How to stop losing money

The biggest expense in your performing career is the gigs you are not getting.

I know – it’s difficult to appreciate that sometimes.

We all get so focused on the bills and money flowing out of our bank accounts that it’s hard to focus on the money that’s NOT coming IN! Am I right? Of course.

But unless you learn to focus on the money you’re not making, you will probably struggle to reach a six figure income as a performing classical musician. 

And even struggle to hit lower goals than that, too.


It's hard to focus on the money not coming in.
We spend more time and energy focusing on what’s going out.
It’s hard to focus on the money not coming in.

The time you spend practicing your craft still feels right. It’s what you know to do, and you can do it well. What doesn’t feel real is the $1,000 gig that would have come your way had you spent a little of that practice time calling venues, or reaching out to your audience members.

Those actions don’t feel real to you, because they haven’t happened.

But, as the owner of your own performing career – and therefore business – you have to learn to ask yourself “Can I imagine?”

  • Can I imagine what life would be like if I booked three or even five $1,000 gigs a week?
  • Can I imagine what it would feel like to pick and choose which students I teach, i.e. just the advanced seniors preparing for college?
  • Can I imagine being surrounded and supported by a caring community instead of trying to make this work alone? 

You can’t see those gigs that slip through the cracks…but that is where the money is. That’s where your freedom is. That is where your impact is.

There are lives that need to be changed, and you can change them with your music. There are people who are suffering, struggling, and you could have helped them cope. But they didn’t find you, they didn’t attend one of your gigs, and now they are lost to live classical music.

Every time someone books a Breakthrough Session with the Concert University, I know their lives are on the line, their business is crumbling at best – probably non-existent, even. 

It’s the same with you and your gigs.

Every time you book a gig, you know there are people near that venue whose lives are devoid of live classical music. Someone’s life is on the line. Or their own business. Their marriage. So much of life gets in the way and if we can’t help them experience a little light through our music, then we’ve blown it… we’ve let them down. 

And every missed paid performance opportunity adds up to a lot of people sliding further and further away from classical music – that incredible form of communication, the language of emotions that helps our world become a much better place.

Imagine speaking to three venues this week but they all say ‘no thanks.’ That’s $3,000 lost… not to mention the impact you could have had on the hundreds of lives in those audiences. Those three missed gigs are your income goal – does that make sense?

All I did to go from broke and teaching in a classroom full-time to over six figures a year from performing, is to stop missing out on decently paid performance opportunities. 

That’s it!

But to capture those opportunities, you have to see them. And then you have to do what it takes to seize them, too. 

Otherwise, you might as well keep practicing for that elusive big break that’ll never come (remember: every overnight success takes about 20-30 years to happen) and constantly miss your income goals, your performing goals, and your impact goals. And it’s your audience members and the communities you operate in that will pay the price. 

But what happens when you start seeing AND seizing those extra opportunities? 

A few more gigs booked. 

A spike in the number of people you get to perform for.

And then, all of a sudden, your monthly income goal from performing seems remarkably within reach – you realize you’re going to hit it much sooner than you ever dreamed!

That’s why I want you on the inside of Concert University.

How many gigs did you miss this week? This month? Over the past 12 months?

If you had booked five or more gigs a week for the past year, what would that have been worth?

And what would be the lifetime value of those audiences that you could have owned a year ago?

Here’s the truth: If the answer to those questions is more than the investment for enrolling in Concert University, then it’s a very simple solution… you need to enroll!

The lifetime value of a loyal audience member
What’s the lifetime value of a loyal audience member?

My coaching program was designed from the ground up to help you avoid making the really obvious mistakes everyone still makes (that I made two and three decades ago), and it combines all the years of toil, trial and error that we see the majority of classical musicians making time and time again. We want you to see every performing opportunity you are currently missing so you can finally stop leaving money on the table and start being a winner at your career, not just your craft. 

AND, you get to do it surrounded by people who love you, support you, and want you to succeed. Most of all, people who understand you and your dream…even when everyone else around you doesn’t really get it.

If you’ve been stuck, leaving opportunities on the table, or not hitting your goals, Concert University will snap you out of it and get you back where you belong.

Book a 45-minute Breakthrough Session now, and find out if we can help you pick up some of those opportunities you’ve been leaving on the table every month:

Book your call now. 

Registration closes when you close your mind to the urgency to overcome what’s still holding you back.

If you are like most classical musicians, you can delay no more. You can ‘think about it’ no more. It’s either time to get on with life as a performer, or you’ll continue juggling plates in a trendy but unsustainable portfolio career forever… nothing will change unless you decide to change your decisions and actions. 

