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I just don't understand the musician's life. Does anybody have a full time career?

Discussion in 'Bass Humor & Gig Stories [BG]' started by crow01, Mar 31, 2009.

  1. crow01


    Sep 1, 2008
    I met a drummer yesterday. He tells me how his band will be the new thing and how he wants to take his band all the way up.

    Then he tells me if I would leave everything to tour with him. (I heard this already 3 times this past month)

    I asked him:
    - How many other musicians in the band?
    A: Just me (the drummer)
    - Have you played gigs?
    A: 1 gig with a guitarist
    - Do you have fans, or do they "know you"?
    A: No

    Then I thought, this guy is kidding me right? I told him I have a job and responsibilities, bills to pay.

    He says he also has a job. I ask him where he works. He says he is a bouncer.

    Then I thought, well this guy can quit his job any time and find another job as a bouncer.

    I guess when I was in high school my parents always told me I should go to college. But they couldn't pay for it. So I had to work since little and get loans to pay for it. And so I did.

    So music is really a side gig. Cause people always said music life was tough, so I should have a backup just in case.

    My first band was a cover band. I learned a lot. They even paid me but not enough to live with just that. All the band members were going to college.

    Now everybody that I met since I decided to do the "original" thing. Nobody that I met so far has a career. Everybody thinks they are going to become famous over night. Only met a couple of people who either gets paid well being a musician or has a degree in music.

    Someone suggested I play with a church band. That really worked for me. But it's only a once per month thing. Also to join another cover band. That's still in the works.

    I could play gigs locally. But do it yourself tours? I don't think so. If I would be 18 I would say yes.

    Does anybody else a full time career, other than just becoming famous?

    (Note: I wasn't try to offend any musicians while writing this thread. And if I did I apologize)
  2. A lot of people think way too highly of their own talent and ability to become famous quickly. These people are never successful.

    Being a professional musician takes a lot of work and dedication. I'd love it if my band got some sort of deal, but I don't necessarily want to be famous. I also understand that it's going to take a lot of work.
  3. Absentia


    Feb 25, 2009
    Crappy musicians for some reason have an unrealistic view of their own ability.
    Like that rich rock craigs ad.

    The "I wanna be a rock star" thing is childish and should be abandoned upon graduating high school and joining the real world.
    Listen to the radio almost all the bands on there are either remnants from the grunge era or put together by the record companies.

    I don't know when I hear people talking about getting signed (of which they don't understand if you screw up you get a big hefty bill for all the money the company invested in you) I usually just walk away.
  4. madrob


    Aug 22, 2006
    Ottawa, ON, Canada
    Hey man, I'm in the same boat!

    I have a great career in aerospace research and am about to have my first mortgage. Anyway, a band contacted me looking for a bass player and when I told them I could jam any weekday after 4pm or weekends they asked if I could quit my job to jam during the day. Turns out the singer (female) and her boyfriend/guitarist are unemployed, living in his mom's basement and are "really serious" about going far.

    It really made me laugh as they weren't even that good but I had nothing else going so I thought I would try em out.

    I told them to keep looking and they got back to me a couple weeks later asking if I was still interested (apparently I could keep my job) but I told them no thanks.

    Would I quit my job for a music career?...........Yes BUT it would have to be a crazy amount of money that I could retire on. I would take a leave of absence for the right project to live a little of the rock and roll dream.

    Realistically, at 40 I'm not likely to be involved in a successfull originals act so I guess my career is safe!

    It always astounds me how out of touch with reality some musicians are.

    Rock on!!!!!
  5. mr.hughes


    Sep 12, 2005
    That's the nail on the head right there - people thinking their dreams are enough to take them to success, without putting the work in.

    I've been lucky enough to make my living from playing music for nearly 11 years now - playing as many as styles of music as possible alongside trying to make an original band work for seven years. Neither has been easy but playing as a session musician had been the most rewarding, because I know it's the result of a lot of hard work.

    Right now I'm in Germany on tour, playing music I probably never thought I would have when I was listening KISS when I was 9. But I think playing music for a living necessitates playing a lot of different things - being available to take whatever work come your way - especially in a small country like Ireland.

    I saw a Terry Bozzio clinic a few years back and he summed up the need to learn how to play in many situations by saying this (I'm paraphrasing here) - if you're lucky to make it famous/successful on your first album, like the Rolling Stones, then you can keep playing the same thing over and over - but if you don't have that luck then you need to be as versatile as possible to make a living.

    And on a side note to adamrobertt - being open to playing with anybody took me to Redhook last summer when I played at Bard College.

