Making Music Pay

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As discussed in the previous article. Earning a living as an unsigned musician can seem impossible. Most musicians will have part-time if not full-time jobs which pay the bills as they write and try to make it in their free time.

However, if like Jimmy Weaver, you don’t mind so much about the fame and the glamour – you can still carve out a life within music, which pays.

After arriving in Leeds in 2008, Jimmy has sought out music related jobs which he can fit around or even incorporate into his passion for music. He does this by subsidising his income from playing music by working at a practice rooms, promoting shows, doing live sound and helping touring bands (either bands on tour in Leeds, which he’ll put up for the night, or bands from Leeds who are going on tour, which Jimmy helps book shows elsewhere using contacts he’s built up over years.)

I spoke to Jimmy about his chosen career path and the challenges which face new artists today. I did this because wherever I turned in Leeds (specifically in the punk scene) I was told he could probably help me out.

Leeds Unsigned: There’s a lot of negativity surrounding job prospects and pay for musicians, do you think that’s fair?

Jimmy Weaver: It is if you’re looking to just play music but some of the negativity is caused by people not really thinking through how they’re going to fund themselves. Bands will spend too much money on advertising before they’re actually known . Also, bands need to have recordings, some don’t but if you’re gigging people should be able to listen first nowadays.

LU: What’s your opinion about online sharing and giving music away for free or even at a loss?

JW: Exposure’s key. Gigs earn money, then come tours and merchandise, then you can start looking at being profitable. Until that point, I think you should be okay with sending stuff out for free. Basically the best thing any new band can do is gig as much as possible. If people know who you are, you become a go-to person.

LU: Is being a go-to person your niche at the moment? Or are you just doing what you enjoy?

JW: I am doing what I enjoy and if I didn’t have bills and stuff, I would do this for free. That should always be at the heart of it. It’s not an easy option. I work several different jobs to keep afloat but ultimately, I’d rather this than a 9-5 which paid well but didn’t involve music.

As for the go-to guy question: I suppose I am a bit, but this just comes back to the first point. You have to get out there and be a friendly face. A fair chunk of my work comes when something’s gone wrong and a promoter or venue needs something at the last minute, by being approachable, you end up getting that work.

LU: So, where specifically do you work? And what do you do there?

I work at 309 studios, where I set up rooms, help bands with anything they need and generally look after the place when Kev (the owner) isn’t here. I also work at The Chemic Tavern, where I do the sound and promote gigs, as well as working on the bar – which is great for meeting musicians, the pub’s very music focussed. I also help at Sound Off Promotions which is a company based in Glasgow and Leeds, we help touring bands and put on gigs in both cities.

LU: So, from your experience, the music business is not a baron, jobless wasteland?

JW: Definitely not. I mean, I play in bands as well and that doesn’t pay particularly well, but I do that for the love of playing anyway. You can do all sorts, including writing, promoting, just be ready to help out and do favours and eventually it comes back around.


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