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Are you a full-time gigging musician?

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by Optofonik, Feb 19, 2019.

  1. fretlessbass

    fretlessbass Supporting Member

    Dec 3, 2010
    Tucson, AZ
    I'm a full-time musician, in the sense that I average 5-6 performances per week. The work is not particularly high paying, but it's easy--and enjoyable: mostly theater gigs, along with freelancing in a bunch of jazz, rock , R&B and country bands, choir and church gigs, big band, etc....
    Best part is I hardly ever have to move band equipment!
    As I've noted elsewhere, being able to read made all the difference in the world.
    I was also lucky enough to move to an area that needed my skill set....back on the east coast, guys like me are a dime a dozen!
    Edit: I hit the button prematurely...I wanted to add that most of my life I , too, had 2nd and 3rd jobs to "subsidize" my music career...it's only now, in my mid-60s, that things have panned out...and it certainly doesn't hurt that these days, social security "subsidizes" my music career!
    Last edited: Feb 20, 2019
  2. JSandbloom

    JSandbloom Supporting Member

    Feb 2, 2004
    Redding, Ca
    Grace Guitars USA
    Bass player 3 nights a week and most week nights I do solo acoustic gigs. So I’m working about 5 nights a week.
  3. Nightman

    Nightman If it ain't low, it's got to go! Supporting Member

    Jun 3, 2013
    Atlanta, GA
    Back in the early eighties I had the pleasure of playing guitar in a up and coming local Gospel group. We would travel on weekends to be on programs with nationally known artist like Al Green, The Clark Sisters, The Mighty Clouds of Joy, The Rance Allen Group, Dixie Hummingbirds, Tramaine Hawkins. After one show here in Atlanta, I was talking to one of the band members with The Dixie Hummingbirds about hitting the road full-time with a traveling show band. He took me to their bus to show me what it's like on the inside. :vomit: It was then and there that I decided I was not going to be in a full-time traveling band!!!
    Last edited: Feb 20, 2019
  4. bearfoot


    Jan 27, 2005
    schenectady, ny
    I haven't been gigging much this year, but I have a job with "Music Director" in the title.
  5. Hambone70


    Jan 31, 2018
    Tucson, AZ
    Retired. Band for fun, DJ/VJ for income.
  6. SpazzTheBassist


    Jun 20, 2006
    I did it full time for 30+ years, with the exception of four years in the 00s, and this includes as a session recording bassist as well as a fulltime gigging pro....I am currently in RN School as a later in life career change....I don't mind telling you that I am looking forward to playing music for fun instead of a job after I graduate and take boards later this year
    Optofonik and Nightman like this.
  7. Sub-Frequency


    Sep 19, 2017
    Weekend Warrior (2-4 gigs per month). I like buying gear, and nice things too much to try to do music full time. Maybe once I retire from my career it'll be a different story.
  8. Month-end warrior?
    Nightman likes this.
  9. Bunk McNulty

    Bunk McNulty It is not easy to do simple things correctly. Supporting Member

    Dec 11, 2012
    Northampton, MA
    Did I says that? What I meant to say: I do this only out of the goodness of my heart.:D
    G19Tony likes this.
  10. b_carville


    Jun 26, 2008
    Was full time about 5 years in the 70's.,(cover band).I got a day job when they upped the drinking age from 18 to 21(New Jersey)& played on weekends with a cheesy wedding/banquet band for about 5 or 6 years.
    Went full time again with another band about 1987.Stayed with them for 29 years.Made an OK lower middle class living.Did radio/TV work & played up & down the east coast.Got a lot of private parties,weddings,etc.
    I'm semi retired.Collecting Social Security(I'm an old guy.65).I also sell vinyl records& guitars & other music stuff.I still do gigs but not too often. This month I'll do two.December I did six.I do get sub calls when a band's bassist can't make it.I don't really look for gigs.I don't even own a car.I live near a small venue that runs live music 6 or 7 days a week.It's kinda nice not to have to worry about how many gigs I need to do not to mention being able to turn down gigs with people I don't like.
    Nightman likes this.
  11. JRA