Get on a call with us now so we can all make this world of ours a better place through live classical music.

The team and I look forward to seeing you on the inside…

Deficiencies in the Education & Business Side of Performing

One of my favorite podcasts to be a guest on is “Operation Opera,” and it’s great for both singers AND instrumentalists!

We talk openly and honestly about why anyone should care about a 400 year old art form, but also the pitfalls and ways to navigate our way inside its industry (or outside of it) as performers.

This was a particularly fun and thought-provoking episode.

I even warn performers about a big barrier to success: trying to make your career look like Hollywood wrote it!

Ep 31: Deficiencies in the Education & Business Side of Performing w/ Conductor Stephen P Brown

Follow this link to listen on Soundcloud

And be sure to let me or Alisa know in the comments which bits you like, and which you might still disagree with.

Looking forward to the discussions…

Are you waiting for crumbs or taking action?

Do you know what is meant by the phrase “a sense of urgency?”

Most classical musicians don’t.

Like I used to, most performers have two settings – on or off. 

Panic, or ‘I need to think about it’ (aka analysis paralysis).

OCCASIONALLY one of those options is appropriate, but in my experience, it’s often the middle ground that is best – I need a considered result sooner rather than later.  I learned that the sooner I deal with something, the better the outcome. 

Will I miss out on something else, something better? 

Possibly, but I also learned that once a decision has been made, I need to stick to that decision unless it is life-threatening NOT to take an alternative position. Yes, you are allowed to change your mind (like politicians are allowed to change party membership), but only on the strongest of convictions should you change a decision you already made. No to and fro, no humming and hawing, no frivolity, no back and forth that will generate a reputation of unreliability and untrustworthiness. 

One of the things that holds us back from achieving the performing career and lifestyle of our dreams is that we dwell on decisions and taking action. We forget that we are allowed to make our own decisions now. We don’t have to take up mental capacity worrying anymore. We no longer have to wait for our parents, our teachers, or anyone other than our spouses to make decisions.

I have found that most people who like to delay, who like to ‘think about it’ or who generally just don’t take action have no idea of the impact their lack of decision-making will have. 

It’s simple: someone else’s life – possibly even YOUR life – might suffer unnecessarily as a result of your indecisiveness. Probably more often than we would like to admit. You really don’t want to be the person known for making life difficult simply because you don’t take action or decide, right?

Interestingly, Andrew Hitz (via Jason Heath – we hope we got the source right!) suggests that academia and classical music are the slowest moving industries in the world.  And we are engulfed by both! So no wonder we wait for others to make decisions for us. It’s time to change that, especially if you want to successfully build a profitable performing career.

Yes, there is always risk involved – you will NEVER, EVER have ALL the information you want or even need to make a decision, so you might as well go ahead with what you have now. So what if it’s not the ‘right’ decision? It’s the BEST decision you can make right now with the info you do have. Go for it. 

All of this to address the fact that there are still classical musicians who wait for the phone to ring to offer them gigs. They wait for others to mention an opportunity, a job, an audition, or an opportunity to perform and/ or earn money.

Don’t wait.


You can no longer wait for others to offer you crumbs. You don’t have time for that anymore. It’s time you took ownership of your own career and lifestyle and begin making decisions/ creating opportunities/ calling and offering to help. Now is that time. 

Do you feel that sense of urgency? 

Good. Because it’s real.

It’s right here, right now.

Wait no more. They may not come.

Get up, get out, and let’s make this happen, whatever “this” is for you!

Let’s talk and see if I can help you weigh the odds and make a decision NOW about the rest of your life.

Give us a call at Concert University:

On your mark, get set, GO!

Why we take any gig that comes our way

Just take this moment with me:

Even if you’re really busy today, just breathe and relax for a moment…

Imagine with me a world in which we are living our dream lifestyles.

The house, the land, the car, the traveling, the instrument, the concert venues, the gifts and letters we receive from fans…

Nice, huh?

Imagine that you don’t have to worry about paying the bills.

You have become so efficient at booking gigs that pay well that you don’t have to worry about your mortgage payments, sending your kids to private school, or buying first-class tickets to get to Europe. 

In that life, imagine your car overheating, and steam pours out from the hood.

How will you react?

You see yourself calmly checking the rearview and side mirrors, putting your warning lights on, and gently sliding onto the shoulder.

You let everyone in the car know everything will be alright, you’re just going to check to see what’s happened, and you look at all the lights on your dashboard, and pop the hood. You check to see if it’s safe to get out of the car and when it is, you go to the hood, find the latch and lift it. You pull up the support arm and place it in its hole and look at the engine steaming away.

