How I broke free from the starving artist MYTHFeb 16, 2023
Whenever I tell someone that I'm a musician, the first thing they usually say is,
“Oh wow, how do you make enough money to live your lifestyle?!”
It's true—being a creative surely comes with its own set of financial trials and tribulations.
But what if there was another way?
What if we could break free from that illusive "starving artist" myth—and live life on our terms as creators and artists?
Well, my friends: I'm living proof. It can be done.
In this blog, I'll talk about my experience about becoming a 6 figure creator, and share my secrets for ditching the starving artist label once and for all.
For the longest time, I was a classic starving artist: I was broke as a joke and juggling too many soul-sucking jobs just to make ends meet.
At some point, I had bought into the myth that artists can only strike it rich with a fairy godmother investor to handle the boring business stuff, so I focused solely on my craft - writing and producing tons of songs - and assumed one day I’d “make it” when I was good enough.
I daydreamed constantly about getting a publishing or record deal,
But if I’m being honest …
I don’t even think I knew exactly what that meant.
I think it was easier to romanticize the idea of “getting signed" and assume it would solve all my problems, rather than to actually do the work.
I mean, I cringe now thinking about how disempowering this mindset was. Here I was with this big-ass lofty dream of “making it” and I didn’t even have specific, measurable goals... Not even a dollar amount.
But hey, I was a noob! An amateur… What can I say…
And if you’ve caught yourself in the same boat, simply dreaming of “making it” or being “discovered and rescued” by Daddy Warbucks, don’t worry. It’s not your fault…
This happens to a lot of artists because we’re taught that artists have to starve for their art and that there’s no money to be made unless you “make it big” (i.e. you become a rockstar or a celebrity.)
I know I’ve heard that from nearly every person in my life, from my family, to my friends, to my teachers…
“You’ll never make enough money to live doing that!!”
Most of them meant well, they just didn’t know any better either.
Nowadays, turning your passion into cash is a common thing, but when I was young, it was a totally foreign concept.
Being a "tortured artist" was actually glamorized, and addiction was even expected in some circles. So, naturally, I thought my excessive drinking and partying were just par for the course as an artist.
'Hey man, I’m an artist…it's what we do,' I thought.
As I matured, I realized this whole “hot mess tortured artist” thing wasn’t cute anymore.
Full truth: I always thought I’d either “make it” by 25 or end up in the 27 club along with Janis, Jimi, and Amy.
How sad is that?
I actually accepted that I would likely party myself into my grave… sheesh. 😳☠️
One day I woke up at 30 years old and realized, “holy shit, I’m still alive…”
At the time I was livin' that bartender life…
…Hustlin' at multiple bars and clubs for some decent cash, but I was so over it… (even with all the free drinks and clout I had around town)
The thing is, I didn’t think I’d be doing this forever.
But there I was, an actual adult, and my only two talents were pouring drinks and writing songs.
One fateful night, I found myself slinging drinks at a dingy, packed bar in the heart of DTLA. I had a patron who kept rudely waving me down and yelling his orders like I was his personal servant… To top it all off, the cheapskate wasn't even tipping. 🙄
I put up with his shenanigans for a bit, but when he barked his final order - "Yo Bitch, gimme a JAGER shot and step on it!" - I snapped.
I cut him off (with a finger cross my throat visual), told him where he could stick his JAGER shot, and pointed to the door … Bye, Felicia!
I spun on my heels to grab a bottle and serve another thirsty customer, but suddenly, chaos erupted. A pint glass zoomed past me like a bullet and shattered against the bar's back wall. I was almost hit again by another flying glass, but I pulled a Matrix-style dodge and narrowly avoided it.
Talk about a close call!
The guy and his girlfriend had thrown their glasses at me, just barely missing my face.
To say I was in shock would be an understatement.
When I finally snapped out of my disbelief, I started shouting and waving my arms like a lunatic trying to get the attention of my doorman over the blaring music. Luckily, I caught his eye and he bounced the screeching duo before things got any more out of hand.
That was the final straw for me.
I had to get out of the bar scene.
I left that night knowing I would never set foot behind a bar again.
The next day I dished to my BFF about the wild night at the bar, and she hung on my every word with big, dinner-plate eyes as I reenacted the tale of those darn pint glasses almost taking me out like a scene from a thriller movie.
After she picked her jaw up off the floor, she told me she wanted to help.
