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musicians and day jobs

Though she probably didn’t realize it at the time, a newย blogging and tweeting friend of mine nudged me to write this. I had another great idea for a blog, but my day-job cut into the moments I had set aside to research and write it, so the research never got done. When she first wrote to me on Twitter the other day, I was so deep in an on-call technical issue at work that I made a quick response and then dove back into the problem. The next day, when I went to look at my messages, I did not even remember that I had already replied. Talk about not being in the present moment.

Of course, I replied to her again. And then promptly realized that this was the second time I had responded. Did that make me twice as friendly as if I’d only responded once? Um. Probably not. She was very understanding. Thankfully.

The point is, even though I consider myself to be a musician and artist, I have a day-job. The trouble with the occupation that I’ve worked for many years is that it also involves some on-demand nights and weekends. Because I deal with the so-called back end of computer server technologies, I sometimes have to perform updates when the customer is not busy typing data into their little screens or I have to be on-call (i.e., available for after hours support) in case the customer runs into problems with the stuff that I administer.

Obviously, this kind of work can impact gigs, practice schedules and so on that are supposed to happen in the evenings “after work”. In fact, on last Friday, I barely made it to a wedding I had to play for with a moment to spare. Did the bride know? No way! Was I stressed out by the close call? You bet.

At this point in my life, I need to have a day job in order to simultaneously pay the bills, save for retirement, and provide upkeep on my musical toys tools. Nearly all the musicians I jam with have other work ranging from electricians to clerks to plumbers to technicians to day-care professionals.

At this point in my life, I also want — more than ever — to have adequate time for my marriage, practicing music, recording, gigging, marketing (including blogging and social media which could be full time jobs), and so on. It’s a real balancing act incorporating all of this with a job that does not always fit in the 9-5 mold.

If you’re still thinking about which day-job will be good to go with your musical practicing and gigging, I recommend avoiding ones that require on-call work or otherwise fill your weekends and nights with “extra” work. You need those times for playing and making music.

Playful blessings,
Stan (aka @muz4now)

P.S. Not to worry, that “great idea for a blog” is still on it’s way … soon.

15 thoughts on “musicians and day jobs”

  1. I hope you’re able to find a different type of job that allows you to support your family and enjoy your music. I’ve walked in those shoes (sans instrument), and I felt like a walking, talking suit with a pulse. Working as a mortgage banker for BofA was a soul-sucking experience. I didn’t have time for cuddles or me-time, and the job might even have played a part in the divorce between me and my daughter’s father. The biggest part was he’s a jerk, but might it have been different if I hadn’t been a workaholic, pulling 14-16 hour days every day? Who’s to say, but either way, I’m free from the mortgage biz and remarried to someone who let’s me be the creative, crazy me that I was before I ever quoted a rate.

    I hope you get there too, and find a job that allows you more cuddles and music. To focus on your true passion, is beautiful.

    In the meantime, do what you can when you can–I never even knew how frazzled you were or juggling so much, because you are always so cool and cheerful (thank you). People get busy, and you can only do so much in one day.

    I’m glad I could inspire a post ๐Ÿ™‚ I’m honored to know you, my friend. ox

    1. Thanks for your story, Amberr. Your encouragement is awesome. And following up on it scares the tendons out of me (and the human body ain’t much use without tendons ๐Ÿ˜‰ ).

      Playful blessings…

  2. I hear you. A job you can leave at work at work regular hours is so useful when pursuing a creative endeavor on the side.

    Of course, my day job is 24/7 and doesn’t pay, but the money I save on special services for the kids by being home is huge.

  3. Loved your post, Stan, as I am also struggling with how I can possibly do my music while also working full-time and going for a degree. I end up feeling soooo guilty that I do not devote enough time to my art…”When will I get time to work more on my CD?!!” And I have even tried to do both at once (taking my computer to school & trying to work on mixing and editing music when I have a free minute here & there.) Obviously that didn’t work so well… And some days I come home so tired from teaching with so much take-home work to do (grading & planning), that the time I carved out for music-making never comes to fruition. Okay, I’m venting about this and could go on & on. Thank you for highlighting this issue that many of us are facing. Much support to you, fellow artist! ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. I think you really heard me. ๐Ÿ˜‰

      Thanks, Susan. It does sound like you are working through this balancing act of having a day-job and your artistic/music-making in the mix.

