Web Design for musicians

I listed web design as my last thought on the list of skills I have as a musician that will help me make it full time with no side income. I have chosen to elaborate on it first. I have used a number of programs to design a number of different types of websites for different industries. I didn’t go to school for it. I have not been trained. I am not an expert. I am just naturally curious and have the stubborn belief that I can do almost anything I put my mind to. (Though I STILL can’t do a cartwheel and drywall is way too heavy for me to install myself.)

You can learn almost anything from the internet. I learned by trial and error and have had lots of practice. I have had to deal with crashes and glitches and billing and bosses and programs that companies just decide to get rid of *coughs*iWeb*coughs*. I have survived. I have also gotten pretty set in my ways. Now, when I make a website I will insist that you allow me to use my own hosting through HostGator. I will hope you will buy your domain through GoDaddy. I will not use any web design program other than WordPress. I will even go as far as to persuade you to use the same theme that I always use but with different colors, backgrounds and photos. Why? Because learning new programs takes way too much time. I have already mastered these. Why complicate things? As a result, I limit my target market. I know exactly who I am willing to work with. The customer benefits by enjoying my very low prices as a result of saved hours.

Web Design Screen Shot

As for musicians, I want to design for bands and artists who have a Reverbnation account and a domain (example: www.yourbandname.com). Additionally I like them to place into a DropBox folder some typed out information about the band and its members and a good number of media items for me to mess around with. I have already bounced some ideas off of the musician community in Facebook world with this website I designed. They seemed interested, but not quite ready for my services. I can jump right into designing a website if I am given a deposit and the appropriate resources. Once a basic website is laid it, it can be tweaked pretty easily. I can even show the band how to edit it.

Problems I have run into:

1) Pricing. Am I charging too little? Am I charging too much? I have no idea.  Web design people think I need to charge hundreds or thousands of dollars.  Most musicians I know would NEVER spend that much.  I try to keep things really simple to keep costs down.  I will have to do a couple of them before I really know. I spend countless hours messing with mine. I have done quite a few others, but my own website has given me more than enough experience. However, it isn’t a good way to gauge time and determine hourly wage.

2) The artist doesn’t have a clue how to buy a domain name or use a dropbox folder. Should I be charging to walk an artist through this? They really need to buy the domain on their own so that I DON’T OWN IT. I’m nice like that. If the band can’t figure out how to do these basic things, they are going to spend a small fortune paying me to help them, so I would prefer just to let them figure it out and come to me when they are ready.

3) The artist is unwilling to put in the time to put together biographies and dig up photos.  It is going to take some time to prepare everything for me.  Anyone looking into getting a website should be aware of that.

4) Picky about everything. I WILL charge to edit repeatedly. My advice to anyone considering me for web design is this:  Make sure everything is already in the dropbox including documents of words you would like on the site. I can just make stuff up too. If you don’t like a photo, then do not put it in the folder. Try to label file names specifically with band member names and things like that. Also, understand that I can’t actually edit the layout of the website. Look at my website closely. It will look something like that.


Once I get through those issues, I am quite ready to do the work. I have a contract ready and a system for payment. I will be super available once my kids are in school. As part of my mission to be full time, I may attempt to book a couple of these in September. I will let you know how I deal with these problems.

Why would a band go to me for web design and not just use a program like BandZoogle or FourFour? Why not just design their own and use all of their own hosting and stuff? The charge-per-month websites will eventually cost you more than mine with you doing all of the work. I will do the bulk of the work and teach you how to edit your own site and should only have to charge a small fee for hosting after the first year. Also, you should be able to update almost everything on your site simply by updating your Reverbnation page. That means you only have to edit one thing and your Reverbnation, your Facebook and your website all update at once. How convenient. Regarding free sites and purchasing your own hosting, I spend a pretty good amount of money to pay for extremely reliable hosting. It is a matter of quality at that point. Also remember that I will be doing the bulk of the work to make your website easy on the eyes to your fans and potential customers. That means I already know not to use flash or automatic music players or complicated backgrounds on your site from EXPERIENCE. People will click right out of your site.

