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The Truth About Being a Self-Employed Musician

Detroit native Wayne Kramer was a founding member and guitarist of the revolutionary band the MC5, which came from the same Detroit music scene that produced The Stooges, KISS, and Ted Nugent. With co-guitarist Fred Sonic Smith, Kramer's aggressive, noisy style on the band's 1969 debut, Kick Out The Jams, became a landmark in the evolution of punk rock, influencing 35 years' worth of American punk and post-punk bands. Though he temporarily retired from music in the 1980s, since 1995 Kramer has been pursuing a successful career as solo artist, featured guitarist, and producer and has founded his own independent label (MuscleTone records) to, in Kramer's words, ethically and creatively run this business of making and selling music to the benefit of fans, the bands and the company.

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MuscleTone Records owner and former MC5 guitarist Wayne Kramer talks about the nuts and bolts of being self-employed, and the extent of just what that means.

Shoot Date:
September 2006
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The life of a professional musician is a life of self-employment. Even if you’re a member of a band and the band is a hugely successful band, ninety-nine percent of bands break up eventually and, you know, you’re responsible for your own insurance, your own healthcare, paying your own taxes.

It’s a pattern I see over and over in the community of musicians that people don’t - they don’t seem to have this sense that they’re actually self-employed and they’re responsible - they are responsible to maintain their own business as an entity. To be self-employed means you’re responsible for your own healthcare, your own insurance, your own - paying your own taxes.

Even in terms of, you know, if you achieve some success, because if you want to do this as a lifestyle for - over the length of your life as a career, you’re going to work in a lot of different bands and you’re going to work for different companies and you’ll be signed to different record labels, none of whom are interested in your health, your welfare, your insurance, and they won’t pay it. They’re not involved in it and it’s a great pitfall that, especially with young people, that enter the music business - the entertainment industry, that they think that somehow there’s going to be this fame and they’ll be delivered to a good life and it doesn’t exactly work that way.

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