There’s No Such Thing as PAYING YOUR DUES (4 Reasons)

Episode 022 of The Indie Musician Secrets Podcast

Indie Musician Secrets
13 min readJul 13, 2022



INTRO: There are no secrets to success, just things you haven’t learned yet. And once you learn them, it’s up to you to apply them. I’m Jamaal, aka Boss Eagle, Billboard-charting hip hop artist and music business coach. Join me as we talk digital marketing, social media, technology and more, and share interviews with industry professionals to help you unlock the “secrets” and take control of your music career. Because we ARE the new music business, and this is the Indie Musician Secrets Podcast.

What’s up, what’s up, what’s up? and welcome to the Indie Musician Secrets Podcast. I am your host Jamaal aka Boss Eagle, Billboard- charting hip hop artist and music business coach at Business Minded Musicians. I want to welcome you to today’s episode where I’m going to be talking to you about why I believe that there is no such thing as paying your dues. I think this might be a little bit controversial for some of you out there, but we’re going to tackle this today.

Before we do that, I want to thank you for listening — wherever you are. And just to remind you that you can find the podcast on all of your favorite platforms, including YouTube. And if you wouldn’t mind downloading, rating and reviewing that’d be great — especially leaving a five star review! It would be awesome. That would help with the algorithms and continue to push the podcast forward. So without further ado, today, we’re going to be talking about why there’s no such thing as “paying your dues!”

That’s right. I don’t believe that is a real thing. It’s a concept that most of us are familiar with. We’ve heard this a lot in society, especially for those of us who are dream chasers, who are musicians. We talk about paying our dues. We’ve got to do all of these things so that we can somehow, in some way, be validated for all of our hard work and we’ll arrive on the avenue of success, right? But the reality is, this is just another cute little euphemism like luck, you know? I don’t believe in luck. I think luck is too subjective.

But when we’re talking about pursuing a dream, pursuing music, this concept just doesn’t apply to these types of euphemisms. They just they don’t actually work. And I want to talk about this topic because I feel like it might be actually hurting some of you out there as you are pursuing your music career. We can’t rely on these these notions to try to make sense of our pursuit and what we’re trying to do. We actually have to look at these things more objectively. And I know sometimes that’s difficult to do; to see something like art (which is so subjective) from a pragmatic standpoint. But really, we can see the science in the art. And I’m going to share with you four reasons why I think there is no such thing as paying dues and we’re going to dive in right now.

Number One: Dues have a fixed amount.

If you look at certain dues that we’re used to seeing, the amount is the same every month, every week, every quarter, bi-annually, every year — whatever. Your gym membership dues are , $10 a month or $99 a month, etc., and that doesn’t change unless there’s a price increase. But it’s not a variable cost. It’s the same amount every time you pay those dues.

But when we’re talking about dreams, when we’re talking about pursuing your music career, there is no fixed amount of dues that you pay. There’s no certain amount of livestreams you can do. There’s no amount of gigs that you can do. There’s no amount of selling CDs out of the trunk of your car. There’s no amount of those things that you can do consistently to pay your dues somehow. And that’s why this doesn’t really make sense. When we talk about dues, we’re talking about an amount — a fixed amount that is paid.

Go to a country club website and look at their membership page. The dues are a fixed amount. [Or] it could be a pool membership, membership to a professional organization — it really doesn’t matter. The amount is going to be the same. We can’t apply that to pursuing a music career because there isn’t a fixed amount that applies when we’re driving down this music journey road.

Number Two: Dues have a fixed timeframe.

Go back to the gym membership model. The same amount is due every month. You have to pay the same amount every month, there’s a frequency to it. It’s due on the fifth or the 15th or the 21st — whenever that is. And if you don’t pay those dues, you can’t continue your journey there.

Also, when you start a gym membership outside of (or maybe it’s during) the billing cycle, they’ll prorate that first payment. Then they catch you up so that you start paying on the due date they have set every month. That’s for their own account reconciliation on the back end — it’s easier on the system.

But when we’re talking about pursuing music, there’s no fixed timeframe. And I’m not talking about doing XY&Z things each week or each month, like a membership due. I’m talking about timeframe during the course of your life. You all hear me quote Ari Herstand a lot and his adage about Old Uncle Joe who says: You need to have made it by the time you’re 25. If you don’t make it by the time you’re 25 you’re kind of “out.” You should stop pursuing music and go get a real job. Some of you may be in your late 20s, maybe in your 30s 40s or even 50+. I started my music career at 35.

So when we’re talking about pursuing a dream, or we’re talking about pursuing music, this idea just doesn’t fit. Again, going back to that gym membership model: if you don’t pay that due on that fixed date, they will pause and/or cancel your membership and you can continue your journey there.