      Playful blessings,

  4. Great blog Stan! Honest, brutally honest! I can relate 100%!! I’m a licensed Chef and was slowly making my way through life balancing music&work-(easy when u can’t booked because you don’t play “what’s on the radio”) I ran a pretty successful restaurant(absentee owners-younger folks!) making decent money. LONG story short- a opportunity came my way-I took it! Invested everything I had into it(some I didn’t as well!) always wanted to be able to just play music for a living-here was my chance! Well, shortly after throwing all our savings down- lost my job due to “smoking ban” business decline- owners thought 1. Paying me 2 much-2.”holding me back” Now I find myself a textbook starving artist- we get by- barely. I live in a small town, been very fortunate to land some great people willing to help me get “out there” by appearing on my album. Its not glamorous in ANY way- but I dice roll I couldn’t refuse! It’s been 6months since I inked a record deal- album is set to print- blessed with a few guys who payed for me fly to various places to play gigs in some amazing venues out west. But at the end of the day- I’m looking for a day-job. When u follow your dreams, u sacrifice everything. In my mind- u suffer for ur art, par for the course. Suffer BECAUSE of your art- no good! People have this illusion that when u sign a record deal life is all rainbows and sunshine- NO sir!! There are no guarantees!! Almost all the musicians I know work day jobs- even the professional ones. It may still be music related(writing music they dont like/play for film, tv, etc-which kinda bailed me out landing a licensing deal) but u do what u can to provide/survive. NO shame in sacrifice. Juggling act makes it very hard- loving what u do gets u thought.
    The part about the wedding: man, I hear ya Stan! The folks on the other end have no idea what u went through to make it happen- I’ll bet it didn’t even show on your face either! Thats what its ALL about!
    In a lot of ways, I’ve been lucky. Keeps me humble. Doesn’t make you any less a musician if u have a day job!
    Quick surreal story- out filling apps for jobs and getting treated like dirt, while holding flyers I’d made to HIRE musicians to tour with to support my album release- just weird holding the 2 completely dif apps together! (still haven’t found drums and bass!!)
    Sorry to ramble- GREAT blog Stan!
    (::)buttons and threads(::)

    1. Mike,

      What an amazing story. And I’m sure it’s not that uncommon. I do think you’re exceptional in the manner that you’re staying positive and seeking balance in the midst of what could be experienced as turmoil or even failure. Kudos to you and congratulations on the album/tour.

      Best wishes in both “job” searches — yeah, it sometimes seems surreal.

      Playful blessings,

  5. Well, I was so captivated by that and totally relate. Love my job and my creativity and just try to get the best from both. I always say it’s better than going down the mines and as a woman, still an important freedom to earn a living in any way…Good at least to be part of a global community which values creative work and soulfullness, big wave from Ireland:~)

    1. I understand. And I appreciate the female perspective. I know that our world is still skewed in terms of gender in the workplace.

      I’m enjoying your photography on your delightful blog!

      Playful blessings,

  6. Great post & comments! I’m a family man & I’ve been making my living independently as a guitarist, singer, songwriter, & guitar teacher for the past 4 years.

    Now, like you, I’m at a point in my life where I want to pay my bills & provide financial stability for my family. I’m looking for a “day job”. I’ve battled within myself over this subject since I started performing acoustic solo gigs for a living. I play electric guitar too & often daydream of playing in a band, but I chose performing solo to earn as much money as I could quickly from gigging. Even during my best financial year though of the 4 I’ve spent as a gigging musician, there were still those gigs & those months that were unstable & undependable for various reasons. That’s the side of “doing what I love to do” that makes me want a day job.

    I worked in a steel mill for 10 years. During that time I didn’t create or play music very often. I worked rotating shifts, a lot of overtime, & fell into the robotic routine of “get up, go to work, come home, go to bed, reset”… I made good money & we were comfortable financially during the years that I worked there, but I felt like it sucked the creativity right out of me.

    When I got laid off due to a department shut down, I decided to pursue my life long love of music. That’s what led me to where I am now. I’ve averaged between 80 to 100 gigs a year for the past 4 years. Early on not all of them were “quality gigs” as I was very much focused on “quantity” when I first started. I’ve since learned the difference & have become far more selective:)

    I’ve had this nagging fear in my mind about getting a day job since I started performing music for a living. I’m afraid that I’ll fall back into that rut I was in & sometime down the road I’ll say “Yea, I used to play music for a living, now it’s just a hobby”. That scares me. At the same time though, I want to be able to pay my bills, have a little money to spare & take my family on vacation once a year.

    I think that’s what so many artists want. We have the desire to live comfortably & still be true to ourselves.

    Thank you for easing my fear of juggling a day job with doing what I love to do.

    I think I can find the “right” day job. One that I won’t mind doing & one that will co-exist with my music schedule.


    1. JPH,

      Thanks for your story. I really hear you. It can be a real balancing act. You’re right that finding the job that will mesh with the music rehearsal/performance schedule requires real discernment.

      And I understand the fear. Mine comes up in those occasions where I consider doing music/creative work for a living. You’re doing that, so your fear is losing it to the day-job. Wow!

      Blessings to you as you find this balance.

  7. This is an excellent blog entry! I’ve been going through the same battle for years and continue to figure out the best way to approach it. I’m a jazz vocalist and was in school for a year studying jazz performance before I felt the pangs of being an adult with bills. That led me back to a full time gig, but I was still able to gig consistently. It was just extremely tough to find time for practice and rehearsal mixed in w/ work outs, spending time w/pet, etc. I’m always looking for ways to make money to support my craft b/c I truly want to be an artist full time, but it will take time. Reading your blog and people’s responses served as a reminder that I’m not alone. Keeping striving everyone and I’ll do the same. ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. Jua,

      Thanks so much for your story! Great to hear that you’re finding some kind of balance. And yes, it’s awesome to support each other on this journey.

      Now that you’ve been at it for a while, are you finding it easier/harder/same to find practice time?

      Playful blessings,

      1. I am finding it much easier at the moment due to the fact that I am no longer at a full time job. I will be doing telecommuting work soon so I’ve got a lot more time. Now I’m struggling with creating a more structured practice schedule. LOL It’s progressing gradually. ๐Ÿ™‚

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