Sunday, December 28, 2008

Business and Music

Saturday, December 27, 2008


There are many good books devoted to the business of music and there is plenty of information on the internet. Read this information and study it so that you can protect your rights in making business deals and signing contracts. Don’t leave these details to chance and get “ripped off”. When I got past the 6th grade in school and knew how to count my money so people could not take advantage of me I was ready for simple business dealings. Read all contracts thoroughly including the fine print, before submitting them to your lawyer(s). Then go over the contract line by line with your lawyer so you can decide whether to sign or revise the contract. Look for someone who you can trust to help you handle your affairs successfully and then maybe hire someone to look at their books as well. I have been excited about offers I have received offers from people and thought that they were offering me good things to help my career only to find out that these people were not honest and were trying to take advantage of me. Be a great musician and know your craft and at least be a good businessman.
In order for a man to be truly happy and at peace with himself, he needs to have a sense of fulfillment. God has provided me shelter and given me a purpose in life through a ministry in music. The criterion for a happy life is not money, but the fulfillment of mans heart’s desires. This means the cultivation and use of his talents. These things should be placed above the importance of money in order that you live a truly happy life.
God and music have always been very kind to me. I have never had to go without basic survival things for long. I am actually not as well off financially now as I was a decade ago when I was teaching music in public school as well as working for churches, soloists, groups and bands. Although more commercial forms of music provide larger and more immediate finances, church music can be financially rewarding for those who negotiate a fair deal for themselves. Both the church and the musician must be satisfied with the arrangement of the individual contract between the musician and the church. Some churches do not care much about the music in their church and they provide compensation accordingly. However there are other churches that are interested in developing their music departments to the best that they can possibly be. Hopefully you will find a church to work for that is interested in developing its music. The ranges in compensation are quite broad and vary between volunteer musicians who work for free to musicians who make as much as $50,000 a year or more. If you are a member of The American Federation of Musicians, you will get their monthly newspaper, The International Musician. Every year around income tax time they usually publish a listing of deductions that musicians may claim. If you have to report income each year to the IRS, here are some deductions that you can claim.
1. Cost of brand new or newly purchased used instruments; I know some musicians who buy their own keyboards in addition to the instruments provided by the church.
2. Sheet music, music study books, music manuscript paper and music score paper.
3. Prerecorded music in any media format as well as unrecorded cassette tapes.
4. Cost of food, laundry and dry cleaning when out of town on business for the music department.
5. Cost of taxi or bus fare to and from your hotel when you are out of town on business for the music department.
6. Cost of transportation when traveling out of town on business if it is paid by you and not by the church. I went to a convention for black Catholics in Dallas, Texas a few years ago for the purpose of familiarizing myself with black Catholic music under Vatican II of the late Pope John Paul.
7. Cost of robes and/or uniforms if paid by you and not the church.
These are all legitimate deductions that are related to your work.
Be sure to save all of your receipts in case of an audit. Keep a daily diary of all your expenses while out of town on business.
There are many openings for choir directors, pianists, organists, keyboardists and good vocal soloists. In addition there is a demand for good instrumentalists on all kinds of other instruments. At this date my son has not shown any interest in following in my footsteps. No child has shown interest or even asked me about taking lessons or learning any thing about music where I work at present. I had one woman who expressed an interest in learning some things from me and she was a senior citizen of who graduated high school around the time I was born in 1950. By the way she didn’t show up for the lesson and has never tried to reschedule or get in touch with me to continue. So these jobs go unfulfilled, often and then sometimes the local “church folk” insult these beginners, intermediates and new journeymen so badly they quit, never returning to music ministry.
When I was a youngster in the 50’s and 60’s there were many of us who took music lessons outside of our regular school classes if our parents could afford it and make the sacrifices for us. I paid for my own lessons after I became a teenager because I was making enough money from playing and teaching students to pay for my lessons which I continued all the way through college. The generations have changed over the years. I once had as many as 15 students when I was in high school and used to have an annual recital for my students at the church where I was playing. My home town of 115,000 people has got 50 different denominations of churches printed in the 2003-2004 Yellow Book. The church community continues to grow since those days. The reason I know this is true is because I just buried my mother back in that town this past November 2008 and saw new churches in several places in addition to the ones that were there when I left there. The controversial Reverend Jeremiah Wright has a new church there since the Barack Obama miracle occurred. Most of these local churches need help in their music departments. They need musicians and can’t get them. They put ads in the local paper and on the local talk radio stations but the positions go unfilled.
One has to study ear training and harmony and know these two aspects of music very well. Some have a natural gift for this but others don’t. However all who pursue it must spend a great deal of time in study and practice. The world needs a new supply of musicians to help keep the music alive and moving forward.
If you have some desire in this direction and you feel you have the natural ability, then you should make a commitment in this direction and dedicate yourself to the highest cultivation of this art that you can possibly bring forth through yourself. May this music continue to survive and bring forth blessings to the public and to those who perform it.
Do you love music enough to make a sacrifice in order to play it? Are you willing to wrestle with the angel and not let go until He blesses you? Sorry to say it is not the music of the masses. We pray that one day it will be, because we who love and perform it make financial as well as other sacrifices in order to perform the music we love and have the privilege of performing.
Do you love gospel music enough to “go through changes”? All of the great masters of this music made great sacrifices! Their names have gone down in history and their contributions to our music will always be remembered.
I notice that the record industry still does not know what to call this music. I have started to see it called “soul” on the internet.
Do you have the courage and daring to become a great exponent of this music? You cannot play it safe and have courage and be willing to take some chances. What kind of “guts” do you have? If you truly love this music, be willing to make any necessary sacrifices. I challenge you to forge ahead to become one of the innovators of this music. The rewards may take a little time coming, but they will definitely be there if you are willing to make those sacrifices for the music we love. The rewards will be three fold: spiritual, mental and material.

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