She just joined a network marketing company hawking fancy face cream and claimed it was the bee's knees. She knew I was hurting for cash, so she offered to pay for the $500 start-up kit so I could get started.
Ok, so here’s the thing.
I don’t love network marketing.
I don’t get it, and I’ve never vibed with it.
I’m not criticizing it, I just never had a good experience with any of the companies or their sales reps. It always felt kind of cultish to me. However, my friend was generous enough to offer and strongly urged me, so I agreed to accept the start-up kit from her.
Later that week the box arrived and I found the products, a pay structure brochure (which promised a shiny new car if I got enough people on board), and some company “swag” inside…. But little did I know, the real prize was yet to be revealed.
As I flipped through the first couple of pages of the book, I was immediately sucked in. It was like an energetic force was pulling me into the material.
This was my first introduction to “personal development” content.
It’s funny because, thus far, I had been looking for the quantum leap.
I was on a constant hunt for the ultimate game-changer, dreaming of a sudden breakthrough, whether it was landing that massive record deal or blowing up on Spotify.
But this book put things into perspective, revealing that success is achieved through a series of small steps.
So Spoiler Alert, I didn’t end up selling any fancy face cream or working for the company after getting the starter kit.
But I did use this book to change my mindset, which catapulted my music career and helped me to break free from being a starving artist.
One of the biggest things I took away from that book was that personal growth is a daily discipline and that I should read 10 pages of a self-help book daily.
I became a reading machine.
And the funny thing is, I was never much of a reader before that…
And to be honest, I was a little self-conscious about my reading and writing capabilities since I left the house at 15 and never finished high school.
And now, here I was devouring every bit of knowledge I could get my hands on.
Not only did I become a reader, but because I was reading books that changed my mindset, and my subconscious, I also developed some other pretty amazing habits that helped me break free from being a starving artist.
- I started working on myself and mindset.
- I changed my thoughts, which changed my actions, which changed my reality.
- I went from floating around aimlessly, with no real “plan” or goals in life, to getting extremely focused.
- I started setting actual goals, journaling, creating manifestation lists, and visualizing my future self.
- I used the vision of my future self as a “dangling carrot” to keep me in pursuit of my dreams.
Once I developed these habits, it was like I really DID have a fairy godmother.
There’s something about getting intentional about your life that’s….
One of the first “tangible” goals I set was to make money with my music. (or… go pro)
I started off by playing bar gigs and restaurant gigs, which was a huge step up from bartending for me at the time. This required me to really tighten up my live performance chops, as well as learn a LOT of songs since most restaurants want you to play covers that they think their patrons would enjoy.
So I set aside time each day to work on learning new songs, accompanying myself on guitar, and getting set lists together.
Then I reached out to restaurants and bars and started booking myself regularly.
I was so broke at the time, I had to borrow a PA for my gigs. But after just a few shows, I splurged on my own system for a whopping $500 and lugged that baby to every gig for the next several years.
Looking back, I realize that…
As soon as I put out into the universe that I wanted to be a pro musician, circumstances, situations, and even people just started to fall into place.
A percussionist in San Diego reached out to me online to see if I wanted to play some shows. I’m not even sure how he found me.
He offered to book all of our gigs, handle all of the business, and let me keep the larger share of the pay since I'd be singing all of the songs.
I packed my bags and moved to San Diego, where I would trade my late-night bartending life for beachfront gigging, playing up to 25 gigs a month, baby!
Next, a songwriter reached out to me and asked if I’d sing and play guitar on some of her demos.
What’s really uncanny about this situation was, she found me on my YouTube Channel - with a humble 70 subscribers. What are the odds of THAT? I certainly wasn’t posting regularly enough to have an algorithm working for me either!
Next thing I know, she asks if I can demo over 100 songs for her. Talk about destiny!
At this point, I knew it was time to dig into the recording software that had been sitting (er…collecting digital dust) on my computer. So I set up a small studio in my bedroom, and learned how to record and produce myself.
So now, rather than having to go into the studio, I just offered to record her demos from home.
This saved her money on studio time and allowed me to
a) get paid to learn how to record and
b) make money more quickly as I record at my own leisure.
And let me tell ya, learning how to record did not come naturally for me because I was SO not tech-savvy.
Even just setting up my mic and getting the sound on was a challenge!
I can’t tell you how many of my initial home studio sessions ended in frustration and tears, nearly pulling my hair out over tech issues.