What I will not do:

Graphic design. However, I have a person for that if you really want it.

Special code things. I specialize in SIMPLE websites. If you want complicated, hire a specially trained web designer and pay his special price.

SEO stuff. (Getting you higher in Google). I will occasionally update your site map, check your website on the Google Blacklist, and all of the stuff in the photo below, but I cannot guarantee that it will make you rate higher.  There are services for that, if you are interest.

SEO tools

Fold your laundry. I hate folding laundry.

If you are interested in any of this, feel free to visit my web design link for more information. Please like my Facebook page to keep up with future blogs or sign up for automatic e-mails on the top right.

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Full-time musician

What does it look like to be a full time musician? I suppose the answer would depend on your skill set.  Let’s look at a few guys I know personally who get their entire income from music.

Aaron abrahamson Cote full time musician

George Dussualt Full time Musician

I’m not sure that these guys sleep.  Two of them have wives and children.  But they make music work.  Music and music only.  How do we get to that point?  The advice I was given was JUST DO IT.  If you don’t believe you can do it, you probably won’t.  You have to jump in and stop making back up plans and excuses.

These guys also have a variety of things that they do.  They don’t just play guitar in one band.  Some people I know give lessons, play restaurants, have a recording studio, do studio work, play in festivals, or play funerals.  The possibilities are endless.  You need to be as versatile as possible without sacrificing skill.  These guys in the photos are extremely talented.  Remember they put their FULL TIME into their music.  If you only do something as a hobby, you will have hobby skill level.

Just do it.  #iWANTitALL

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Frugal Living for Musicians

Frugal Living For Musicians.  Spend less.  Do what you love.

Frugal Living For Musicians. Spend less. Do what you love.

I’m sort of cheating when I say, “I am going to live on musician income only.” That is the ultimate goal. I don’t want to be like the musician who is “making it with music only” and lives in their mother’s basement. However, at the current time, I am essentially a live in nanny for my own children with a night job. I live off of my husband’s income for now. But here is the challenge: The goal is to get him to work less at his job and more with music. This year, I hope to make about 1/4 to 1/3 of his income. Next year I hope to make half.

My role in the home is actually to create an environment in which we do not need to spend money so that we do not have to make that money in the first place. I heard a story one day that made me stop in my tracks:

The philosopher Diogenes was eating bread and lentils for supper. He was seen by the philosopher Aristippus, who lived comfortably by flattering the king. Said Aristippus, “If you would learn to be subservient to the king, you would not have to live on lentils.”

Said Diogenes, “Learn to live on lentils and you will not have to be subservient to the king.”

-A tale from The Song of the Bird by Anthony de Mello

My role is to make sure we are “eating lentils” at home so that we can continue to do what we love. We love to be our own masters. We do not want to have to drag ourselves to the office every day to work for someone who doesn’t value us the way we feel we should be valued. We do not want struggle to pay a contracted cell phone bill every month. We do not want to wonder if we can pay for a car repair. So, we are doing a number of things to prevent these scenarios.

1) Wants are not needs

There are many many things that you think are needs in your life. You have to reevaluate the things in your life that you consider needs. If you have a want that you are unwilling to sacrifice, that is ok too, as long as you are aware that it is nonessential and write it as such on your budget.

You may have grown up in a household with cable television. You may be willing to be subservient to the cable company just as your parents were. You may dutifully connect cable at every new apartment. But, I am here today to tell you that you do not have to do that. You do not need that master. Cable television is NOT a need. You can actually live perfectly fine without it. Owning a toaster is not essential to your survival, so if your toaster breaks, try making toast in a frying pan. It is delicious.

My husband and I have the internet debate. Is paying for an internet connection a want or a need? In all truth, it is not essential to our survival, but it sure feels that way. I am willing to pay for this want. But I also feel like it has become a need as I have been at times a distance learning student, a web designer, a blogger, a person who wants to look for sales online etc…. If it can potentially save you money that you would HAVE to make to pay for something, consider it a necessary evil.