But with what we’re doing, there’s no certain timeframe by which you have had to have done certain things (aka paid those dues). So, you can continue your journey!

Number Three: (The same) dues apply to everyone.

I keep coming back to this idea of the gym membership — the amount, the timeframe, etc. They apply to all members. The golf course charges everyone on the due date, the amount of their membership. If you have a full membership, you’re going to pay “X amount” on “X date.” If you have a social membership (maybe you only use the clubhouse, pool and the tennis court) you’re going to pay a certain amount on a certain date. That amount and that day (or timeframe) is going to apply to everyone who is at that membership level.

When we think about pursuing music look, some people gig for 10+ years and they’re still out there hitting the road, in the van, sleeping on floors. And some people go on American Idol, America’s Got Talent or The voice and they hit it by doing those things.

Years ago (and I can’t remember which award show it was), the band fun. won an award and the lead singer Nate Ruess said, “It took us 12 years to become an overnight success.” If you listen to the song Some Nights by the band, one of the lyrics he sings is, “10 years of this and I’m not sure anybody understands.” They’d been at it for a long time.

People hated on Bruno Mars because the first time he played halftime at the Super Bowl, he had only two albums out at that time. People were like, well, he’s only got two albums out he hasn’t “done enough.” He hadn’t “paid his dues.” But if you go back and watch that first halftime at the Super Bowl, Bruno Mars, absolutely killed that set! He played the drums, he danced, he sang his heart out. In my opinion (and I’m biased, I’ll admit that because Bruno Mars is my favorite artist in the world), that was the best halftime at the Super Bowl show.

Think about Carrie Underwood. How many of you ever saw Carrie Underwood before American Idol? Unless you were from Checotah, Oklahoma, you probably didn’t know she even existed! And when she auditioned for American Idol, Simon Cowell was not sold on her. He actually didn’t let her through. She got passed through by the other judges. And then she ends up not only winning American Idol, but (and you could argue Kelly Clarkson) is the two most successful American Idol winner ever. And she’s one of the most successful country artists and artists in general. But I didn’t even know she existed before American Idol.

And that’s the problem when we’re talking about paying dues. Remember dues apply to everyone. Everyone would have had to have done the same thing. Everyone would have been gigging for 10 years or doing XY and Z — and that’s just not the case. Those dues and timeframes don’t apply across the board — not when we’re talking about pursuing music. Dues that you pay to your local pool? Yeah, those dues apply to everyone on the same timeframe. #splash #poolnoodles #walkdontrun

Number Four: Dues are arranged by, and overseen by, an entity.

This one is the kicker. The one that really kind of drives it home. Go back to the gym membership. It’s the gym that decides how much you pay. It’s the gym that decides when you pay. It’s the gym that oversees everyone’s bank account, and or credit card that they’re going to pull the money from. And if you don’t abide by those rules, you can no longer continue your journey there.

There’s no one entity that we all pay dues to. it We don’t all go [on] American Idol. We don’t all go on America’s Got Talent. We don’t all spend 10 years gigging — there are some people [who] don’t even gig at all.

When you look at (especially in these last couple of years) live streaming, some bands make a killing. There’s a band that I read about recently called Abney Park. They make $250,000 a year live streaming. Now you might think, they’re doing 95 shows a month. No, they do one a month. They started during COVID, like a lot of other people did, and $250k in livestreams. There are some bands who livestream multiple times a week and maybe make a few hundred bucks. And I’m not balking at that. I’d take a few hundred bucks livestreaming any day! But do you see what I mean?

You have people live streaming. You have other people who are selling CDs like Michael Walker, who some of you have heard about what he and his band did. I think there were six of them(?). They split up in two, each took a part of the country and they would go out to shows of bands who sounded like them. They would go down the line when people were waiting to get into the venue and they would have a pair of headphones. They’d let people listen to their music and they would sell CDs right there in line. That’s the way they did it.

You have people who are livestreaming, playing gigs or corporate events [and] festivals. You have some people who never play live at all. Some people make a killing through streaming. There’s a hip-hop artist by the name of Lucidious (whose streaming class I’ve actually taken — it’s a great course) who makes about $20,000 a month with Spotify.

See, the reality is that there’s no one entity (livestreaming platforms, venues, CD manufacturers) when it comes to this. That’s why paying dues doesn’t apply when we’re talking about musicians because there are so many ways to do it; so many avenues. And we all don’t have to go down the same path. We all don’t have to find our success in the same way.

But it’s not all bad. We just have to, like a lot of things, re-shift our thinking. And I’m not trying to hurt anyone’s feelings. I’m not trying to be condescending. I just don’t believe that [paying dues] is a real thing. I think it’s too subjective. I think we can actually look at this more concretely. .

