This week I talked with Avi Wisnia, the Philadelphia based award winning singer/songwriter. Avi has performed his music all over the world. He has a unique writing style which comprises of a blend of bossa nova, American folk, jazz, and contemporary pop. Avi has developed a reputation of bringing bossa nova aspects into his pop writing, and has even collaborated (virtually) with Brazilian musicians on his latest recording Sky Blue Sky (check it out here).
Quitting your day job to be a full-time musician is usually a prelude to a rock star fantasy…or the beginning of a real-life failed musician story. Avi did it to fulfill his desire to put more of himself into his music, but he did it responsibly.
To become a full-time musician, especially one trying to support your own music, you really need to commit. But that doesn’t mean you can’t be pragmatic about how you transition into it. Avi started working on his music by playing small gigs at local venues that had a good fit for his music. “I had found a venue that fit my style and my music, and I was able to use it to try out new material, new players, and get experience performing in a low-pressure environment while building an audience.”
Avi leveraged his experience and networking connections to find new venues to get his music out. He kept his job as a teacher while growing his followers and music revenue streams. Rather than taking an outsized leap of faith on music, he strategically managed his growing music business so that he could successfully transition to being a full-time musician. “I kept performing and touring and writing and researching gigs until the opportunities became more frequent and were really starting to conflict with my day-job.”
As a full-time musician, Avi was now solely responsible for managing all his personal and business finances. He recognized the importance of budgeting and income planning when playing gigs, setting up tours, and planning projects. “Know in advance where your money is coming from, how much you’re getting, and keep track of it. Always follow up and always confirm. Nobody is going to keep track of the information you need more than you (unless you’re hiring someone to do it for you).”
Keeping detailed financial records were important for being able to successfully manage the financial aspects of his career, but Avi’s detailed record keeping allowed him to go one step further; use the data he collected to analyze his financial performance to make key decisions on future gigs.
He said he likes to “look back and take stock, look at what has worked best and where you are most profitable.” Avi analyzes what shows and venues are most profitable based upon not only expenses but music and merchandise sales. Once you grow from playing free gigs for exposure to being limited on time due to paying gigs and other revenue driving projects, it’s important to know what you are really making compared to other things you can do with that same time.
Avi derives income the same way as they all do: through multiple sources. In addition to tours, music sales & streaming,; Avi derives revenue from teaching, accompaniment gigs, merchandise sales, and other odd jobs. “At any given time, I’m juggling 6 or 7 different sources of income.”
How do you get 6-7 different sources of income? “Having a network of people that support you is crucial, especially ones connected to the industry and the scene that you’re in. I get so many gig recommendations and direct referrals from people that I know, and people that know I’d be a good fit for a job.”
Avi loves interacting with his fans and peers online, “I love asking my twitter followers which artists I should cover for a new show I’m putting together, or asking Facebook where I should tour next.” Still, Avi knows music is still a face to face business. “With all the connectivity and information the internet brings, I believe the best publicity and way to build yourself is still person-to-person word of mouth.”
If you listen to Avi’s music it doesn’t take long to realize it’s different. Different languages, foreign rhythms, and alternative musical instruments make his music distinct; and that’s in addition to the actual writing. Avi doesn’t just take this route with his song writing but also in his marketing and branding.
“I started using a kazoo in my live shows when I performed my song “Rabbit Hole”.” Avi noticed how much fans were reacting to this element of his performance, so he capitalized on it by sourcing Kazoo’s with www.aviwisnia.com printed on them. “Now, I’m able to sell these kazoos at shows, give them out to kids at parties, the audience at music festivals, or music industry folk at conferences. “
Avi didn’t stop there. “When people were eager to get a kazoo after a show but didn’t know how to play it, I found myself teaching them, over and over again how to use the kazoo. So, I made a tongue-in-cheek YouTube video, “How To Kazoo: a Kazootorial”, which goes step-by-step how to play the kazoo (there are 2 steps).”
Avi now has one of the top “Kazootorial” videos on YouTube. Now that’s a unique way to get people engaged and help you get discovered.
Connect with Avi Wisnia
Check out Avi’s music, especially his virtual Brazilian collaboration “Sky Blue Sky”. Connect with him through his website or social media via the links below.