Masterful Musician Multi-Taskers - Multitasking Week


By Jess Goulart

Photo courtesy of Ben Grogan.

As David Byrne points out in his recent column in The Guardian, it’s next to impossible for musicians to make money off of sharing platforms like Spotify and Pandora. The days of getting filthy rich off record sales are over (thanks to the internet!), unless you are not only a popular musician, but also a savvy business person. Take Taylor Swift, whose last album Red had the highest record sales in over a decade at 1.2 million in the first week. While keeping in mind that Swift already has a huge fan base, she also strategically released her singles on only the platforms that would pay her the most money, holding out access on Spotify until weeks after the album’s debut.

Of course, Swift is the exception.

“For a band of four people that makes a 15% royalty from Spotify streams,” Bryne says, “it would take 236,549,020 streams for each person to earn a minimum wage of $15,080 a year.”

That’s not exactly a living, meaning that today even moderately successful musicians must concurrently toil in the job market with all us common folk to pay the bills. Take the following artists, who held down a day job (or are still holding it down) long into their career.

Photo courtesy of Mark A Bennett.

1) Nick Hemming of The Leisure Society was nominated for the Ivor Novello songwriting award while still working in a warehouse.

Photo courtesy of Bruce.

2) Kele Okereke of Bloc Party sold popcorn at the Curzon cinema in Soho.

Photo courtesy of Remko Hoving.

3) Ian Curtis of Joy Division was a civil servant in an unemployment office.

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

4) Four of the five members of the Long Blondes also worked as librarians.

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.

5) Kurt Wagner of Lambchop was a carpenter.

Photo courtesy of Daniel Arnold.

6) All of Vancouver’s fivesome Black Mountain also worked as drug counsellors.

Photo courtesy of Metis.

7) Hip Hop star Metis is also a trader for top investment banks in New York and London.

Photo courtesy of Sean Richardson.

8) Nils Edenloff of The Rural Alberta Advantage is a computer engineer.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

9) Girl Talk’s Gregg Gillis was a biomedical engineer when his album Feed The Animals came out.

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

10) Johnny Bell of L.A. based Crystal Antlers is also a chimney sweep.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

11) Dan Perkins, singer/guitarist for The New Fidelity, is also a vegan guitar strap maker.

It is possible to make more than that measly $15,000 on music alone, but only if musicians work part time teaching, play weddings and churches, plus book at least two live gigs a month. Cake’s lead singer John McCrea told NPR he sees music as a “great hobby for most people in five to ten years,” as opposed to a viable vocation, and many of today’s flourishing artists will tell you they don’t care about sales so long as their music is getting heard. Whether that’s true or not, it’s clear the “Golden Age” of making it on record sales alone no longer exists. If you’re a musician – and you’re not Taylor Swift – get ready to multi-task.