I am living the dream…my life on my terms. Making a living, no fixed office and the freedom to move and work from wherever I like. So can you. This Make Money and Travel series exists as a source of inspiration. By sharing examples of real people around the world making money from anywhere and living the lifestyle they want, proves: where there is a will, there is a way.
Meet Roger “Hurricane” Wilson. A traveling musician is nothing new, but Roger is not just a musician, he’s an RVer too; which accidentally dropped a new set of venues right into his lap!
We first met Roger on the road in 2012 while filming an RV park in Bar Harbor Maine. He thought we were pretty cool and after watching him play live we thought he was pretty cool too! We connected for dinner at some random BYOB Lobster pound and we swapped stories of working life on the road. This was way before our Make Money and Travel was even a thought, but we knew that passing on the opportunity to film Roger playing would be silly. So we asked if we could record him playing his RV anthem “Home Sweet Home in My RV” at the upcoming campground concert. He said “Sure Thing” and here we are 19 months later finally getting the ball rolling. We are happy to present the live, campground recording of Roger “Hurricane” Wilson performing Home Sweet Home in My RV!
This year, Roger is celebrating his 41st year as a professional musician. Through those years, his involvement has reached into pretty much every aspect of the music business. Being a musician, a singer, a songwriter, a record label owner/operator, an advisory board member of the Georgia Music Industry Association, an International Blues Competition judge, and also having 40 years of broadcasting experience on TV, radio and the Internet, finding something in the industry he’s not familiar with would equal finding the needle in the haystack. He has toured over a million miles, shared the stage B.B. King, Buddy Guy, Dickey Betts, Hubert Sumlin, and John Mayall, just to name a few. In addition to having 14 CD’s on the market, for the last 10 years, Roger has been involved with one of the strongest international efforts that exist in the efforts of keeping the Blues alive , the BLUES IN THE SCHOOLS PROGRAM.
This is how Roger makes money and travels.
Describe your working situation and what line of work you’re in; If you have multiple streams of income that fund your lifestyle, tell us what they are.
I began teaching guitar lessons in 1972 and started playing professionally in 1973. When I formed my own band in 1978, I would tour regionally throughout the southeast, but I also had a part time career in radio broadcasting. In 1986, I went to work in the CNN newsroom in
When my wife purchased a 31 foot Winnebago Class A motorhome for me in 1998, everything changed. When the band was with me, it was easy to stay in the RV whenever and wherever we wanted to. As I started performing solo more and more often, the RV was a perfect alternative to the constant motel drudgery, although when the venue included lodging, I took it. The days in between gigs were very enjoyable in having the freedom to boondock, or stay at a campground. As time went on, I downsized to a van with a pull behind trailer, which proved to be easier for me as well as being more economical.
I also like the job because I can walk to work, here’s a photo from a gig at Snowflower 1000 Trails in Emigrant Gap, CA.
How many hours do you put in a week and what does a typical workday look like for you?
The hours for me now vary. Since I am in my 41st year as a professional musician, I have the luxury of touring when and where I want to. Fortunately, I have been able to stay home more often, but keep writing, recording, and promoting on the internet. When I am on the road, I usually spend a few days in each RV resort before and after my performance date, which really allows me to enjoy the journey.
While doing the campground circuit, I usually head out on Monday morning in the direction of the next gig. Depending on the schedule, I may have a weekday club or coffeehouse gig, some time to visit friends, or maybe some sight seeing and songwriting. Knowing that I am not under a strict deadline as I was in the past is worth its weight in gold to me at this juncture in my life. Actual hours per gig are minimal: 3 to 4 hours setting up, performing, and breaking down. The playing is the easy part!
Fortunately, I am not a prisoner of the road and can take days off while touring, something that can really cause many itinerant musicians to go in the hole. One of the reasons I came across the RV resort performing option is that it is more relaxed, without the pressure of the constant daily hotel to the gig to the road to the hotel to the gig to the road grind, etc. I am able to enjoy the journey as well as being able to share my music with folks that I would never get to perform in front of under the usual circumstances. It is really out of the box and I love it.
