POPCAST 1. - HELLOO! (Why we're here, What I do & What makes music feel.)

Welcome to POPCAST our new online hub for all music! If you’re reading this the week it’s released then fair play to you! I guess we need some way of saying thank you for being the first super massive fans of Popcast and everything that this is going to become. We’ve got big plans here people. I’ll have to think out a way of saying thanks to you to everyone who’s here from the start.

So, I guess I should tell you why we’ve decided to set this up! We’re going to create hopefully one day, no wait I shouldn’t say hopefully scratch that. We ARE going to create the best online music hub for people who: love music, like to talk about music, want to be able to play music or maybe already do play music and need some career advice. God knows I’ve been there/I don’t think I’ll ever stop needing help with that actually.

A career in music once was a complete enigma to me, in fairness that fog has sort of descended again over the last few months but, basically we’re here because Im sure many of you out there just like me have sat in masterclasses and trailed the internet listening to countless amounts of very motivational and inspiring videos about very cool people within the music industry. They talk about all the amazing things they’ve done, the opportunities they’ve had and how they managed to capitalise on those opportunities, but if like me you’ve done all that and still felt like after consuming all that information you’re sat there like cool, now what on earth do I actually do? I want to start making inroads into answering that question maybe move past the world of motivation and inspiration (although I realise how important that is) and move towards a point where you can come to Popcast and find more of an education on some of the things you can do to improve your current state of musicianship and career.

So to start with here’s a little bit about my career so far. I’m 23 I’ve been maybe what you could call a professional musician for 7 years in that I’ve been paid to create music in some capacity for that long. When I was 16 I was on the Voice Uk and that was cool. I got to meet Kylie Minogue she’s nice, the bloke from the Kaiser Chiefs, Ricky Wilson, seemed like a nice bloke too and Tom Jones was like a fluffy, orange man that was like your grandad that moves to Spain gets a tan but still looks as welsh as you could possibly be.

But I mean I’m still waiting to sign some elusive record deal that, somehow these types of programs make people think, will present it’s self on some kind of magic carpet after my little mug made it all the way from Bolton (where I’m from just outside of Manchester in the UK) and winds up on national television for a few minutes.

Shockingly It didn’t quite happen like that, anyway It was good fun none the less and a life experience I would completely recommend it just for the stories.

Anyway I should say that before that I’d played gigs in the US, Europe and Africa. Africa was wild did a show to 10,000 people at an open air concert, performed at a fashion show got given a cheque as in money live on stage and nearly got kidnapped twice that evening. It was the first time I’d ever had a security escort and I would say that If you ever need perspective on how lucky you are, and please don’t take this with any ounce of malice towards anyone in the world that is, visiting parts of Africa will change your life. All that was 2 years after nearly dying from blood poisoning from an untreated appendicitis. Why am I telling you this hahah. No it all has relevance and the relevance is this: One thing that I’ve realised is that in order to make a career out of music and possibly find success in many areas in life you have to be incredibly resilient. It’s so easy to take for granted how incredible and life changing music is what a privilege that we’re able to create that life changing experience for people. Or even just make sure that everyone’s having a good time down the pub while you play.

So at the moment I’m a singer, a songwriter (I make music for my own originals band and also write with other artists either for briefs from publishers or through collaborations) I’m a gigging musician, when there’s not a pandemic going down. I’ve played in all sorts of bands. I’ve ran a function and events band that eventually was up to about 150 gigs a year (again pre pandemic.) Finally, I’m a music educator and I’m so incredibly passionate about passing on this amazing thing (music) to more people because It’s just so good to have in your life.

And that’s why we’re here, that is why I do what I do! There’s nothing like that feeling when you walk out on stage. There’s nothing like the feeling when you unlock the next bit of the song you’re writing. And most of all there’s no greater feeling than teaching and empowering people who really, truthfully want to experience those things too.

In future episodes we’ll dive into all the bits of work I just mentioned there and how they make up the foundations to a career in music for me. We’ll also be speaking to other people within

music so you get more than just my take on the way I see the world. Of course, you’ll hear about their life and all that good stuff but I’ll make sure that you actually feel like there’s elements of the conversation that make you feel like you can replicate or implement advice into your own life to develop a career in contemporary commercial music.


Here’s my perspective on yet more of my realisations of the last 4 years. So for the last 4 years I’ve been studying a bachelors of music in popular music vocals at the Royal Northern College of Music (RNCM) In Manchester. I. Absolutely. Loved. It. University was a very comfortable environment for me but the funny thing is it was never really about the degree. I did just graduate with a 1st but the real reason I was there was that I felt like I needed time to work out how to make a living from music. Weather that was as a big shot A-lister with some insane touring life, that maybe 15 year old me was dreaming of, or if it was just that I’d worked out a way that I could make money and sing everyday my only goal was to make money (all my money) from music.

Simple, right? So here’s how a potential portfolio of work might look at my current level of professional music. My caveat to this whole thing is that you never know what opportunity will present itself tomorrow, next week, next year so the way that my work load is set up at the moment will inevitably change based on that simple fact.

That being said I also think that there is nothing more important than earning the right to be where you are. If I find big “success” in music now I know that it’s because in the last 3 years I’ve played over 350 gigs to thousands of people so now feel like I could walk out at the 02 arena and just have fun. I’ve studied the methodology of singing and physiology of singing so I know that when I teach singing I’m not just teaching someone to sing I’m teaching them how they sing (If you’re going to get a vocal coach that’s a massive differentiator to look for.) But you get the point do the work and then you can just enjoy the reward.

