Scott Brown of the Scooter Brown Band was kind enough to let us interview him about his career in the music business. You can check out his band and website at The Scooter Brown Band
What do you do for a living?
How would you describe what you do to someone?
I write and compose music and perform it on stage.
What does your work entail?
It entails writing music and composing, obviously performing live shows, traveling, a lot of phone conferences and emails with bookings and management companies and venues and promotional stuff, radio, TV, internet.
What’s a typical work week look like for you?
During the beginning of the week I do a lot of phone calls, emails, and conference calls. I do some acoustic house gigs close to where I live and then usually, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday we travel and play shows.
How did you get started?
It’s kind of funny, when I first started playing guitar, I told my dad, “This is so cool. I love music. One day, I just want to play on stage in front of somebody with a microphone and some speakers and just do it like that will make me happy.” And then it happened.
When you step on stage and you look out and there’s a thousand people in front of you that all paid their hard earned money to come in and watch your show and sing along to the words, that’s the most rewarding…that 90 minutes that you’re on stage is the easiest thing about this, it’s by far the reason why we do this job.
Then the next thing I was able to put a band together and it happened. Then I said if I can just get the music on the radio and hear my songs on radio like that would be unbelievable. And it’s happening. It’s like you always kind of push for those next things and you get to those and now those things are no big deal anymore. Now you’re like I want to do this, I want to do that. You just keep pushing for bigger and better as the years go by. You keep accomplishing goals and obviously for us we want to be big as we can possibly get and make good money and take care of our families and play music.
What do you like about what you do?
I love music in general. I love writing it. I love performing it. I love traveling. I love going to new towns, meeting new people. One of my favorite things about what I do is performing a song and getting a reaction out of somebody whether they smile or laugh or it brings a tear in their eye. It’s great when you hit emotionally with the lyrics that you’ve written. Those are some of my favorite things about what I do.
What do you dislike about this job?
I spend a lot of time away from my family. It also comes with a very high stress level because there are so many people out there trying to do the same thing that we’re doing and competing. It’s kind of like being on a hundred percent commission. You could just knock it out of the ballpark one month and the next month you might be scraping by.
There’s just a ton of overhead in the business itself between recording, records, putting songs out on the radio, touring, and gas and hotels. And sometimes people think that you make a lot of money and you do gross pretty decent money but a ton of it goes back into the business itself.
How do you make money or how are you compensated on this career?
One, I make money off writing songs. If I write a song and somebody else records it then you receive a royalty off of it. When the songs are played on the radios or TV we receive royalties off it. There’s also merchandise sales such as CDs, T-shirt, hats etc. And then obviously performing at live shows.
How much money do you make as a professional musician?
Because we put so much money back into the band I probably bring home maybe $50,000 a year right now after paying for everything. As a band we probably gross like over $200,000 or more.
With some shows you might make $6,000 or $7,000 grand. Then you pay out the band. You pay your management. You pay your booking agent. You pay yourself and then you try to stuff as much money away because you might have a show a thousand dollars away. You might be opening for somebody, a bigger band and you might only get two hundred bucks for that show for coming and opening. You still have to pay the fuel and the hotel rooms, and all that stuff and it adds up pretty quickly. On a two or three day run it literally may be a thousand dollars or $1500 out of pocket.
The thing about this career is if you truly believe that this is what you want to do, you should get out there, do your best at it, make as many contacts as you possibly can and never give up. There are people that had been at it for 15 or 20 years before they actually became successful…If your heart is in it and you truly love music and enjoy performing in front of people, don’t give up. Always chase your dream because not all people get to do it.
For our band, every year has been a better year. Every year we’ve gotten on better shows, grossed more money and have gotten a bigger fan base. It just fluctuates throughout the year though. There are times of the year that are slow for everybody in the business. But for us, every year overall has been a better year for sure.
How much money did you make starting out?
When I was doing it part time and had another job I was probably making like $10,000/year.
Would you say there are any perks associated with what you do?
Yeah, definitely. There’s perks like being recognized by fans and people around town. We’ve picked up sponsorships where you get free clothes or free boots. At dinner you may go into a restaurant and the owner knows you and they’ll pay for your dinner or something like that. Also you just get to do a lot of really cool things like getting to meet and play shows with other people in the business that you look up to.
What education and/or skills would you say are needed to be a professional musician?
That’s a really hard question to answer because there are people out there that are just naturally talented and gifted people and then there’s people that go to college and know everything about the theory of music.
There are guys like Dave Matthews and John Mayer who are freakin’ musical geniuses. They went to college and they know everything about the theory of music and then there are guys like myself. I have a high school education and I did four years in the Marine Corps. I didn’t go to college. I started writing as a hobby and I picked up playing the guitar when I was 19 and I still to this day probably couldn’t tell you half the chords that I play or what key I even play in. I just picked it up by ear and started writing. And I don’t know much about music theory or stuff like that. I just play it.
