Today's the biggest day of the year for me since this is most likely my only concert this year.

I'm a pianist and composer who was working as a financial analyst for the past 8 years in NYC. Couldn't handle it anymore and called it quits last month. I wasn't getting any chances to play at concert halls so I thought heck why not just rent them out myself and put on my own show? Renting the halls ISN'T cheap but at least I have enough savings for 1-2 concerts.

So last December I rented out Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall (!) and performed my debut concert. (turns out, it's surprisingly easy to rent out Carnegie Hall - I had 0 connections and 0 classical music performance experience and they still let me in 😂)

Today, I'm performing at Merkin Hall in NYC, a 440-seat theatre. The concert begins at 7:30PM EST and it will be 90 minutes of my original music + remixes of some classical pieces. My concert info here

In-person tickets cost 35$ but I'm streaming the entire concert for free on my Youtube.

I'm doing some last minute practicing right now but have some time to answer any questions. AMA :)

My instagram: https://www.instagram.com/musicalbasics/

My discord (I'm on it every day): https://bit.ly/2RCfGxd

Some links of my playing, in case you're interested :)

Rolling Thunder (original)

The Last Rite (original)

edit: proof here: https://imgur.com/a/uBKeZm8

EDITEDITEDIT: JUST FINISHED THE CONCERT. IT WAS AWESOME!! Thanks to so many of you Redditors who came out on my big day, it was so lovely to see you guys. Ill be combing through the list tomorrow and answering peoples inquiries in more detail since today I didnt have too much time to give full responses

Comments: 1121 • Responses: 47  • Date: 

holayeahyeah2551 karma

[removed]

musicalbasics1598 karma

$$$$$$$$$$ talks.

centrafrugal1697 karma

Is Merkin Hall your biggest pubic appearance?

musicalbasics397 karma

In 2014 I participated in this Asian talent show? lol and actually was on the same stage as Awkwafina (before she got huge). That was at NYU Skirball and had like 800 seats. But this is definitely the second biggest.

spookieghost130 karma

Did you or Awkwafina win??

musicalbasics340 karma

LOL. No, this beatboxer did, he ended up becoming one of my good friends. Sung lee.

shaokim492 karma

Did this switch come with decreased financial security? How do you cope?

What's your favorite time period for the piano in western music?

musicalbasics786 karma

Yes, a lot less. My monthly income dropped from 13k to less than 1k. But with this decreased income comes a LOT more time to do my own music. Like any other business, it's always "fight for your life" in the beginning.

My favorite time period is the Romantic period. Top composer of all time is Beethoven but I'd have to give Chopin and Rachmaninoff a razor-thin second. I also LOVE Bach and Mozart and Debussy and Ravel and Brahms and my god they're all amazing.

N0gai238 karma

Wow, that's a huge hit. Doing part time for a more stable income was not an option?

musicalbasics539 karma

Doing part time for a more stable income was not an option?

I've been doing the part time thing for 8 years now. Hasn't worked out. Half-assing shit just doesn't work (forgive my language). Especially when there's musicians out there giving it their all, I can't compete with them if I'm half-assing it.

BakeSooner33 karma

How the hell can you afford nyc

musicalbasics131 karma

I can't. Aiming to move out by this summer.

DiManes334 karma

Do you face self-doubt, and if so, how do you get past it?

How do you get past the feeling that you might be making a mistake? Or that you're not good enough?

musicalbasics1062 karma

This is the most important question isn't it?

I spent 29 years of my life doubting myself, working a "safe comfortable" job as a financial analyst. On friday nights and weekends I'd come home and do music, sacrificing my social life.

After 29 years I haven't succeeded in either. Sure, I made 150k+/yr as a financial analyst (not bragging, this is average for NYC), but music is my dream.

Eventually, I lost the love of my life because I was just too busy for her. I loved spending every single second with her but the more time I spent with her, the more my music suffered.

So it came to a point where I had to choose between a life of happiness - life spent comfortably working as a financial analyst married to the love of my life, or a life of meaning - life spent working on something that meant something to me.

ALWAYS PURSUE YOUR DREAMS WHEN YOU'RE YOUNG. Don't wait like I did.