2) Find an alternative.

Here is an example of a thought process you can have with just about any expense in your life:

You decide that you NEED coffee. Fine. You spend $5 a day at fancy cafe place for coffee. Well, $5 x $365 is $1825 of your yearly budget. *resists urge to slap you*

It is time for you to find an alternative. You may find a place that charges you $2 or $1 for coffee. You can reduce your intake to one cup per day. You can make it at home. OOOOH I want a Keurig! No. Those refills are sinfully expensive. You will spend less by getting a regular drip coffee pot or a french press. Assume that a coffee machine will last you 24 months and add the cost divided by 24 to your calculation. Remember to budget for cream and sugar. Try to buy the least expensive coffee and additives that you can reasonably tolerate. (I’m picky about cream.) If you do the math and it costs less to buy a daily coffee from McDonald’s, then do that instead.

So maybe you will bake your own bread, change your own oil, or switch to generic detergents.  Use your mind to fix your budget and live your dream.

3) A sale is still an expense

I’ve heard people say they saved “so much money” by buying this entirely unnecessary thing “ON SALE” at some great place.  Great deal, right?  Let’s look at coffee again.  Even if you reduce your coffee intake to one cup of $1 coffee per day, that is still $365 dollars.  If you eliminate coffee, you have reduced your need for $365 of income per year.  I am not willing to give up my coffee just yet.  It is just an example.

I am a landlord.  What I do in apartments can be written off on my taxes as a business expense.  If I decide to replace a bunch of random things every time a tenant moves out, then I am going to spend a lot of money that I don’t need to spend.  A business expense is still an expense.  We have to be careful with expenses that look like deals.

4) Necessary Evils

At this point in my life there are things that I have to have.  As a parent, I need a home with working utilities in good working order.  I need to take care of our health and nutrition.  I feel like I need a cell phone.  All of these things have the appearance of being straight up expenses that you have to pay.  Well, you do have to pay them, but there are two ways to consider modifying them. A) Can I use less? B) Can I pay less for each unit?

You do not need to run the water.  You can put plastic on your windows in the winter.  You can use a tiny dot of toothpaste. These are examples of things you need but can use less of. What is your food waste?  Can you wash and reuse your ziplock baggies?  Remember that if you are already paying for it, you can choose to use it more wisely.  This applies to many things in life.

Can I pay less for each unit?  Find the least expensive heating source for your home.  Find sale toothpaste.  Find a cell phone plan that is high quality but inexpensive.  We use Republic Wireless.  <<<<That is a coupon.

Whenever possible, use both strategies.  I can only use strategy A for my water bill, but I can use both A and B  for my heating bill.  Awesome!  Make sure you don’t go cheap on things you really need.  Eating healthy foods will keep you from losing work time on stage.  You will spend less money on dental problems.  Paying for a good health insurance plan will prevent you from getting scary medical bills and having to go back to work for the man when you fall off your rolling chair and require tons of surgery to fix your broken body.  (Who could have predicted that?!?)  Don’t gamble with things that shouldn’t be gambled and learn to know the difference.

Too many words?  Just follow these steps: Do I need it or am I unwilling to live without it?   Can I buy it for less money?  Can  I use less of it?

Good luck!


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Numbers Chapter 2

How do I make an income playing music?  Or more specifically, how am I going to make $12,000 per year playing music?  I am not sure yet, but I know that I have to be willing to do almost anything.  Let’s see what I have working for me right now.

1) I can play two hour acoustic cover gigs by myself.  I have a husband who is also a musician.  Together we can play four hour cover gigs, but we have to pay a babysitter.
2) I have a really great original band.
3) I have CDs that I can sell for $10 each (at a cost of about $3 each not including recording costs.)
4) I have this blog.
5) I have a PA system, a drum set, guitars, recording equipment and all that other fun stuff.
6) I write songs.
7) I design websites

Ok.  Pretty good start.  What can I do with this and what needs to be improved?