If you are willing to say, what is the average yearly salary for someone in your line of work? How long did it take for you to start earning a comfortable/typical living for this line of work? If you don’t feel comfortable giving numbers tell us, are you scraping by, are you able to put money in savings and pay your bills or are you raking it in?
As far as pay, it really varies from place to place. One doesn’t enter the music business looking to get rich… it is for the love of playing music. If and when success comes, that is good. While I had always been making money as a professional musician on the road from playing gigs, the additional CD, merchandise sales, and some royalties are now what help take it over the top. With the demise of major corporate record companies, and the rise of the independent artist having total control over his or her own career, the possibility of surviving in the music business is made more realistic.
In my case, I’ve been very fortunate in that I saved for retirement, raised my two boys, and paid off my house. Over the years, I downsized to smaller rigs each time, which is now a Casita trailer. I like to say that my rig has everything the big guys have and less. With my kids being grown and on their own I now basically work when I want to. When I do go on tour with my Casita Trailer, which is only about 6 weeks a year now, I am able to travel, explore and still do quite well financially.
I also record live CD’s of my performances made available on the spot, as well as my own produced CD’s going back to 1994. Most income on recordings is by download these days, but CD’s always sell from the stage. My music is available on the internet at ITunes and Amazon, plus in my own Hurricane Wilson-Bluestorm Records Ebay Store and at www.hurricanewilson.com.
What are the most essential pieces of equipment or programs you need for working while traveling?
My guitars, of course as well as my stage and sound gear, accessories, computer, tablet with wifi hot spot, cell phone, CD’s, merchandise, and promotional material. It is a great time to be able to communicate, blog, promote, advertise, and just be in touch from anywhere.
Who are your clients? Do you find them or do they find you and how? What is your rejection rate? How many clients do you pitch to finally win over one? You don’t have tell us who your clients are directly, just how you go about getting the work.
In 2006, I met up with an RV park manager that took an interest in my music, and in doing so, he introduced me to a nationwide network of RV resorts. I still play some music festivals, small venues such as coffeehouses, restaurants, libraries, house concerts , and sometimes conduct guitar workshops along the way.
As far as rejection, I have been in this business a long time, so I have made a lot of friends. My basic rule is “don’t work for jerks”. For every one of those, there are many more good people to associate with. After 40 years in the music business, I have met a lot of people on both sides of the fence. Just like any career, there are people that that clear the way for you as well as those that try to block your path. The latter never succeed.
What are the best things about working while traveling? Those things that make you think wow; I really am living the dream.
The independence, solitude, and the opportunity to travel around and play music. I could think of many worse places to be, but not too many better.
What are the most frustrating things about working while traveling? Any ways you’ve found to avoid or cope with this frustration?
Traffic, road construction, inconsiderate and unsafe drivers, and possible vehicle breakdowns. With the exception of an occasional trailer flat tire, I have been very fortunate. (knock on wood). I’m quite meticulous about vehicle maintenance. The way to cope is to allow plenty of travel time, no sudden moves, drive the speed limit, and to arrive at least a day or more in advance of working. I really try to avoid driving and performing the same day if possible. It still happens sometimes, but the days of driving 12 hours and having to set up and play are done. It is also good that the days of having to pull over to a rest area to make a phone call are done too.
If you could go back in time and give yourself a few pieces of advice about starting in this line of work, what would it be?
It’s hard to say, since all I ever wanted to do was play my guitar. In addition, I had to learn to be a businessman, booking agent, publicist, songwriter, athlete, accountant, and driver. Never the less, it has been a fun ride, and it ain’t over yet!
I even wrote a song that I consider the Unofficial RV National Anthem, HOME SWEET HOME IN MY RV, on Bluestorm Records: http://hurricanewilson.com/check-out-the-song-home-sweet-home-in-my-rv/ (To get a free download of this song, call 678-825-3001. This will add you to Roger’s text list for tour appearance updates.)
The Fantasy Job
What is one of the most creative ways you’ve heard of someone funding a location independent lifestyle? The one that made you wish you had thought of it first!
I pretty much already have my fantasy job… playing my guitar, writing and recording songs, teaching, and traveling if I want to. The great thing about it is that I can work where and when I want to, and I’m not stuck on that runaway treadmill of the music business. I can get on or off when I want to.