The Savvy Musician: Building a Career, Earning a Living & Making a Difference

Image of The Savvy Musician: Building a Career, Earning a Living & Making a Difference
Release Date: 
October 26, 2009
Helius Press
Reviewed by: 

Music, music everywhere. But is anyone making any money?

According to author, professor, and musician-extraordinaire David Cutler some savvy musicians have managed to carve out a profitable niche and build a respectable, if not wildly prosperous, living. In his book, The Savvy Musician, Cutler shares 165 vignettes about perfomers and artists who are living their dreams (not eating Ramen noodles every night). For the rest of us who have not managed to find our inner-savvy, Dr. Cutler also gives basic, step-by-step instructions and ideas on how to chase, and catch, that illusive brass ring.

In the efforts of full-disclosure, this reviewer must admit to taking Dr. Cutler’s class while attending Indiana University. He was a dynamic and creative individual then, and it is nice to see that he has not lost any of his energy. His book is motivational, making each task an enjoyable experience, as opposed to unwanted work. Even musicians who hate doing math (and honestly, that’s going to be most of us) will have no problem understanding personal finance after becoming savvy.

Many music business books currently on the market are hard to understand due to dry prose and overly complicated information. Cutler’s book, on the other hand, is made up of clear, concise sections that would be immediately applicable to any musician’s life— amateur or professional.

The knowledge offered is fairly basic, but it does cover a wide range of subjects. In fact, at one point, this reviewer had the thought that she should have saved the $50K she spent on business school and simply read this book. (That is probably an oversimplification, but is true nonetheless). The book has no long narrative to move it forward or tell a story, but instead, it works well as a reference text. Any music educator could not only read it to better his/her career, but he could also pass it along to his students so that everyone can have a savvy ending. “The ultimate success of every artist,” says Cutler, “is in their own hands.”

The Savvy Musician gives anyone who is creative and trying to make it in the biz an actionable plan. It probably will not make us rich and famous, but if we can achieve some level of success, it will probably make us happy. Cutler interviewed Jeff Nelson, hornist for the Canadian Brass as one of his 165 success stories. Jeff is a consummate list maker and he evaluates every task with two questions: 1) Did I learn? and 2) Did I love well?

This reviewer, applying Nelson’s standards, decided that she did learn a few things, and while she loves music, thanks to Cutler, she now has the steps to love it more.

Better get to it! . . .