If you ask someone what is the difference between a fireman, Santa, a doctor or a full time musician. They answer, the full time musician isn’t real….
See, in my world, being Santa is a real job, no one says to Santa “hey, go get a real job or what’s your backup plan if this doesn’t work out?”
So many young and young at heart musicians just want to play music full time, that’s it, just play music. Nothing else.
After a little bit of research about other careers I discovered something strange.
Did you know that 95% of professional golfers make their living from teaching golf, running golf clubs and courses, and dealing in golf equipment.
5% of golf pro’s actually make their income from golf tournaments and endorsements.
So to be a ‘professional’ golf player for most, doesn’t mean that you will play golf twenty four hours a day, seven days a week.
To put everything in perspective, I have previously worked as a software programmer. I thought that meant that I would be programming. It turns out that I actually spent half my time researching and debugging code, a quarter of my time documenting and the other quarter actually programming.
What I’m hinting towards, is that as much as we would just want to play music, the reality is that there are many more things that need to be done and can be done besides just playing music.
I know this is really obvious to some people, but to parents that hear their kids saying, I just want to be a rock star and play at concerts, or I want to be an actor and be on TV, well it sort of doesn’t work that way.
I watched a TV show recently where two people with the same name swapped lives for a week. The swap that I watched was with David Hasselhoff. The TV star swapped lives with David Hasselhoff, a 27 year-old electrical technician and landscaper from a small town in Texas.
The most surprising part was that David Hasselhoff from Texas didn’t have to do any TV acting all week except for drama class. He went to vocal training, business meetings, appearances with his fan club, worked with his personal trainer and was followed by a personal bodyguard. All of this combined with having to deal with bad press and the media.
Putting this into the context of this conversation. Becoming a professional musician is so much more than just playing music. In fact, you may find yourself playing less music.
Just as a side fact, many musicians I know play weekend gigs, three to four hours in a pub. Now I would call these people professional musicians as so many of them are exceptional musicians and amazing people, but the perception of a professional musician is the ‘stars’ you see that turn up at a gig, perform three or four songs and spend the rest of the time signing autographs.
Now there are many high quality musicians and singers that fit everywhere between in terms of income and how long they perform and their level of fame. But no matter which way you look at it, there is so much more to being a professional musician or to being a professional in any industry.
To anyone that says, “I just want to play music”, great, you can definitely just play music, but please don’t complain when you realise that you can’t afford new string and have to live on two minute noodles.
Instead, be smart.
Learn what you need to do to be a successful professional musician or singer. Yes, learn how to perform and how to play music, but also learn what all the other exciting, interesting and essential skills are that will make you a musician that can afford the lifestyle that you think you should have.
A recent discussion with some musician friends of mine helped us work out that as busy as they thought they were, they only really worked three days a week. They gigged on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights.
As a musician they realised that they only worked a three day week and had a four day weekend.
They still had four days left to do something other than sleep.
Discovering this, these musicians have now worked out how they can use their four day weekend to develop their careers, develop their skills and earn more income even when they are not actually playing music.
If you discovered that you had an extra four days in the week, imagine how much you could get done.
Becoming a full time musician is a fantastic experience, if that’s what you really want to do.
Go for it.
Become well educated in how the industry works and what income revenues are available.
Hang out with professional musicians that are doing the things you would like to do.
Recognise that you will need to develop new skills, and look forward to all the new things you will learn as it will make you a more credible person and allow you to take advantage of everything the industry has to offer.
And if someone asks, what’s your backup career if you don’t make it in the music industry…..