1) I can learn two more hours of cover songs and play at bars and restaurants.  This is probably my best bet.  If I can get at least one of those per week, I’m about halfway there. If I can get two, that’s even better.  But the market is competitive and I don’t want to rely too much on that.  (I’ll try really hard though.)  I would expect to make at least $25 per hour at a gig like this, plus $25 just to drive there, walk in and set up and break down.  If I play as a duo, the hourly rate goes down a bit and there is the babysitting expense on top of it.

2) I have no idea how to make money with an original band.  So far I have been told that touring will make you lose money and at best make you break even.  So, I am just going to continue to practice and get better with them and hope that we develop some sort of cult following.  Or I can have a cover band.  Those make money.  Everyone says to play weddings.  I guess I should open myself up to the idea.


3) Merch. Merch. Merch. They say sell the merchandise at your shows and you will do well.    My CD is new and it has been selling like hotcakes to both strangers and those who have been waiting three years for me to finish it and everything in between.  Eventually I will have to expand a bit out of this region to get sales. I guess I should have t-shirts [business expense].  I am already getting digital distribution and airplay all over the whole internet, so I can hope to get residual income from that.  I am affiliated with BMI.  When I see money from this, I will be sure to let you know.

4) I monetized this blog.  Thank you for reading it.

5) I have so much music stuff and I always want it to be newer and better.  If I’m not careful, this will work against me.  I want lighter PA speakers [business expense] and more cables [business expense].  I want a new guitar with better electronics [business expense].  I have to learn to work with what I have and only buy stuff when I absolutely need to.  I need to learn when it simply isn’t acceptable to play with mediocre equipment.

6) I can sell my songs.  I don’t know how to do this yet, but this is definitely something to look into.

7) I need to talk to musicians about making websites for them. I have already toyed with this idea and it seemed to be a need in the musician community.

Those are the things I have working for me already and ideas on how to improve them. I’m not really sure why I have hesitated in going all in. I mean, that’s a pretty good skill set if you ask me. On top of that, I can go busking which takes almost no effort or business mind at all to do. I could probably stand on the side of the road and make 1/3 or the money I need during the warm months of the year. I’m going to explore each of these skills in more depth in their own blogs in the near future.


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Numbers Chapter 1

How much money can you make as a full time musician? Well, how much do you want to make? Where do you live? How much do you need to survive? And what will it cost you to make that money?

As I said in my last blog, I am going to cheat and ease my way into this lifestyle. I also am going to round and make up numbers as I see fit. It is a totally different lifestyle for me, so how can I know actual numbers?

In real life, my budget is perfectly balanced. We keep our expenses really low and make no more money than we spend. I am fine with that, but sometimes I get bored and lack contentment and pick up various little jobs that have always left me with less money than I had before I started them, as you will see shortly. I am not going to compete with my husband. He has been at his job for nine years and supports his family well. We have made the choice to have me home with the kids because it saves us money. Now the kids will be in school and I should get a real job.  I have made music my job, and I can do it without sacrificing the needs of my family. That said, I can’t make the same amount as someone who goes to an office for 40 hours a week and puts their kids and daycare. I need to be home to fix broken things and watch my kids after school. But how much would I really be making if I were working full time? I’m going to estimate modestly.

Screen Shot 2014-07-26 at 3.30.51 PM

As you can see, a full time job would cost my family a little under $15,000 a year. WOW! If I make $25,000 a year, that leaves me with $10,000. That’s 2080 hours of work at $4.81 per hour.  If I worked only during the hours the kids are in school, I’d make about $8600 before taxes.  My goal for my first year is to make the amount I would make working full time, minus the expenses, plus 18% for taxes.  This equals roughly $12,000.

Side note: Where did I get these numbers?  Mostly from the Pawtucket, RI YMCA website, random IRS searches and and 3 months of working with my kids in daycare.  And yes, I’m aware that I have to pay another 18% of the 2k I made for taxes.  This is an estimate.

How am I going to make $12,000 playing music?  I am not sure yet, but I know that I have to be willing to do almost anything.  Let’s see what cards I have to play with in my next blog.


