Play other artists’ music.
Play in Cover bands: this is an ancient and honourable part of the minstrels’ role in society and a good wedding/party band can save you from having to get a day job, which in turn frees up time for writing and pursuing that royalty-based income referred to in Part 1. Why do so many musicians believe that this is “beneath” them? Look at paintings and read descriptions of such social and cultural events (both public and private) throughout history: what do they all have in common? The presence of a musician or group of musicians, the minstrels in the gallery. As pop music emerges from that short period in which the sales of recorded music dominated the business of musicking and encouraged musicians to think that playing their own material was the only way to be successful, these more ancient functions of the musician are being re-evaluated. Many of the great composers played this dual role in their lifetimes, playing (and sometimes writing) songs and dances for their patron to earn a living and writing their “art” music in their spare time.
I first played at a Jewish wedding somewhat late in life compared to most jobbing musicians, but as I sat there chonking out offbeats in D Minor I realised that this music had been played at this kind of event for millennia: it was and is part of the cultural context in which weddings, bar mitzvahs, funerals, take place. Such vernacular music also forms a kind of cultural “shorthand:” a quick reference point for universal truths of that culture. Watch what happens when you play “I Will Survive” at a party or wedding: every woman in the room, regardless of their native language, knows that song and celebrates its meaning to them by belting out the words and pointing at the men in the room as they do so.
You could also develop a solo act, maybe an instrumental repertoire to accompany dinners or a “tribute” act to a favourite artist. Again, this is a traditional function of the musician: someone once described the London Philharmonic Orchestra as “a Beethoven tribute act one week, a Mozart tribute act the next…” It is as dignified a role as having a hit record (if there is such a thing any more!)
A solo repertoire enables you to earn money even if there is no budget for a band: you can work alone, travel light and fast, and be independent. Some musicians develop extremely sophisticated solo shows featuring loopers, while some work completely unplugged.