This happens to almost every career musician at some point or another. You have to start somewhere, and that means going on occasional short tours and playing gigs in town. Then, there are those days you need to take off from work to record. If all of these things go well, it’ll culminate in a long tour.
Plenty of bands book their first long tour themselves, and there’s very little assurance you’ll make money. Since that’s the case, the inclination is to keep your job. After all, if you’re not making money at the outset, how are you going to pay bills?
But what if your job isn’t flexible enough? If I can generalize a little, this is the main problem for the majority of bands. There’s a push and pull between band priorities and money. If people don’t have jobs with flexible schedules, and it’s a choice between touring and working, money typically wins out. There are so many bands, and so few people who want to pay them.
That’s why you’re going to have to find a way to make the band your priority. Only bands who truly want to bring their music to a wide audience will get there.
Take the Leap — but Do it the Smart Way
You have to choose between your band or your job. It’s easy to say, “I’m going to quit my job, put myself out there, and see what happens.” That can work, but you need a strategy.
● Go back to school: In college, you could learn a skill that complements your music career, such as sound engineering, and your summers are free. Summer is a great time to go on tour. I don’t recommend going into debt, but student loans can definitely give you some leeway to work on your music. Just make sure to get regular, paying gigs.
● Network: Making great art is about concentrating on the music. Making music a career is about networking. While you’re in school or working a different, more flexible job, spend the rest of your time building your contacts in the music industry.
●Work on your band’s online presence
: You need a greatwebsite for your band
— it’s things like this that mean the difference between professionalism or a lack thereof. While preparing to transition into full-time band life, build out your band’s website and social media presence.
● Build a sweet resume: Think back to everything you’ve done since high school. What are the absolute best moments in your professional life, what accomplishments can you list on your resume with pride? Build a sweet resume and look for an employer who will accommodate your band life. Be absolutely honest about your intentions to become a professional musician. The right employer will take you on.
You can still become a professional musician while going to school or working a part-time job. It’s just a matter of setting out on your music mission without compromising. You have to be clear to yourself and others. If everyone knows what your plans are from the get-go, and you follow through, you’re in the clear.
Become a Freelancer
There’s pretty good reason why more and more people are taking advantage of the gig economy, or becoming freelancers, or doingremote work
, or whatever you want to call it. The keyword isflexibility
; true, you won’t have benefits, but the main benefit is you get to work when you want to work.
For some types of gig work, such as freelance writing, you’ll need tocreate invoices
, which is how you get paid. This is very easy; an invoice is just a doc that says, “you owe me this much money for this much work.” You can access free invoice templates online, or you can use a software solution like Quickbooks to create a smart invoice. A smart invoice tracks your document’s progress so you can see when your client receives it, opens it, and pays it.
Typically, an invoice is needed for any type of gig you nail down without help from a third party. It could be writing or it could be any other contractual work. There are platforms like Fiverr or Upwork to help you pin down gigs, but you can also just hit up Craigslist. If you do, beware of scams.
The other type of gig work is through apps such as Uber, Lyft, AirBnB, Bellhops, Care.com — your options are plentiful.Wonolo
has a list you can peruse for this.
Do you need benefits? Depends on your life circumstances, but let’s just say the gig economy is what it is because of people like you. A great many artists need to make money on the side but don’t want to be subjected to an employer’s scheduling demands. There are a lot of critics of the gig economy who say it deprives workers of rights. But for the artist who needs flexibility, the trade-off can be well worth it.
Lay Your Cards on the Table
How much does your employer value you and your time? If you’ve come to the place where you’re ready to quit and you have a good exit strategy, sit down and talk to your boss. Explain your situation and ask for what you want. You might be underestimating your value to the company. Good bosses love candid talk from their employees. By showcasing your resolve and saying what you want, you just might get it.
In the end, don’t compromise. Spend your time making music and the rest of your time marketing your music. If there’s any time left after that, spend it on your side hustle.