Calmly getting back in the car, you call your insurance company’s breakdown service and tell them what’s going on. They send someone immediately (and you don’t even think about the cost), and by the time you get home, there is a replacement car in your driveway already.

Wasn’t that fun? Dreaming for a bit?

But let me ask you this:

Is that how you would react right now if your car overheats later today?


Why not?

But when you build a profitable performing career and choose how many well-paid gigs you do, you CAN live like that! It just happened to me, recently.

Here’s the thing:

I would have reacted the same way before I made my lifestyle course corrections.

Do you know why?

Because I recognized that although I can’t choose my circumstances, I can choose how I react to them.

If you’re feeling down, lethargic, lacking in energy, excitement and motivation to book gigs, then look at how you are choosing to react to your circumstances.

Are you blaming everyone else, or something else, or even yourself?

Or are you choosing to replace those thoughts with something more productive, more useful, more… beneficial?

If you’re ready to pursue your dream lifestyle as a live classical music performer, let’s talk and see if I can help you get there. Let’s see if it’s time for you to take ownership of your performing career by choosing how you react to each circumstance that comes your way.

Give us a call at the Concert University and let’s see if we can help you.

Now, choose to make the world a better place today,

Are you teaching others to not value live classical music?

So many classical musicians hate their job.


Well, first, which job?! Many musicians have multiple careers which, as we recently explored in my Facebook group Building Profitable Performing Careers, is not what drives success (reminder: multiple careers is different to multiple streams of income). 

Doing several different activities like performing, teaching, administration, and a variety of non-music work is a left-over strategy from the 90s that has proven time and again to NOT WORK.

So let’s focus our conversation on performing.

Many classical musicians hate many of the performances they participate in.

If performers aren’t too tired and distracted by their portfolio careers, then one reason might be because they take whatever gig they can get, regardless of what it pays, whether or not they like that kind of repertoire and irrespective of who the other performers are.

A $120 gig sounds fabulous to many classical musicians. 

For a three hour rehearsal and two hour concert (on different days, no less!), an hour’s drive away, and all the practice time before they even get to a rehearsal. 

That’s about $24 per contact hour or $12 per working hour… even less when taking normal business administration into account (phone calls, bookkeeping, etc.)

But it’s no return on the decades you invested in becoming an expert nor on the resources you, your parents and those who gave to scholarship programs spent on you to become this amazing musician.

So why do we do it?

Why do classical musicians take gigs that simply don’t make sense or add up?

Perhaps you don’t value what you do.

And by demonstration, that teaches society not to value what you do, as well.

It’s so disheartening to see performers and society alike look at live classical music like it’s crumbs on a table, to be swept up and thrown away after the main meal.

To me, it IS the main meal!

This language of emotions is so fundamental to human existence that it stuns me how often it is relegated to simply ‘entertainment’ by musicians themselves!

Imagine what you’re communicating using this language when you take whatever gig comes along.

If you’re as done with that – and not getting paid decently for it – as I became, let’s talk. 

Give us a call at the Concert University and let’s see if we can help you.

Go make the world a better place.

Do you want to become an expert auditionee or an expert performer?

How much have you invested in auditions?

And I mean time away from your loved ones, practicing excerpts, dealing with nerves, training to become an expert auditionee, risking damage to your craft by over-practicing the extremities of your skills, as well as the actual expenses involved.

Auditions are like school exams: You learn how to pass them and you’ll get excellent grades, but how will being an expert examinee help with life?

One of the biggest complaints I hear from classical musicians is the amount of time, energy and resources they spend auditioning, rather than income-producing activities.

There is nothing wrong with taking auditions – it’s the old way classical music has survived and paid for itself. And as long as you consider what your expectations are, and what your priorities are, then great! Go take as many as you can.

But here are two big questions you really should ask yourself before embarking on an audition:

1. What’s my Return on Investment (ROI)?

Of course, there are financial implications to attending an audition – the application video, travel, accommodation, food, fees, tips, etc.

But there are other costs as well: time spent completing the materials, time away from your loved ones, time not spent on income-producing activities, distraction from your paying audiences and students, etc.

