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Going Full Time: Making Music Your Day Job

Busker Bassist

Q: I recently moved to a new city, and I am starting to meet new musicians rather quickly (or at least, faster than I expected). I put an ad on Craigslist to meet and jam with bands – blues, rock, funk, jazz stuff. I received a reply from a band that needs a full time dedicated bass player. I like their sound and they even have charts written out so learning their stuff isn’t a problem. I am a music educator, I have been teaching music in public schools for 7 years. With more opportunities in this new city, it may be possible to play more, teach less and still make rent. Any advice for transitioning from a “day job” to full time musician? Should I explore some more around the new area, or go for it?

A: Good for you!

My advice is simply this: Follow the gigs.

Pursue every opportunity that comes your way, piques your interest or at least provides some sense of satisfaction or income.

Then worry about potential conflicts with other projects which may or may not come your way when the time comes.

It’ll likely take quite some time before you can leave your day job altogether, without living in complete poverty.

My advice for transitioning from a day job to full-time musician is two-fold.

1. Take everything that comes your way until you can afford to be more deliberate in your choices.

2. At some point, once you are relatively busy or at least gigging enough not to lose the roof over your head, you will have to take the full plunge and quit the job. Thus begins your career and the moment when you are truly working for yourself.

The timing will rarely be ideal but for most, it must come. There is no greater motivation than that of necessity.
The thing that tends to separate those who can make it happen and those who can’t is work ethic. If you quit your day job and truly begin to work for yourself, this means that you put as much (or more) energy into your abilities (and thus, you’re employability) in addition to your outreach and pursuit of more work.

This often means that you are not taking the lack of a day job and schedule as an excuse to drink all night and sleep all day. This means that you still work for the majority of your day. With the massive exception of for whom you are working.

My advice then is to take the gig, work hard, make an impression and continue to reach further and further until you feel like it may be time. Then, dive in head first and swim hard!

One day, you very well may realize that you have money in the bank, gigs on the calendar and a smile on your face.

Readers, what’s your take? Tell us your stories in the comments.

Photo by keith ellwood

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