Nashville super-picker Guthrie Trapp is as concerned about his financial future as the next guy. As a stellar session musician in a town rife with recording studios, he is rarely without a paycheck, but he still seeks multiple revenue streams to diversify his musical “portfolio.”
“I think about my life as a musician in a more entrepreneurial fashion,” says Trapp, who shares some of his ideas for navigating the new-music economy below. “Some guys just sit on their ass and watch television when they don’t have a gig, and, these days, that doesn’t cut it.”
Trapp acquired sponsors for his weekly performance at Acme Feed & Seed on Broadway—landing Wrangler, BMI, and others—and worked out a 50/50 partnership on sponsorship revenue with the club, in addition to his fee for playing. He also started a radio station to entice more sponsorship revenue.
“When people asked me to teach them mandolin or guitar, I’d say, ‘Come over and give me 40 bucks,’” says Trapp. “As my visibility increased, I raised my price and advertised Skype lessons on YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram.”
The increased exposure paid off when online lesson company ArtistWorks offered Trapp a deal to teach a country electric-guitar curriculum. In addition, ArtistWorks helps Trapp promote his own website and social media.
GET A TEAM
It’s tough to expand and track your business without assistance. Natalie Thompson helps Trapp with his schedule, as well as coordinating the guests for the Acme gigs and the radio show. Eileen Tilson was brought on to manage Trapp’s website and monetize his YouTube videos.
“I am spending a lot of money to make some money and it is working,” he says.
WORK THE (SOCIAL) MEDIA
Trapp has relationships with equipment companies and coordinates his social media with theirs.
“Sharing posts with big gear manufacturers can add significant traffic—upwards of 10,000 people—to your social media efforts,” he explains. “And every one of those people is a potential CD buyer, signature pedal buyer, and/or lesson taker. I’m not a fan of Twitter—which is more for celebrities with millions of followers—but Facebook is okay, and Instagram is by far the most popular venue.”
GO FOR IT
You might not be as high profile as Trapp, or live in a major music center. Nevertheless, lessons, production, and sponsorship opportunities all represent things you can do to add to your cash flow.
“I am addicted to the hustle,” says Trapp. “It can be stressful, and I often step out of my comfort zone, but it has been worth it, because even if the project doesn’t work out, I’ve learned something I can use in the future.”