As for the feeling that this might be a mistake - I know that if I don't give it my all and try for 1-2 years at least once in my life, my future family will suffer and I'll regret it on my deathbed.

edit (since some people aren't interpreting my above words the way I intended): We were not married, we were just dating. When I said "married" i meant eventually if I had chosen to give up on the music dream. But she was absolutely the love of my life. even when thinking about her now I feel so much love towards her. She deserves the best, and all the happiness in the world. She's dating a doctor now who will be able to take care of her so much better than I would have and give her the life she wants. But I won't ever forget the 2 years we spent together because those were the happiest years of my life.

skrshawk113 karma

You gotta go after the things you want while you're still in your prime.

musicalbasics141 karma

Exactly, thank you Avenue Q for that amazing song, when I heard it I was like. This is me.

Rin_Hoshizura29 karma

I am an aspiring 20 year old pianist and I know it's what I want to do but I have to idea how to find a teacher or anything and I'm kinda poor. Can you help me figure this out?

musicalbasics54 karma

Pm me, ill give you some pointers so hopefully you dont make the same mistakes i did.

thewitbandit55 karma

Don't beat yourself up over it; you are still really young. Most people doubt themselves their entire life, even on their deathbed. Age is just a number, and if someone's got the cards to pursue a dream at 45, all the more power. Unfortunately, most people take on a lot of obligations by that time, like a spouse, kids, lots of debt, etc. so it becomes much harder and people don't want to even try.

That said, go out and crush it.

musicalbasics61 karma

Unfortunately, most people take on a lot of obligations by that time, like a spouse, kids, lots of debt, etc. so it becomes much harder and people don't want to even try.

Yes. Once you have a family, pursuing your dreams means sacrificing your time with them. While there's nothing morally wrong with that (as long as you're able to take care of them), that's something I don't want to do.

illHicks223 karma

How much did it cost to rent out Weill Hall?

musicalbasics362 karma

5k-7k

Edit: It's a variable price dependent on what services you get. If you get all the extra services it can go up to 15k or 20k. I went more for the cheaper side.

MattyLeeT130 karma

How many tickets have you sold so far?

musicalbasics328 karma

Honestly? like 50. Classical music isn't the most popular and I'm writing my own. It's pretty hard selling to NYC crowds with 0 name recognition, 0 backing from any official music organizations. (Believe me we've tried - youtube, instagram, facebook, PR to so many news outlets, I even had an interview with Alison Stewart from WNYC. In the end I just dragged my keyboard into the subway to busk)

survivalsnake108 karma

  1. Did your parents push you into piano? Did you appreciate it or resent it?
  2. Any carpal tunnel issues or the like from piano playing?
  3. Do you also sing or play any other instruments?

musicalbasics239 karma

1) Like any other chinese kid I started playing piano because of my parents. I hated it at first but in middle school I discovered writing my own music, and fell in love. My parents were ecstatic at first RIGHT UNTIL the point where I went to college and then they were like... anyway, twosetviolin explains the exact feeling better than me

2) No, relaxation and frequent rest is EXTREMELY important

3) I'm trying to learn singing but it's nowhere near performance level. So pretty much just piano, although I do enjoy producing some EDM

goldayce58 karma

That clip from twoset is too real!!

musicalbasics25 karma

too real XD

derpderp5000108 karma

how do you pay your bills?

musicalbasics257 karma

I still have some savings after 8 years of working as a financial analyst. And I'm planning on moving out of this damned expensive city soon, find a nice small house somewhere and just throw everything into my music for 1-2 years.

CollinABullock106 karma

How do you promote enough to actually sell tickets?

Did you ever think of starting at smaller clubs, instead of starting with big theatres?

musicalbasics134 karma

I thought about that, but the bars and clubs around NYC don't really have a decent grand piano for an accurate performance of my music, which is epic classical music.

CollinABullock87 karma

Do people actually come? No offense, Im sure you’re great, but I’ve never heard of you. How do you get enough people in the door at these several hundred seat venues to not make it an embarrassment, let alone financially viable?

musicalbasics241 karma

Well, even if no one comes, it's not embarrassing because what matters is I respected my music enough to give it a concert hall to expose it to the world.

But for my Carnegie concert, we had a good attendance of 130 people. You can read about it here:

https://newyorkmusicdaily.wordpress.com/2018/12/27/lionelyu/

loverlymusic87 karma

I've loved all of your responses, but this for some reason made me very happy. I feel that there are so many skilled musicians out there who never feel as if their music is 'good enough', but your way of saying that you, 'respected your music enough' rings so well.

We are always our own worst critic, but being able to respect your work enough and showcase it, man, what a great way of thinking about it. Thanks for doing this AMA, I wish you all of the luck and that your concert tonight is amazing!

musicalbasics53 karma

Thank you! Self-respect (and by extension, respect for one's creations) is one of the fundamental pillars of my values.

