How to survive as a drummer
You became a drummer with the hope of playing drums a lot. When you made this decision, you probably assumed that you would have a career in the studio and on stage. At that time, you must spend a lot of time playing the drums, but it is impossible to predict what may happen to you in the future.
What happens if you never get that high-paying job as a drummer that will bring you fame and fortune for life? Will you quit drumming, find another profitable job? If this is your choice, you are not alone with it. It is very difficult to make a living working as a professional drummer. No matter how famous you are as a musician, rarely are you as rich as most people think you are. But for many professional drummers, the mere act of drumming is fulfilling and justifies the sacrifice. If you love playing the drums and can't imagine being in another role in life, there are many proven ways to find work, including live performances and studio work.
You shouldn't be ashamed of working during the day to help fund your passion for drumming. After all, you have to take care of yourself if you plan on doing a good job as a drummer in the future. You can work with anyone, although you must not lose sight of your musical goals. Many drummers work in a place where they can take a little vacation when they need to go on tour. Some work in places that are somehow related to music, while others try to pursue a professional career outside the music business.
Many drummers make ends meet by working in drum shops. This is a great job for drummers who aspire to become professional musicians. When you work in a drum shop, you get to interact with other drummers. You can be among the first to know that a particular group is looking for a drummer, as well as new equipment that may be useful to you. Depending on the store you work for, you may have opportunities to meet successful drummers. You can try to develop a professional working relationship with them, or their technicians. Another benefit of working in a drum shop is that your boss is more likely to be sensitive to your career aspirations. Let's say you are offered a long tour for a month. It is possible that your boss will give you a leave of absence, allowing you to return to your work after the tour is over. This is difficult to do if you work for the telephone company.
Working in a music store can be your own career. Don Frank runs a store in Redwood City, California. Even though he has played with the likes of Ronnie Montrose, the Doobie Brothers and Mark Bonilla, Frank takes his retail work seriously.
“That's my first priority,” he says. “I enjoy this job because I love selling instruments and talking to drummers. It helps me keep in touch with other musicians and reminds other musicians that I am here and available. If a band is looking for a drummer, they know how to find me. Also this job has helped me develop good communication skills and a habit of working.”
There is no better way to increase your income playing drums than teaching. You can teach students in your free time from rehearsals, recordings and concerts. Teaching drums is a real job that requires you to be organized and responsible. Students pay good money and expect to receive real and specific information in return. It is very important for a teacher to be punctual and work hard.
Most teachers work with students of all levels. Some of them are beginners who need to be taught the basic principles, including how to hold sticks, read music, and play the simplest drawings and rudiments. However, if you develop your reputation as a drummer and teacher, you can even attract professional drummers who want to learn specific aspects of your technique and style.
Therefore, if you decide to become a drum teacher, you must be prepared for flexibility. Some students will ask for a structured lesson plan. Others may not want to take a full academic course, and will want to learn certain beats and tricks they've heard on the albums. It is better to let the student dictate the lesson plan. After all, the idea is to keep them interested in the class. Therefore, you must get to know each of your students in order to determine the method that works best for that particular drummer.
“That's something I learned when I first started teaching,” says Wally Schnoll, a jazz drummer from San Jose who has released three solo albums and works as a music editor for Drum! magazine. “At first you think that you will teach them everything you know, but you quickly discover that this will not happen. But everyone who comes to study with me must learn the following: good hand technique, reading music and independence of all four limbs.
Class cancellations represent the biggest headache for private educators. To counteract this problem, some teachers require payment in advance for a full month of lessons, and 24 hours notice of any lesson cancellation. If the student does not do this, the teacher keeps the payment for the lesson.
Just because most bandleaders are vocalists or guitarists doesn't mean you shouldn't consider forming your own band. If you are a composer, the benefits of promoting your own band are obvious, as you need to realize your own creativity.
But even if you don't have the talent to write hit tunes, you can increase your live income by assembling a cover band that specializes in playing top 40 hits or classics at clubs, weddings, and corporate events. In addition to the musician's fee, you can receive your share as the organizer of the performance.
Of course, the responsibilities of the concert organizer include a lot of things. John Xepolis, a drummer from San Francisco who organizes his band's shows, says: “I do everything from negotiating with clubs to closing contracts. I organize about 120 events a year.” Xepolis continues: “There are a dozen bands I'm currently with and they're all booked through next September. I have six more bands booked before the new year, which is not bad considering Xepolis gets 20% commission from other bands.
Very few people have become rich by writing training books for drummers and making drum videos. But a lot of drummers have found that publishing books and videos is a good way to increase their income.
The main thing in this business is to have a good idea. Just keep in mind that there were a lot of drummers before you who wrote a good book or made a good video. To compete with them, you must offer a new concept. Analyze everything that is popular among drummers today and try to identify a niche that has not been exploited until now. This is hard work. Today the market is oversaturated.
Drumming books come in two categories. There are books that talk about the methods of the game. They are usually written as an exploration of a specific drumming style or technique, include many musical examples, and are intended for readers with a certain skill level. Other books explore topics historically, such as the history of swing drumming, or technically, such as how-to books on drumming. In Russia, you are unlikely to be able to sign an agreement with a publisher or sell a large number of copies of a book, but if your book gets a response from the drum community, you risk becoming a famous drummer.