Is this "defeat"? Or am I just late to the party?

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by Plucky The Bassist, Jul 5, 2022.

  1. Plucky The Bassist

    Plucky The Bassist ZOMG! I'm back from the dead! Supporting Member

    Jul 30, 2010
    This may be in the wrong thread, though it does have to do with band membership. I will also save those disinterested the time, by saying this is a personal reflection post of sorts. I may just be after a healthy dose of "copium" from fellow TB'ers, but I'd like to hear how others have tackled this.

    Everything I did since age 18 (and I mean everything) was a means to an end...that "end" being a career as a professional musician in some way shape or form. The dream was an originals band doing what so many dream of...getting signed to a label and touring all over for your supportive and excited fans. Any job I got (and pretty much any $$ I got too) went to gear, transportation (to carry said gear to rehearsal/gigs), rehearsal space rent, recording software, and basically anything else I thought could get me closer to that goal. Even my college degree and full-time job was the backup to cover me on living expenses and gear, with the goal still being that elusive gigging band and record deal. There were many weeknights spent at the rehearsal space until 3am, just 4 hours before I had to get up for work the next day. At the time, 10 years since I started playing, it still felt worth it. I couldn't quite put my finger on it, but that seemed to be the last time I felt that magical drive to keep going.

    That band split, as so many past ones did, so that was nothing new to me. I didn't really notice it, but my countenance changed dramatically after. The drummer in that last band said I always had the craziest grin on my face when we played. The next 4 groups always asked me why I looked so serious when playing. I chalked that up to being tired, but I think it was more than that. A couple bands after that one I smiled in broke up, I went to get lessons from Andrew Pouska in Houston (fantastic teacher btw) to clean up my playing.

    Things were already on the decline before this, but one day we got on the subject of originals and he asked me to play some of my stuff. He said the songs were good and felt I did have talent as a songwriter, but then he asked me what my endgame was with music. I said I wanted to get a solid band together, write and play originals together, and hit the road playing all the gigs we dream since I was a kid. He asked me in a roundabout way what kept me from doing that, and while there were/are some health difficulties to my life that require healthcare coverage to address, I said even if that wasn't a factor things didn't seem to pan out with various groups I'd joined or formed.

    He looked kind of solemn and told me if this were 20 or 30 decades ago, he'd tell me to save some money, quit my job, pack up my stuff, and set L.A., NYC, Chicago, or Seattle as my destination...go find some people to jam with and hang in there, because it would just take some time to get noticed. I could tell what he was going to say, that "Things really don't work that way any more", and for the most part he was right. He didn't want to say it was impossible, but selling out big venues was highly unlikely for even an incredibly successful band that started within the past 10 or so years. Making a living is tough even for very established bands. I was fine with ending up a backing bassist or even doing session work with some local gigging, but the hope of that big stadium show was still the dream.

    Things died on the vine quicker and quicker from then on, until I had decided to hang it least in regards to forming a band. I was sort of numb to it until I was driving to an old band buddy's house (we didn't play anymore) and I heard a song with a cool electric organ piece in it, I thought "Hey! That would be something cool to try in a son----" and then it REALLY hit me. Felt like remembering an old friend had died. Writing or recording became pointless, if I couldn't gig or anything...why write or record music? Might as well cut to the chase and just focus on something else.

    Definitely an ego thing, but I felt that confidence and self-esteem I used to have just completely deflate. Felt like I had no place in the musician community anymore, like trying to participate would make me a fraud and a "poser". Days without playing turned to weeks and then months. Friends used to ask me about gear and such, but it got to the point where I'd even forgot what I had. I found a Tech 21 Blonde pedal buried in my closet, new in the box...never even used it. That's not meant to be a flex, I had just become that alienated from something I felt WAS my identity.

    I've focused on game development for the past couple of years, which has been pretty great, but it's not the same thing at all. Every now and then, I'd dig one of my basses out and turn on my incredibly dusty GK 700RB-II (had to look up the model number just now btw), but while it was cool to play around a bit, being rusty and forgetting so much just got frustrating for me. With the job I have now, there's barely any time to maintain a residence (rest goes to game dev.), so things feel even farther away than they did before. The past few times I "tried" again, it felt like dating an ex and hoping things would somehow "Be different THIS time", but it always ended up the same.

