It seems that the only people who are making a good living from performing are the 0.00001% who are superstars, for example, the Grammy winners. Is there hope for the less august among us? Let me tell you what I would do if I were trying to make a living as a performer.
People are still willing to pay for live experiences, so every Friday and Saturday night, I'd give a piano concert in my home. Here's the one I've given. If I were living in a too-small apartment, I'd use a free or very-low-cost apartment complex community center, room in a church, school, etc.
I'd play things that would be maximally audience-pleasing while also pleasing myself. My program would mainly consist of improvisations based on a two-to-three-minute interview of audience members. In between, I'd play Broadway show medleys, Tom Lehrer songs, ragtime, old standards, sing-along, and some self-deprecating anecdotes. (I wonder why self-deprecation is so much better received than self-promotion? That's a a rather counter-commonsensical norm that is deeply embedded in our culture. But I digress.)
At the end of the concert, I'd sell my CD, writing a very personalized inscription for each buyer . (I'd ask each buyer a couple of questions about him/herself before writing the inscription.)
I'd market my concerts by:
- creating a demo video, which I'd post on my site, on YouTube, low-fee online ticket seller Brown Paper Tickets, and on Goldstar, which will--free to the performer--email that demo and an announcement of an event to an enormous mailing list, offering half-price tickets. (Of course, I get paid only half for those buyers.)
- Try to get on local TV and radio shows to demonstrate my interview-based improvisation. (I'd interview the host for a minute or two and then play an improvisation based on her.)
- To capture attendees' email addresses so I can email them announcements of future concerts, at intermission, I'd raffle off a free CD--they'd have to put their email address in the jar to have a chance to win.
For performers of sufficiently broad appeal, this approach would seem to offer a better-than-usual prospect for enabling them to live their dream of being paid to perform.