Year 1

It’s been a little bit short of year 1 for me in the music business as a full-time musician. I am writing this blog to reflect on my career change and how things have developed in 525,600 minutes (or 525,960 to be precise).

There are several topics that come to mind when reviewing the year. I have listed them below.

To social media or not to social media

I noticed that there seems to be a divide amongst musicians with regards to how to use social media. Some musicians seem to be regular bloggers, facebook posters, and twitter-ers(?!). The question that came to my mind early was how to use social media effectively to get my brand out there and stand out amongst all the other brands without coming across as someone that says “Hey, look at me, look over here, see what I’m doing!!!!!”

On one extreme there seem to be musicians that post about every aspect of their life. Opinions on everyday social events and circumstances, gigs they are doing, how many gigs they have done, awards won, the colour of shirt that should be purchased, how lame this is, how awesome that is and so on. At first I wanted to see what reactions were like if I was more like this, so I started a twitter page, Instagram, was more active on facebook, and put out semi-regular blogs. This was the first half of the year.

For the second half of the year, I was a bit less active on social media. This is to experience the other side of the social media position, which is that social media while nice to have shouldn’t be an integral part of promoting the brand. If a musician is good or amazing at what they do, the skill alone should carry them (the brand) through their career.

In conclusion, I found that I would likely be somewhat in the middle, but for sure leaning towards the former point of view. I believe that social media is an important tool that musicians who want to get their brand out there need to use. However, it seems that some are better at using this tool than others with regards to maximizing the effectiveness of social media. One item that I for sure can improve on is the frequency at which I put my postings out there as well as recognizing that different social media platforms require different standards based on the trend of those social media platforms. This for sure will be a focus of my second year as a full time musician.


I have set myself a monthly financial target that I wanted to measure my income by. At the start of the year it was rather slow and I relied on other household income to make up the difference. As the year progressed and I put more effort into marketing strategies as well as search for more revenue streams, the target was very close or exceeded. As I enter year 2, my interest is to see a trend in terms of monthly income from one year to the next. For example, will Jan.2016 look like Jan.2017? If I see a 2 or 3-year trend, I will be able to better plan on how to manage my finances throughout the year. Below is a breakdown of the percentage of my monthly goal I obtained as well as how much of my income was performance, teaching, and other based.


Month % of Monthly target income achieved
January 2016 49.5%
February 2016 58.45%
March 2016 47.2%
April 2016 61.3%
May 2016 103.9%
June 2016 83.3%
July 2016 122.75%
August 2016 98.75%
September 2016 117.25%
October 2016 92.5%
November 2016 194.13%
December 2016 102.25%


78% of my income came from performances

18% of my income came from teaching

4% of my income came from other services, such as ebook formatting, transcribing work, etc.

From a business point of view, I hit 94% of my business plan, which is amazing for a business that’s only been in the market for a year. The question is, do I raise my monthly income target for 2017 or keep it the same? Since I am new to this full-time musician gig, I will likely keep my 2016 targets the same for 2017 to see what trends I can observe. If I notice however that the first 6 months are all at 100% or higher of my business plan, I may choose to increase my targets for Q3 and Q4 of 2017. If I win the lottery however, I likely won’t bother with targets at all.

Trumpet progress

This year my focus was to push my chops ahead with regards to achieving endurance as well as increasing strength. While I still have a lot of work ahead of me, and what serious trumpet player doesn’t feel this way, I believe I have some measurable improvements in my playing. I can for sure more consistently hit notes in my higher register than a year ago. I have spent a lot of time paying attention to my body and finding ways to make playing the trumpet more efficient. I could write another blog on the specifics, however, the number 1 contributor to my development is smart-practice, which of course isn’t a surprise to anyone that does want to achieve a higher level of playing.

Life Balance

While I had the optimistic goal of practicing every day for 240 minutes on top of gigs/teaching, I quickly came to realize that I am no longer at Humber where I can take this time selfishly to focus on what I want. There is no way that I would repeat the unbalanced life style that I had while working a day job and replace it with music. It wouldn’t be fair to my family. While I am finding that there is a certain struggle to achieve work/life balance, I am getting more used to how to properly manage my time. If I don’t have a weekend with a gig, it’s important to appreciate this opportunity and spend it with my wife and son. Currently this is what we’re enjoying as my playing schedule has gone from extremely busy to not busy at all. Also, I am getting used to the need to be self-driven. For anyone that has had a day job, the fact that you are always on the go without having to think about where you’re going is obvious. The switch to a one-person operation makes it important to realize that self-motivation is a key to success in this industry. Just because there is no gig tonight doesn’t mean I cannot do something that will in the long term add to my growth in this industry.

2017 Goals

My goals in 2017 will be similar to 2016 with the addition on focusing on the creative aspect of who I am as a musician. I have always wondered how I can discover my creative voice. I read books, played through exercises, got a degree, but I always felt that I am trying to progress creatively without trying to find my own path to my creative side. It’s good to read books, go to school, and listen to others however, I believe there is a point where one needs to reflect on the information received and determine a means of digesting and perhaps even finding a different way to finding one’s creative voice and indeed learning the language of jazz. This is what I would like to focus on in 2017. I have a few coals in the fire and am hoping that in a few months I’ll be able to share my progress via a life performance.

On the horn / Off the horn 20160117


On the horn

I have been giving some thought this week about routines. As mentioned in my previous blog, I have been going through Clarke’s Technical studies, focusing more on playing the studies clean vs as fast as I can without regard for fluffed notes. I feel this has helped me focus on dexterity and while I believe it will take more than a week of this, it gave me a good sense of how much time it takes to go through each study.