    JRA my words = opinion Supporting Member

    i'm retired (in almost every way! :D ), but i've had two periods in my life as a full-time musician: totalling 30 years. i'm almost 69, so: i've obviously done other things to earn a living. and i've had brief moments when i worked two full-time jobs (one of them as a musician). there were some years when i worked more than one gig per day average! during some of that time: i also ran a successful pro studio, i hustled for writing and arranging gigs, too.

    in retirement = i actually spend more time, i think, on music (especially arranging and writing) than i remember doing when i played for my main income. i also do a lot of mixing and mastering these days --- mostly for friends/associates but sometimes for hire, and i also do some FOH gigs. playing is my biggest thrill, however, and i don't play enough --- 3-4 gigs a month, so these days: i could not survive on the money i make from music....
  12. I am retired from my fulltime job, but have played out for the last 40 some years. Currently playing 3 to 5 times monthly, sometimes more, sometimes less. In all those years I have only met a couple guys to were able to make a living with music only. One was Tommy Tedesco, another was Barney Kessel. Most people I know of have made the bulk of their money either in fulltime jobs or in other music related endeavours. Some teach either privately or at the university level. Another one, Johnny Smith, had his own music store in 70's and 80's.

    So are there folks making it fulltime; I'm sure there are, but I think they are the first call guys in town or the current industry leaders. For the rest of us it's just extra income, not something that can pay the bills every month.

    Thump on,

  13. sevenyearsdown

    sevenyearsdown Supporting Member

    Jan 29, 2008
    Sanborn, NY
  14. Eilif

    Eilif Supporting Member

    Oct 1, 2001
    I voted 25%. For myself it might be even closer to 40%. However, this is comparing my gigs (about one a week) to the part-time-job income I bring to the family with the work I do in addition to "homemaking".

    However, my wife is the primary breadwinner and if you compared my gig income to our combined income or even just hers, it would be less than 10%.

    However, I do keep some track of it and having money coming in via music is definitely a factor in my satisfaction with my current group. It's not "all about the money" (I like the guys and the music) but I wouldn't be doing it for free.

    As for the topic overall, I've met very, very few musicians who support themselves soley on playing. Even the full time folks who haven't had to get a non-music side job are is teaching, subbing, studio, consulting, etc...

    I'd go further and say that even those who could survive off gigging are usually doing more just to keep their standard of living above subsistence-level.
  15. I voted 100% but I would go back and change that to 75% I suppose because I teach a fair amount of private students. Aside from a couple w2’s I get at tax time, most of my income is from being a self employed musician one way or another.
  16. Weekend warrior playing about 2 or 3 times a month, I was a full timer in my original band from 80-89
  17. Tnavis


    Feb 25, 2003
    Minneapolis, MN
    There was a few years in the early 2000's when I considered myself a full time musician; I was teaching lessons, doing studio work, jobber gigs, weddings, and an original band that was trying real hard to make it happen. Even then, I had a part time day gig and, relied on my wife to handle the majority of the expenses. The stress and the hustle took a lot of the enjoyment out of music for me at the time. It was starting a specific career, and turning music into a hobby that I was really good at, that made a huge difference (for the better) in my life. Since then, it's really feast or famine with music. I'll have a year where I'm playing 30+ shows, and a year with nothing. The lean years allow me time to focus on practice and listening to new music.
  18. Not much...the odd gig that I get some money for, but I think of it more as "new string/pedal money, rehearsal costs, or new bass savings" rather than income.
  19. Bunk McNulty

    Bunk McNulty It is not easy to do simple things correctly. Supporting Member

    Dec 11, 2012
    Northampton, MA
    It's easy for us. Drummy is the only one with a "real" life (full time job, ex-wife, girlfriend...) The rest of us are marginal: School bus driver, musical instrument salesman who's usually between jobs, part time writer (that's me) and Bill the Sound Guy. Nobody knows what he does now, but he has funny stories about paying off customs people in Moscow. I'm guessing he was some kinda spy or something.

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