    To finally get to the point, playing may be cathartic for a little while, but even hooking up my old recording gear to fool around would seem a waste of space and time. I feel like over the course of 13 years trying, I've put in sufficient effort to at least get a run with some solid local gigs. I believe I've done enough squeezing and I'm deserving of a few drops of juice. I guess I'm in the shoes of the guys I used to laugh at...the people trying to relive their youth through bands.

    I'm not down to humiliate myself trying, but I think the "old me" is still alive and well, he's just irrelevant right now and not by his or my choice. Hate to paint a "no-win scenario" for people to chime in on, but that's the reason I've been so bummed about it. Despite all this, I still can't bring myself to part with my gear...which I believe is me still trying to hold on. Is it time to fold for good, or just play my hand until all my chips are gone? Was there a happy medium you found in time? Should I just be content spinning my wheels and not focus on hitting a goal?

    Tl;dr - When musicianship and being in a band has been so strongly tied to your identity for so long, what have you done when you know your goals won't be reached? Is coping just a waste of time or should I forego my dignity and just keep matter how ridiculous I may look or sound? Should I admit defeat, or just latch onto the hope that I could (no matter how unlikely) be a late bloomer? What has a reassessment of "success" and "progress" looked like for you over the past several years of trying to make it?
    Last edited: Jul 5, 2022
  2. sean_on_bass


    Dec 29, 2005
    i had similar dreams as you when i was younger. When i was in my 20's i came to the opinion that the whole original band touring the world thing is just not a realistic short term goal(maybe not even long term!) and decided to curve my path to doing something with music that i knew i could make happen and even get paid. I was determined to learn to be a proficient jazz bassist, network with as many local gigging musicians as i could, and start getting picked up to play a combination of private event type gigs, restaurants, and the occasional more artistic performance.

    Anyways, it all worked out and now i play gigs fairly frequently while still holding a day job to pay the bills. It's not nearly as extravagant as being an international commodity and living in a rock star mansion, but it allows me to play music i like, perform to good audiences, and express myself through music.
  3. two fingers

    two fingers Opinionated blowhard. But not mad about it. Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    I wasn't on the same path you were. But there were similarities.

    I never tried to "make it big". But I did hope to "make a living" playing music as a career all of my working years at one point.

    I managed to play in five bands at once to get by for a few years. Then I played in a pro band corporate/private party band (with the occasional bar gig) for the better part of a decade.

    Like you, "musician" was my identity. And I thought it would always be that way.

    But years of missed family events, unsteady income, travel, etc. took their toll on me. The last year of being a musician for a living, and the first year of NOT being a musician for a living were WEIRD. The transition took a while.

    These days, I have a wife and two daughters. I have the best dad band in my area. Music is just for joy. I managed to turn the corner when I allowed my identity to change. I'm no longer a musician as my only title. I'm a husband, father, and really good at what I do to pay the bills.

    The transition was complete when I allowed those other titles to take over.

    You haven't mentioned having a personal life. I won't bother guessing how you're doing in that department. Suffice to say that if that's going well, other things se to "fall into place". At least they did for me.

    There was a time when I couldn't imagine not being a musician for a living.

    These days I can't imagine not being a dad. And if my favorite band offered me a spot on their next tour playing bass and singing I would flatly turn them down for fear of messing up what I have outside of music.

    Short version: Keep an open mind and allow your priorities to change. Music doesn't have to be all or nothing. Even writing and recording originals can be done for the joy of releasing those songs into the wild just to see if anyone else "gets" them.