There are four areas of ROI to think about when auditioning:

  1. How will this affect my finances? Will I ever recover the costs of attending the audition? Will the fee I get from the job pay me not just enough to survive, but also recoup the expenses of auditioning?
  2. How will this affect my craft? Preparing for an audition usually requires you to learn, study and prepare repertoire that isn’t really in your comfort zone or heart. Often the rep stretches your skills (rightly so!) which has caused damage to voices and fingers by over-extending practice sessions. I know way too many classical musicians no longer performing because they damaged themselves by over-practicing repertoire they didn’t like or was just a little beyond their technical capabilities.
  3. How will this affect my career? What do you want to be known for – being an amazing auditionee, or an amazing performer? Are you hoping to make new connections and network, or get exposure? What has been your ROI in those areas so far… so why keep doing it? Expecting any “opportunity” for exposure or networking to actually help you build a profitable performing career is skating on very thin ice. I’d rather focus my time, energy and resources on actual income-producing activities rather than just hope.
  4. How will this affect lifestyle? We all choose where and how we live. Almost daily I hear from immigrants who escaped truly horrible and oppressive environments to come to the USA, and who choose what they do and where they do it. Our careers are supposed to support us living life as human beings (our “lifestyle”) and we use our craft to build a career with. Is auditioning and constantly moving to where the work is your choice of lifestyle? I’m not judging if it is – nothing wrong with that. If that’s not your preference, then what is the ROI for your lifestyle by auditioning?

The second question to ask yourself is much simpler, yet in so many ways much harder to answer:

2. Will this audition and/or the job being offered help me share my Outcome with the world? 

In other words, how will spending my time, energy and resources on this audition allow me to make people’s lives better by giving them the Outcome they are paying for.

(Don’t know what your Outcome is? We need to talk!)

If you actually enjoy auditioning, awesome. Well done you! I would still recommend you ask yourself those two big questions before each audition.

But if you’d rather just be performing AND earning a decent living doing so, then you might not need to spend so much time, energy and resources on auditions. There are ways you can focus on performing instead and creating actual income-producing activities.

If you want to know more, let’s talk. Give us a call at Concert University and let’s see if we can help you.

Focus on what’s truly important to you: working for others and paying for the privilege, or getting out there and sharing classical music with people who may never have been exposed to it before.

How to attract very dedicated and advanced students

Why are we talking about teaching?

Because it’s actually one of the most common complaints I hear from musicians… one of the biggest causes of false optimism and hope I hear performers convince themselves they love doing.

And many actually do!

I still love helping those who ask for my help. Really love it. After all, I’m a Conductor, a.k.a. Maestro, translated: teacher.

But I did not enjoy it when my primary income was from teaching whatever percussion students I could get, or teaching every teenager in a school as part of their weekly curriculum.

And now I see myself in thousands of budding classical musicians who get diverted and distracted from their dreams and their goals and end up teaching not because they really want to (I am truly grateful to those whose primary passion IS teaching), but because bills have to be paid and it’s not coming from performing.

People ask me all the time how to make the most of teaching. Specifically, how to attract the very dedicated and advanced students that would make teaching a more rewarding activity.

Well, I used to teach. Peripatetically at first (and had the highest ratio of students go to music college among some 3,000 teachers in the regional music school I worked for), and then in the classroom for a while. 

In fact, in one school we took 600 inner city kids from rebellious outcasts to choral singing on the radio, and even helped a small group release an original song, and later I took two years to turn a music department that failed government inspection to being one of the four strengths of the college.

So, I have experience teaching.

But it failed to fill a void.

In the same way teaching High School mathematics was not enough for Art Garfunkel, or elementary school teaching was not enough for Gordon Sumner (Sting), Sheryl Crow, or Gene Simmons (of KISS!).

And now I hear the same questions from classical musicians today that I was asking myself: How do I find the best, most dedicated students so I can make teaching more altruistic and rewarding for me? Here are four thoughts in response:

  1. If your true passion is performing then why are you not focused on developing that career? Don’t divert your limited energy and effort to anything other than your primary purpose. The more you perform, the more dedicated and interested students will ask you to teach them, and then you can choose.
  2. Music teachers are a dime a dozen. You don’t want the reputation of being just another starving artist trying to make it. If performing is your passion, then become the performer who teaches. You are not a servant who jumps when your customers tell you do – you simply serve your community and choose to make people’s lives better.
  3. Students and their parents must clearly see the benefits of learning to play or sing with you as opposed to anyone else. That means you must be practicing what you preach, i.e. perform. That’s what they’re interested in, so isn’t that the teacher they are looking for?
  4. Consider this: For every hour you are teaching, how much could you be earning as a performer? If implementing my Captivating Concert™ system then it’s quite a difference! Which would better serve your soul and your lifestyle? FOCUS on THAT.

Be very careful where you are putting your precious time, energy and resources. Is it focused on the right activities – the things that drive you, that make you excited, that you dream about?