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Musician Income Only

Being a musician only, relying only on my music career as a source of income and learning to survive on musician income only seems like a crazy idea. But I am of the belief that if you don’t try it, you will never make it there. So today I start my adventure of making it as a musician only.

I’m going to cheat a little at first and ease my way into this. I already have a ton of music equipment, a working band, experience, a reputation and a published CD being distributed all over the world. That said, I have made negative money every year that I have written MUSICIAN on my taxes. Why? Well, I guess I never told myself that I should be making money. I considered it an extraordinarily expensive hobby and always had three jobs on the side to pay for it.

A little about me: I am a twenty-six year old married stay at home mother of two homeschooled little girls ages seven and five. I am an on and off college student pursuing a pre-medical biology nursing degree. I have been a Scentsy consultant for two years. I am a home owner and landlord of five years. I have worked in offices doing administrative work and designing websites. I have owned a music store. I have been writing and performing songs since I was nine years old. I have been blogging as a hobby since I was thirteen and I really enjoy spreadsheets.

Basically, I wear a lot of hats. I have been for a while, but that ended yesterday. I had my sister move in and take over my landlord duties. I withdrew from my college. I turned down the next job I was about to take working for a few radio stations on nights and weekends. I will maintain my Scentsy business at bare minimum by continuing to buy my own laundry detergent and bath products. My children are both school age in the fall and I am not going to homeschool again this year. I am ready to go all in with music.

Why did I make this decision? I was at a Queen concert recently. In the middle of the song I Want it All, I knew with every bit of my soul that I NEEDED to be on stage. Why had I been putting it on the back burner? Why was I afraid? Why is everything in my life trying to stop me? Because I had some level of doubt about it and was spreading myself too thin trying to make up for it. After the song ended and it was quiet enough for my voice to be heard, I turned to my husband and told him, “I HAVE to tour. I have to do music. And I will not let anything get in my way.”


This led to my amusing quitting spree and surprisingly not into a huge argument. I am super excited and ready to make this happen. I’ve defined my goals and put them in a spreadsheet. Spreadsheets determine whether an idea will work or not. I will make it work. I will discuss that in the next blog.

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New Mailing List

Tammy Laforest has received international attention with the release of Copper and the single I’m Alive here in Providence, Rhode Island. At this point it seems like a no brainer to condense all mailing lists into one. They have been switched over to MailChimp. If you would like to receive occasional detailed updates about Tammy Laforest and her band the Dust Ruffles, please subscribe below. If you are already subscribed to Feedburner or Subscribe2 on TammyLaforest.com, Tammy’s Reverbnation mailing list (not just a fan), or if you gave your e-mail on RadioAirplay.com, you are already subscribed. To keep better track of what Tammy Laforest is doing, be sure to like her official Facebook page: www.Facebook.com/TammyLaforestMusic. Thanks!

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Top countries I'm Alive has been played in

Top countries I’m Alive has been played in

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Queen Changed my Life


On July 22, 2014 I saw Queen in concert with Adam Lambert at the TD Garden in Boston.  I will never be the same.  In the middle of I Want it All, I decided that I will never let anything stop me from pursuing music again.  Expect to see a lot more of me in the near future.  I have so much that I have been putting on the back burner and now it is my only focus.  You only live once.


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Candy at the Met June 2014

Here is a video from my show at the Met with the Dust Ruffles. If you haven’t liked our Facebook page yet, go ahead and do that. We have lots of great music in the works.

The Dust Ruffles at the Met

The Dust Ruffles at the Met

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Copper Release and Dust Ruffles Debut Success!

The CD Release party and debut of my new band the Dust Ruffles was a success. The venue was packed. The bar was happy. The people bought lots of CDs. I couldn’t be happier.

Copper CD Release the Dust Ruffles Debut

Copper CD Release the Dust Ruffles Debut

The night was kicked off with an acoustic guitar and steel pan drum duo. As the room filled with people, David Schneider and Aaron Abrahamson Cote played beautiful instrumental pieces, including one of my song Beauty which was exciting for me.

