If you’ve clicked on this and expected there to be a miraculous answer at the end that demonstrates how to balance all the factors of a hectic music career, you’re in the wrong place. Also, if you think that being a musician is going to be a case of “write a few songs, get a multi-million pound record contract, easy street…”, you should also stop reading.
The point of this blog post is to reach out to other musicians in my position and get their input. I want to know how other musicians balance their music lives with their personal, professional and social lives, and how they meet the challenges of being a musician that I’ve flagged up below.
I hope that in writing this, other musicians who face these challenges can pool their advice and knowledge of how to deal with them, and also not feel like they’re alone. I can’t be the only person in this world who’s juggling too many things at once!
Be warned: this is a little longer than most blog posts. Go get yourself a cup of coffee or something before you start.
Please comment on this post and share anything you think is relevant.
Wearing many hats
Being a musician (independent or otherwise) is great. The opportunities are limitless - anything you want to do, you can just do it. You don’t need anyone’s approval or opinion to make anything happen. You can simply go for it, and you don’t need to rely on anyone else to make it happen. Well, that’s unless of course you’re part of a function band, in which case you need approval from your audience for bookings. But that’s another story…
Unfortunately, this freedom comes with a major caveat. You are taking on the work of several people, and are saddling yourself with a pretty epic workload. Don’t get me wrong - being the master of your own success and seeing things progress has no equal in terms of providing satisfaction, but it very quickly presents two fundamental difficulties:
- Finding the time to devote to “doing the creative stuff”
- Balancing it all out evenly so each aspect gets its due attention
Sadly, if you’re serious about pursuing the music career, in any capacity, you really have to think very deeply and carefully about the business side of it.
Note: In case this is news to you, yes, being a musician is a business pursuit. But this is your lifelong passion, right? Bring it on!
The business of music
On the business side alone, you need to take the following considerations:
- Marketing, networking and connecting (your web presence, your blog, your “musical persona”, your web content updates, etc.)
- Finances (budgets, production costs, sustainability, income, etc.)
- Performing (logistics, rehearsals, bookings)
- Learning (reading about the music industry, charting your progress)
These three things alone can be extremely time-consuming (and addictive), and can sometimes get you bogged down, so much so that the creative part of your career begins to suffer. Believe me, I’ve been there, and it’s something I struggle with regularly.
You’ll probably want to be able to rehearse - either for self-improvement, as part of your performing repertoire, or even try and learn new things and improve your skills.
Your personal life
The chances are that you also need to think about how you can take care of your life in general. Just because you’re an artist, it doesn’t make you exempt from having living costs, a social life, a family life (and its various responsibilities). You also have a responsibility to yourself to live your life in between doing all these things. You need time to be a human - to rest, to eat, to recuperate, to be sociable (and to enjoy the world at the same time). Unless you’re an unsociable hermit, of course.
“The day job”
All of this needs time and money, and you probably have a day job you are doing to look after that side of things. With that, already there’s this massive chunk of time taken away from your week and you’re left with a very small period of time in which you can do the stuff you really want to do. Unless of course you’re one of those lucky people for whom music IS your day job. (My envy is immeasurable).
Making “the jump”
The likelihood is you’re only doing a particular day job for the money, and are desperately trying to find ways to make music your only day job, so you can live, breathe, eat and sleep music. For those of you in this position, you’ll know how difficult this is. Whilst you desperately want to just step into the music world, you know well that:
- You could make a success of your musical pursuits if only you could totally devote yourself to them.
- Your divergence into the music industry is going to be one of uncertainty - the money is irregular with no guarantee of success, and the competition is fierce. Your current regular salary is heavenly, so you’re probably looking for assurances that your leap will be less of faith and one of some security.
- The chances of becoming financially successful in the near future from your own original material is slim, so you’re probably going to have to find more revenue streams to supplement it.
With those latter two points in mind, how on earth are you going to find what little time you have at the moment to make these things ready for you to make the change?
The other stuff
In the most extreme cases of people trying to do far too much (not that I know anyone in this position, personally), as well as everything else, you’re maybe also trying to achieve the following:
- Set up a recording studio as an enterprise
- Run a blog that helps other musicians (and keep it regularly updated)
- Look into playing music in an alternative revenue stream capacity - party band, bagpiper for hire, session musician, etc.
- (And maybe you also work part-time for your brother’s web design business. Ahem.)
Juggling the hats
As a human, there is only so much you can do alone. Unless you have really reliable friends who are willing to do stuff for you, you’re pretty much lumbered with being a one-man business.
So, the question is, how can one person handle this?
At the beginning of March I realised that I had to take measures to balance out all of these facets better, and commenced a major “self-audit”. It has been a lengthy process but it has been very valuable to me, and after stripping every part of it back to the foundation, I have become far more efficient through the following:
- I have very clear illustrations of how my web content works - how it interacts, exists, and of course where it fails
- I have a very clear idea of how to improve my website, what its main needs are, and CRUCIALLY how best to design it to minimise the amount of time needed to keep it updated (!)
- I have clearly defined plans for each phase of developing my career - complete with targets and reviews so I can track my progress better than ever
- I have a clearer understanding of what I should and shouldn’t be doing at a given time so I can prioritise my time better
- I have a better idea of what’s urgent now and what can wait
Yes, I have had to be very anal. There’s no escaping that.
Here’s what I haven’t yet properly solved:
- Having enough time to adequately do everything each week
- How I’m going to make a successful transition from part-time to full-time musician
- Feeling a sense of despair that my ultimate dream won’t come to fruition.
- Having lots of time to be creative
The end. Your thoughts, advice, knowledge, expertise?
Please, comment below and share!