[So since] we’re not paying dues (because there’s no fixed amount, fixed timeframe, it doesn’t apply to everyone and there’s no one entity), what we’re really doing is two things. Write this down. We are:

  1. Performing actions, and
  2. Creating opportunities

Let me give you a couple examples. Let’s say you are a band or an artist who plays live. Instead of just playing live (which is the action) you should get media coverage. Call your friend, John, who has a sick skills with a DSLR have him film your shows, your house concerts, your corporate events or whatever. Turn those videos into clips to put on socials, to send to talent buyers [and] festival programmers, to make into your own projects, etc., with the goal of getting more shows; more opportunities.

If you’re selling CDs (I know a lot of us probably still have some CDs sitting around!), instead of just selling that CD for $10 put a sticker on it. You can have custom stickers made or you can just buy some some labels at Walmart. Put a QR code on it and [place] that QR code sticker on the front of [the CD case] that takes the person to your website, where they can get a freebie, sign up for your list or whatever. You can send them anywhere — YouTube, your Spotify…but I would suggest sending them to your website where you have your Facebook pixel set up and you’re running retargeting ads, but that’s a whole other tech conversation another time. But do you see where I’m going with that? You’re not just doing the action of selling the CD to get to knowledge, you’re selling the CD to create another opportunity. An opportunity for those people to get more into your world.

The more actions we take, ideally the more opportunities we create. But we have to be focused on two to three steps beyond the action and not just the action itself. We can’t just think: I’m gonna play this gig and then get paid 150 bucks and then move on. No, we need to create more opportunities.

So, I hope this frees some of you. I hope it frees you from feeling like you’re trapped in this subjective world of due paying, never knowing how much it’ll take, when it’ll be enough, and comparing yourself to others because the same rules aren’t applying to the person who got famous already and [you’ve] been doing this for 15 years.

And [from being] worried about what entity out there is finally going to recognize and reward you for all your efforts. Is it going to be the livestreaming site that finally puts you above everyone else and shows all your stuff? Is it going to be Instagram who’s going to send your next Instagram Live to everyone who’s on the platform at the time? Is it that venue? No. That’s why we can’t think about it like we’re paying dues like any other thing we pay dues to. We’re just performing actions and creating opportunities.

You have to remember that “success” is not guaranteed. But I put quotes around success. It has to be defined by the individual. My idea of success may not be your idea of success and vice versa.


I want you to get out of the mindset of paying dues. Instead let’s deploy some TNT — like dynamite, which is your truth and your tribe.

  1. First, is to find your truth. Really hone in on your truth: your brand, your message, your sound. What is true and unique about you, including who you sound like. You need to identify those things that make up your brand. And that does include similar artists or artists that you sound like.
  2. Next, you’re going to find your tribe — your audience, your people, your fans. Which is why you want to find your truth first, because it’s going to be easier for you to find those people. It’s going to be easier for you to find your tribe because they’re already out there. They just need to be exposed to your music, and the easiest way to do that is to fish in the ponds are artists who already have the ponds existing.

Once you find your truth & your tribe market the heck out of your music! This is where I know a lot of artists are gonna roll their eyes and that’s fine. You can keep rolling your eyes, but marketing is where it’s at. You can’t just make music, put it on Spotify, and expect the world to know what’s there. Everything is marketing: your shows, website, merch, livestreams, socials — it’s all marketing your truth to your tribe. So market the heck out of it.

There are no dues to be paid. We’re just performing actions: shows, selling merch, selling CDs, livestreams, corporate events, festivals, radio interviews — all of those are actions to create more opportunities. We’re not looking for that one entity to tell us what to do, how much to do, when to do it by, and applying all the same rules to everyone, because that doesn’t exist. Actions and opportunities, okay? Focus on more than just the action, create momentum, rinse and repeat. And ideally, my hope, my prayer for you, is that then you will eventually see your own success!

If you want to get a free copy of my Artist Resource Guide (I created the first volume during COVID. Since then, we now have Volume 2) you can go to:

If you have any questions or have any topics you’d like to have discussed on the podcast, feel free to email: Questions{at} Apologies for this episode going a little bit longer. I usually try to keep these at about 15 minutes, but I really wanted to talk about this topic today. So, with that, go and do your action item. God bless and I’ll see you when I see you. Peace!

OUTRO: Thank you for listening. Don’t forget to follow the Indie Musician Secrets Podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you listen. And make sure to leave us a rating and review. Also share this episode with other indie musicians who you think it would be beneficial for. And for more helpful resources to help you grow your music business, visit us at: I hope this episode has served you we’ll talk to you on the next episode.

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Indie Musician Secrets

Jamaal “Boss Eagle” Curry is a Hip-Hop recording artist, music business coach, digital marketer and entrepreneur. Visit for more.