As far as other skills you do need to have some sort of business sense. So if you don’t have good business, then you need to have somebody working for you that does for sure. Other than that it’s just a lot of determination, a lot of people quit this business when they’re so close to breaking through.
What is most challenging about what you do?
Probably staying busy and just keeping the gigs rolling in, especially in Texas since there are so many bands. Also, just continually writing my music that’s relevant and that fans want to hear. You can write songs all days that you think are good but at the end of the day it’s about really putting asses in the seats, connecting with fans, and selling tickets to make a living.
Obviously [the goal] is always to grow as big as possible and to play in more places. Right now, I can say I’m living my dream. I get to play music for a living and I support my family off of it. And as long as I can keep doing that I will always be happy.
So creating a show, creating music that people want to buy and listen to, and staying on top of your game and being relevant in the music scene is probably the most difficult.
What do you find most rewarding about what you do?
Performing the show. When you step on stage and you look out and there’s a thousand people in front of you that all paid their hard earned money to come in and watch your show and sing along to the words, that’s the most rewarding.
All the other stuff like dealing with contracts, booking agents, PR, ordering merchandise, etc can be a pain in the ass. I’m not complaining but it can be a pain. But that 90 minutes that you’re on stage is the easiest thing about this, it’s by far the reason why we do this job.
What advice would you offer someone considering this career?
The thing about this career is if you truly believe that this is what you want to do, you should get out there, do your best at it, make as many contacts as you possibly can and never give up. The people that have been successful in this business, and granted you get a lot of people that they get on TV shows and they become an overnight success or they form a band together and they get in front of that right person and they become an overnight success and they’ve only been at it for a couple of years.
But a lot of people that have really been successful, if you go back and read their stories, they are people that had been at it for 15 or 20 years before they actually became successful. And if after 10 years or whatever, something finally hits you in the face, and you say, “I did my best and it’s not working out.”, that’s one thing. But I feel a lot of people go at it for a couple of years and, say “Oh, we didn’t make it,” and they go back to work in their day job. Who knows what would happen if they have gone for another year or another five years, maybe that would have been what it took.
A lot of people settle for less because they gave up too easily or too early and throw their hands up in the air, but if you want it you can make it happen.
If your heart is in it and you truly love music and enjoy performing in front of people, don’t give up. Always chase your dream because not all people get to do it.
How much time off do you get or take for a vacation or free time?
I pretty much play on average about 220 days a year. I spend the other days at the house around my kids and my wife.
So the rest of the time I’m not working per se. I may be sitting in my gym shorts like now doing interviews, paperwork, or stuff like that. So I actually get a lot of time off where I’m technically still working.
If I feel like shutting the computer off or turning my phone off I can do that. If I want to go on a vacation and take five days off all I need to do is tell my booking agent don’t book me during these days.
If the money is coming in, if I want to take two months off, I could take two months off. It all depends. That’s probably the best answer I could give you.
What is a common misconception people have about what you do?
I think the common misconception would be that we just get up on stage and play music. I think people don’t realize how much work goes into a show and getting out on the road and actually performing and putting music out. I mean there’s a lot of work involved to do that. Some people will be like, “Man, it must be cool, you get to sleep until noon every day and you get up and you come out and drink beers and play music and hang out with everybody,” and that’s not what really happens.
I mean I get up in the morning and I start working. I make phone calls. I’m on the computer. I go to the gym. I keep myself healthy. When you’re on radio tour sometimes you’ve got to be on the radio station at 6:30 in the morning or go into a live TV thing and the news at 5 o’clock in the morning. There’s just a lot of work that goes into it besides the show that you put on.
What are you goals and dreams for the future in this career?
Obviously it’s always to grow as big as possible and to play in more places. Right now, I can say I’m living my dream. I get to play music for a living and I support my family off of it. And as long as I can keep doing that, I will always be happy. We got a couple of nice cars and we live in a nice house. It’s nothing fancy.
It’s never going to be on MTV cribs or nothing but we get by and that’s completely fine with me. But with that being said, we want to be a nationally based band touring all over the United States. We want to go play in Europe and push our music over there. We would love to put out great music and be awarded for it whether it be country music awards or the even Grammy’s or whatever, or get to play on a late night talk show.
It’s just little stuff like that as far as a bucket list that we try to strive for.
What else would you like people to know about what you do?
Whenever somebody buys our CD we tell them thank you and we say all we ask is if you like it, burn and give it to your friends. They’re like, “No, we’re not going to burn it. We’ll tell them to go to iTunes and download it,” which, obviously is fine. But we say burn it and give it to people. Tell people about it.
We’re making $10 on the sale of a CD. If somebody burns 10 of them and just two or three more people become fans out of those 10 people, they’ll come to shows and pass it along to friends. It all works out in the long run we just want to get the music out there and get people coming to our shows.