Jumping off the Edge - Committing to Becoming a Full-Time Musician

Discussion in 'General Music Discussion' started by Vyn, Jan 14, 2019.

  1. skvld

    skvld SS.org Regular

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    It seems to me that if you can create content that people really care about (e.g., Periphery music), it can allow you to branch out in ways that others couldn't (e.g., GGD, Horizon, Jackson, Peavey). It looks like you've been very successful in doing that. What accounts for that success? Would you recommend that others try that approach, or is your success too rare?
     
  2. bulb

    bulb SS.org Regular

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    GGD/Horizon and the other various ventures would be my “day job”. So I’m very lucky because I love my day jobs and they are related to music. All income combined allows me to live a comfortable life, albeit with no job security. But as I have said many times before Periphery just doesn’t net that much money. Maybe now that we have a label that might change slightly, but I’m not counting on it.

    For what it’s worth, I kinda prefer Periphery as a passion project.
     
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  3. bulb

    bulb SS.org Regular

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    What accounts for the success?
    Sheer dumb luck.
    I know it’s not the answer you want to hear, but so much of this is luck.

    This may be a bit of an extreme analogy, but often I feel like people are doing the equivalent of asking a lottery winner how to pick winning numbers.
     
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  4. Smooey

    Smooey SS.org Regular

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    Hey Man,

    I live in Australia, up near Byron bay. I say if you are young and do not have any dependents then go for it. No use mucking about with something you do not feel enriches your life. If it fails, it fails and at least you know. At least in Australia we have the rock n roll (dole) and medicare to fall back on if things get really desperate. You won't become destitute but might have a few tight spots. I have not taken that plunge. I have 2 (nearly 3) kids and can't really afford it but my boss is a legend and lets me tour, record or whatever whenever I like and also tries to facilitate my band (and others) income by booking us for parties and paying really well and looking for other opportunities for us. Im also lucky because my wife is pretty supportive and understands it is about the only thing I am half decent at so I might as well give it a red hot go. Also I have no mortgage to speak of. I've managed to get a few sync opportunities on skate/surf vids and even one upcoming show on the ABC which because I write the music and own publishing and recordings are paying ok residuals and license fees. Good shows and supports which have done the same. Not enough for me to live on at 37 with kids but if I was 18-25 Id be sweet especially with the dole to back up if needed. I grew up quite poor so not having money is nothing to me, I just wish I had the focus when I was younger.

    I cannot see it being an uninspiring lifestyle. I've done the full time study,full time work, kids plus band thing from 2015-2018 and while it does produce it's own energy and inspiration I can say that Im always more creatively productive with plenty of time, just depends on person I guess. You will have to hustle as much as work in your chosen crafts and time will still go quickly. Go hard man and I hope you succeed.
     
  5. ArtDecade

    ArtDecade John Bohlinger's Dank Stash

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    Is this guy sleeping on anyone's couch yet?
     
  6. budda

    budda Guiterrorizer Contributor

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    Gotta start on the floors.
     
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  7. jaxadam

    jaxadam SS.org Regular

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    Underrated comment.
     
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  8. TedEH

    TedEH Cromulent

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    Is this why musicians are always talking about low-noise floors?



    ......sorry, bad joke is bad. :lol:
     
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  9. thedonal

    thedonal SS.org Regular

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    Though if anyone does know the winning numbers to the EuroMillions on Friday, a PM will be gratefully received!
     
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  10. Element0s

    Element0s Low Fantasy/Black Denim

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    I quit my shitty lumber yard day job when I was 21 and did music more or less full in until I was 25. I was living in Edmonton, Canada at the time.

    Before I dove in, I already had a part-time teaching position at a music store, on piano. I worked 36 hours a week at the day job, and taught two evenings a week at the store. I decided to quit the day job when my coordinator told me that with the current demand for piano students in the beginning of the school year could grab me four full afternoons/evenings of lessons per week. I sat down and ran the numbers. I could pay my bills, put gas in my car and eat food for the amount I'd be making with my projected lesson schedule, but not much else. My living expenses were relatively low thankfully. I lived in a rented house with four other dudes from college and my health was good.

    Since I would effectively be working 18-20 hours a week on my new projected schedule, I knew I'd have to supplement this. I started looking for teaching work. Applying to other studios, looking for private students. I was already playing in a metal band but started jamming with and auditioning for cover/tribute acts. I also took stagehand gigs, working crew at festivals and whatnot. I put out ads for my services as a keyboardist for hire.

