You absolutely CAN make a living as a full-time musician playing your own original music. I wince… rather too audibly, if I hear the parent of a gifted musician saying that they’ll need a “backup job”.
At the age of 14, after passing my grade 7 clarinet and meeting my all time hero, Acker Bilk, I declared to my family that I wanted to be a full-time musician. When they’d finished laughing, they told me I’d need a “proper job” in the real world and it’s nice to have a hobby, but I would, at some point, need to grow up.
I swept my “daydream” under the carpet, worked hard at school, spent 4 years at University and then entered a string of desk jobs that made my soul throw up. I stopped playing, I stopped singing, I stopped writing. I had a sensible job and a sensible haircut. I was ticking all the boxes that society says you should tick.
I was depressed as hell.
Cut to the present day, and I am happier now in my life than I have ever been. I make a very comfortable living from writing songs and performing them. I travel a lot to places I could only dream of visiting, and when I come home, I make a significant dent in the mortgage and I plan the next tour. The icing on the cake of all of this is that I do all of this with a husband I adore, and who is the perfect business partner.
If I do nothing else with my life, it’ll be to let every single youngster I meet who shows even the remotest interest in trying to make a career in music that it can be done. The stereotypical musician that the TV portrays isn’t going to cut it though. Partying all night and sleeping in your own vomit on someone else’s sofa will, in an unremarkably short space of time, send you back to your day job declaring to all and sundry that it can’t be done.
It can. You need a strong work ethic. You need discipline. You need a thick skin (I’m still working on that one). You need to treat your career as a career. I stay fit, I stay healthy, I eat well, I exercise, I take vitamins, I get plenty of sleep. Frankly, our tours should be sponsored by Berocca or some other vitamin company.
When I’m not on tour, I’m at my desk in my slippers sipping earl grey tea and pestering venues. Or I’m learning about how to use Twitter for marketing or finding new radio shows to send our music to. I have a business plan. I write a to-do list every day and it gets done. You get the idea.
It never stops. I often see outstanding musicians being ignored in the corner of a pub. I remember when that was all I ever expected of gigging. Now, I’m playing ticketed shows all over the world to attentive and appreciative audiences. I’m not being a sanctimonious £?*! here; the only difference is that I chose to make it happen.
I encourage every single person who thinks they might be able to do it to roll their sleeves up and poke their fingers up at anyone who says they can’t. When my fingers stop working and my love of living out of a suitcase eventually wanes, I will return to sitting in the corner of a pub. But this time I’ll not be gritting my teeth and getting through it for the fuel money. I’ll be telling that talented performer to make it happen.