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i hear so much complaining about this subject, i just wanted to lay my practical experience on you. free.
December 31, 2009 7:39 PM   Subscribe

How To Make A Living Playing Music. Unicyclist and alt rocker banjo playerDanny Barnes lays down his thoughts about making it while making music. There's a lot to read in his piece, much of which may apply to you even if you're not a musician. via @colinmeloy. Hi, Colin!
posted by boo_radley (42 comments total) 53 users marked this as a favorite

 
I have a system, where if i sense that the gig is going to get weird before i even get there, I cancel the show and walk away.

God, I just love Danny Barnes. Best banjo player on the planet, nice guy, AND he just reassured me that I was right to turn down that unpaid outdoor New Years Eve show tonight. I miss his long hair, though.
posted by smartyboots at 8:36 PM on December 31, 2009


Never heard of Danny Barnes before, but as a musician myself, I can attest to the fact that his points are dead on. Great article.
posted by milnak at 8:42 PM on December 31, 2009


one minor nit -- he uses "h." and "i." twice.
posted by milnak at 8:47 PM on December 31, 2009


Read the whole thing before realizing he was the banjo player from the Bad Livers. They were tons of fun. Good article!
posted by BitterOldPunk at 9:14 PM on December 31, 2009


In another post he says he likes Unsane. So I'm eponysterically happy.
posted by unSane at 9:18 PM on December 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


here goes, in no particular order as i am want

I've never heard of this guy before either but I like him already.
posted by shelleycat at 9:18 PM on December 31, 2009


Barnes is the man. Fearless.
posted by mwhybark at 9:28 PM on December 31, 2009


In another post he says he likes Unsane. So I'm eponysterically happy.

"Vandal-X" (off the Sub Pop 1990 7") 4-evah!
posted by porn in the woods at 9:32 PM on December 31, 2009


... as i am want ...

... as i am wont ...

/pedantic
posted by ZenMasterThis at 9:38 PM on December 31, 2009 [2 favorites]


love it - thanks for this
posted by lukievan at 9:39 PM on December 31, 2009


Really like his attitude and the points he was making, but half way though I quit becuase the lack of capital letters was hurting my brain.

Dude. Capitalization, spelling, good grammar, legible font sizes and colors - all of that is just basic human kindness to your reader.
posted by straight at 9:45 PM on December 31, 2009 [5 favorites]


h. don't gossip. gossip means you aren't in the problem or the solution, you are just talking about someone and probably gaining pleasure from something bad not happening to you or envying something good that happened to someone else. spend your energy on getting better at your art.


Fuckin' amen to that, brother.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 9:58 PM on December 31, 2009


In another post he says he likes Unsane. So I'm eponysterically happy.

"Vandal-X" (off the Sub Pop 1990 7") 4-evah!


YES SIR!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YSHrgG1FGI8
posted by unSane at 10:01 PM on December 31, 2009


Very good lessons learned: and shared; however one of the back-up crew could have tightened up the writing. Hey no problem, was great. Happy New Year everyone!
posted by Upon Further Review at 10:27 PM on December 31, 2009


I'll accept any and all advice Mr. Barnes has to dish out on music, musicianship, or just about most anything else. Nice to see he keeps a blog, I'll be reading it now.
posted by dan g. at 12:03 AM on January 1, 2010


Fuckin' Danny Barnes. He's a hell of a player on a tele as well as the banjo. And he's a role model to me for the fact that, at this stage in his career, he's still taking lessons. His advice about business is spot on and helped me turn a profit on a record that sold fewer than 500 copies. And, going from music to consulting to farming, the business attitude he articulates is great and solid. Having worked for a place that got fucked over by their debt to VCs, low-overhead is the way to go. That and having health insurance.
posted by stet at 12:38 AM on January 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


wish he would have told me this 35 years ago

I have much of his music, and repspect him both as a player and a human

still, he coulda said somethin back in the day
posted by timsteil at 1:45 AM on January 1, 2010


The essay on busking was great too.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 5:19 AM on January 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Powerful. Brilliant. Everyone should read this. It is not only a guide to living as an musician, it is a guide to living successfully as an individual who is poor for any reason (or as he puts it, "a secure, un-monied person"). His artistic advice is exceptional, and could be followed by practitioners any artistic discipline -- or even a person who simply wants to lead a lifestyle of musing and daydreaming (an art in itself, even though it has an audience of only one). All of this takes discipline, beginning with staying out of debt, staying away from costly habits, and renouncing materialism at a certain level. Where I disagree with him is in the matter of buskers. Buskers should not be encouraged. They should be beaten and thrown into traffic. Buskers who insist on performing on subway platforms should be pushed in front of trains. It is a matter of simple consideration of other persons' privacy and right to silence and their own thoughts as they travel and commute. These vicious monsters most be stopped. (Don't not whine that you "like" buskers, and there's this one guy at the Columbus Circle station that's "really, really good". As if being a good performer justified your forcing yourself on people who are enjoying their own thoughts or are already enjoying the music in their heads. Does being a good physician's assistant entitle you to grab people's arms on the street and take their pulses? Does being a good runner entitle you to run back and forth across a crowded subway platform? Does being a good boxer entitle you to pick fights with people waiting in line outside a theater?) Barnes is full of good advice, but he's got a blind spot when it comes to busking. What's the difference between a busker and a squeegee man?
posted by Faze at 5:59 AM on January 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


What's the difference between a busker and a squeegee man?

