View Full Version : Professional Players

Feb-03-2004, 2:35am
With the recent post about "expensive mandolins" and how the prices have.....whatever.

I am curious of all the posters on our board which ones are "professional Players"...To me this means that you;

A. Use income from playing mandolin to support your cost #of living expenses (full time)

B. Use income from playing as a major addition to your day job...lets say 5 figures or better(Part time pro)

We are always using the Pro's as a benchmark and I was just curious as to who wears the hat "Pro Mandolin Player"

Feb-03-2004, 3:34am
B. Use income from playing as a major addition to your day job...lets say 5 figures or better(Part time pro)

Hell...My day job barely pays five figures! We are talking about bluegrass aren't we? http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/tounge.gif:

Feb-03-2004, 3:47am
I think you would fine quite a few folks here who play at the "pro" level and make little to no money doing it but love to pick and make music! Me...definitly not a pro...but Im the best picker at my house when Im home alone.

John Flynn
Feb-03-2004, 5:44am
I think this thread is a great idea and I look forward to seeing the outcome, but I wonder about the criteria. My favorite mando player and recording artist, the guy I would most want to play like if I could, is Curtis Buckhannon. He is in three working bands and is on multiple current CDs. I don't think he would meet your 5-figure supplemental income criteria and he still has a day job as an offset printer.

I doubt that Yank Rachell would have ever met your criteria, even adjusted for inflation. I'm not sure what the criteria should be, I just know you are cutting a lot of really great players out of the pattern.

Feb-03-2004, 6:59am
I will be one of the first to fess up. I am full time!!

Three years ago I was a full time working engineer and playing part time.
Got laid off and started to play more and more music. I was hoping to do it soemday anyway as full time employment.

So after careful thought i decided to do it full time.
So far it has been great. AS a band (Hickory Project) we all did.
Only our guitar player still works a full time job but has so much vacation, so it works out great.

Also found out its good to get involved with the music as a whole...workshops, lessons, producing, #education..etc..

So yes the income is used to cover my living expenses. So glad i made this choice to do it. I have met so many players and great people and have been places that i would never have been otherwise.....thats priceless and would carry over into the 6 figures if you did the math.

Every once in a while i will get involved in a consulting/engineering project..but thats all done remote from where ever i am.

Its going great and i cant think of any other thing i would rather be doing...maybe bow hunting (lol)
Take care
Anthony Hannigan

Feb-03-2004, 7:40am
A full time mando player making five figures?!? Where can I sign up?

I consider myself a professional as well (based more on income than talent)although gigs are not thick on the ground up here and it is a constant struggle to buy mando strings. God I love music.

Feb-03-2004, 7:53am
I used to be a long time ago fitting the above descriptions of what a pro is. I really made a whole lot of money playing Bluegrass. In underground Atlanta back in 1973. Take home pay back to the apatment was $250 cash. WOW!, I almost made it to millionaire status. Me, the guitar, banjo, and bass fiddle/ fiidle player, all shared an apartment. I made so much money that I could never afford a decent mandolin. The one I played broke at least 3 sets of strings per week. It was a 6 night gig, 9:00- 1:00. They were many beautiful women, and other sundry temptations there in the New York of the south. I was a young lad that turned 18 while there. Two of the guys I played with, we had been picking together since we were 12 years old. After that we stayed together a couple more years, then I got wise, and settled down to real life situations, marriage, and a family.

Tom C
Feb-03-2004, 8:02am
5 figures(or at least 10K a year)sounds reasonable for a criteria of professional for this thread question. 1 gig a week for $200 average. -Not that you can live on that here in NY but it would be a nice supliment.

August Watters
Feb-03-2004, 9:19am
The question seems to suggest that only full-time performers can be called "professional mandolin players." There are LOTS of "professional" mandolin players who make most of their money at something besides performing. If you think about even the most famous mandolin players you know, I'll bet you'll find most of them make most of their money at something besides performing!

For every full-time performer, there are probably dozens of other full-time musicians who supplement their performing income in other ways:

1) teaching privately
2) teaching for schools
3) writing/publishing books
4) transcribing
5) producing other musicians
6) composing for media
7) sound engineering
8) school administration
9) festival/camp/workshop organization
10) instrument retail
11) instrument wholesale
12) songwriting

In all these categories, you'll find high-level players who need first-rate instruments, even if they're not full-time performers. And this doesn't include all the excellent pickers who hold down full-time jobs in non-music related areas, or the many categories of music-related professionals I've no doubt forgotten to include.

Clyde Clevenger
Feb-03-2004, 9:42am
I'm pretty sure I'm well into the 5 figures if you count it all since 1967, but I could be off a figure.

Feb-03-2004, 10:20am
B. Use income from playing as a major addition to your day job...lets say 5 figures or better(Part time pro)

Not to put too fine a point on this, but if you're making 6 figures performing, especially if its only part-time, I think it might me time to quit the day-job .

Feb-03-2004, 10:27am
I'm a professional musician...not a professional mandolin player specifically...but mandolin is a part of what I do.

But teaching, both at a studio and privately, light session work as well as doing workshops are all a huge part of making a living 'performing'.

Feb-03-2004, 11:43am
after the last gig i played at which they passed the hat i had 5 figures (oh sorry, that was 5 one dollar bills)

Feb-03-2004, 12:30pm
I really don't think you are going to get a lot of posts that answer your question on this one because I saw it tried last year. Most pro musicians are humble enough to not brag about their status and they are definitely not going to say "Hey, that's me because I am professional!". I very much agree with the opinion that there are plenty of "pro" mando players that you have never heard or never will because even Thile (in his more humble days) admitted that there are many mando players better than him but they just hadn't been discovered. They probably never will because it is all about being in the right place at the right time.

Feb-03-2004, 1:12pm
I wasnt asking to really see who the "big shots" were.I was just curious, heres why....

I admire someone that can make it as a musician.Unfortunately,alot of good people that I know have been down that road to find that it is very hard and unstable, especially for the guys that are on the road alot.I played in a regional Gospel group for about 3-4 years and I always thought "I'd hate to have to pay my mortgage from the money from that"

Skaggs (one of my favorites), I heard him talk(on a CMT interview) about his first marriage and being away from his kids.In a round about way he said that the road caused him to fail at his marriage and basically miss the growing up of his children.

We all know people that are good enough to play on a pro level....But have they traded the security of their 9-5 job to chase their dream? To the ones that have,thats awesome....especially THP who says its paid off for him and he's loving it.

Dave Reiner
Feb-03-2004, 3:47pm
My musical income from mandolin and fiddle is well into six figures. #Of course, two of them are after the decimal point!

Dave # http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/biggrin.gif

Feb-03-2004, 4:10pm
I can't post as a mandolin player, or any player for that matter, but I took banjo (OK, stop it) lessons from Craig Smith for a year and still see him from time to time. Craig is a premier banjo player. I mean, premier. Has a Grammy for Stanley Traditions, a CD of his own from Rebel, plays with Laurie Lewis (at least, used to), has played on lots of other BIG names in bluegrass, and I'd say he's a LOT less than rich. He's very devoted to this kids and has chosen to spend time with them for now.

Do you get rich with BG? I remember a thread from here about a year ago that said the top 5 acts make any money. I'd believe that.

Darryl Wolfe
Feb-03-2004, 4:13pm
The Knoxville Grass made $128,000 in 1978. Three of 5 members worked full time other jobs. I still do

Feb-03-2004, 6:36pm
I've posted this before when this subject has come up. One person's (not mine) opinion is what follows - and be aware that some of this info is now extremely dated:

>don't tell Ricky, Ralph, Del, LRB, Doyle, Lynn & Marshall, J&J, the
> > > >Osbornes, Mac, Alison, Laurie, Larry Stephensen, Reno Bros. or 3rd Time
> > Out
> > > >that they can't make a living playing bluegrass.
> > >
> > > you are just wrong, ken. what is it about my posts that causes you to
> not
> > > comprehend them?
> > >
> > > bandleaders are generally the only people who have a chance to make
> money
> > at
> > > bluegrass. band members dont. most bluegrass musicians survive on a
> > combined
> > > income derived from performance money, selling instruments they get
> > through
> > > endorsements, and/or they survive on the generosity of spouses with jobs
> > and
> > > health plans.
> > >
> > > i doubt ricky could survive on his bluegrass performance money alone. he
> > has
> > > pantloads of money made via his country endeavors. he has income derived
> > > from his label. and he makes money by working with other musicians
> (note:
> > i
> > > ubnderstand his distribution company just went bankrupt and his booking
> > > agency aint doing big numbers either--thjat sort of left the Gibson
> > Brothers
> > > out flapping in the wind...).
> > >
> > > ralph probably does ok, but no one in his band except II makes $20k a
> > year.
> > > maybe jack does, but i doubt it.
> > >
> > > del has band members who dont make it on his band alone. like i said:
> ever
> > > hear of food stamps? i know one of his guys is well acquainted with
> them.
> > >
> > > larry stephenson band pays $100-150 per gig. unless you drive the
> > bus--that
> > > pays $5.00 an hour extra. honest (source: mickey harris). lets see: 90
> > gigs
> > > a year plus bus driving...thats a whopping $15k a year at the most. and
> > you
> > > have to live in the nashville area to play with him--and most of the
> above
> > > acts--which is getting pricey.
> > >
> > > we all know what the osbornes did for money. can you spell D-R-U-M-Z ?
> > terry
> > > eldridge played bass for them for a while. he did 20 gigs total in a
> year.
> > > at $150 each. good thing larry cordle hired him. ill bet terry keeps
> larry
> > > in his prayers every night.
> > >
> > > when i played with chris jones, i once did a gig where he paid me $35
> and
> > > all the bagels i could eat. of course we did a gig the next night at
> thye
> > > station in and he paid me $100.
> > >
> > > doyles band is more fortunate: they belong to two circuits--they play
> > > bluegrass gigs as well as the gospel circuit, and pick up a lot of
> sunday
> > > gigs. i believe they do about 150 gigs a year. his bassist gets about
> $150
> > > for most gigs and $200 for festivals. he's got to be nailing down
> $25,000.
> > > he should be able to buy a house soon. on the beach.
> > >
> > > IIIrd time out is making less than doyles guys. and laurie lewis isnt
> > > getting rich either. she told me she often takes a loss on gigs in order
> > to
> > > pay her musicians. barry bales makes more money in the studio than he
> does
> > > with alison. did i mention that he lives with his parents?
> > >
> > > ken, you are missing a very important and painfully real point here:
> only
> > a
> > > very few select group of people make money on bluegrass--maybe 20 people
> > all
> > > told make $50K a year. pleas...dont ever forget: many or most band
> members
> > > in the bands you cite in your list of money-making bands are getting
> > > 'outside assistance'.
> > >
> > > i get really angry about this subject because i've been there. and ken,
> > you
> > > apparently havent. i assume you survived bluegrass employment because,
> > like
> > > MOST OTHER BLUEGRASS MUSICIANS you had money coming in from other
> sources.

