Music as a hobby.

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by Aaron Saunders, Mar 9, 2005.

  1. Aaron Saunders

    Aaron Saunders

    Apr 27, 2002
    I know there area lot of bassists here who do music strictly as a hobby, rather than as their main profession. I cannot fathom this.

    I've played electric for about three years now (fretted at start, fretless for almost a year now), and I've played upright for a month. I know that I can make a living in music because I'm confident in my own skills, as well as my drive, passion, and dedication to music. It wasn't until this year that I decided I wanted to do music as a career consciously, but it's been there ever since my first lesson (I'd been playing for about six months at the time.)

    I don't mean this as an insult at all. I just can't comprehend someone being content with not exploring new ideas with their music, whether it's in their technicality, advanced harmonization, or just plain grooving evey moment. Is it just a lack of (or at least, a pretty small degree) of passion, a lack of confidence, or a cold hard sense of practicality that says you can't make a living at music? Maybe a family gets in the way? I would love kids, but I can sure wait until I'm middle aged for 'em.

    Almost all of my friends play, or have played an instrument at one point in their (relatively short, I'm 17 and most of my friends are +/- 3 years) lives. One of them is incredibly gifted with a fantastic ear. She's a good trumpeter, and if she really worked at it, I know she could more than make a living doing it. Good voice voice too -- and she's by no means a hideous troll, so singing gigs aren't out of the question either. But she doesn't want to do it professionally. Mind, she's also an incredible artist (visual) and that's what she wants to do, so I can't blame her too much -- at least she's pursuing one of her (several) gifts.

    Out of all of my friends, a number of whom have an incredible potential to make it at music if they put in the time, only 4 want to do music as a career and are actually working at it. A pianist (mostly classical, but he's got the chops to do jazz -- I've just got to find a way to introduce him to some Bill Evans,) a sax player (jazz,) guitarist (all styles, loves jazz, very talented, but he needs to really listen to more music,) and a drummer who could walk into a music school tomorrow if he wanted to (he's staying for an extra year of school though.) There's probably half a dozen more, and half a dozen others if given a couple more years.

    So what is it that holds the others back? What is it that holds you back?
  2. Selta


    Feb 6, 2002
    Pacific Northwet
    Total fanboi of: Fractal Audio, AudiKinesis Cabs, Dingwall basses
    Nothing holds me back, other than I'm content with it being a hobby, and having a job on top of it that I'll be extremly happy with. I jam with buddies, I play in two bands, I write music on my own in my room, all of this I'm happy with, and am exploring music as a whole, as much as I would if it were my profession. That's me though...just happy with the hobby. If something comes of it, cool, but I'm not going to push and shove my way there.

  3. Flanders


    Oct 30, 2002
    Reno, NV
    I can make a better living doing something else. I love playing music. 5 nights a week, 3 shows a night in some lousy casino is not the way I'd rather do it. Not everyone making a "living" from music is some great huge "Star". Still, I admire your vision and admit that it can be done. Sometimes the reality is less than the dream. Being the bass player has it's drawbacks to a successful career in music. If you're trying to form an original band, you are limited by the drive of the other members. Some drop out at the worst time because of Girlfriend/Wife/Kids/Sick Hamster, or whatever. Others don't work as hard as you'd like them to (not practicing/showing up ready to practice/addiction).

    There's about 300,000 other things that could hinder a successful carreer in music. Maybe you won't run into any of them, but I doubt it. Best of luck in your ambitions.

    This post contains at least 30% facts.
  4. Adam Barkley

    Adam Barkley Mayday!

    Aug 26, 2003
    Jackson, MS
    Because I would rather be set with a good career and have a great hobby. I write original stuff all the time, and want get a band going before too long, but I'll not live hand to mouth to realize a dream.

    I can almost promise you that most of the people on this site with tons of super expensive basses don't strictly play music for a living.

    Good luck with your dream though.
  5. Who says hobbyist musicians do not 'explore new ideas', etc? Being driven more by a love for music than money does not, in my mind equal stagnation.
  6. Quality


    May 7, 2003
    Long Beach, CA
    I also do it just as a hobby, but do make a fair amount of money, not enough to live off of but enough to pay a few bills, mortgage, car, and such.
    I have a full time job that I am pretty much locked into it.
    Don't get me wrong, I love music and has spent almost half my life with the hobby (since I was 13 or so).
    I still get to play 2 or 3 shows a week so I guess it's not all that bad, just not full time.
  7. Horny Toad

    Horny Toad Guest

    Mar 4, 2005
    What's so difficult to fathom? I feel like a friggin' fossil for what I'm about to say, but I've been playing bass for longer than you've been alive (18 years) :D I'm a good bassist, but I've never seriously considered making a living at it. I'm a good photographer too. It's just another hobby that I enjoy. I love hiking, but I've never considered become a Park Ranger. :)

    Seriously though, it has nothing to do with "holding back" or whatever. It's what makes the world go around. You want to make a living making music? That is a very admirable and beautiful profession to pursue. I hope you're very successful at it, but most importantly, happy.

