The artists and bands that I know that are making a full-time living are some of the hardest working people I know. They hustle every day and work long hours, evenings, weekends, whatever it takes to get the job done and bring in the income they need to survive. Most bands dream of quitting their day job to do music full-time, but some donât realize that it is a job to be a full-time musician, and you might end up working harder and longer than any day job out there, but the reward will be to do what you love for a living.
2. They love what theyâre doing
To make it as a full-time musician, you have to eat, breath and sleep music each and every day. In order to do this, you have to truly love what you are doing and be extremely passionate about it. Itâs not always going to be glamorous, and most often itâs going to be a lot of hard work. When youâre on tour for weeks at a time, driving long hours cramped in a van, sleeping on floors and barely making enough money to eat, you really need to love what youâre doing to get through those tough experiences and breakthrough to the other side when the money does start to come in.
3. Itâs not about the money
Speaking of money, I donât know a single full-time artist that is playing music simply for the money. They have a passion for writing/performing/recording music, and they take their art and their craft seriously. Itâs all they know and itâs all they want to do. Money is secondary, and when it comes, itâs simply a by-product of the work they are putting in.
Donât get me wrong, although itâs not about the money for these artists, they do have a business sense, which is extremely important. They know how to manage their finances and put a value to the work they are doing.
4. They have support
Being a DIY artist doesnât mean you have to or should do it all on your own. Derek Sivers, the Founder of CD Baby, wrote a great blog post talking about this subject: http://sivers.org/diy
Essentially, Derek says that DIY shouldnât mean Do-It-ALL-Yourself, but instead should mean Decide-It-Yourself. This is so true, and all the artists I know who are making a full-time living have some kind of support team in place, either a manager, agent, small label or assistant to help them with their career.
They didnât necessarily start out with these people in place, but over time they developed a team to help them manage their careers. In some cases they are life partners, sometimes close friends, but more often it's a professional manager and/or agent who got on board once they reached a certain level in their career development.
5. They donât give up
And last but not least, they simply donât give up. I canât tell you how many artists and bands Iâve known that after 1 or 2 albums they simply pack it in because they didnât âmake itâ. This especially seems to happen after a few tours. Being on the road can be a difficult experience for most people, which goes back to having to really love what youâre doing to get through those moments.
The artists I know that are now making a living full-time from their music just stuck to it, through thick and thin. A gig falls through? They find another one. A band member quits? They replace them. They just keep going no matter what obstacles they have in front of them. This is all they know, and they donât make any back-up plans.
One final thing Iâll say on this subject is that it often took these artists years to get to the point of making a full-time living from music, usually 7-10 years. Most âovernight successesâ are years in the making, and nowhere is this truer than in the music industry.
Remember, The Beatles spent years performing 8-hour sets, 7 days a week in Germany before breaking into the American market.
Author Malcolm Gladwell talks about this story and the â10,000 Hour Ruleâ in his book "The Outliers". Hereâs a video describing the 10,000 Hour Rule:
Another example of the 10,000 Hour Rule in the music industry, this time about Fleetwood Mac: