How to Make a Million Dollars Playing the Guitar by classical guitarist Douglas Niedt is a new book offering entrepreneurial advice for musicians. The book is 365 pages in length and can be purchased from www.milliondollarguitarist.com for $19.95.
The title sounds a little too good to be true doesn’t it? Normally, it would be easy to discount a book with a title like this, but knowing that Douglas Niedt was the author I was excited to read it and confident that it would offer substantive information that musicians could use in their careers.
The first thing to understand is what this book is not. Niedt does not promise to make you a better guitarist, a famous musician, or even a millionaire (one who has a net worth of one million dollars or more) in his book. What he will do is make you think long and hard about whether you wish make the commitment to become an entrepreneurial musician, and offer lots of good advice on how to begin and grow your business so that you can make a million dollars or more over the course of your career.
Niedt covers a lot of ground, but most of the book can be divided two distinct concepts: entrepreneurial thinking and understanding common business practices. These two concepts are seamlessly woven together throughout with the earlier chapters generally discussing entrepreneurial thinking and later chapters relating more specific information about business practices that apply to musicians.
Throughout the book, the author reflects on his own life as a student, performer, teacher, and businessperson. He also incorporates many anecdotes that illustrate typical challenges that have been overcome successfully by famous musicians and businesspeople throughout history.
“Do you really want to do this? Do you have what it takes?” asks an early chapter. A short survey will help young people who may have big dreams but no realistic idea of what it means to be a musician to put things into perspective. After each survey question, there are reality checks that will encourage the reader to reflect on their attitudes and expectations about a career in music and whether or not they possess the drive and self-discipline to succeed. I find that Niedt strikes just the right balance here. He is careful not to discourage the reader but is very realistic about the sacrifices that must be made in order to make a living playing music.
The first two sections of the book include several essays on topics such as: keeping a positive attitude, setting goals, evaluating oneself, choosing an educational path, how to get along with other people, and more. These chapters are definitely motivational, but also make good business sense for anyone who wants to be self-employed and stay optimistic in the face of adversity. This section also includes two of my favorite chapters: “Talent is Not the Answer” and “You’re a Failure – Congratulations!”
As the book proceeds, more in-depth information about what it takes to be a self-employed musician is explored. Advice is given on virtually all aspects of setting up a business as a sole proprietorship or LLC, recording your own CDs, building a website that will help you sell your music, knowing what to charge for shipping, maintaining a database, understanding tax laws and much more. The chapter on maintaining a database was particularly a good one for me as I am always trying to find a better way to organize my records of students and business contacts electronically.
Most of the business information passed on in the book I already know. I’ve learned it along the way from colleagues, teachers, tax and financial advisers, and friends. Some things I found out through my own research. Almost all of it was learned after college as I struggled to establish myself as a teacher and musician. I can only imagine how much easier my path may have been with a book like this one to guide me.
Douglas Niedt has written a book that every young person aspiring to a career in music should read. I will definitely be recommending it to many of my students and their parents. It paints a very clear and realistic picture of what the career of a professional musician looks like. If you are starting a career in music or know someone who is, this is required reading.
Finally, if you are not a guitarist, you’ll still want to buy the book. Doug may be targeting guitarists with his title, but the book is not about playing the guitar, it’s about being an entrepreneurial musician. All of the information inside is equally applicable to pianists, saxophonists, trombonists, etc. I’m guessing it will take a trombonist a little longer to reach the million-dollar mark, but that’s another story.
Doug has several videos related to his book on YouTube. Here’s a sample: