Every Friday on this blog is “Makin’ it Happen Friday”, where I feature another musician who’s found a way to make a living playing music. I am constantly inspired by others, and hope to pass that inspiration on to you.
Today we feature guitarist Rob Michael. Rob is from the San Francisco Bay Area and leads the Atmos Trio. He graduated with honors from the Musician’s Institute (GIT) in Hollywood, CA in 1989 and has been gigging ever since. He’s released two CD with the trio and produced lost of great video which you can find at his website. Recently he started performing a live streaming concert from his home studio every Thursday at 1:30pm PST (more on that below).
Rob also has a popular teaching practice that consists of 45-70 private students, does clinics on guitars, guitar synth and recording products for Roland/ Boss Corp., Peavey and Alesis, and has written articles for the US music publication Frets magazine.
Currently living in Vallejo CA, Rob frequently plays a wide assortment of gigs ranging from intimate solo guitar performances to latin-jazz quintets to ambient electronic collectives to The Joe Henderson Memorial Big Band.
As you can see, Rob has found a way to make it happen! Read some of his thoughts below:
OWM: How’d you get started in the music biz?
RM: Music chose me. From the time I was 10 years old, there was never a question about doing anything else. To this day, I’m a complete music-geek.
OWM: What 3 things have helped you the most in becoming a working musician?
RM: 1) The realization that since my phone wasn’t ringing (at first), I was going to have to go out and get my own gigs. That was the very day that I became a band leader. I had bills to pay, you know?
2) Technology. Even in the early days of personal computers, there-in were the tools to create all the materials needed to get your business going: Word processors (for letterhead, business cards, promo materials), Music sequencers for making impressive sounding recordings (even with a Mac Plus and a 4-track cassette recorder) and later, the internet. I have a pretty voracious appetite for knowledge. Research is an actual hobby of mine. If you stay curious, you’re probably going to do great at anything you choose to do.
3) Developing a pretty strict discipline for being organized. It doesn’t matter if you use a book-style planner or an iPhone/ PDA. Setting goals and moving towards those goals every single day. That alone can be very transformative.
OWM: What advice to you have for aspiring musicians?
RM: People play music for many different reasons, all of which are legitimate. If you wish to be a working musician, study the craft, learn to read, write and arrange. Learn more than one instrument. Train your ears to recognize chords and intervals. Listen voraciously. To some, this may sound like a lot of hard work. It is. But it’s also my idea of a good time.
OWM: Tell us about your experience with Ustream and live concerts from your studio. What prompted you to do this and what have you learned from it?
RM: From the time I played my first gigs as a teenager, schlepping my guitar and amp around, I would have this joke/ fantasy about playing from a remote location. I always envisioned having to hire someone to deliver some sort of screen/ sound system on which an audience would view my performance from home. Of course now, everyone already has this system in their home or even in their pocket. When I played the first Ustream show, I got excited. I enjoyed the relationship with the audience. They tend to participate more than they might in a traditional venue. After the gig, there’s no gear to strike, so that is part of the fantasy.
We have heard the theory of 1,000 true fans being enough to supply an artist with a decent standard of living. Rather than (or in addition to) physically traveling from room-to-room trying to find people who are into what your doing, in the area in which you happen to live, I can do the same thing on a global level.
I intend to expand my teaching practice through similar avenues.
Right on, Rob! You are the hero of many a working musician for figuring out how to gig without leaving the house! Now, if you’ll just do one in your pajamas my fantasy will be complete! 😉
For your viewing pleasure, here’s the Atmos Trio performing the Miles Davis classic “Nardis” live. Find lots more video at Rob’s website.