Scotti Adams
Feb-03-2004, 8:13pm
I played professionaly/semi professionaly for five years..I emerged looking like a one of them people on Survivor after being stranded for about 30 days....half the man I was...literally.....I was so broke I couldnt pay attention... http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/tounge.gif

Feb-03-2004, 8:31pm
(dsreiner on Feb. 03 2004, 15:47) My musical income from mandolin and fiddle is well into six figures. Of course, two of them are after the decimal point!

Darn, Dave, you beat me to the punch! ;-/

Five figures is a good year. A very good year for playing classical music, where I live. I've had a few of those, but not in a while. The rest of the time I have to do what I can, which has included no real "day jobs" either, as it seems I'm always overqualified (too smart) or underqualified (no official work experience to my name, other than playing music). So I've done a wide array of "this and that" to make ends meet, while living as frugally as a student. And no, I've never had to engage in "the world's oldest profession" other than metaphorically, considering some of the playing gigs I've accepted. And I'm far too impatient to be a teacher.


Feb-03-2004, 11:01pm
Hello all,

#Thought I'd come out of lurkdom for a bit. You guys don't know me because I have turned down most every touring opportunity. I am blessed to be a full-time musician by the way of private instruction. I live comfortably...could still do so if I were single...and best of all- I play when I WANT to. I've been full time for 5 years, and there is a double blessing in sharing what you know with other pickers. I get to make a better than decent living and re-visit those formative years vicariously through my students...remember being excited about the sound of EVERY new chord and lick! Still fun stuff to share with my students.
#I'll see some of you again at Kamp Kaufman 2004, where I'll be teaching for my second year.
#Just a grateful country boy blessed by God;

#Roscoe Morgan

Feb-04-2004, 5:06pm
I dont know you, but I have heard great things about you up here in Cincinnati.( where you are from)

A friend of mine gave you a great compliment on both your musicianship and character after attending some of your sessions.

Goes to show you that youre famous up North http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/biggrin.gif

Joe Parker
Feb-04-2004, 6:17pm
Alan,please contact all those misguided individuals that choose to play music for a living and tell them to give up their dreams,their talent,and any joy they may derive from their craft,and get a real job before they throw their lives away. You owe them at least that much! Last I heard the universe never promised any body 6 figures. Just imagine if they all stopped playing!

Joe Parker

ps-anybody want to buy a bus, a P.A.,and some good instruments? I'm gettin'out while the gettin's good!!

Feb-04-2004, 6:33pm

Maybe some context is needed for the ...somewhat dated...posting I added above. This diatribe was written by a well-known grasser in response to somebody claiming that "thar's money in them thar hills". He felt adamant enough to add his response, somewhat strongly.

I don't prescribe to his argument, nor do I disagree with it; I just thought I'd pass along as one insider's view on the money/making-a-living thing. Relax, Joe - I love the music, too.

Feb-04-2004, 6:41pm
I was talking to a guy at a picking last week who used to be on the road playing bluegrass full time. He said that one long weekend in December he took some work driving the bus and selling CD's for Rhonda Vincent (I think she was the one anyway). He said for that weekend he made as much as any of the band members, $1250. Must have been a good weekend by bluegrass money standards.