I was born into a family of musicians. My mother and father met in music school, she an Irish Catholic pianist and music education major and he a rebellious guitarist with Italian roots. As it says in the bible they begot me, then my brother David, and then, fourteen years after I was born, my brother James. All of us went on to use music as one of our main vocations in life.
Of course, because of my time spent with other musicians, I naturally gravitated to them socially. Most of my friends have always been in bands, been playing out, chasing the next big opportunity. Along with having the musician life in common, they also had something else in common..they were all broke.
It's a struggle to try and make it in the music business..as long as you are doing what every one else is doing. The good news is that most people are doing very, very ineffective and stupid things. There are many different ways into making a living from music and only a few of them require you to become some sort of pop star. Sure, that appears to be a glamorous avenue, but there is a lot of smoke and mirrors involved in that perception. There is a lot to it.
On the other sides of the industry, we see composers (who as one of the top ten jobs in terms of growth since 2008, boasts thousands of potential jobs), to songwriters, producers, music teachers, worship leaders, band leaders, side musicians, and so on. The music industry is a vast and wide ranging one.
The issue isn't that we CAN'T make a living in music. It's often times that we don't make the right choices and follow through in ways that create those opportunities for us. We don't hone the craft until we can professionally execute and then study the market, making adjustments and growing where we need to in order to make it happen for ourselves.
Those who have dug into the industry know, it's about much more than your ability, which definitely matters. It's also about the intangibles - how well you get along with people, if you are reliable, if you are committed and willing to make something happen. These things matter.
So, to reiterate: If you want to make money in music, you must train for it, you must learn about it, and you must put what you learn into practice. In other words, you must commit to it.
One last thought around this concept: If you look at the truly successful musical artists over time, you'll see that very few of them actually made their money off of the music. Sure, the music got them the attention. It positioned them in the minds of the audience in a way that made it easier to sell something to them. How did they make their money, then? Merchandise. T-shirts, posters..and in Dr. Dre's case...Dre Beats headphones.
While I've used the world of music to illustrate this point, it easily can be adapted to fit literally any market. How did George Lucas make most of his money off Star Wars? Was it ticket sales? Of course not. It was the toys, the merchandising. In fact, do movie theaters even really make money of the box office receipts? No. Those go to the film distributors and studios. They make their money off of concessions and other value added services.
Get the idea? Consider this in your own career. How can you use your art to gain the attention that then allows you to sell some adjoining line of products or services? It is very much a worthwhile line of questioning, even if you are just posing the idea of a career as a hypothetical.