    Allow yourself the freedom to follow your own path. Don't regret spending time pursuing a career in music. That got you where you are the position to decide for yourself what's next.
  4. Nashrakh


    Aug 16, 2008
    Hamburg, Germany
    I feel you. For the last few years, I thought to myself that if I could start over, I'd try to make it as a professional musician (most likely symphony). Then Covid hit, and it showed me the harsh reality of what artists are worth to society. Unless I got a permanent (or at least, long-term) tenure in an orchestra, I would have had to live under a bridge somewhere or move back in with my parents. And I'm not kidding in the slightest.

    Now, I still make a living with music - just not up on stage. That's for fun. I have a degree in musicology, and have a cushy job with a renowned publisher of critical editions of classical music that will hold me over water until I get my PhD.

    The real struggle begins after I leave higher education... it never ends. Maybe I'll get a job at the local Opera house, that would be rad.
  5. ArtechnikA

    ArtechnikA I endorsed a check once... Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 24, 2013
    You didn't actually say, so I'll ask: how old are you, really ?
    What genre are your originals?
    Difficulty getting traction there may be that your old originals might not be in a currently popular style. You may have to re-invent them and yourself if you want to make it in 'popular' music, because 'popular' changes, if not with the tide, with the phase of the moon...
    But - lots of musicians didn't make it until later in life.
    You may have to find a new genre where 'older' musicians still have credibility, like blues or country.
    Those love songs that sounded cool when you were 20 might just be creepy if you're 50...
    The past ain't coming back - you must get on a trajectory to anticipate and intersect the future.
  6. Runnerman

    Runnerman Registered Bass Player

    Mar 14, 2011
    To answer your question, yes there is a happy medium. You need to find it yourself and you are well on your way in my opinion. You need to at least give music a fighting chance in your life if what you say is true because it appears that you have really set it aside for other things. Bottom line you will give your time to what is important to you in life. Right now it looks like career is no 1 and that's ok.

    It looks to me like you feel burned by music and everything surrounding it. You put high expectations on yourself. You need to separate from that and see if music is still important in itself. I would try to carve out some time for music from your schedule and see what happens. If you can't even carve out the time then that tells you something.

    I will tell you, there is still joy in playing music, you just need to find it I think.
  7. AceOfBassFace


    Jun 23, 2019
    Hey - I had a similar experience in my 20's in a band trying to make it. We were pretty good, had a great following, and got really close to a major label deal. Unfortunately, our singer pulled some weird ego stuff that ended up with the label ghosting us after months of negotiations. I was 27 at the time, and this really killed my drive to continue in music.

    Tired of being broke, tired of shlepping gear around for little to no money. I had a bit of an existential crisis – I felt like a bit of a loser at 27 with nothing to show for myself now that this band had failed and fallen apart. Spent a year just working as a bartender, but I eventually managed to pull through and landed a pretty decent job as a graphic designer.

    That path led me on to a rewarding career, met my wife and had a son whom I both adore. I'm fairly set financially. Looking back, if my band had 'made it' neither of these people would exist in my life, and I'd likely be worse off than I am right now. I do however still play in bands - two right now, gigging around twice a month, mostly for the joy of it and a bit of extra money for groceries.

    There are so many paths branching out in front of you, don't get discouraged when one leads to a dead end. If you want to play professionally, my advice is to get REALLY good at your instrument, move to one of the big music cities, get on Youtube etc., play as much as you can even if it's just cover bands, keep your name out there, maintain a good reputation and things will come your way.
  8. friskinator


    Apr 5, 2007
    I was in a similar situation for my entire 20s. I was actually in an original band that had 2 different major label deals that went nowhere. We didn't even have our record released with the first deal due to typical music business BS. We kept grinding for a few more years before I realized it would never go anywhere, so I quit and moved to a different city to reboot my life without music as the primary focus.

    I did the cover band thing in addition to a day job until fairly recently. I lost the passion and enjoyment for music, and I'm completely fine with that. The key is having other interests and passions to take music's place. Zero passions or interests is no way to go through life, but music isn't an be-all, end-all, and it doesn't define an identity.
  9. I'd say don't set out to "make it", but instead set out to make great music. Then, team up with great people who inspire you. Finding the people is the hardest part, you have to be at the right place at the right time and have a bit of luck. But that will lead you somewhere. Might not be stadium tours, but it'll be somewhere.
  10. Egg250


    Jan 10, 2022
    I believe I'm squarely in my second mid-life crisis. I do know I enjoy playing music. I know I'll never make it big time or even make a living from it. If it is something that makes you happy, do it.
  11. TFunkadelic


    Apr 9, 2006
    The problem is, even arena gigs don't pay that great . They're also probably not as fun as you'd imagine; an amazing experience, sure, but perhaps not what you'd like to do every day.