    The first year was rough. I struggled to get gigs--my song repertoire as a solo pianist was slim and my singing voice wasn't great--everywhere I auditioned wanted a singer, shit! Almost all of the cover bands I jammed with in my first year went nowhere. I'd stay with these bands for a few months. Maybe one of the other guys was good. We'd realize that the band was dead in the water and the other good player would introduce me to another group that he knew and we'd try again. I learned how to spot red flags and read people's commitment levels. 95% of the people I was jamming with were old enough to be my dad. I tried to get my friends from music school mobilized to start do classic rock covers or even jazz standards but quickly realized that my friend circle from music school didn't have the same motivation I did and we barely got further than one jam session. I tried shopping my keyboard skills as a session player to my friends in the metal scene but when I told my friends that I would charge them $50 to write and record keyboards for a song they clammed right up. I got drunk at a party and broke my glasses and couldn't afford to replace them so I only wore contacts for the rest of the year.

    It took quite some time, nearly 4 months before I got my first paycheck for something other than teaching. I was woken up by a random phone call from a songwriter in the Northwest Territories. He was from a small town and had gotten a cultural grant from the city council to record an album of original music and he didn't know any keyboardists in his town. I thought he was full of shit but I went with it because I didn't have much else going on. He started sending me songs with some ideas for keyboard parts and I told him that to write, arrange and record my parts from home would cost $50 per track. Not per song, but per actual keyboard track on the recording. So if he wanted a piano part and a string patch, it was $100. I sent him watermarked tracks for approval and then sent him the proper files when he sent the payment. I probably raked in about $1,300 over the course of a couple months doing this. When I finished the album he called again and offered to fly me up to the recording studio he'd rented in Yellowknife for a weekend to re-record the parts on their gear. I think I charged them another $1,300 for my three days in the studio and all my expenses were covered. I did a second album with the same guy two years later.

    This is where things began to turn around. That recording gig made me enough money to get my car fixed, replace my glasses and even see a dentist for the first time in two years. One of the shitty cover bands I stuck with opened a door to a better band that was gigging a couple gigs a month at casinos, weddings, parties, galas, etc. My metal band started doing well in our regional area and we were making really good money at the shows we played, few as they were. My teaching schedule blossomed and I found myself teaching 60 students every week. A contact from music school got a hold of me about playing in the pit band for an off-broadway musical and all of a sudden I was introduced to a brand new scene of theatre arts grads that I didn't know existed. I did a lot of shows with the same director and made decent money and had a lot of fun with these. Some of the shows won awards at the fringe festivals and it was cool to work with motivated people around my age group.

    I was making pretty good money, considering where I was, what I was doing and the fact that I had basically zero web presence aside from Facebook and a rinky-dink Instagram. No help from mom or dad either. But I was BUSY. I didn't really take vacations, just little 3 or 4 day trips to heavy metal festivals in North America once or twice a year. I picked up a couple non-music jobs here and there and put all that money in the bank. I was in four active bands and had zero free time and didn't really know where to go next with everything. I dabbled in a bit of touring with a slightly larger band but wasn't able to land anything money-making out of it.

    After about four years of this I was really tired. Despite the fact that I was busy and doing music all the time, I felt stuck in a rut. I was involved in so many projects and could only devote my attention to so much of them.

    I ended up moving to Vancouver in late 2014. I still teach about 40 students a week and I have a sales position at a machine shop. I have one metal band that did an album last year which has sold about 3,500 copies, played a festival in Germany and we're going on a 22-date tour of Europe next month to promote a new EP. I'm just as busy as I was before but instead of doing a dozen small things, I'm doing three BIG things which I've enjoyed more thus far.

    I don't really have a moral to this story, just wanted to share my experience because I basically did what you're thinking of doing. I didn't really do a lot of planning to be honest. I just sorta jumped in and made it work. I was probably luckier than some but I also know that I'm a better team player and more motivated than some. So make of all this what you will.
     
  11. Lorcan Ward

    Lorcan Ward 7slinger

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    This makes we wonder how older musicians who haven't adopted the whole online/social media thing yet or people who don't bother with any sig gear, tabs etc are able to make a living. Is everyone just going straight back to a job outside music after a tour?
     
  12. budda

    budda Guiterrorizer Contributor

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    At least one.
     
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  13. Drew

    Drew Forum MVP

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    This is great advice. Bulb's posts are on point, too.
    This is a bad reason to do anything. If you can't see yourself doing anything else, you're not trying hard enough.