But I was SO determined to be able to record my own music - especially now that I had somebody willing to pay me for it, so I stuck with it!
By the way, if you want to learn how to produce your own music,
I have the BEST course that makes it super simple.
It took a few years of really working on my recording chops, but eventually, I left restaurant and bar gigs altogether because I was able to go full-time as a session singer and music producer.
One client led to another, then another, and all of a sudden I had a full roster of people paying me to make music for their projects.
I look back on old journal entries now saying things like “I want to be a professional producer and songwriter…” or “I want to get my music into film/tv” or “I want to make music full time” and I smile knowing that I have manifested everything I have in my life today.
After recording and producing professionally for several years from home, people started to take notice, like...
At this point, I was living in Nashville and I was always busy with a project.
I did everything from producing demos, to session vocals, to producing other artists, custom songs, jingles, voiceover, music for film/tv, you name it… I was a work for hire machine.
When I’d work with artists, I would teach them little tips and tricks about how to record themselves, and I loved simplifying it for them because like me, they struggled with the tech stuff and most of them assumed producing was way over their head.
I knew exactly how they felt!
Thankfully, at this point I had become a master at troubleshooting and simplifying the recording process so I was always happy to help.
One day I was explaining how to track vocals to an artist and she said, “you’re really good at this, you should make tutorial videos!”
I hadn’t really considered becoming a content creator.
Honestly, I didn’t even know anything about the entire world of online courses, or coaching, or digital products, and I had my hands full with my own music projects, but something inside told me to look into this.
I read a few books, and decided to create my first online course called “From Voice Memo 2 Demo” which shows artists how to produce their own music.
And I was able to help over a thousand students go from songs sounding like this:
To songs sounding like this:
This was the first product in my business “Produce Like a Boss” .
After I saw how much the first course helped people, I ended up creating an entire suite of courses because I realized I could teach people my ENTIRE process, from how I made my first demos, to how I got paid to write songs for DJ’s and producers, AKA toplining to how I got into beat licensing, and even how I built a 6 figure business as a producer - which requires not only musical skills, but business skills!
The courses spread like wildfire, helping thousands of musicians produce their own music and get paid.
The funny thing is, I could have never planned this.
I had no idea how quickly Produce Like a Boss would grow, or how many students we would help!!
I never sought out to become a course creator, or even a teacher, but I had found my calling.
To help others break free of the starving artist MYTH!!
And to be honest, these days I get far more excited at my student’s wins than my own.
I still get song placements in Film/TV, but it’s nowhere near as fulfilling as when a student of mine tells me they got THEIR music placed.
I always say…
Seriously. It’s like a drug. I can’t get enough.
So after just 2 years of business, I won an award for generating 1 million dollars in my business called the “2 Comma Club Award”.
It’s called the “2 comma club award”, how cool is that?!
It’s funny, I remember the first time I saw somebody else receive that award for selling courses and I thought… I’m going to do that.
I’m going to get one of those awards!
I even had a little song I would sing to myself…
🎵Comma comma comma comma comma, 2 comma club 🎶
(sung like Karma Chameleon by the Culture Club😂)
As I playfully visualized myself standing on that stage receiving that award.
And I DID end up getting that award.
I still pinch myself when I say this but…
I went from being an aimless,
starving artist, who was addicted to alcohol
and not planning on living past 30,
to a 7 figure business owner.
And it all began by getting intentional about my life.
By making a decision about who I wanted to be, and taking actionable steps towards a goal.
There’s a saying that goes “Life doesn’t happen to you, it happens for you..” I agree, but I’d like to add to that…
You are the creator of your own life, and as one of my favorite mentors Jim Rohn says, “A life best lived is a life by design”.
So, if you want some help becoming a pro musician, that is literally what we do in our program Home Studio Boss VIP, which is a 6 month-long coaching program working with me, along with other coaches, where you get personalized 1:1 help and you even get a detailed business plan for growing your business as a musician so you can get paid to create music!
We have a ton of student success stories including students getting their music into Film/TV, getting custom songwriting jobs, and even students that are now making 6 figures a year.
Check out the student success stories here:
So if you’re ready to break free from the starving artist MYTH, go ahead and book a call, it’s 100% free and it’s to see if we can help you grow your music business.
We do fill up fast, so if you’re thinking this might be a good fit for you, grab a spot now over at https://www.producelikeaboss.com/call