For a number of years, Chris Webb and Dave Tamkin dreamed of starting an online resource for working musicians. After all, they're working musicians themselves, and they know how hard it can be for people to practice their craft and make a living at it, whether full-time or as a side hustle.
They wanted to help.
“We were spending time co-writing songs,” Webb says. “We realized that there’s really not an organized and clear methodology for finance when it comes to being a musician for a career.”
In February, the two launched the Musicians Tip Jar podcast to offer advice to musicians on ways to ply their trade and not go completely broke doing it. The first episode was basically a get-to-know-you affair in which they introduced themselves and explained their concept.
Since then, they've done an episode on the ins and outs of livestreaming, and one on busking, selling old merch and being a songwriter for hire. They plan to continue the podcast on a weekly basis.
Webb, who teaches in the music department at the University of Colorado Denver, says that while many career paths offer a financial component as part of the educational process, musicians, including many who earn degrees in music, are often tossed out into the market without a solid understanding of basic finance — and that can hinder their ambitions.
“We really think that it’s a mixture of the education system and the fact that this is a career choice that is more built on passion and expressing yourself,” Webb says. “Sometimes a lot of those fundamental things end up getting pushed to the side.”
Tamkin, who studied classical guitar at DePaul University, adds that the financial aspect of a career in music often becomes peripheral because students spend so much time learning their craft. In some disciplines, students spend most of their time learning specific pieces of music because that’s how they are “chosen” for jobs down the road.
“If I wanted a career as a classical guitarist or a violinist or cello player, there aren't many opportunities out there where you aren’t chosen,” he says. “You have to go and audition here and audition there. I think giving musicians [advice] on how to take their craft and determination to learn their instrument and put that into financing — I mean, most musicians are powerhouses.”
Webb says the podcast is geared toward anyone who wants to make money from their craft, not necessarily people with a music degree or even full-time musicians.
“They could be doing a day job and then playing gigs on the weekend and just wanting to find a way to make that more profitable,” he says.
In addition, the podcasters note, these days musicians usually need to do more than one job in order to be able to indulge their art, and they hope to make that easier for people in the long run.
“You have to be some sort of web developer,” Webb says. “You have to have some understanding of marketing. You have to have some sort of understanding of basic finance. You have to be able to plan and create business plans. A musician is now expected to do those sorts of things...plus create music that’s worth buying.”
Although the podcast is part of it, Webb and Tamkin see Musicians Tip Jar as going much further. They envision a forum-type space on their website where musicians can seek and share advice with others in an online community. They also plan to bring tax attorneys, people who do film and television placements, social media experts and copyright experts on to the show, all speaking from the perspective of finance.
Webb, for one, is excited that he can bring the resources of the University of Colorado faculty to the podcast.
“We’ll have this panel of people who will be returning guests who are with the university,” he says. “I want to bring attention to how great the program is there and how much it is helping educate students to become full-time, successful musicians. It’s not just about teaching them to play an instrument anymore.”
So far, it’s also been a lot of fun for the two friends.
“I’m having a blast,” Tamkin says. “Every week we're prepping for it. We're relating it to our own lives. We're finding out what’s new and what’s going on in the world right now to make it relevant. We’ve been friends a long time, and we get to hang out and talk about something we really care about.”
Visit musicianstipjar.com for information and access to episodes.