Do you know your way around four, six, seven or twelve strings?
It could be time to grab the guitar by the neck and seize the opportunities out there!
While the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates only a 3% expected growth for musicians between 2014 and 2024, you’ll be glad to know that there’s more money to be made from your guitar than there used to be: It’s about more than just playing it onstage.
Here’s how you can turn your passion for the guitar into cash…
1. Be a Guitar Tech
A guitar tech (or guitar technician) is the guy a guitar goes to when it needs to freshen up.
Guitar techs are paid to do things like re-string, clean and/or refinish guitars, do set-ups and fix issues like warping and cracks – that’s not a full list, but that should cover the basics. It’s a trusted position, and people don’t trust just anyone with their precious gear.
Reputation is everything: People are more likely to bring their guitars to you if someone put in a good word.
Learn your way around the guitar first. YouTube has great video guides covering everything from re-stringing to truss-rod adjusting.
Ask your local music shop if they’re looking for an addition to the team.
If that doesn’t do it for you, GuitarTechCourses.com offers a course in how to set up your guitar.
2. Writing Songs
Songwriting is a lucrative business in itself.
According to this list from The Richest, Andrew Lloyd Weber clocks in as one of the richest songwriters, with $1.2 billion having come from his hit musicals like Cats and The Phantom of the Opera.
What’s more, think of the last song you heard on the radio – someone somewhere is getting paid for having written it!
Learn your way around songs and what makes them. Know the differences between a verse, a chorus, a bridge and a hook. Examining your own music taste for just what’s catchy will help.
BerkleeShares.com offers some great free resources on songwriting and arranging.
Connect with musicians, studios, and other industry professionals. Contacts are invaluable, and there are many performers who don’t write their own hits – or who just need some help.
Protect your copyright. Download the form for Copyright Registration for Musical Compositions from the US Copyright Office at copyright.gov/circs/circ50.pdf
3. Become a Guitar Teacher
Many people find that they have a knack for passing things on – so why not combine it with guitar and become a teacher?
The great thing about teaching is that you can find someone to teach at nearly any skill level – some are just looking to start out, while other pupils will be more keen to work on the more technical side, like sweep-picking for Metal, or solo-ing for Blues.
Advertise yourself well – become active in guitar forums and become a known face, offer to teach at a local school or event, place ads and set up a website (potentially offering free lessons so people can see what you do before they hand you their money).
Options to teach online has opened up through sites like Udemy and Claroline, so you can teach your students from the comfort of your house.
You can even offer lessons through Skype, like current Guns N’ Roses guitarist Bumblefoot has been doing.
Above all, be engaging – it has to be fun. You’re teaching something both you and the student are passionate about, so relax!
4. Become a Session Guitarist Online
Did you know that Jimmy Page played some guitar in The Kinks’ You Really Got Me?
Or that Eric Clapton was responsible for the heart-wrenching solo in While My Guitar Gently Weeps and some session guitar work for Sir Elton John’s Runaway Train?
Session guitarists are hired on a freelance basis – sometimes live and sometimes in a studio – to help out. Often times you’ll just need to add a finishing touch or two, some rhythm, a riff here and a lick there. It allows you to be versatile, and the internet has allowed session work to go online.
Here are a few sites you can use:
You’re going to need a basic recording setup. This starts with a USB-Interface, something that allows microphone and guitar signals to be interpreted (and recorded) through a PC.
Now include recording software, which can range from Audacity to Cubase and add some bells and whistles like Amplitube, software that simulates a guitar amp, and you should be good to go.
Keep your guitars and amps in great shape. Knowing how to do basic guitar maintenance on the move helps, even if guitar tech isn’t the career you’re aiming for!
Knowing music theory and sight-reading helps. Some session work involves being handed old-school sheet music and being told to play.
5. Buy and Sell Gear
At one point during my teenage years, I had so many guitars that a visitor remarked: “Dude, are you setting up a shop somewhere?”
So, logically, I did for a while. Many guitars came and went over the course of several years – including a 70’s Shergold bass guitar (wherever it might be today!).
Music Trades’ industry census listed total guitar sales in 2015 at 2, 630, 950 units – that’s a lot of guitars!
If you have a good eye for a deal, apply your skills here.
Know the market: Some years were great for Fenders, some weren’t. Certain models were popular, others weren’t – and won’t fetch as much now as you thought it would when you bought it.
Buying and selling can be a little bit risky when you start off: At first, stick to things you’re absolutely sure you can sell again.
Learn to authenticate. People will often try to sell you fakes – especially in the case of popular names like Fender and Gibson. Most guitars have a visible serial number (for acoustic guitars, look inside; for electric guitars, most are on the headstock or neckplate) that you can check out on the manufacturer’s website to ensure it checks out. Guitar forums are a handy resource when you’re stumped.
Shop for deals. They can hide in weird places: Classifieds, garage sales, neighborhood pawn shops and eBay are good areas to start.
Selling is a mixture of the right price and the right time. If you’re not getting your price, you’ll have to wait longer and adjust your time; if you’re not selling in time, you’ll have to adjust your price.
6. Become a Luthier
Simply put, luthiers build stringed instruments.
It’s an ancient job offering that carries a certain respect in the industry through the centuries.
Building guitars is a hands-on approach – but if the idea of seeing your work of art on a stage gets you going, it might be time to set up a workshop.
Some luthiers teach things the old-fashioned way – through an apprenticeship – though there are great course options geared specifically to building.
Check out these sites to start learning:
The Bottom Line
Who said playing guitar was just a hobby?
Use the comments to let us know if you’re a country-chickenpicker, a speedy-shredder or a chord-progression prodigy and how you’re planning to turn your passion into cash.