The life of a semi professional musician or, How I learned to stop worrying and love the bomb.
Music is and always will be one of truest forms of expression. It allows, for those with the capabilities, the power to portray the feelings of what it is to be alive. In recent times, larger faceless corporations have used this knowledge to create one of the largest markets in the world, the ever illusive and sprinkled with star dust, Music Industry. Where stars are born and fortunes are made, it holds the promise for the good life to millions around the world.
It’s this allure that brings every man and his dog to the doors of record labels and venues around the globe in hopes that maybe they’ll be the next big thing in the world of music. And I suppose, in a round-a-bout way, it’s the reason I came knocking at its door as well. I originally started playing guitar for 2 reasons, the first and weaker of these, is my absolute love of music, since I can remember I’ve always been enamoured and engrossed by it, from listening to my parent’s music on car trips and watching Disney films as a child to music lessons in school, it’s been my longest friend. The second and probably the more honest reason, I wanted to impress girls. And to be completely honest, nearly all teenage boys start for this exact reason, what they don’t tell you when you start is, that to be good and I mean actually good at any instrument is, you have to give up on a social life. There are just not enough hours in the day to accommodate for both, which is why this blog is called The life of a semi professional musician, not The life of a professional musician. I had trouble splitting the two.
So let’s jump forward from my adolescent lust and come to present days. I’ve been playing guitar for 16 years, and I finished University 5 year ago where I studied music. As previously mentioned, I’ve always had trouble splitting social and practice time so let’s just say Uni and myself were never best friends. I now work many different jobs to get by and hopefully with my explanations and generally moaning about these jobs you’ll get a picture of how its possible to live off music without being a professional musician.
Now we can start with the downsides to this way of life, and the first and real kicker is, say goodbye to your days off. You can never say no to work, so any gig, any student or any client that asks for you, is going to hear a yes. Then factor in trying to create a new company from the ground up that requires a lot of time for what at the moment provides no return. On top of that my side job as waiter extraordinaire in a rather reputable Irish establishment, altogether takes up a vast amount of time in the short blink of time that we call a Day.
The next point to really bitch about is the money, and its not so much that you’re not paid enough for your services because you aren’t and that’s not going to change but it’s really about the lack of security. You don’t have a full time wage, you can’t guarantee that at the end of the month you’re going to have enough to live on and the worst scenarios of just not getting paid for your troubles. Having a client hold your invoice for weeks till a time that suits them is possibly the most frustrating aspect to this, knowing you have money owed but kept in the dark about when it comes drives one up the proverbial wall.
Right, I’ve had my moan about money and time, or lack thereof. I guess it’s time I explained to you exactly what I do and how I came to stop worrying and love the bomb. My first job as a musician is in cover bands, it’s not glamorous and you’re not treating like the stars you think you are but it’s a solid earner, the bread and butter for most musicians I know. You gotta have a memory for it, a huge repertoire that can be recalled off the top of your head but as for actual playing ability, not a lot is required. As long as you can play what the people want to hear, you’re going to go home with some money in your pocket and if you’re any good, the venue will want you back. At this moment in time. I play in 4 cover bands of various styles just to make sure that I can get booked for whatever show the client is wanted. My second job is as a private guitar tutor, I would love to tell you its about giving back to a younger generation and for a few select students this is true, but for most of the people I teach, it’s a job. It’s not a personal attack or meant to sound mean, but if I wasn’t paid for it, I’d much rather catch up on an hours sleep instead. The next earner down the line is composing, now, although a difficult area to get in and a even more difficult area to execute, it does have a high paying reward for it’s troubles. The last of actual freelance areas I work is as technic, a job that I just kind of landed in but is rewarding in its own right, fair warning, every thing is the technics fault, and every one likes to throw their two cents in on how you should be doing your job but again, it helps pay the bills.
On top of these I’m also one of the proud founders of Munich Sessions, this old website here that you’re on gives all the info you want on that. I said early that it provides no return at the moment, this is a given factor whenever you take something from just an idea and follow through with it’s creation. I hold the highest hopes for Munich Sessions future and don’t regret a second I put in to it.
Now yes, I’m not completely living off music at the moment, for many reasons, I still work in gastro to help lighten the pressure of the monthly struggles. The goal of 2017 is to be able to confidently quit and be solely funded by what I love but at the moment, it’s just a little to risky. Call it what you will, but I’m ok with it for now. Hopefully if you follow this series of blogs you find out when I finally go postal and leave in flying colours.
So I hope that gave you a coherent introduction to what I do, I’m going to try to keep these to a weekly post of what I’ve been doing between but any special breakthroughs will be celebrated in a new post as well. The overall aim of these is to give people an idea into what is require of you to make a life in music and maybe help swing people who are unsure of what future to follow. Take it easy and you know, maybe hire me?