I have always felt overwhelmed by all the routines out there. Clarkes, Schlossberg, Charlier Etudes, Arban’s, Claude Gordon books, etc. The list goes on and on. My nature was always “give it all or don’t bother”. However, the past two months of practicing every day, some days more than others, have made me realize again that playing the trumpet, and perhaps any instrument, is a path of self-discovery. In that spirit, I have made my own routine book. I’ve always had what I dub the ‘Dave Dunlop’ warm up, since he’s the one that showed me this. That’s what I do every day no matter how I feel. To this I’m now adding two keys of Clarke 2, 3, 4. My next plan is to pick a routine/method and follow that method for one week to really get to know it. Now, I’m not going to master the method in one week obviously. It’s more about saying “Hey there, what’s your story” to the method and seeing what I am drawn to in the method and how I can incorporate that specific method into my own routine.

This upcoming week I am going to focus on a version of the Bill Adam routine, as adapted by Paul Baron. I took a lesson with Paul and thought it was one of those eye opening lessons. This is the routine he uses. I am skipping Clarke study 1 as it is similar or almost the same as number 2 in Paul’s routine. I will keep track of what is similar in each routine so as to always have material that address a fundamental but in a different approach. For example, Clarke study 1 is similar (or the same) as study 2in Paul’s routine, therefore they are interchangeable when I built my own routine book.

As before, I am tracking my progress in a spreadsheet to see if I have improved when I repeat a study/key. In the end, I will pick and choose different elements of the various methods and build a routine that makes sense for ME. This after all is what is most important in my opinion, the process of self discovery and progress. In the end, I have my idea of what kind of trumpet player I want to be, and I will work towards that for as long as I’m able to breath.

Off the horn

I have mainly focused on my private teaching goal this week. In fact, I had a student this week in my newly setup lesson space. Creating a well thought out space has proven important to my practice/lesson sessions. This might be obvious to some, however, to me I never really focused on putting thought into how I want to use each space. When I took lessons from Chase Sanborn, I was always impressed with his organization of space. He took me through lessons, never wasting time on looking for material that applied to the lesson, and always gave a print out of lesson notes and next steps. I thought this was a great way to organize a lesson and wanted to imitate this concept. I made a template which incorporates some basic concepts.

I’ve created two spaces, one for lessons/practice without electronic distraction and one for doing work that requires a computer or other electronic equipment.

Practice/Lesson Space:


  • Space for a printer/laptop to take notes and create custom print outs of lessons for students to take homre
  • A keyboard
  • A mirror
  • A metronome/tuner
  • Wall space that is geared to brass playing/music theory

Work Space

trumpet practice, media edit, recording, transcribing

Work Space

A computer with essential software

  • TASCAM US-1800 interface to record session (a great interface by the way)
  • Yamaha Studio Monitors (Thanks to my father-in-law)
  • All books/sheet music organized and readily available

I also spent some time going through my neighborhood handing out flyers. As my wife says “you got to pound pavement”. Even in our digital age, this seems to be a great way to generate some business. In fact, with a new student I just got we had an initial consultation meeting. This was a great way to seeing how teacher/student mix and if the goals of the student would line up with the style/experience of the teacher.

Lasts, in order to have access to the information I’ve gathered throughout the last 20 years of playing trumpet, I have created a spreadsheet of all my material. Method books, Jazz/Latin books, General music books, Composing/Arranging/Theory books, Sheet Music, Classical pieces, Transcriptions, etc.. The idea being immediate access to information. I have wasted so much time looking for something that I want. To take this wasted time, make it more efficient, and use that ‘gained’ time to do something else, for example practice or write a blog, adds up to a lot. Kind of like “Watch your pennies and the dollars will come” or to update the saying to modern day “Watch your nickels and the dollars will come”.

Since I am a bit older now, it’s all about time efficiencies. I have to practice to up my playing ability, and thus I need to find time that was previously spent in other ways. I don’t look at this as a negative or dwell on this situation. I just have to have a strategy in order to be able to achieve my goals.

On a business note

On a business note, I have listened to a lot of players, especially over the past two months. Players that have been in the industry for many decades to players that are relatively fresh. There probably isn’t one defined path that will make a player successful in the industry. That is part of what draws me to being a “carrier” or professional player. Figure out what makes sense for me and come up with a business strategy. There for sure is a new way of doing business with social media being a main differentiator between now and what happened before now.

I have come up with a price sheet for the various services that I get asked to do, for example how much I charge for doing church services, remembrance day, trio gigs at restaurants, etc. My thought is that if you don’t have a price for each service, the price you give to a client will be dictated by the mood of the day one is in. The standard that a lot of seasoned players quote is “union scale”. I have not been in the union for over 5 years. The discussion on the music union is one that I’d rather not get into here, however, my approach is that I have set my own “scale” that I will stick to and that makes sense for my situation. For example, I have played in pro-am bands and rehearsal bands for many years. This entails playing gigs for free at times. I have always not felt right about this, but especially now that I want to be honest to myself and make music my livelihood, I don’t want to do gigs for free. I have set a minimum amount that I need to get in order to play a gig. There have been two people in the past two weeks that called on me. I gave my price to one person and they said “Great, we can do this”. The second person said “I’ll look for someone else.” Both of these answers are fine with me. I am desperate for money, however, it’s important to set a standard for yourself and uphold it.

Thank you for reading. I look forward to next week’s blog where I will have completed putting my thoughts together on the James Morrison DVD amongst other things.