    You really have to love band life a lot for being broke (most of the time) to be worth it.
  12. Plucky The Bassist

    Plucky The Bassist ZOMG! I'm back from the dead! Supporting Member

    Jul 30, 2010
    As far as with friends and family (guessing that's what you're referring to) it took work, but I managed to keep things stable on both ends of things. In general, seeing how important it was to me, my parents and extended family generally tried to either be supportive or non-encumbering when it came to musical pursuits.

    Admittedly, I was never averse to the idea of starting a family, but when my musical aspirations got tempered down (the goal was now 1 or 2 out-of-town gigs per year and a local gig or two every month) and I was still getting "the eyeroll" from girlfriends when the topic came up. In that particular context, anything I was interested in would garner the eyeroll, so I don't think music was really to blame there.

    Right now it feels like I wasn't as "over it" as I initially thought, and now I'm very cognizant of any compromises to myself I've made recently. I was always a high-energy, outgoing person in the context of being a musician and now I just feel like the catalyst that made me that person (which I and my friends liked) was music after all....or maybe I'm mistaken. I'm not looking to roll in like I'm David Lee Roth or anything, but it's kind of hitting me that so much of my confidence was pinned to music.

    "Music doesn't have to be all or nothing"

    That is an excellent point, and probably something I need to try harder to wrap my head around. It is in my nature to go all-in on anything I'm doing for passion or fun, learning some temperance would probably do me good in multiple facets of my life too.
  13. RichSnyder

    RichSnyder Columbia, MD Supporting Member

    Jun 19, 2003
    You're focusing on the music like that's a path to success. The real path is networking and being "good enough" on the music side. You have to have sufficient skill, but it's mostly networking and getting the right leads to the next gig and the next. Wish I would take my own advice.
    DirtDog, Supadope, Wolf Tone and 11 others like this.
  14. Plucky The Bassist

    Plucky The Bassist ZOMG! I'm back from the dead! Supporting Member

    Jul 30, 2010

    I'm a stone's throw from 35, which is probably a kid to some folks, but music always kept me young. I could find myself either jamming with older cats (being professional and mature about things) or hanging with some high-energy youths getting noise complaints from the neighbors. I felt like being flexible in the type of music I played lent to that ability as well, for me variety was preferred over playing the same genre over and over.

    It was around early-mid 2010s at first and the focus was doing a sort of grunge/alternative approach. Felt like it had been juuust long enough for people to get a taste for it (if they were around for the 90s) and a lot of younger kids were getting turned on to Nirvana, STP, Alice in Chains, etc. so we had some younger audience appeal as well. There were multiple times that bands wanted to push hard into "metal" in general, but the demand really wasn't there and we were not up to snuff for prog metal/djent stuff like Periphery, Animals as Leaders, or Scale the Summit.

    Where I found myself, and totally fell in love with, was indie rock/alternative and even the lighter sort of indie stuff as well (Gus Dapperton, Echo Ladies, Candy Claws). At the time this was still a pretty viable genre to gig on, as Gus was relatively new and packed some medium sized venues in Houston with ease. It felt like the most versatile genre to place myself in. This was far after bands like The Strokes, Whitestripes, and Modest Mouse had been on the scene...but it felt it had morphed into its own umbrella genre like rock or metal had.

    There's definitely genres I couldn't sit down and flesh out a whole song for on my own, but could supply a solid bassline for. Reggae is a blast to play or write bass for, but the drum beats and a few other nuances are gonna be lacking on my part. I also feel my guitar chops were never quite there to write a metal EP or album with distinct character to each song. Grunge, Indie, Alternative, Funk (to some degree) felt doable for me in terms of songwriting, or least making something passable for others to polish up further.