So in a week if you play in small bands and build a good base of venues that you can perform in regularly. You may find that you could generate £80 each playing in pubs and small bars for 2,3 or 4 piece bands. It’s good fun and while everyone else is spending their money getting drunk you’re having a great time playing and earning money. If you do this 3 times a week usually Thursday Friday Saturday and/or Sunday afternoons you could make £240 for relatively little work and it’s a great place to learn your craft.

If you can make a bunch of drunk people who came to the pub purely to drink believe by the end of the night that they really came because of how amazing your performance was you’ll absolutely smash an originals gig where people have actually paid and are excited to see you. You can believe me because I’ve done it. Also I will add that If you’re a solo act you could double that figure, but I prefer having the companionship of my best mates playing with me.

Now, the Musicians Union rates I believe at the moment are about £130 so you might think you’re under the mark playing in small venues and pubs and bars. One thing I always take into consideration when negotiating an appropriate fee is if someone else is trying to make money while you play they’re less inclined to want to spend a lot of money on music.

So then there’s function and events work which can be insanely well paid but often includes more travel and working with a lot of musicians you don’t really know so there’s both upsides and downsides to doing a lot of that work. But again if you have your own events band and you play with those people regularly and you genuinely enjoy it then it’s also good fun and like I said better pay. All of that advice is completely useless until you can actually gig again so, you’re welcome.

There’s also remote recording work that can be done mid-week at anytime depending on what you play and how much you like your neighbours. Building reputation and a reliable returning customer base is the thing here. Once you’ve got your recording gear and you can make a good quality recording with it you could charge some fairly decent rates for a few hours work for instance you could charge £50 to track vocals including backing vocals and amendments, if the person that’s booked you wants anything changed. It might take you an hour to an hour and a half to get that done. Say you could grow this so you’re doing it approximately twice a week that’s another £100 a week and work you can do at your leisure in your pyjamas.

Songwriting is a bit more sporadic in terms of actually generating income, it relies on a fairly long chain of people liking your song if you’re working through a publisher. If you do get songs cut by artists then it can be recurring passive income every time the song gets airplay on radio or if the act tours and plays your song through royalty collection and the PRS.

If you really know your stuff and throw in 5-10 hours teaching a week you could make an additional £150-£300 per week in private music lessons. now the challenge is advertising your tutelage and building up a student base.

So from small beginnings you can see that actually it is possible to make on the low end of the scale up to £640 a week and work approximately 21 hours a week. That being said it’s all really easy to write down on paper but obviously the reality is really quite challenging. The challenge being that this is all business you have to generate yourself and that is a whole other blog post.


My Question for you this week to which you can let me know your thoughts by emailing me joe@joekeegan.co.uk or via any social media on @joekeeganmusic is:

“What makes music impactful/have feeling?”

There’s no wrong answer it could based on your own opinion or research you’ve seen that I’d love to read, so let me know!

This week I had a bit of a new experience as a music educator. To me singing is the perfect way for me to get things off my chest. And it makes perfect sense. I’m not talking about writing my own songs and using words to explain what I mean. Using words is inherently flawed when you’re talking about a feeling because it’s so easy to misunderstand a sentence. But I’m sure, not just singers but other musicians would agree with me, that playing music that agrees with how you’re feeling can really help straighten out your thoughts. This is one of the reasons I’m so passionate about educating other people musically because I know how much you can get out of it!

I had a student the other day break down in one of their lessons. She was singing a song called She Used to be Mine from Waitress and she was doing a great job but then when she was talking about the song she started to cry and said this is talking about me. Now, for anyone who knows the song this lady wasn’t a waitress and she had no ambition of being a baker which is the content of the musical but the sentiment of the song really resonated with her.

After a brief chat about what was getting to her and some reflection on her own life we finished the lesson laughing and singing lean on me!

But I know that if I’m not feeling great and sit at a piano, or if I’m in top shape and feel the best ever and grab a guitar, there’s always a song that comes to mind that matches how I feel and playing music always means that I can share those feelings somehow even if I’m in a room by myself.

I shared the question from the beginning of this segment with a group of friends of mine who are songwriters. (By the way I have a songwriters group on facebook so if you’re a songwriter and you want to join the group maybe send me a demo or something so I can have a listen and let you into the group its a great place to set up collaborations with songwriters from all over the world We already have members from China, New Zealand, The US and Europe so let me know!)

Anyway they had some interesting thoughts. I won’t quote them exactly but here’s the gist of a lot of the responses I had:

A surprising first comment was that groove and, “the head nod factor” as he put it was really important for him to be able to get behind a song. Obviously in a group of songwriters I was expecting that the majority of comments would be about deeply emotional songs. The potential for negative bias was quite high so to have the first comment be about sort of the danceability of a song was interesting.

Almost all of them felt that your current mood had a massive impact on the way you receive a piece of music which is interesting because it really absolves songwriters of the responsibility to make someone feel anything. If you’re of the mindset that the listeners mood is the reason they relate, or don’t relate to a song then that sort of renders you powerless as a creator of music.

One response I found really fascinating was that music has the ability to make you reflect which is in my opinion a complete counter argument to the previous comment. It suggests that as a creator of music you have the ability to almost regenerate a specific emotional attachment to maybe a memory or a specific life event for someone.

Finally, I must say that clearly music is so subjective. But I think one thing that musicians in all walks of life could really take on board is that we are here to serve consumers of music. You might be the best musician in the world but so what if people don’t want to listen. Thats the deal if you’re onstage performing or if you’re writing the song in the first place your job is to entertain people and not show them how good you are because that’s evident naturally. The amazing thing about music is the connection you feel at a live gig or when a song really does hit you in the feels.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this first post in Popcast! It’s been really good fun to put together! Like I said get in touch with me @joekeeganmusic or email me joe@joekeegan.co.uk let me know your thoughts. They’ll be out every Wednesday until the end of time so keep an eye out and we’ll see you next week!

Joe Keegan


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