Do you want music to be your job?

A guy in his late 40s called to see me yesterday on the recommendation of a friend. He has what I’m guessing is a steady, well-paid job – but has recorded and is looking to release an album of his own stuff this year. And he wants to put some money behind it, promote it, tour it and give it every chance of succeeding.

I encouraged him to go for it and gave him some advice based on what I learnt from my various album releases – which included the tip not to put any money he couldn’t afford to lose into it.

Another guy I know recently spoke of losing his love for music, of how it has become merely a way of making ends meet for him. He is doing it the hard way – a full-time musician, touring Ireland and the UK with his own music, trying to build an audience and get his music heard. He is amazing by the way and I hope he rediscovers his mojo because the world is a better place for his music.

You see when music isn’t your job, you can pick and choose what gigs you want to do. You don’t have to take gigs that pay well but don’t do anything for you musically. You can save up to record an album and promote it. But you don’t have as much time as you want to dedicate to your music.

When music is your job, it can also be tricky. It’s sometimes hard to separate the creative process from financial responsibilities, to separate in your head success/failure as a musician from success/failure as a person. But you are dedicating your working life to music. You are playing music every day. It’s probably something you always wanted. Your working life is the envy of many. But how can you make it more satisfying and less stressful?

My advice –

  • Always remember why you got into it in the first place.
  • Also remember that the person who made that decision was young.
  • Regularly check the balance in your work between projects that satisfy you creatively and projects that pay. If it’s off, take steps to fix it before it’s too late.
  • Keep your costs of living low, until you don’t need to any more.
  • Enjoy the good gigs and if there are any not-so-good ones, accept them for what they are.
  • Take time off.
  • Take time out to play your instrument for yourself.
  • This was the dream for you, so live it.