Is hard to make a living out of jazz? Are there any jobs out there?

NotQuiteMyTempo

Junior Member
I have heard from different places and people that jazz is dieing out and there is almost no jobs out there to make a living out of playing jazz and if there is it's really hard to get one and find one. Is this true because if it is that would really suck.
Is this true?
 

Jeff Almeyda

Senior Consultant
I have heard from different places and people that jazz is dieing out and there is almost no jobs out there to make a living out of playing jazz and if there is it's really hard to get one and find one. Is this true because if it is that would really suck.
Is this true?
I don't think it's ever been easy to make a living as any type of musician.

I would also have to say that the number of young jazz drummers being pumped out annually by schools like Berklee and North Texas most likely significantly exceeds the number of gigs out there.
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
Jazz hasn't been much of a money-making proposition for 40+ years. By that I mean, not mainstream enough to support many full-time jazz musicians. In some major markets, the gigs (read: venues) are few and far-between, and you're lucky to get paid much at all.

New York City, New Orleans, perhaps Chicago aren't too bad, but L.A. is almost nil in terms of venues. Harvelle's is gone, and I heard that Café Cordiale is closing. That pretty much leaves the Baked Potato, and Catalina's as the 'major' venues here (someone correct me if I'm wrong.) But even if there were a dozen jazz clubs in L.A., that's still pretty sad for those trying to make a living in the genre.

I always thought this was a joke, but maybe not:

"How do you make a million dollars playing jazz?"
"Start with two million."

I saw the article floating around Facebook about jazz not being popular... or whatever it says. I don't need to click on it, musicians have known this stuff for a long time. I've been gigging and doing sessions since about 1977, and during that time I've been asked only twice to do jazz gigs (I did both) and once to do a jazz session (which I also did.) I know a LOT of drummers in town, and across the US, and I don't think any of them make a living playing jazz.

Bermuda
 

Derek

Silver Member
Hey Jon, I don't think you're wrong. But I want to add Steamers Cafe in Fullerton for our fellow SoCal folks. About an hour south of L.A. and lots of jazz talent in there nightly. I love that place. If someone is looking for another place for jazz in Southern California, give it a try.
 
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Thaard

Platinum Member
I have heard from different places and people that jazz is dieing out and there is almost no jobs out there to make a living out of playing jazz and if there is it's really hard to get one and find one. Is this true because if it is that would really suck.
Is this true?
Most of the jazz cats around here end up as session musicians and teachers, so it looks to me that it's really hard to live of jazz alone.
 

mikel

Platinum Member
You should probably get into music for the right reason......because you love playing it, not cos you think you can make a living from it.

A very wise person once said "If you get into music to make money, you will be dissappointed. If you get into music to make music, you will be happy".
 

SmoothOperator

Gold Member
My experience regarding employment has been somewhat counter intuitive, in that the easier something is the less profitable it is. Take Herb Alpert as an example it's more or less jazz, and he is a billionaire.
 

WhoIsTony?

Member
"I found that to really make money you had to give up music, so I gave up money "
- Mel Lewis


do it for the right reasons ....

it doesn't matter what type of music you play .... making a living will never be easy
 

bigd

Silver Member
The only place jazz seems to be alive is in college campus music schools. If you want to make money in jazz get good enough to teach jazz at a college.. That seems to be the only way to make a full time living off of jazz. Good luck!!!!
 

toddbishop

Platinum Member
It's hard to make a living as any kind of musician. As a jazz player, you may have more options than some other people re: the kinds of gigs you can take. It's easy enough to get some steady, long-term employment on cruise ships when you're out of school, but you can't really live that way forever. There's also hotel work in southeast Asia, which are steady, and people do them for many years. But most people living in the US have to cobble together a living with whatever resources they have at their disposal-- a lot of non-jazz gigs, teaching, getting money on the side with other skills they happen to have. A lot of people try to marry a woman who has a good job.

But your job as an 8th grader is just to be into the drums, and play all the time. You may decide as you get older that the lifestyle isn't for you, or you may get interested in other things-- it doesn't matter, whatever you decide to do is the right decision; it's not a waste of time for you to be really serious about the drums for a few years.
 

bromasi

Senior Member
Jazz is alive, check out Downbeat mag,Smalls Jazz, you just don't make alot of money,but I don't play for money it would be nice though.
 
M

Matt Bo Eder

Guest
I have heard from different places and people that jazz is dieing out and there is almost no jobs out there to make a living out of playing jazz and if there is it's really hard to get one and find one. Is this true because if it is that would really suck.
Is this true?
Once you enroll in college, this is definitely NOT true. It's crazy to think that while you're attending college, learning how to play jazz, that you would be also thinking about making a living with it once you've graduated. In fact, how dare you question the very institution of jazz education by even suggesting that there's no way to make a living playing music at all. You've worked hard through college, and dang it, you deserve to make a living with your chosen degree. Now go forth, study as hard as you can and be a really good jazzer. We need as many degree-holding jazz drummers as we can get! There can't be enough of them!

I'm putting on my flame-resistant suit now ;)
 

KamaK

Platinum Member
You can make a living off of jazz in the same manner a classical musician makes a living off of classical music. Understand that this may include playing in a functions band, teaching, composing, working in sales, grabbing any session work you can find, and having to constantly hustle in order to keep it all going. If you're lucky, you land a regular gig with a large corporation (cruise lines, disney, 6flags, etc). Heck, I know a jazz drummer that plays in a Doors tribute band to make ends meet.

If you also get a BM degree, you can run the functions band, studio, shop, etc.

Alternatively, you can do as I did and build a career in some other discipline. You're then free pursue music as a hobby.
 

bigd

Silver Member
Kamak, What are you talking about? You actually can make a full time living as an orchestral player. There aren't as many major symphonies as there once were but there are people playing full time in orchestra's all over America. They are making a decent living even in the markets smaller then say New York or LA. Players in major symphonies many times teach because they actually enjoy it not because they have to.
 

KamaK

Platinum Member
Kamak, What are you talking about? You actually can make a full time living as an orchestral player. There aren't as many major symphonies as there once were but there are people playing full time in orchestra's all over America. They are making a decent living even in the markets smaller then say New York or LA. Players in major symphonies many times teach because they actually enjoy it not because they have to.
I'm not disagreeing. My point was that until you land that regular-full-time career job, whether it be Carnival Cruise Lines or the BSO, you've got to really hustle to make it work.

I'm willing to concede on the "If you're lucky" part of my post, as the people playing career gigs likely earned it.
 

NotQuiteMyTempo

Junior Member
You should probably get into music for the right reason......because you love playing it, not cos you think you can make a living from it.

A very wise person once said "If you get into music to make money, you will be dissappointed. If you get into music to make music, you will be happy".
I want to make a living out of it because i want to do what i love for the rest of my life and nothing elses not because of money
 

DrumEatDrum

Platinum Member
Kamak, What are you talking about? You actually can make a full time living as an orchestral player. There aren't as many major symphonies as there once were but there are people playing full time in orchestra's all over America. They are making a decent living even in the markets smaller then say New York or LA. Players in major symphonies many times teach because they actually enjoy it not because they have to.
Sure, but how many audition for each of those jobs vs actually become employed?

The fact remains the supply of drummers exceeds demand.
 
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