How to make a living in music

"I've had to reinvent myself over and over and over again," says Mike Arturi, pictured recently in his studio, Universal Musical Center, at Anderson Center in Red Wing. Arturi has drummed for over a dozen national and world acclaimed artists and has been the drummer for Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees the Lovin' Spoonful since 1996. He will lead a free music workshop -- a "combination of a career day and trade show" - called Wingstock on Oct. 24 in the old pottery district in Red Wing. The focus will be on musical opportunities and will include live entertainment and speakers.

RED WING — From an early age, all Mike Arturiwanted to do was play the drums professionally. By 13, he was making money as a drummer, playing in clubs in and around Chicago. Arturi didn't know it then, but he was also bearing witness to a vanishing musical culture.

Arturi's skill with the drums put him in rarefied company in a four-decade career. He played with Robby Kriegerof The Doors. He worked with Bo Diddleyand Freddy Cannonand drummed for the Marvelettesand the Box Tops. He was a musician on Dick Clark's Caravan of Starstours in the 1960s. Today, the Red Wing transplant is the drummer for the Lovin' Spoonful.

But times have changed. And one thing Arturi, 62, knows about today's music scene is the path he took to becoming a professional drummer no longer exists.

"In my day, we worked five nights a week in clubs and made the same amount of money as the guy would make in a factory or an office job. And we did that week after week, year in and year out, and raised families, bought homes and cars," Arturi said. "All of that is gone."

You need a plan


Arturi isn't saying you can't make a living from music. He isn't even saying you can't make good money from it. But be realistic. Develop a plan. Pursue your dream of being a singer in a rock 'n' roll band, but, along the way and in junction with that effort, develop music-related skills that support your dreams.

To raise awareness of those career opportunities, Arturi and other organizers are putting on a one-day School of Rock-like event aimed at aspiring musicians, students and their families. They are calling it "Wingstock,"echoing the history-making "Woodstock" but with none of the mud and more of an educational twist.

The event is set from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Oct. 24 in the Woodruff Sweitzer: Advertising and Marketing Agency building, 1926 Old W. Main St., in the Red Wing pottery district.

"Every generation tells the one after it that things ain't what they were like when I was your age," Arturi said, adopting an old man's voice. "In my case, it was true."

Arturi's point is you still can have that garage band with the hope of making it big, but there are complementary career opportunities, ranging from guitar building and instrument repair, to booking agent and social-media promoter, to private and public school teacher, to give that career greater viability.

In addition to live music, Wingstock will include booths as well as speakers and representatives from a dozen musical institutions and businessesfrom Red Wing, St. Paul and Minneapolis.

There will even be a guy who sells vinyl records for a living.

"This is what I'm saying. Look: Here's a guy. Loves music. I think he plays guitar. He sells records, but all day long, he's enveloped in music," Arturi said.


Music school

Arturi is founder and executive director of the Universal Music Centerin Red Wing, a music school that provides private instruction and workshops to about 130 students. His decades-long musical career playing alongside some of top names in music is enshrined in an exhibit at the Goodhue Historical Society.

About 35 to 40 dates a year, Arturi is on the road playing for the Lovin' Spoonful, a band he joined two decades ago.

Arturi's own musical coming of age occurred in Chicago in the 1960s, a time when opportunities for talented musicians to perform in front of live audiences on a daily basis were plentiful. Weddings, bar mitzvahs, parties, corporate events and major hotels were providing employment to bands and musicians to perform live. And those venues were magnets for talent scouts looking to sign the next hot band to a major label.

The live entertainment industry began to totter and crumble amid changing social and musical trends. The AIDSs epidemic began to signal the death knell of that industry. So, too, did the more aggressive enforcement of DUIs by law enforcement.

By the mid-70s, when disco became the rage and club owners began hiring DJs to play recorded music at a greatly reduced cost, live bands were largely swept from the club scene.

'Be realistic'

The changed musical landscape needs to be a factor when any aspiring musician is charting their future.


"I just want people to be realistic," he said. "I don't say, 'don't do it.' Have the band downstairs. Have the band in the garage. But don't throw all your eggs in that basket."

Arturi says Wingstock is not only aimed at students, but parents and grandparents who are interested in assisting their music-loving child or grandchild in getting started in a musical career.

"It's supposed to show you some options. Now, I'm not saying everything I'm representing is going to result in a six-figure income, but you could be happy. You could be whole," Arturi said. "There's all kinds of things that you can do that are related to music. I'm saying, 'Learn about these things now when the kid is 15 years old."

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