    Best of luck to you!

    Horny Toad

  8. i say if there's a passion, there's an obligation. do what you love. right now, college and theory classes are killing me and i'd leave it in a heartbeat if i had a steady band to gig with. and there is the point that i know I'm going to spend my waking hours trying to find something that works. Just don't wait till your twenty man, when your in college. the time is now
  9. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson Commercial User

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    Boom Bass Cabinets, DR strings
    If you're making decent money at it I don't see where it's a hobby. It's just not your primary occupation. I'm in that boat... and it's way past a hobby;)

    As far as a hobbyist not exploring new ideas, etc., I have no idea why anyone would assume that. I know people who don't play for a living who spend every free moment in the shed and I know people who play for a living who haven't advanced from where they were a decade or so ago. Neither is all that rare.
  10. Quality


    May 7, 2003
    Long Beach, CA
    Good point. I guess it is a second occupation when you put it that way :) . It's just never been enought to pay all of the bills if you know what I mean.
  11. Munjibunga

    Munjibunga Total Hyper-Elite Member Gold Supporting Member

    May 6, 2000
    San Diego (when not at Groom Lake)
    Independent Contractor to Bass San Diego
    When I was seventeen, I knew everything, too. But for me to play professionally as a musician, I'd have to make at least as much as Nathan East or take a major pay cut.
  12. lbanks


    Jul 17, 2003
    Ennui, IN USA
    With me, its a case of "Been there, done that". It was fun, but, I don't think I'd survive another road-trip. I'm old.

  13. I think this is one of the best posts on this topic that I've ever seen. I don't think the word "hobby" does justice to how most of us feel. I don't want to starve... I've got rent to pay, and the $50 a night that I make on gigs (on a good night) wouldn't even be enough to cover rent, let alone food. I've got $20,000 in student loans that will kick in when I leave graduate school, so living in a cardboard box and playing music full time isn't an option for me any time soon. Still, that doesn't mean that I'm not totally consumed by it all day, every day, even when I am doing other stuff.
  14. for me its not only a hobby - most hobbies cost money and rarely generate any. its like a second job for me - i make a small but reasonable amount of "play money" out of it, which goes to finance my strings and gets saved up to finance any GAS i think is coming on.

    i have spent a lot of my everyday job money on equipment, but luckily now im able to save my gig money to go toward equipment etc. thats why its not just a hobby to me....
  15. I don't fault anyone for not making a career out of their musicianship. In my experience it's damn hard to do, a ton of work for not much money, and usually frustrating trying to deal with disapointment after disapointment from gigs falling through, bandmates quitting or dieing, etc. In reality, most people who try to make it don't have anywhere near enough drive and determination to do it, because it takes a lot.

    However, I do become very frustrated when people don't pursue their musical abilities to the best they can. I hate seeing talented musicians throw it all away for a job or a girlfriend or lack of desire. But, I guess it's their life and in the end it means more gigs for me.

    I'm 10 months out of college and spent 8.5 of those living on nothing but gig money (eating once or occasionally twice a day) - then bands started to fall apart and gigs started to spread out - now I'm working p/t as a janitor to pay the rent trying to get back on my feet with music. If this isn't enough to make someone re-think a career in music I don't know what is. At least I'll know I tried.
  16. natrab


    Dec 9, 2003
    Bay Area, CA
    I don't want to sound like I'm getting down on you for this. If you really do set out to be a pro musician right now you can certainly do it. The only difference is that things change very drastically during those few years after highschool. I'm just saying this because I just turned 21 and I just went through exactly what I'm talking about.

    When I was 17, I was going to be a pro musician. I practiced every day and I was certain that I could do it. I knew I would need a day job. Almost everyone does unless you're a total prodigy or unless you get picked up by some huge label at an early age (which I also don't recommend if you want to become a better musician).

    If you had told me that in three years I would be driving an ambulance and settling into a medical career, I would have laughed. It was nothing like my focus at that point. As usual, my mom had told me that something like this would happen, and I didn't believe her. My ride is definately still not over.

