I first got the idea of moving to Europe when I went on a summer program to Bregenz, Austria with a program from my university back in 1982. I had taken a year of German, and was looking forward to seeing what Europe was all about and the prospect of taking classes, possibly voice lessons, and living in one place for an extended period of time really intrigued me. Admittedly, I was a bit nervous about the trip going in to it, but I was going with several friends as well, so that was a great way to experience the trip.
Falling in love with European culture and the weather, where it isn't so hot and sultry humid all the time in the summer, I quickly began thinking seriously about making Europe a home in the future, but didn't really know how to go about doing that. Besides, it would have to wait anyway because I had to finish college and go to graduate school as well before I could think of embarking on an international career in anything.
I hadn't mentioned my desire to move to Europe to my voice teacher at Eastman so when she commented that she thought I could do well there I was surprised. So, although I did some auditions for programs in the United States, my real goal was to find a way to get my foot in the door and auditioned and was accepted into the International Opera Studio of the Zürich Opera, in Switzerland which was known for its ability to get American's careers started in Europe. I jumped at the chance and there I was, pulling two suitcases down the Limatquai in that beautiful city.
The prospect of getting a "job" as an opera singer in Europe where you made a consistent income, had benefits, and plenty of vacation time was really a no brainer. Not to mention the fact that you "had to sing" a lot, repertoire that is good for your voice, and get free coaching in the roles, the languages, and the operas in general made the idea really attractive. So, all I had to do was budget my money a bit, and learn, practice, rehearse, and perform music all of the time.
That was for a 28 year old American tenor who was still very wet behind the ears a complete dream situation.
On top of that you work with great people who are all working really hard to be as good as they can be in their own way. Although the rehearsals were very demanding and tiring, the performances went like clockwork and I got the best training of my life in my first theaters of Bremerhaven and Osnabrück. 8 years of non-stop engagements, a permanent residence visa in Germany with a permanent work visa as well.
But, above all of the things that made my experience in Germany such a great one was financial stability and a benefits plan that was secure and works well. It is the reason why people have jobs in the first place, to create security in their lives and no matter what you work at, it is this that I believe is most important in people's financial lives. At the end of the day you want to know that you have a place to live, food to eat, and insurance that actually pays for your health care.
It is these things that are greatly lacking in the world of music in general. Relatively few musicians enjoy such a secure existence, anywhere, much less in the United States.
For performers like singers, dancers, actors, and solo instrumental players, there are few places that they can work on a full time basis and have a life as well. Then, it is still very insecure.
What is the thing that creates a secure existence? It is in making a regular living income that pays your living expenses as well as your insurance and a certain lifestyle.
People need a secure FRESH stream of income on a monthly or bi-weekly basis.
What is fresh income? It is income that comes into the plus column of your bank account automatically that you can budget and depend on.
The German theater system is supported by the state. Yes, taxpayers pay for much of the cost of the theaters and it is well worth the money, because these theaters not only employ a lot of people which is good for the local economy, but it also stimulates revenue in related industries such as restaurant, hotel, real estate, and retail in each town. It is also a wonderful thing for the education and cultural development of the youth and a great way for companies to entertain clients, families to do regularly and also is a great meeting place for the towns people in a friendly and inviting environment.
Well, in the USA, the government subsidizes a lot of things, but the arts isn't necessarily one of them. Here, arts organizations are mostly non-profits, which means they depend on donations from people and corporations to keep them afloat. They are in a word, held hostage by those who give to their donation fund. These entities gladly donate because they are tax deductions and a form of advertising through goodwill in the local market. But, this doesn't do a whole lot of the stability of artist's incomes.
Of course stability can be had as a teacher in the schools in K-12 or in a university setting. As an orchestra member in an established orchestra you can make a good living if you happen to get one of the highly competitive slots. But, outside of those areas, being a musician is really a very insecure life in the USA.
I am dedicated to changing that. HOW?
First I want musicians to be able to earn a profit. Really, what is a profit? Profit is the amount of money you make from the sale of a product that exceeds it's cost. Now you can make a profit selling anything to make a profit, but the type of profit I am looking to help musicians make is even better than profit, it is commissions.
What is a commission? A commission is a percentage of the price of a product or service which is earmarked for people who help the company promote and sell their product or service. Commissions are an advertising/marketing expense for the company, and a profit for the person who makes the referrals, called an affiliate.
People talk about "Mark-Up" all the time in retail sales. The "Mark-Up" in retail happens every time a product changes hands. 1st the producer of the product sells to the distributor, the distributor to the store chain, the store chain to the individual store, and then the individual store to the end consumer. By the time a product reaches the consumer, there have been multiple mark ups on the price, and the consumer ends up paying for all of it, often including the commission to the retail sales person.
In referral marketing of internet based services and programs, the consumer purchases directly from the company, and the company pays the referral person, the affiliate, a commission for each sale made.
The Trouble of Doing an Affiliate Program
Offering an affiliate program is not an easy thing for a company to do. It is complicated and you have systems, banks, transfers, and a constant accounting that must go on in order to run one. Honestly, it is tempting to make a program, just a sales program and have no affiliate program. Believe me, it would save a lot of trouble on the company end.
The company would then be the only thing that benefits financially from a straight forward sales program, and almost no programs exist doing it that way anymore. All major retail outlets offer affiliate programs, but they offer a very low commission rate because the products are physical products.
The mission with the Soli Music Affiliate Program
The main motivating factor for me in developing the website Soli Music, is to help independent musicians earn a regular automatic recurring income that can grow over time and help make their music careers more secure and stabile in the future.
I would not build the business without making it possible for Independent Musicians to earn income with it.
What I am saying here is this, if the members don't make money, this business will not succeed because that is the primary reason this company is being built.
The website is going to add other aspects to it which will benefit musicians, such as good deals on insurance, travel, and other music related types of products. What Soli Music wants to build is a home for Independent Musician's that makes it possible for them to earn a regular income, have the insurance and benefits they need so that they can focus on their music as they should and build their music career with Soli Music being the bedrock of support for them.
Yes, the company earns income from all sales, but that is a good thing for the member affiliates, because it means that the company can get better and better, stronger and stronger, and make the value of the product higher and more valuable over time.
The Ultimate Dream: The Soli Music: Independent Musician's Institute
The end goal of Soli Music is to open an international network of facilities designed specifically for musicians in an office sharing type of model. This requires a lot of money, and there will be a "Facility Fund" formed to organize the cash reserves and cash flow for these facilities in each locality, so that the local chapters can organize to reach the goal of opening such a valuable facility. A portion of the cost of memberships will be ear marked for this facility fund. It will take a certain amount of cash, plus membership numbers in order to open each facility, and each chapter is welcome to raise money for their "Facility Fund" by not only sponsoring new members, the preferable method, but by hosting concerts and events as well.
My goal is to have thousands of members with facilities being created in locations all over the world within the next 5 years. After that, I hope that this program becomes a foundation for independent musician's security and stability.
It is a bold undertaking and getting started is hard enough. There are many challenges awaiting, but it is going to be worth it!