3mbs28 karma

I just listened to some of your stuff on Youtube and holy shit man, rolling thunder actually made me cry. I'm gonna try and scrape together some cash so I can come out and see you tonight, I've always wanted to see classical music played live. I think music and art are something that can connect us to the past.

musicalbasics27 karma

Im touched! Check your PMs. Ill see if I can figure something out for you.

travisrugemer82 karma

As an ex professional musician, I wish you the best and will be tuning in tonight online. PS, I'm thinking about getting back into the music industry as a manger again. As a current musician, what are some thing you would look for in a manager that could help you?

musicalbasics62 karma

Cool! I'm actually looking to hire a manager soon. PM me and we'll talk. Mainly looking for someone who can keep me on a good production schedule and keep me well-positioned for opportunities.

rishkbish69 karma

As someone who's now into large scale concerts, what would be your advice for a college student trying to throw a concert - out of scratch?

musicalbasics93 karma

PM me and we'll talk. I had 0 connections, 0 experience and nobody to ask for advice when I did my debut. I'd be happy to share my entire experiences with you - so you don't make the same mistakes I did, and so that you can throw on a successful debut :)

freddy494035 karma

Is the point of an AMA not that you share these experiences publicly? Why PM him when surely other people will be interested?

musicalbasics17 karma

Mainly because I was super busy at the time and I didnt have time to give a full answer. But ill be happy to give one if people still want to hear.

rageofheaven45 karma

[deleted]

musicalbasics36 karma

Never heard of them, but heck I'm going to be checking them out now!

SF_pride_latina41 karma

Isn’t “merkin” a pubic wig?

musicalbasics42 karma

Didn't realize. No wonder people aren't buying tickets 😂

dennismiller202436 karma

Hi, big fan. Can you play one of my favorite classical pieces of all time? Not tonight of course, but I'd love to see you do a cover of Herve Roy's Lovers Theme. Beautiful song and I think that your artistry could add a lot to it. Thank you so much for this ama!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CQSXlKU57Qo&t=2s

musicalbasics42 karma

Thank you!! Lol, not tonight for sure :) but come join my discord, where I'm chatting constantly with folks, and I'll try to meet your request. https://discordapp.com/invite/hwUQuGQ

Undisabled34 karma

Do you hope to make it big one day, and that these concerts will be a jumpstart? Or is this just something you've wanted to do, so now you're doing it.

musicalbasics46 karma

I've always wanted to do concerts, and like any musician, always wanted to make it big. My music however is very niche - original classical piano music - and while I've gotten a pretty decent Youtube following, it's super hard to break into the industry, especially as a non-conservatory musician.

dk112333 karma

Have you considered doing covers on twitch to make money?

musicalbasics32 karma

Ive livestreamed on twitch but its such a saturated market. Youtubes more my thing for now

McQwerty444430 karma

What's your favorite fruit?

musicalbasics66 karma

Lychee!

sfwbilly28 karma

In-person tickets cost 35$

When you were a financial analyst, did people ever give you shit for putting the dollar sign on the wrong side of the number?

musicalbasics22 karma

LOL no i always fuck that up

Naturally_Smitten24 karma

Was it a really hard decision to leave your financial analyst job? Do you earn enough money from your concerts to pay your bills and live comfortably? You're my hero for quitting your job.

musicalbasics70 karma

It wasn't hard once I realized that if I don't do this now, I'll get old and regret it forever.

No, I don't earn nearly enough money. I have enough savings to last me 2 years TOPS and then I'll have to call it quits. But I'll be able to spend the rest of my life know that I tried

johnangeljr22 karma

Are you getting your name put on a marquee, before your performance? Could you add a picture of it if so?

musicalbasics35 karma

Well, this is my event. https://www.kaufmanmusiccenter.org/mch/event/musicalbasics-space-to-create/

It includes my picture :)

johnangeljr14 karma

How did you go about choosing artist to perform along side? Have you worked along side Soo Yeon Kim - violin and Amit Bhowmick - beatbox in the past?

musicalbasics22 karma

Amit - yes, 4 years ago (here's our actual performance lol)

Soo yeon no - but she's fantastic, and you'll get to see her tonight!

dodoconundrum21 karma

You mentioned your income is 1K a month now - is that all from ticket sales, or are you keeping a side job?

What's the long term plan as far as playing these concerts? If it costs 6k to rent and you make 1k from it that doesn't seem sustainable?

