's 'ok' comfortable for me. It's not extravagant by any means. And what I do earn as a drummer is all fun-money. It pays for the care and feeding of the gear, and new gear. I don't know if at my age I'm willing to tough it out on a cruise ship for weeks on end or traveling around the country in a bus with a bunch of guys. That's what you do when you're young!