    I'm coming from the other perspective - total music lover, the son of an equally-big music lover who went into medicine probably because he was from a family of doctors, and I honestly think the proudest my dad has ever been of me was when I got my first check from mp3.com way back in the day for people listening to my music. In college, I had no real focus on a profession, and music was hands down my biggest passion. Probably still is today.

    Instead of pursuing music full time, I graduated, bummed around professionally for a bit, and ended up getting a job in finance which has gradually morphed into an investment career. I have zero regrets of my life choices.

    I will never have the same passion about my forecast of the liklihood of GE losing its investment grade rating in a two year horizon as I do for writing and recording and playing music. I go home and pick up a guitar at the end of the day because after 8-10 hours of the former, I NEED that sort of a release to re-ground and feel human again. Yet, at the same time... The work I do is interesting enough to hold my attention, and I make WAY more than I ever would playing music professionallu, barring perhaps Ronnie Wood going into rehab and Mick Jagger giving me the call to go out on tour with the Stones. Even then I'm not sure.

    And, in return... I have nights and weekends to myself to play the music I want to, I can release whatever I want to without worrying if it will sell or not, and my main guitar and amp is a Suhr custom and a Mesa Mark V half stack, and I have a rack of botique mic preamps and EQs at my disposal, the sort of stuff I'd never be able to afford as a working musician.

    It's really not a bad compromise. I'd say instead try to find something that you don't really care about but find kind of interesting, that pays well, and do THAT, then focus on the music you care about outside work.
     
  14. Descent

    Descent SS.org Regular

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    Don't forget that when you're in ap paying situation in a touring band you can massage the numbers in such a way that the corporation is at a loss by paying yourself a high salary or vice versa, so maybe Misha is referring to some accounting finesse in there. I remember there was a band that on paper was going bankrupt and yet they paid each member a $100k salary for a year, don't remember who it was but they posted all of this somewhere saying how broke they were going on tour :)
     
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  15. buriedoutback

    buriedoutback SS.org Regular

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    I'm with Drew on this one.

    I love music. I'm in 2 bands. I have a 'studio' in my basement. The whole thing.
    Early on though, I realized that the odds of making enough money to live on, and retire on, were against me.

    I followed in my father and grandfather's footsteps and got into a good government career (booo hisss gov't ! lol) that pays well, allows me lots of time off, gives me benefits and a solid retirement package. I genuinely love it, so that certainly helps!!!

    This way I can afford to go play shows that don't pay, buy excessive gear, record/release what I want/etc and just enjoy myself -- without having to worry about losing my house.

    I can be a 'rock star' in my free time and still pay the bills.

    Full disclosure, at this point I'm almost 40. If I was 20 again, with nothing holding me back, and found my way into a touring band/solid teaching gig/popular youtube channel/sponsored gear situation -- I'd fuckin Giver!
     
  16. Bloody_Inferno

    Bloody_Inferno Silence is Violence

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    Still relevant.



    Both message and location.
     
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  17. soul_lip_mike

    soul_lip_mike SS.org Regular

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    They have no bassist, though. :D (I know, Nolly...)

    I was so confused when I saw them in Maryland in 2017 and there was no bassist on stage for that tour.
     
  18. bulb

    bulb SS.org Regular

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    Most people at our level do indeed, or they have some other income stream. A lot of people have gotten fed up when they hit their 30s and quit or the band just call it quits.
     
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  19. Drew

    Drew Forum MVP

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    We're about the same age, and... I don't know if I would.

    Again, I think JohnIce has the right idea of it. I lost Youtube monetization a year ago with the changes (should be eligible in a couple more months), but at the time I was making maybe $100 a year in revenue share, and the album I released in 2015 sold enough to recoup costs (not including gear and time) and make a couple hundred bucks. I'm not gigging - demand for instrumental rock isn't especially high - so there's no money coming in there, nor am I teaching, though that might be a little more viable.

    If I was making enough money from Youtube revenue share and album sales and teaching, and maybe gigging as well, to cover my mortgage and food and utities, in my early 20s... Yeah, I'd think about it, for sure. But that would be the test for me, if I was already making enough to support myself, then maybe I'd consider jumping over and doing it full time and seeing how much more I could make. If I wasn't though, and couldn't afford to keep supporting myself as a musician on an ongoing basis... I wouldn't chance it. Keeping music fun and retiring one day is too important for me.
     
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  20. budda

    budda Guiterrorizer Contributor

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    I dubbed this the "becoming an adult" phase. To tour and still have home ownership and a vehicle is pretty difficult. Add a partner who wants children and you have the trifecta :yesway:.
     

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