    So, my point is - it is possible to make a living playing music without being in a successful band with a record deal, etc. as long as you're prepared to learn as much as possible so that you can work as much as possible. Would you go to a doctor that hasn't studied for years, or hire a plumber with no experience and expect them to do a good job? It's the same with music. You get out of it what you put in.
  6. guizzy


    Nov 17, 2008
    From what I've seen there are three kind of full-time musicians.

    1. Part-time musicians who got lucky enough to catch the right ears at the right time. That's not something you should rely on, or you're likely to end up in category 3.

    2. Session musicians. I don't know how much you practice; but I'm fairly certain you have to practice even more; much more to get there. You need to be able to sight-read and play pretty much anything put in front of you. You'll be competing on jobs with lots of musicians who went to music schools. Considering the amount of people hoping to work as a musician, the pay will seem ridiculous compared to the amount of work required to keep on top.

    3. Unemployed people who own a musical instrument. There are a bunch of those.
  7. beggar98


    Jan 23, 2007
    Los Angeles, CA
    I think there's two sides to this argument. A good friend of mine is a horn player in New Orleans who is just starting to make a name for himself and be able to support himself playing music. For the last ten years, however, he would only take jobs that allowed him the freedom to work his schedule around gigs and mini-tours. That pretty much meant waiting tables and tending bar. He definitely suffered for that, he was always the one who couldn't make our yearly Vegas trip and he missed a lot of weddings and bachelor parties over the years because he simply couldn't afford to travel. The flip side is that he couldn't be where he is now without those sacrifices then. I'm willing to bet that when we're all in our 40s and this guy is playing music for a living while I shuffle around an office somewhere I'll be pretty jealous of him, just as he's been jealous of me over the last few years.
  8. Kenny Allyn

    Kenny Allyn

    Mar 25, 2006
    Yes I personally know a number of people that are pro musicians and that's all they do. The greatest number are part time to varying degrees I'm in that catagory my main business is what else speaker cabs.

    The really succesful ones have a formula that works, and that mostly consist of writing their own stuff and playing covers to fill the gaps. With the originals they make and sell CDs at the shows along with other things like T-Shirts etc: it's a whole marketing package. Most work atleast 5 nights a week and in the Summer do festivals. They all do road trips and the way that works is usually setting up a fairly big show or two a state or so away and then doing club gigs along the way there and back. The club gigs are usually one nighters and that is where the covers come in doing a 4 hour show. They do covers but not as you might think every successful band I know do covers adapted to their unique sound and style because the local bands do the "straight" covers. As an example "The Dempseys" are at heart a RockaBilly band but do tunes totally out of that genre, Ive heard them do Pink Floyd, but they still sound like The Dempseys.

    Slick Joe Fick of The Dempseys


    ;) ... Just my 2 cents from many of the ones I know ... others results may vary!
  9. I'm in an original project right now in which one of the guitarists is insufferable about this. It's like we're the next Led Zeppelin or something.

    The thing is, he's the youngest person in the band - at 36. He's also the weakest, least experienced player - coincidence?

    The drummer and I, both 50ish, just roll our eyes.
  10. BillyRay

    BillyRay Supporting Member

    Jan 20, 2008
    There's absolutely no reason why anyone over 30 should be caring about making it big (at least in the rock/pop world). The big divider is that 30 year old mark. Once you are 31 and you haven't been signed in previous bands, toured extensively and have a fan base, forget about it. Make music for your enjoyment, gig if possible and if you make money with your originals, good on you.

    But don't expect to live off of it. And if you do live off of it, don't expect luxury. My uncle went that route (fulltime musician) and he still working. He is 66 approaching 67. He'll probably die working, never having taken a day off. It was also easier back then: venues payed the same thing they pay now for the most part...

    The only artist up here in Quebec who "made it big*" while being above 30 years old is Dédé Fortin of Les Colocs. But his backing band was younger and he never looked his age. So I chuckle when I see balding 40 year old dudes scrounging money for their indie/pop release. Man, that is some delusion right there.

    *The band lived on welfare in between albums. They also had a NEW SOUND, something that nobody else could offer. I suggest checking out their music even if you don't understand French. Some tasty/tight/frantic playing on the first two albums and the third one is probably the only release that will make me cry just THINKING about the lyrics.
  11. jnuts1


    Nov 13, 2007
    BillyRay, Andy Summers was 36 when he "made it big".
  12. BZadlo

    BZadlo Supporting Member

    Mar 4, 2008
    Seattle, WA
    Andy Summers was 36 when the Police "made it big?"
  13. jnuts1


    Nov 13, 2007
    yes, 36.
  14. thudstaff23


    Mar 10, 2009
    Seattle, WA
    You have to be willing to go for it. As much as you have talent, and desire, you have to not be afraid to fly. Otherwise, you will stay on the ground. All points are valid here in this conversation, because everyone is able to justify why they DIDN'T make it. Regardless of age and ability, you gotta make a go of it if you want it that bad. Otherwise, yes, be content with making music with your friends on a Sunday afternoon. After all, there is nothing wrong with that.
  15. PSPookie