The busker usually doesn't pee on his instrument before he starts to work?


(Happy New Year! *hic*)

posted by spoobnooble at 6:19 AM on January 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


*throws coins at Faze's feet, hurries on*
posted by Ritchie at 7:22 AM on January 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


PeterMcDermott: "The essay on busking was great too."

Nice. I wish I had read it before busked on Alberta street last night.

I set up under an awning with some battery powered speakers, an eeepc, a joystick, and a synth I wrote in SuperCollider. It was news to me that Last Thursday doesn't really go on during the rainy season here, but I managed not to get any equipment wet enough to ruin it despite the constant rain and I met some dude who says he is going to get me in touch with some local experimental composers, so I figure it turned out pretty well.
posted by idiopath at 7:31 AM on January 1, 2010


That article was great-- thanks very much.
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 7:55 AM on January 1, 2010


"think about it really hard before you part with a dollar. learn how to honestly add and subtract without emotion. if you spend more than you take in, you lost money. i can't tell you how many folks that i run into that have trouble with this. if you bring in more that went out guess what? you just made money."

Whole lot of folks never manage to figure that one out...
posted by JB71 at 7:59 AM on January 1, 2010


Haven't read the piece yet, but man, I love the Bad Livers. Saw them live about 8 or 9 years ago and it still ranks up there with my favorite rock show experiences.
posted by statolith at 8:23 AM on January 1, 2010


Needing a lawyer, an accountant, a bookkeeper, and a health insurer sounds pretty bourgois to me! Might as well ask for a trust fund while you're at it.
posted by mareli at 9:31 AM on January 1, 2010


As if being a good performer justified your forcing yourself on people who are enjoying their own thoughts or are already enjoying the music in their heads.

I agree with regard to enclosed spaces. People have got no business at all busking on trains, subway stations, etc. However, when it comes to busking on the street, it seems to me that they've got at least as much right to compete with all the other street noise -- traffic, construction work, etc.

If you don't like a busker -- and there's plenty that I don't like -- move along and don't tip them.

Every now and again though, my day is transformed by people who are performing music -- generally of a type I wouldn't normally listen to. Jazz, or classical or Catalan pop or eastern European folk music or some such. And I'm happy to pay them for what they do.

Those fuckers who put silly costumes on and pretend to be statues, on the other hand -- they definitely do want throwing under the traffic.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 9:35 AM on January 1, 2010


PeterMcDermott: "Those fuckers who put silly costumes on and pretend to be statues, on the other hand -- they definitely do want throwing under the traffic."

what
posted by boo_radley at 9:37 AM on January 1, 2010


I found the post through Colin Meloy's twitter. His comment was that there should be a federal mandate to put this on the back of every guitar sold. I had no idea who Danny Barnes was (other than a serious pro) when I was pointed at it, but I should have known the hive here would help me out. I'm going to have to check out his music now.
posted by immlass at 9:50 AM on January 1, 2010


Mr. Barnes is a treasure. His short article on Banjo Samadhi is beautiful. Also, the Bad Livers were fucking awesome.
posted by Aquaman at 9:52 AM on January 1, 2010


i'd like to introduce barnes' "folktronics" mission statement as evidence of superior artistry.
posted by Hammond Rye at 9:59 AM on January 1, 2010


Unicyclist and alt rocker banjo player


snirk!
posted by stevil at 10:56 AM on January 1, 2010


Dude. Capitalization, spelling, good grammar . . . all of that is just basic human kindness to your reader.

if u pay for my trip to da hauge i'll testify that being evil is convenient while handing in my plea for crimes against humanity
posted by the aloha at 11:46 AM on January 1, 2010


> What's the difference between a busker and a squeegee man?
spoobnooble: The busker usually doesn't pee on his instrument before he starts to work?

Obviously you haven't met some of the same musicians I have....

(also - great article, thanks boo_radley!)
posted by Greg_Ace at 4:42 PM on January 1, 2010


Thanks for this post. My curiosity spurred when reminded of the Bad Livers, I dialed up Barnes' most recent record, Pizza Box, and, though some of it is a bit too glossy and not quite cacophonous enough for my taste, the song "Sparta, TN" KICKS ASS AND TAKES NAMES AND THEN TAKES THOSE NAMES AND KICKS THEIR ASSES. It's a driving country/rock number with soulful back-up singers, a twitchy, skittering drum line, and a coda of jazzy, effortless banjo-playing that left me grinning. Best song I've heard all year.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 5:15 PM on January 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


I met Danny a couple of years ago, and not merely is he perhaps the nicest man ever, but he can shred a banjo.

Banjos and unicycles go together: the late Mike Seeger was keen on both, and Otis Taylor may still ride his ...
posted by scruss at 8:09 PM on January 1, 2010


Correction: there are no soulful back-up vocals on the song I named. I'd just listened to the whole thing, and I conflated tunes.

I blame beer.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 8:48 PM on January 1, 2010


Excellent post.
posted by fairywench at 10:58 PM on January 1, 2010


This guy taught me all I need to know about tattoos and banjos. I am still not worthy.
posted by swift at 11:04 AM on January 2, 2010


Otis Taylor may still ride his ...

Otis Taylor rides a unicycle? A+ trivia, would fall off again!
posted by Wolof at 12:20 AM on January 3, 2010


Otis Taylor used to manage a professional cycling team. We are not worthy.
posted by scruss at 5:04 AM on January 5, 2010


*bows down low*
posted by Wolof at 6:13 AM on January 5, 2010


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