Building Your Music Career While Keeping Your Day Job
Does going to your 9-5 and then playing a gig that night ever make you feel like a Clark Kent/Superman combo? Do you feel like there's not enough time in the day for both your full-time job and your musical duties? You’re not alone. Balancing a day job with a music career can be tricky on so many levels, especially when you're so serious about your music – you want to be dedicating 100 percent of your time to it, but you need some way to pay the bills until you can get there.
We know what a massive struggle it can be, so we're here to help you through it! You've likely encountered (or will soon encounter) the challenges below, so read on to learn how to handle each one without jeopardizing your day job or your music career.
1. DIY doesn't mean you have to do it all yourself
If you're in a band, it can be helpful to divvy up responsibilities between bandmates and work schedules so that you're not digging into either role with the other. For instance, if one of your bandmates has a job that is more flexible with email, that person can reach out to venues or musicians during their break. If another bandmate gets out of work earlier, they can help with posters. If another has a car, maybe moving equipment is their job. You get the idea. (Note: A band agreement may help you out here.)
Or, if you're solo (or you and your bandmates all have hectic schedules), a manager can definitely help you get there. They will only take a cut when you make money, so you're in it together for the same end goal.
2. Don't use your music income for non-music expenses
Oh, boy. Whatever happened to my band fund from high school? Last I saw it was under our bass player's bed, circa 2005. This is a great example of how not to manage your funds.
However, it's on the right track in some way: It's a good idea to separate your band money from your other accounts. This way you can limit music expenses, plan for them, and budget well in advance. Sites like Mint or even a Google Spreadsheet can come in handy for this.
3. Somebody's watching me?
You've definitely heard that employers will Google you, but your social media settings are pretty private, and you don't Tweet about your 9-5 or anything. What could go wrong?
Part of being an artist is self-expression, social movement, and sometimes ruffling some feathers. However, what if your boss came across an image or video that puts you in a different light? What if you work for a daily paper and your songs show a political slant? What if you're a teacher and there are themes in your music that the PTA might grumble at? (Case in point: A substitute teacher in Massachusetts was fired recently because of his music video.) You have to accept the fact that whatever you put out there is available to anyone who is looking.
Of course, you can also use this to your benefit. I know a music teacher who was hired without having to perform during her interview, because her employer had looked her up and seen that she could sing and play well through her live performance videos. You can let employers see the ambitious and creative side of you.
The takeaway here is that if there could be a conflict of interest between your day job and your music career, be cautious of what you share online. If you ask yourself, "Would I want my boss to see this?" and the answer is no, don't take the risk – you still need a way to pay those bills before you can solely rely on your music income!
4. Prepare in advance for weekday gigs
Often, when a venue wants to get used to your sound and audience pull, they'll want to try you out on a weekday first. This might mean a long night ahead of an early morning.
If a weekday gig is your only option, there are a number of things you can do to make it as painless as possible. For instance, maybe book with a band you know personally so you can coordinate time and equipment to make loading out faster. Drink plenty of water so you don't feel sick in the morning. Plan your (and your instruments') ride home in advance. Face the fact that you might be grabbing breakfast at a cafe instead of at home. Plan your next day's work outfit in advance, and anything else you'll need for the day. And if you need to leave work at 5 p.m. on the dot for your gig, have your meetings and deadlines sorted ahead of time so your coworkers don't feel abandoned.
5. Don't become a procrastination station at work to get ahead with your music
Hopefully you have a 9-5 (or 9-6, 10-6, whichever) that you enjoy. I've often found that my day job has me surrounded by coworkers who are also artists, actors, musicians, and writers, so everyone is aware of balancing our office creativity with our activities outside of work. Even if that's the case, though, remember not to let one bleed too much into the other!
These days, when our smartphones have us pegged to email and social media, it can be easy to blur the lines between personal and professional. But think of it this way: You wouldn't want to be emailing clients or vendors in the midst of your band's set, right? So taking phone calls to set up gigs or reaching out to music blogs during office hours is probably not a good idea, unless it's during your break.
On the other hand, using your phone to record ideas while you're walking to work or at lunch, or jotting down a quick note for later can help you remember a great idea when it strikes! These apps may help you kick it up a notch in the notes and organization realm.
Even if your day job isn't related to music or the arts, it's still a symbiotic relationship. Your job can help fuel your music career with income, networking, and motivation. And perhaps your musical aspirations help you in the workplace (music helping you with the day to day – now there's a whole other topic!). Keep it balanced, and it will keep rolling like a river.
[Thumbnail: Class act musician Janelle Monae has told journalists that she was fired from one of her early jobs for working on band emails on the clock. (Image via KirillWasHere)]