Next the Dust Ruffles started off with Flowers, our 1950’s pop song about a girl just wanting a guy to put effort into a date. I gave a speech.

In case you didn’t read it on Facebook, it is Friday the 13th. There is a full moon and Mercury is in retrograde. I decided it would be a good idea to take my new band and my new CD and play a new venue on a PA I’ve never taken out before. What could go wrong?

Thank you all for being here tonight. You may not realize it, but this is one of the biggest nights of my life. I consider it nearly equal to the day I was married and the days my children were born. I’ve been in school forever but I have never graduated anything. I consider Copper to be my diploma. And it was largely funded by the college money that my father saved my whole life. Thanks, Dad. Remind me to give you a bunch of CDs.

There are two tracks on the CD from my mid-teen years and the rest are from 2 to four years ago. That was a very difficult time for me that gave me some of my best and most emotional songs. I am glad to share them with you and happy to now find myself in a much better place in life.

Dave, I want to specifically thank you for being patient with me and for supporting me through the recording of Copper. I know those years were also difficult for you and I am glad that we we went through them as a team and that we are here together today.

Rose and Lucy, I want to thank you for being the joy in my life. Rose, you brought me my first true happiness and are growing up to be a smart young lady. Lucy, you are happiness itself and make me happy just by being in the room.

I don’t want to keep the music waiting too long so I am not going to thank all of my friends, family, parents and Penelope specifically, but I am grateful for your enormous support. I appreciate all of you.

Thank you for your pre-orders and small loans, your artwork and your hair and makeup skills. Without them, I couldn’t have finished these CDs.

We are the Dust Ruffles. Al joined me last August. He has been one of my biggest fans, an encouragement and a great drummer. Sharlene and Bobby joined me recently. I can tell that Sharlene is going to the order and stability in the band and Bobby is going to add creativity and dynamics. Thank you for joining on such short notice and being so good at what you do.

Lastly, I want to thank George Dussault. If you look at the CD credits you will see that he wasn’t just a producer. He was the band. He was the brain. He took my songs and my ideas, added his thoughts and expertise and made them into magic. I wouldn’t have this piece of art in my hands if it weren’t for you. Tonight, George is going to play along with the Dust Ruffles in celebration of the release of this project which is as much his making as it is mine.

The Dust Ruffles played with George Dussault of Galilee Productions. We played all of the songs on Copper. Then we finished off with a few more songs, ending with a new song we wrote called Candy where I play the drums and Al plays guitar.

Justin Davis and the Just Express followed our act. They performed jazz and R&B hits with much skill and the audience enjoyed them.

The night was finished off with several hours of open mic. Many chicken fingers were eaten. Many margaritas were consumed. We went home feeling like rock stars.

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I met this guy
He’s so perfect that it could make you cry
And the other girls
Are doing everything they can to catch his eye
I hear that he
Works with children and he has a great degree
Between you and me
Just the way he moves can speed up my heart beat

He’s cute, he’s smart, he’s nice
And he is into me
He says let’s go out Friday night
And go see a movie

But he didn’t bring me flowers
Put no thought into it, what a disappointment
He didn’t try to woo me
What’s a girl to do

My kind of guy
Would want to try to sweep me off of my feet
Like I’m a prize
Worth winning and not just a piece of meat
Today I feel like I am just another girl on another date
It might be worth giving, him another chance but it’s too late

At the end of the night
He tells me I’m pretty
But I just say goodnight
When he tries to kiss me

He didn’t bring me flowers
Put no thought into it, what a disappointment
He didn’t try to woo me
What’s a girl to do

I really got my hopes up with this one
I thought that he would be a gentleman
But I guess he just wanted some fun

He didn’t bring me flowers
Put no thought into it, what a disappointment
He didn’t try to woo me
What’s a girl to do
What’s a girl to do

(c) 2013 Tammy Laforest Schneider

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This is Happening on Facebook Right now

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