    I'm so out of touch with music these days though, as what I hear in general that's new sounds too electronic or synth-based for me to consider it "band music". Nothing against it, I like techno and rave music but would say the same about it too...a full band isn't really necessary with that style of music. I'm always open to new stuff, but nobody has really brought something my way that blew my hair back like Gus or Echo Ladies did.

    It's very likely I'm looking to play outdated music, which is definitely something worth looking into before I try and place any material out into the wild again. For some examples of the bands I was referring to, links are below if anyone wants to listen in:

    Gus Dapperton

    Echo Ladies

    Candy Claws
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  15. bolophonic


    Dec 10, 2009
    Durham, NC
    I am not sure I understand why this is such a black-and-white issue. My goals have changed many times over the last 35 years as a bassist — sometimes due to external circumstances, sometimes due to my own changing priorities. I’ve come to accept that I will probably never make a living as a musician, but that never had any effect on my absolute concrete NEED to create and produce music that means something to me.
  16. I don't identify as a musician, but...

    Defining one's life in terms of success and failure can suck a lot of the joy out of living.

    We're all travelling on a road with crossroads, hazards and detours.

    Forget about the destination and just enjoy the trip.
  17. two fingers

    two fingers Opinionated blowhard. But not mad about it. Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    With all of that added to your original post, keep in mind that my advice goes both ways. If you heart tells you to dive back into music headfirst and get after it again, then do that.

    All I'm saying is to be as self aware as possible (and it seems as though you are doing a pretty good job of that). And then follow the path that will bring you the most fulfillment. But be ready to flex. You're allowed to change your mind/heart. And don't beat yourself up for that either.
  18. Plucky The Bassist

    Plucky The Bassist ZOMG! I'm back from the dead! Supporting Member

    Jul 30, 2010
    Andrew Pouska (the bass teacher I referenced) did encourage me to "Create and wait", as in keep writing and just see if anyone swings by and wants to take things further. I had several guitarists and a few vocalists who dug the indie stuff I did, keeping them committed or not getting "genre creep" (straying too far from the original intent, and I mean going from Strokes type indie to wanting Killswitch Engage metal straying) was a challenge.

    I've also been told by a few musicians that the stadium gigs aren't all they're cracked up to be either. Playing covers, for me, is a fate worse than death...hence my conundrum lol. Patience is something I should be obsessing over moreso than my integrity, and I think humility definitely has a place there too.

    Playing with "...people who inspire [me]" is also very solid advice. Not forcing chemistry, and not knowing how to let go just because some exists, is something I need to work on. While no band relationship (and hardly any) will be peachy 24/7, I think tempering my expectations on involvement should also be an area I work on too.
  19. REV

    REV Supporting Member

    Jun 18, 2006
    I meditate on a regular basis. One day as I opened my eyes after meditating I realized that I already had everything I hoped that I would gain through music. That didn't stop me from continuing to play but I did have the thought "do I need to continue to do this?'. I love music for music's sake. I love practicing (either alone or with a band) I still love playing out. Long ago I was able to see the changes that were coming in the industry and so it was obvious to me that there wasn't much hope for a so called career in music but that didn't stop me from being a musician.
  20. Plucky The Bassist

    Plucky The Bassist ZOMG! I'm back from the dead! Supporting Member

    Jul 30, 2010
    This brings to mind stories I heard from famous musicians, the whole "Ok we're what?" feeling once they reach that status. As long as people are willing to listen and they enjoy it, that would probably be enough for me to be satisfied. In hindsight, getting to the stadium only to realize it could all be downhill from there, is something that might be terrifying depending on what I sacrificed to get there.

    While a free-form life without a 9-5 job seems like an oasis in the desert right now, I also enjoy having a regular eating schedule and gas in the tank. With no health complications and being launched back 30+ years into the past, it might be, but I doubt it's worth it today lol.

    ...also, nice avatar :thumbsup:
    GlennRH likes this.

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