This post is part of The Renegade Musician Series.
In business, two is one. eCommerce titan Ezra Firestone calls this Noah’s Ark principle.
Do you have two computers? I do. I have three – a Mac Book Pro, an ASUS laptop, and a custom PC desktop machine. On the road, the two laptops come with me. If any of the computers fizzle out, I have two others I can fall back on. Even if I’m traveling, I have at least one other computer I can use as a backup. Chances are I can extract whatever data I need from the machines that fail (as I’ve had to do this before). Just in case, I’ve got a tablet and two smartphones as well.
One of anything is a position of compromise. One internet connection. One customer. One team member. One income source. If you lose any of those things, in the blink of an eye, you could lose your entire career or business.One of anything is a position of compromise. Click To Tweet
Sounds like an exaggeration, especially concerning lost internet connections, but imagine sitting in a virtual conference to discuss your new record contract, and just as you’re about to sign on the dotted line, the internet cuts out and you have no way of getting in touch with the label. To add insult to injury, the connection doesn’t return for a full month. That opportunity is gone, friend.
If that’s not real enough for you, let me put it in terms I’m sure you’ll grasp – if you only have one guitar, and you bust the headstock, the show can’t go on, man. Duct tape isn’t going to save you.
Yes, cover the basics – batteries, capos, strings, drumsticks, bows, cables, stands, microphones. Buy extras and load them into the tour van. But also think bigger. Invest in an extra guitar, extra amplifier, extra cabinet, extra drum set, extra PA system, extra lighting kit, backup power generator. Gigs have fallen through or ended abruptly for lesser reasons.
The dangers of single source dependency, however, go well beyond. Let’s go back to the idea that you only have one customer. Again, in terms you’ll understand – the only gig you’ve got is the one at the local pub, bro.
“This is a great gig. Good pay, good food, good crowd. Let’s just keep playing it and save up the income earned to pay for our next album,” said far too many artists who didn’t know what to do when booking changed hands, the venue stopped booking gigs, the venue stopped paying, or the venue shut down entirely. It can happen, it has happened, and it’s more common than you think.
(Yes, there are some definite parallels with social media too.)
Now, I would love a gig that paid well, fed me well, and promoted me voraciously. I would also love to kick it back and play that gig for the rest of eternity, especially if it kept growing my email list. But I practice accurate thinking. And accurate thinking says I should have not one, not two, but many backup plans, because I never know when this gig might fall through. I should have established relationships with multiple other venues already, and a long list of other venues I could research and potentially perform at within a five- to six-hour driving radius.
In good times, venues will throw money at you. In bad times, they won’t even let you step in the front door to play your best song for a fee. I know, because I’ve made significant gigging income in good times, and I’ve had to seek out different opportunities in bad times.
So, when I say you need multiple sources of income, I’m not being cute (though Asian girls always like to tell me I’m cute on my live streams). I am trying to help you see that, at any moment, your royalties, gigging fees, or merch sales could decrease and even disappear. If you’re dependent on any one of these and don’t have another income stream developing, you’ll have to start from scratch.
Ideally, you would always have more than one primary income stream, and more than one backup income stream. Millionaires have an average of seven income streams – that’s an excellent number to aim for.
I had the best coverage from 2014 to 2016 when I divided my time between article writing, theater tech work, music instruction, gigging, community building, and my own business. Theater tech work was casual, and there wasn’t always work for someone with limited experience. There was a seasonal aspect to guitar instruction too. But one thing would always pick up when the other dropped off.
I managed the organized chaos, but admittedly it did get a little crazy, and I haven’t been able to keep that kind of schedule since – either because I’ve had no desire to, or because I avoid a burnout pace like the plague (or in modern vernacular – I avoid like it was COVID-19).
I didn’t need that kind of coverage forever, either – my writing work started getting lucrative enough to where I was able to step away from what I no longer wanted to do, opting to work completely from home. I haven’t looked back since 2016. That’s when I started self-producing new solo material as well.
The Noah’s Ark principle is a great place to start for most business essentials – backup internet connections, backup team members, backup computer networks, etc. In business, two is one.
But two is insufficient when it comes to income streams, customers, and gigging opportunities. You must dig your well before you’re thirsty.You must dig your well before you’re thirsty. Click To Tweet
Take advantage of The Most Incredible Back to School Sale while you still can.