Making a Living as a Touring Musician

Mathew James White makes his living as an independent singer songwriter. After meeting him on tour last year, I spoke with Mat to get an insight into how he has built a sustainable career doing what he loves. Here we’ll look into how he’s established a successful career as a touring singer/songwriter.

Originally from New Zealand, Mat is now based out of Berlin, Germany, a modern cultural focal point. The guitar, singing and performing has been a big part of his life for a long time and now he’s making his living through his music, regularly touring through Germany.

Choosing your location.

Germany felt like the best place to be for this genre. There’s a long history here of supporting culture generally.

Germany was an intentional destination for Mat. After a number of painful years playing gigs to listless ears through Australia and New Zealand, it seemed an obvious choice to step out and look for greener pastures.

Relocating comes with its own fair share of challenges but taking the step may save lots of headache in the long run. Relocating to somewhere with a growing or established culture built around your style of music will make life a hell of a lot easier. You’ll be with musicians who understand you and working with venues and crowds who already enjoy your style.

Getting Established

My first year in Germany was relatively difficult, but I stuck to the realistic goals I’d set for myself and built up from there.

Not having a firm grip on the German language, setting up in a new land and being on the other side of the globe from his family made Mat’s first year challenging.

As with most things in life, it came down to putting in the hard yards and setting sensible but realistic goals to get through the first year and to keep on target. Consistent, persistent work pays off over time. Mat gives the example of contacting two venues every day and always having your ears open for network and contact building opportunities.

Call on those around you

I’m very grateful for the help of other musicians on the circuit and have found that people do help each other out.

Mat recalls that other musicians on the circuit were generally really helpful and were more than willing to lend a hand. They would help out with contacts and networking and with tips for getting by on the circuit. Being approachable and flexible are essential qualities if you want to get by. The people you perform with are your colleagues.

Maintaining the career

Keeping songs and performances strong and treating people with respect will help with longevity in the music business.

Mat makes the bulk of his income from his live music. Live performance fees, performance royalties and CD sales from shows give him the income he needs to continue doing what he loves. Online CD sales have also brought in money but live music is where it’s been.

So as a touring musician, the people you work with day in, day out are who make your career possible. It’s the venue owners and event organisers who’ll be taking your requests to return and play. Treat them with the respect they deserve and you’ll see the same in return. And don’t forget to put on a good show.

Make your songs as strong as you can and be approachable and flexible. Everything else should flow on from that.

You can find out more from Mathew James White through his personal website and through his youtube channel.

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