Also how long will your savings last until you can't pay rent and cost of living anymore? You mention buying a house outside the city - do you have enough in savings for a downpayment plus ongoing mortage costs?

musicalbasics54 karma

No, it's from advertising on Youtube, spotify streams, and sheet music sales of my piano pieces.

The concerts are for experience ONLY. I don't expect to make a single dollar on them, in fact I lost 6k on the Carnegie Hall concert and am losing 10k on this one.

It will last 2 years TOPS and that's if I move out of this city and find somewhere cheaper to rent.

grandplans20 karma

I have performed in Merkin a bunch of times. I love singing there.

I'm a NYC based singer who works in finance... Do you ever need a singer? High baritone?

musicalbasics12 karma

PM me! Id be down

stopmyego18 karma

I would like to purchase some tickets, but your site is down. Anyway that I can get some tickets?

musicalbasics9 karma

Hey can you PM me? Thats weird.

mojojojo3117 karma

Have you considered doing patreon?

musicalbasics33 karma

I have one, but no donors yet. haha. It's all good. it will take time to get a real following

Frodolas11 karma

FYI you don't have a creator account, just a patron account.

musicalbasics8 karma

FAIL lol

Rano2017 karma

What made you take the dive to perform instead of your job? Were you confident in your ability to turn a profit/sell the seats? Do you think that what you did can be done by anyone or did you get a little luck on your side?

Thanks! :)

musicalbasics41 karma

What made me take the dive finally was learning how to respect myself - I asked myself, if I was someone I truly respected, would I spend the rest of my life working in a job that's not my calling?

And no, the financial security is not there yet. And we haven't sold enough tickets to make this concert even remotely profitable - I'm looking at a loss of about 10k right now on this concert.

Pineapple_Incident1714 karma

Okay, I saw one comment you made about being married to the love of your life... was/is your partner supportive? Are they working? How is this endeavor impacting your relationship?

musicalbasics24 karma

Not married, and it kind of hurts to talk about

DIARRHEA_EXORCISM13 karma

Is this the first time you've shown your pianist on the internet?

musicalbasics17 karma

If you get a chance to see my pianist, you are a lucky person ;)

OneOfDozens12 karma

Have any stuff on spotify?

musicalbasics20 karma

yep - you can check out my spotify here https://open.spotify.com/artist/2Rfx8sw6OBJRCEl8tJR9mv

musicalbasics7 karma

UPDATE Thanks so much to all the Redditors who came out yesterday (honestly before yesterday I had never once met a real Redditor in the wild!) What am amazing experience.

Not sure where to begin. The concert went so smoothly. Obviously a few hiccups (I freaking forgot how to play Prelude in G minor for demonstration purposes). And my speech was kind of awkward since I really didn't have time to rehearse.

But nevertheless it was a beautiful night, full of emotion, and so many people told me afterwards they loved it and the passion. I was so thrilled to see my fans and subscribers from Youtube, people who told me they heard me on NPR, and of course, some awesome Redditors who I was like thanks for coming out last minute😂

You can watch the full concert here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HkWX3Zb--dM

I'll be answering questions all day and following up with people who asked me questions yesterday!

NabsterZ6 karma

YouTube link doesn’t seem to be working?

musicalbasics10 karma

We're not live until 7:30PM EST

hackel5 karma

What was the actual rental fee for Weill, and did you break even? What other costs are there that one might not expect? Does the fee include staff for lighting, security, ushers, etc. or do you have to pay people separately? I'm guessing Merkin must be more than $15k, but really I don't have a clue. What kind of attendence did you get for your first concert?

Do you have other musicians you are/want to collaborate with? I would think selling tickets to a piano recital in this culture would be incredibly difficult.

musicalbasics5 karma

Both were 6k, but i also spent a bunch of money on ads and marketing and operations and hiring other musicians.

21864 karma

How do you feel about other musicians who’ve had to work/practise for decades before finding their way into a Carnegie Hall recital debut vs people like you who can just pay your way in? That’s not meant to sound snide or anything, I’m just genuinely curious.

musicalbasics7 karma

Well, the difference is they get a lot more opportunities than me. And I have to do all the work, marketing, operations, etc. they just have to show up and perform.

Lvvvvvv2 karma

What is your goal as a professional pianist?

musicalbasics15 karma

To be able to perform my own music in concert venues around the world.

Oblyvious1 karma

Are you not good enough for people to pay?

musicalbasics10 karma

Well, I have 75k subscribers on Youtube and 7000 followers on Spotify. But I'm not a conservatory trained musician, and in the classical music world, I simply don't have the street cred.