    I do, however, expect to "make it" as a musician. I've worked very hard to get my band its relative success in our little local area. I have a very pro attitude towards music, and I also have a background in entertainment law and contract management (being the son of an entertainment lawyer). I know I have pro gear (hehe), and my skills are always improving, though I wouldn't call them pro as compared to some of the people on Talkbass.

    Maybe one day, I will make enough money to support myself playing music, however it won't keep me out of Emergency Medicine, because I am as passionate about that as I am about music. I don't know if you're a NOFX fan, but I found it interesting when I read that Fat Mike had to have a day job for the first 10 years of gigging full time with NOFX. After those 10 years, he now makes enough money off his band to live a modest lifestyle in San Francisco.

    So in conclusion, you have a great goal. Keep at it. You will probably have to find a job to pay the bills though. My job works well because what do you think I'm doing for those extra 5-6 hours per shift when I'm not on a call? Playing bass of course (or maybe sleeping). There are tons of people here on Talkbass who are pro musicians, but who still have their families and careers. I bet the majority of bassists on here are better than half the bassists you see on MTV and at your arena concerts.

    Anyways, good luck to you and maybe we'll see you on MTV in a year or two so I can eat my words. :D
  17. gilbert46


    Sep 21, 2004
    Sacramento, CA
    ive not been playing very long but have looked into the prospect of being a pro. This would mean things like

    crappy cars
    living in an appartment :(
    no equity
    benefits and so on

    What holds me back is aspiration for a comfortable future. I'd love a truck without 252,000 miles on it, a house, and children. I couldnt imagine bringing kids into the world without insurance and a home. Sending them to school on a musicians sallery would be highly unlikely, and if a member of the family fell ill I would be unable to pay for care. As an EMT, Ive seen terrible things ($$$$) happen to totally normal people. Denying this is like signing a life away. I remember reading somewhere that delivey and prenatal care runs upwards of 5k without insurance. Thats like 500 gigs being split with a band !

    Im not morbid or anything, just a realist.

    Now, do the math, and tell me, can you live like you want as a musician? i bet 99.999% of the time you would end up with a terrible part time job anyways, and be "tied down". meanwhile, you ruined any hope getting a decent career by not getting a marketable education.

    I honestly think I've got this planned right. Finish school, get a job as a RN, make money, play at nights. uncool, i know.

    My moral is this, you dont have to sacrifice lifestyle to get what you want. You'll be dealing with roommate and appartment neighbors, I'll have a home.
  18. natrab


    Dec 9, 2003
    Bay Area, CA
    Noticing a trend of bass playing EMTs, hehe. I guess it helps to only have to work 9 days out of the month.
  19. nonsqtr

    nonsqtr The emperor has no clothes!

    Aug 29, 2003
    Burbank CA USA
    Music biz: been there, done that.

    Music is soooooo much more fun as a hobby.

    Although, I won't turn down a few twenties in the tip jar.

    Occasionally, when the right opportunity presents itself, I'll enter into a business relationship. Mostly these days, it's around engineering and studio electronics. That's cool, 'cause I don't have to get involved with the "big business" of music, except in a peripheral sense.

    IME, the "big business" of music is right up there with the Enron's of the world, probably even worse.

    All IMO of course, and no insult intended to the people who are doing it. Whatever floats your boat. :D

    Me, I've seen people getting thrown through plate glass windows by music industry goons, and I'm no longer interested in being anywhere near that stuff.

    Gimme a good jam session, and a decent studio, and a good group of players, and I'm a happy camper. :)
  20. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    I agree entirely and in fact I would go so far as to say it's more often, the other way round.

    So - when I was starting out in music in the 70s - I was listening to all kinds of stuff - from Led Zeppelin and Soft Machine to Schonberg and Stockhausen - at school, friends were writing avante-garde pieces which we played.

    But when I got to the point where I could afford decent gear and join bands that actually toured, made records and appeared on TV - the music was pretty stale and dull - especially for a bass player!

    So - OK, it was exciting to play gigs and appear on national TV - but the music involved was hardly demanding - a few chords and pretty basic rhythms - how many times can you play 8th notes in E before getting bored...:meh:

    I was definitely stagnating and not listening to much or learning anything! :(

    Nowadays - I do music as a kind of hobby and I can choose to study what I want to - not what the band demands - in the first few weeks of studying Jazz at the local University adult education course, I played more chords than in about ten year of being in paying rock bands!! :meh:

    I've learned more in a few years and it has actually "stuck" - whereas in rock bands I was forgetting everything I ever knew about music ...