As a musician, it’s easy to feel that your passion of making music is at odds with the obligations of your day job (which also happens to pay your bills). You love creating and performing music but you also have a certain lifestyle and responsibilities as well. Can you achieve equilibrium by keeping a steady job to pay the bills and receive benefits while holding/growing a professional music career? How can you give both equal attention so that you don’t end up losing one or the other?
Here’s a list of ideas to help you can make that happen:
Find a Career with Flexible Work Options: These days, it’s becoming more popular for employees to have the option of telecommuting or working from home. For touring musicians who need the income stability that a job can provide, this is a great option. Even though your current position might not offer telecommuting as an option, it is always possible to sway the opinion of your supervisors. This article offers 5 tips to convince the boss.
If telecommuting can’t work, you could always see if your employer is open to a flexible scheduling option. For example, you might have several regional, weekend tours and may not need to be away for weeks at a time. Perhaps you could request working 4 ten-hour days instead of five 8’s. You might also be able to request a leave of absence for other extended leaves if you don’t have enough vacation time. The most important thing is to be up front and communicate openly – the more advance notice, the better. Most employers will want to accommodate your needs, especially if you do good work and can prove that you’ll still take your responsibilities seriously.
Create Your Own Day Job: Many musicians have a special skill set that allows them to supplement their music’s income by starting a small business. Whether it is consulting, IT work, or running a small business, sometimes the best boss who understands your rock n’ roll needs is yourself. You could always explore this as an option during your free time. Be sure to also read this article on How to Start a Business for some advice.
Adjust The Music Business: No matter what, you’ll want to set up goals and have some kind of plan on how to reach them. Not all musicians need to tour frequently or live a life on the road. Some have very successful careers without leaving the city. You just need to understand what kind of music business model you are building for yourself: you might want earn a living through licensing rather than the traditional approach of playing gigs every night. Think about how much you want to perform or create, what you would like to see in return for your investment in music (money, influence, fame,?), and what you’ll need in order to accomplish those goals. You might surprise yourself and learn that creating a sustainable music career is quite possible, even with a steady day job.
Hire musicians: Some touring bands have a rotating cast of performers; some even use a different lead singer when they’re on the road. If you’re unable to join your band for every tour, perhaps you could have a friend or a hired gun fill in for your role on some of the smaller gigs. Carefully think about the music arrangements and see if there’s a way to manage performances in a way that doesn’t require you to be there. It’s becoming more popular than ever for bands to tour as an acoustic duo or have the singer tour solo.
Bottom line: it is not impossible be a professional musician while holding down a day job. Many musicians also supplement their income by running their own businesses as studio engineers, guitar or vocal teachers, booking agents, or food cart owners. Some restrict their performances to weekends and use vacation hours to work. Others take a leave of absence. Just remember that no matter what arrangement works for you, it’s important to achieve balance, have clear and open communication with everyone involved, and that it ultimately reflects your personal life goals.
Featured photo credit: beautiful young woman playing the piano via Shutterstock
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