Cluck, Cluck: Why Musicians Should Think Like A Chicken Farmer
While a career as a musician and the more agrarian pursuit of raising chickens may seem to have little in common, many of the principles behind raising chickens actually translate fairly well to the music business. Here, Caleb J. Murphy explains.
Guest post by Caleb J. Murphy of Soundfly’s Flypaper
One day, I looked out my window and saw some teenagers standing in my front yard. They were looking at something on my roof.
So, I opened my front door.
“Hey, what’s up?” I said. The ring leader pointed, while saying something in teenager speak that I didn’t understand. I walked out next to them and looked up at my roof.
It was a rooster, just strutting around on top of my house.
To put this in context, this was a suburban neighborhood. Duplexes divided by fences, small backyards, sidewalks. You wouldn’t consider it farmland. So where the heck did this rooster come from? Well, it turns out my neighbor had bought some roosters and chickens and was keeping them in his backyard.
And that got me thinking, “Being a chicken farmer is kind of like being a musician.”
1. Chicken farmers have automated income.
Automated income (sometimes referred to as passive income) is when you do a job once and get paid for it potentially an unlimited number of times forever. It looks like this:
Initial investment (the work) + small tasks (to maintain the work) + time = automated income
So when chicken farmers first start out, they have to buy chickens and at least one rooster. That’s the initial investment. Then, if it’s someone like my neighbor, they do small amounts of work to maintain their egg-making setup. It takes time for eggs to brew, but once the chickens start laying eggs, the owner is in business.
Likewise, I believe every musician needs at least one revenue stream that’s automated. Even if it’s a small amount. This could be streaming, sync licensing, patronage, YouTube, or even blogging.
Let’s look at sync licensing as an example:
- First, you record a track, or potentially many all at once (the initial investment).
- You submit that track to licensing companies or music supervisors (small tasks to maintain your licensing portfolio).
- Wait for potentially unlimited placements, then payouts, then royalties (time).
2. Chicken farmers are patient.
You can’t rush egg-laying. You have to let the rooster and the chicken… well, you know, make eggs. This requires patience, of course. But it also requires smart work; working hard on the right things.
In the same way, musicians — and especially those of us doing music on the side — need to be patient and work on the tasks that line up with our long-term plan.
Hang in there. Let the rooster and chicken of your music career do their thang. Allow the egg-making process to run like it’s supposed to. And take care of your chicken farm. Be patient, and keep going.
3. Chicken farmers don’t expect to be celebrities.
Have you ever seen a chicken farmer on the red carpet? No, and it would be weird if you did.
Chicken farmers do honest work taking care of chickens and selling eggs. They’re not looking for super-stardom.
Now, don’t misunderstand: I’m not anti-fame. If you get famous as a musician, that’s fantastic. Becoming a celebrity because your music is amazing and resonates with lots of people would be so cool. But trying to become a celebrity is dangerous.
Fame is a byproduct of quality music. And it doesn’t work the other way around: Good music doesn’t naturally just happen just because you’re famous. So, don’t try to be famous. Just focus on the work in front of you today.
Take care of your chickens, your rooster, your farm, and your eggs. Be smart, and work on the right tasks. Keep going, and just give it time.
Think like a chicken farmer. Your perspective on your music career will change for the better.
Caleb J. Murphy is a songwriter and producer based in Austin, TX., and the founder of Musician With A Day Job, a blog that helps part-time musicians succeed. He’s been self-releasing music since 2009 in various bedrooms, basements, garages, and closets.