Adam Rafferty – Guitar and Spirit

All about music, guitar, spirituality, personal development and being happy

How to Sell Your Music Without Selling Your Soul – Part 1


(This is written especially for college level music students, young musicians considering a career in music and recent music conservatory grads…but also anyone else in the music or arts.)

Many musicians and artists treat “selling” like a nasty disgusting word.  They feel that “selling”  means “selling out”  and I am here to say – that is not the case.  I say – selling music is cool, hip and fun!

Selling is the very oldest profession in the world despite what you may have heard otherwise.  It is very noble.  Without a sale of some sort, nothing moves.

In all areas of life, whether it’s the invention of smartphones, computers, restaurants, movies, hardware, clothing, housing, toys, you name it – the sale of something is the essential fuel to keep all of it going.

The sales person is the link that makes it all possible so that creativity and innovation can in fact, continue.

So, if you want to be the best in your field,  you will need to sell something and selling your music is the surest way for you to stay involved with your music.

Even J.S. Bach sold his musical skills. He had point by point contracts with the towns in which he lived, and constantly re-negotiated financial improvements to his current deals.  He was a master composer and salesperson!

Like many musicians I used  to think “I am not a salesperson, I am a musician and I shouldn’t have to do this crappy work!”

I’d then be very upset when I had to “sell” because there was a clash with my self concept (“I’m a musician”) and my actions (“I am selling, but I shouldn’t have to deal with selling.”).

I think that many musicians share this “glitch” in their mental-emotional wiring.

Most music schools don’t tell you the following, but should:

  • When you get out of school, the only way you will survive is by selling something, be it music or otherwise.
  • If you work at a music school as a teacher or office person you are selling your time and expertise.
  • If you work anywhere you are selling your time and skills.
  • If you play a gig you are selling your skills and providing the venue, promoter and audience with something valuable.
  • If you have a recording studio you are selling time, use of equipment and skills.
  • If you are not selling your music, then you may have to sell your soul because you will have to sell something.

So doesn’t it seem like the science and psychology of selling should be addressed?  Funny that it’s not.  It’s a taboo topic like porn or something.

School gives you the “what to sell” but not the “how to sell.”  Your musical chops won’t sell themselves all the time.

Your words, dress appearance but most of all, your MIND – help you sell your musical skills, products and expertise. Getting good at selling means you don’t have to sell your soul and it insures that you can spend your future as a creative musician.  That’s what Bach did!

Selling is a skill like any other.  Pro sales people rehearse, strategize and think.  Amateur sales people “wing it” and get spotty results.

If you are not interested in selling, I say get interested now, because either you’ll be selling your music or you’ll be selling something else….maybe your time working for someone else with a vision stronger than yours!

The main lesson here for you is to have the “shift” inside yourself to know that selling is ok, it’s noble, it’s necessary.  This is the beginning of the “inner game”, which must occur before the outer game of “selling combat” can begin.

To pay your rent and eat – you will need to sell something.  Tell me, what will you sell?


Author: Adam Rafferty

Adam Rafferty. Fingerstyle Guitarist. Recording and Concert Artist. Meditator. Philosopher. Lover of Groove.

4 thoughts on “How to Sell Your Music Without Selling Your Soul – Part 1

  1. According to lots of ‘studies’ and ‘research’ people who pirate music also BUY more music.

  2. This is a great topic and one of the things my band is struggling with currently. We play a lot of old covers; Beatles, CSNY, Neil Young etc… and we have about 8 originals as well. We’re fairly picky on where to play. We try to avoid bars and parties but sometimes I think we should take more gigs. I guess what I’m trying to say is that we’re having trouble finding our niche other than coffee houses. Should we even be looking?

    • I believe in covers. They have helped my career, and guess what? The Beatles and The Stones and Led Zep were cover bands doing Muddy Waters, and Chuck Berry tunes. Then, originals crept in.

      You’ll get your muscle with all those gigs.

      At the same time, constantly up your game. Rehearse, practice your axes, record, get GOOD photos, web presence, etc. Pay attention and be “pros” and good things can’t help but follow,

      Musically focus on melody, groove, and songs with hooks.

      Be courteous, and ON TIME!!! Don’t think that acting like “cool music dudes” is a business move.

      Rock on and keep going.

  3. That’s great insight, exactly why I read this blog! Thanks

    P.s. Can you point me in the direction of a jazz guitarist that would give me some what “straight forward” licks. Something similar to listening to Albert King to learn blues licks. Thanks again

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