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Discussion in 'Jazz / Commercial' started by cookiemonster, Oct 3, 2004.
Who is making the big bucks playing the trumpet these days?
I don't think that there is anyone making a killing playing trumpet these days. Obviously, some of the marquis players like Doc or Maynard are going to be doing ok, but otherwise, I think that the guys that are going to be making a decent living with it are going to be the players in major orchestras, the first call session players in L.A. and New York, the side men that play with big acts that are on tour, or the college level trumpet instructors.
As for the guys out there just gigging, I probably make about as much as anyone I know. My band plays between 30 and 40 dates a year, and I make a minimum of $175 per gig. (as often as not the cheque is for $200 - $250, it just depends on the gig.) Of the guys that gig in the Baltimore/Washinton DC area, there may be guys that make more than that, but I personally don't know anyone who does.
Having watched the thread on Trumpet Millionaires in TH deteriorate into a "less than useful" debate, I feel that one of the things that should be asked is for the questioner to define what they mean by "Trumpet Millionaires".
There are millionaires who play trumpet, there are trumpet players who have made millions playing trumpet, there are (as you said in your post) those who "make big bucks" (define "big bucks"). In essense your question as posed is really impossible to answer.
In any case.... who really cares? Is it any more relevant than "which lawyer makes the most money"? "What plastic surgeon has the highest net income"? Is the amount of money a person has, or makes, necessarily a reflection of their skill as a player (or lawyer, or plastic surgeon)?
My personal thought is that the most important thing is to love what you are doing. If you don't love "the job", then I can't see that you will achieve any satisfaction out of doing a good job. I'd be willing to bet that there are amateurs out there who get as much (if not more) self-satisfaction out of doing a "good gig" than someone else who uses their brass to put bread on the table at home.
Cookiemonster, please don't take this post as an argument or putdown of your post; I'm trying to encourage some useful debate as to whether or not the amount of $MONEY$ a player might earn or have earned is really all that important.
Something else that I'd like to add is that the people making a lot of money playing aren't necessarily the best trumpet players out there. Herb Alpert is a good example of that. Herb, while a decent trumpet player, would have never been able to stand toe to toe with the likes of Maynard, Diz or Herseth, yet, from what I have heard and read, he made a killing with the Tijuana brass, and he made even more money as a producer.
As I said in my above post, I make more money gigging on the side (per gig) than anyone else I know, yet in the gigging scene in this area, I consider myself a hack - a thorn among the roses so to speak. The money I make gigging has almost nothing to do with my abilities with the horn.
I think that to a point, when it comes to making money with your axe, it is always going to be a compromise between art and marketability. Some of the guys out there really kicking it, the real artists out there, don't make a lot of money because they stay true to their art and true to themselves. Many have blasted some of the recordings that Maynard did in the 70s and 80s after he went commercial and started recording tunes that were covers of pop tunes. But let it also be said that Maynard probably made more money in that phase of his career than when he was being true to his art - that of a big band lead trumpet player. (note: the prior statement has no basis in fact - it is simply guesswork on my part based on the Britney Spears principle that what sells is not necessarily quality music. )
LOL! "Earning money" and "Kenny G" and "musican". Let's have a contest to see who can put those three in the same sentence!
Dang! I've been trying for a while, and although I can get "Earning money" and "Kenny G" in the same sentence, and "Earning money" and "musician" in the same sentence, I just can't seem to get all three in the same sentence.
I think there's a very common misconception concerning how much most sideman jobs pay. With a rare few exceptions (Sinatra, Elvis, other icons), most recording and touring artists can pay several hundred dollars a night at best. Sure, to anyone who scuffles away at local gigs for really low dough, this seems like a bundle. But consider this: If an artist is paying 500.00 a night, and working 100 dates a year (this would be a really good & rare sideman gig!), you're pulling down 50K GROSS from it. Nothing to sneeze at, but it's expensive to be on the road (unless you live like a monk), even when your hotel, travel & meals are taken care of. You still have a mortgage or rent at home, a car payment (likely), and the normal expenses of running a life. Family? You'd BETTER be grossing 50k! As a freelancer, you're going to be paying more in Social Security taxes, Self-Employment tax, etc. It's not easy street. If you're keeping 30k of that 50, you're doing pretty well.
Another hitch is that when you're known for having a road gig, local people always assume you're out, so they often skip your number when calling for local gigs. If they've called a couple times and found you're on the road, that will stick in their minds. One of the first things road players do when they get home from a trip is start calling around to make sure everyone knows they're in.
The players who get genuinely rich are those who develop a unique voice and a following for it. Miles was worth tons. I'm sure Wynton is pretty well set. Maynard, Diz, et. al. Herb Alpert undoubtedly did alright with the TJB (for the times), and his publishing is probably still cranking pretty well, but as another poster mentioned, he made a good living from producing. Mainly, though, Alpert is wealthy because of a really good business move: he was the "A" in A&M records.
You've got a real good chance of struggling if you just figure to go out and play gigs. You can make a decent living if you're good, smart, and a bit lucky. Outside of one of the top orchestra jobs, the only way I can see to get "rich" from playing (with the qualifications someone spoke to earlier re what "rich" actually means) is to own a slice of your own pie. And most people who've succeeded at that have baked the pie themselves, or at least had a big hand in it.
If one has at least 1 million or more in net worth, and plays trumpet, does that make one a trumpet millionaire?
That would be my definition.
I'm guessing the original question had to do with people who made their million(s) by playing the trumpet. There've got to be thousands (hundreds, at least?) of doctors, lawyers, successful businesspeople who are worth millions AND play the trumpet, but I can't imagine that is what the original post was refering to.
Pretty rare for a player to make his/her millions with the horn. I think if you look up playing music as a profession in one of those government surveys about the best/most secure/highest-paying/most satisfying jobs, you'll see that whomever does those surveys has figured the MEDIAN (not average) yearly income of musicians to be about 18.5k gross.
Sad, kinda, but then again nobody guaranteed us a living at this. I think you have to play because you love to do it, try to make the best decisions you can, and be satisfied with that. I also think that this is how the ones who did get "rich" at playing approached it. IMHO, Miles would still have been a trumpet player even if he'd just scraped by. That dedication to it is part of the soul we hear in his playing, and is surely a factor in the popularity of his music (which is how he got all that money!).
Just my thoughts.
Millions of bucks...
This may be off topic, but.... Well, the guy was mentioned
Yeah, like some here, I may not care for Kenny G's music, but he makes money, makes SOME people happy with his music, treats and pays the musicians who play with him well, and has the respect of truly great musicians such as David Foster. Not too shabby, if you ask me.