Ari's Take - The Biz Behind Full-Time Independent Music by musician Ari Herstand

Who Is Ari?

Ari Herstand | Singer/Songwriter | 600+ Shows

Pronounced Ar-ee (please don't call me Airie) | |

January 15, 2008 was the greatest day of my life. It was the day that I noticed I was only on the schedule at Minneapolis' City Center Starbucks once that week and realized that I had only been on the schedule once a week for the past few weeks and was doing ok financially. No health insurance, sure, but was paying my rent and bills on time and had some spending money left over for the Cajun Breakfast at the Uptown Diner occasionally. I had also just heard from my college booking agent that I landed a showcase at the Spring 2008 Northern Plains NACA conference where I'd play a 15 minute set in front of about 2,000 kids representing colleges in 7 states. That day I told my manager at Starbucks that it was to be my last day working.

I never looked back.

That 15 minute showcase turned into 70+ college gigs. Over the past six years, since quitting Starbucks, I have been fortunate enough to have toured the country playing countless clubs, colleges, festivals (SXSW and Summerfest), high schools.. yes high schools, and have opened for some of my favorite artists like Ben Folds, Cake, Matt Nathanson, Eric Hutchinson and Joshua Radin. I've also had songs featured on One Tree Hill, various MTV, Showtime and VH1 shows and countless episodes of Ari TV.

After high school I went to the University of Minnesota for a year as a music education/classical trumpet major. While at the U, I started performing acoustic shows around campus and realized that year that performing and writing music was my true calling. I made a decision that Spring that I needed to change my course and pursue a performing songwriter career. While in New Orleans that Spring for the Jazz Fest, I found myself in a Barnes and Noble in the music business section. I picked up the bright yellow, bold print All You Need To Know About the Music Business by Donald Passman and started reading. I finished the book that week and thus began my intrigue and appetite for the music industry.

I transferred from the U of MN to McNally Smith College of Music in St. Paul to study music business. At the time, the music business program was only offered as an associates degree, so with credits transferring, I got in and out in 3 consecutive semesters. While I was there I worked my ass off. I never skipped a class, was never late, went to office hours for every professor, got to know the entire administration, played trumpet in an ensemble (which got to tour Germany for 5 weeks) and built relationships that are still strong today.

I graduated in August 2005 and immediately began work on my first solo album. In December 2005 I released my debut album to a crowd of 250 people at the Varsity Theater in Minneapolis.
+How I got 250 out to my debut CD release

I became a force on the University of Minnesota campus. From around the time of my CD release to more or less Fall 2009, I was the most popular musician/band on campus. The U has about 40,000 undergraduate students so it wasn't a bad market to start with. My presence on campus was so undeniable that the music editor for the Minnesota Daily felt the need to write three hate pieces on me in one semester. He despised my presence so much that in the Fall of 2008 he included me in the "Freshman Survival Guide" handed out to all incoming freshman and listed me as the #1 of the top 3 worst bands in Minneapolis (the top 3 best bands in his piece are all now virtually defunct). He then wrote a scathing album review of my 2008 release which garnered some of the most comments of any MN Daily piece on the website and finally, I made the cover of the December joke edition next to Lindsay Lohan and the president of the University of Minnesota. My headline? "Surgeons Attempt To Reattach Local Musician's Balls Fails."
+I'm a Tool and I Have Accepted That

As these articles were pouring out from the desk of a writer who will go unnamed, I was filling the 800 person capacity Varsity Theater, had just opened for Ben Folds in front of 3,200 people and had begun my massive college tour making incredible amounts of money. I had received about 30 other positive music reviews/previews that year in papers around the country, but of course, I can pretty much recite the MN Daily's hate pieces word for word.

The last few years I lived in Minneapolis I had become a go-to person for music business advice from local musicians. Managing my career all on my own from the beginning, booking 100% of my non-college shows and tours, getting songs placed on multiple TV shows, starting an Artist Development company, I had quite a bit of knowledge and experience with the business side of music.

Now living in Los Angeles, I have expanded my network and experiences and am happy to share with you what I've learned (and continue to learn).

I have been making the majority of my income on music for over 6 years (recently started acting and consulting) and this site is dedicated to how I've made it work, along with tips that I can pass along from my 600+ shows.

I wrote How To Make It in the New Music Business book for the same reason I started Ari's Take: to help hardworking, talented, dedicated musicians succeed. 

We are all in this together!