Let me show you how to choose when, where, and what you perform, with who, and for how much, so that the really dedicated and advanced students seek you out and you can choose who you teach and how often. Give us a call and let’s see if I can help you.

My career coaching programs might feel like another semester in college, but they are way more practical, based on real-world experience and trial & error, and designed to get you results: booking gigs and earning a good living as a classical music performer.

Book a call now.

The Pillars of Success: Relationships

As social creatures, relationship and community are at the heart of our survival and success. Throughout history and even today, those without a tribe don’t tend to farewell. Building relationships is the process of developing critical social connections. It’s a fundamental skill and the basis of reputation and influence. Being good at relationship building is not only important for living a happy fulfilled life, but also what enables us to close deals, get the gig, and move our careers forward.

Relationships - A Pillar of Success

The Lifecycle of Relationships

There are many types of relationships – family, romantic, friendly, professional – but with the exception of our first family relationships, nearly all of them begin as transactional agreements.

Transactional relationships, the “I’ll scratch your back if you’ll scratch mine” type, get a bad rap. We think of these as insincere, maybe even selfish, versus what we consider to be “real relationships” – those based on intimacy, and emotional connection. But really, the transactional portion is just the beginning of the relationship life-cycle.

We connect with others in a give-and-get agreement (which is almost always unspoken) and the relationship grows or fizzles from there. The things we are giving and getting aren’t always quantifiable. In personal relationships, they may be things like a sense of belonging, emotional support, excitement. But the truth is, we don’t or at least shouldn’t stay in relationships where there is no give and take. As an example, think of how many times people say of estranged family members, “I can’t be around him anymore. I don’t get anything out of the relationship.”

Often, relationships that begin as very transactional grow into something deeper. We should aim for developing these deeper relationships, otherwise, we end up with a network that is a mile wide and an inch deep. But not every connection we make is destined to become close and lifelong.

Why do some relationships grow, and others die on the vine? It’s complicated and different every time, but Will Smith has great advice: “Don’t chase people. Be yourself, do your thing, work hard, and the right people, the ones who really belong in your life will come. And they will stay.”

Analyzing Relationships

There are already hundreds of personal development books written about how to build relationships and grow your network. But a good place to start is to look carefully at the relationships you already have. These three steps can help:

1. Make a list

We all have multiple networks. Make a list of all the people in each of your circles of influence. These may be fellow musicians, people from church, school friends, workout buddies. List everyone with whom you have a relationship.

2. Identify the basis of the relationship

For each person, or group of people, write down what your relationship is based upon – is it a common interest, a common goal, mere proximity? What do you give in these relationships? What are you getting?

3. Focus on service

Now, for each group or individual, think about how you can best serve. Maybe you need to do more to foster those relationships, maybe nothing is needed, or perhaps you need to do less. Sometimes, we discover that we cannot serve people in any meaningful way, in which case you might want to consider how much energy the relationship is requiring, perhaps the best thing to do is to walk away.

We all have limited time, energy, and effort. To build truly successful relationships, we must make sure that we are focusing those resources on the places which will do the most good for ourselves and others.

Why waste your precious energy on relationships where all you do is give and give and get nothing – not even the satisfaction of making a difference? Likewise, why bother with relationships where you take and take and nothing you have to give is wanted or needed?

This is part of our series on the pillars of success. If you would like to hear the live discussion about this characteristic, head on over to now.

If you are ready to learn more about how to build a profitable, fulfilling career as a performing classical musician, check out Concert University, and the free webinar that outlines 5 strategies for success.

5 most popular training snippets

This week we wanted to do something a bit different.

Here are five little excerpts from our live weekly training sessions inside Concert University.

Seriously – they are little! Just a few minutes each and we’ve created them just for you. The snippets we’ve listed below from our most popular live trainings are all under 8 mins so you can digest them right now.

Yes, they are ALL about helping you build a profitable performing career.

Get a sneak peek into the transformational insight we share in my coaching programs, and you can have them now for free! They are my gift to you.

And I’ll tell you what:

If you like them, subscribe to my Youtube channel and I’ll send you a snippet even shorter than these every day to help your career development motivation…

Go on – take a few minutes and be a fly on the wall of what really goes on inside CU!

Thanks for making our world a better place through live classical music.

Classic Jabber Ep. 44 “Value”

Classic Jabber
September 6, 2019

Some people are more skilled at providing value than others, but we seem to find people who provide value as more attractive than those who do not! Why is that, and how do classical musicians come across in society? Click the link above to hear SPB in conversation with his friends and learn more about this.