    Aug 13, 2006
    Ocoee, TN
    There are always exceptions which prove the rule.
  16. jnuts1


    Nov 13, 2007
    & the rule is you can accomplish almost anything if you put mind to it.
  17. Jared Lash

    Jared Lash Born under punches Supporting Member

    Aug 21, 2006
    Northern California
    Depending on what your definition of "making it big" is, I was in at least one band that had a real shot (signed with a major label) and another that was poised to have substantial success. The latter, a ska/punk band I left school for a semester to tour with (and all summer) and we scrapped and scrounged the entire time, at one point playing 8 gigs in 7 days, the furthest ones 100 miles apart.

    There wasn't any pie-in-the-sky talk in the van during that tour. It was all very focused on getting through the gigs, moving CDs and merchandise and trying not to kill each other. If anything, there was just an unspoken sentiment/hope that all the hard work would eventually pay off.

    I guess my point is that the harder someone tries to sell me on how successful they are "going to be" the less interested I am because 99% of the time it means they have no clue about what that would actually take.

    I'm 31 now and I haven't had the dream of "making it" for 8 years or so. To me, having fun playing music or writing, recording and performing originals is just a creative outlet for me. Nothing more, nothing less.
  18. Mr. Mig

    Mr. Mig

    Sep 7, 2008
    I had a friend who dedicated 10 years to a band. The problem was he felt like he didn't need to pay bills because he will do it once he "signs his first record deal". His mom had to chash in her retirement funds to support him sitting around the house waiting for his "deal" to come". Nobody to blame but herself on that one. He isolated himself from his friends because we were not on par with his new Rock n' Roll friends. So what happened? He got a job as an extra on a TV show that got cancelled and left his band. Need I say the band, along with many others, hates him now? I need not. But it is ok because he also dedicated to his writing, acting, and producing career. Which he has also been working on for more than 10 years.
  19. BillyRay

    BillyRay Supporting Member

    Jan 20, 2008
    From Wikipedia:

    The dude was an accomplished session musician before forming the Police. Also, being considered to play for The Rolling Stones indicates that you've made it big.

    Same thing for Lemmy, altough "making it big" in his case is somewhat of an overstatement. He probably made more from the "Mama I'm coming Home" royalties than he ever did with all the Motörhead albums.

    Point is, all these guys have payed their dues, playing 150-250 nights a year or laying tracks since they were in their twenties. They weren't stocking shelves at the local WalMart at 34 and dreaming about making it big.
  20. strings42


    Feb 16, 2009
    Marietta, GA
    Just an observation, in my experience it's pretty crucial to make sure everybody's goals match. Otherwise, bad things happen pretty quickly.

    The band I'm playing in now is a second gig for everyone involved. OK, one of the guitarists probably could do this for a living with the right hookup, but he gets that it's a night job for the rest of us. He works a lot of gigs anyhow, so he's juggling work just like we are. Fortunately, we're all too old and have too many family ties to go on the road or anything serious. We know we're just a local band and we're fine with that.

    On the other hand, I have a friend who makes his living playing and writing, and producing a little bit on the side. He ditched a "real" job at about 28 and turned to music full-time (he was well-schooled and experienced, just hadn't decided to make it his main gig prior). He's been able to make a decent living at it, but has the benefit of a wife with a good full-time job to help get him through the lean times (like now). Still, it was pretty brave of him in my view to go full-out when he had a decent-paying career going.

    Bottom line, I'd say success in music requires a great deal of drive and testicular-fortitude that I, for one, at the end of the day, do not have. I like playing, but I don't have enough confidence to think that I could make a living at it (a thought borne out, at least so far, by the pittance I tend to make after beer on an average weekend).

    Points for the folks with dreams for having the guts to dream (I pretty much don't), but it's the drive that wanes the fastest in most of us, especially when we have bills to pay and families to feed.

    On the other hand, most of my "success" (which is to be sure a relative term) came after the age of 45 when I fell into a gig that got me some exposure on a limited scale. That first job got me on the map (a small map), and opened some doors to some other things. I've got a pretty full calendar playing-wise these days, if not a particularly full wallet. So I guess some success late in life is possible, if not exactly the financial windfall I'd hoped. :) All in all, I'd say my chances of getting rich playing music are roughly the same as my chances of getting rich playing the lottery. Oh, and did I mention that since I'm trying to be a serious player now, I have to drop a lot more $$'s on gear? :) Strange coincidence, that ...

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