8 Tell-tale Signs You Should Keep Your Day Job

1. You don’t see music as a job.
  • You don’t think people need to be paid for doing what they love. If you don’t take music as a job seriously, no one else will. And not only does that attitude hinder earning money through music, but it hurts other musicians who ARE serious.
  • You’re fine with being paid in drinks. In no other business is this okay. If you are a house painter, that cold glass of lemonade is a perk, not payment.
2. You are complacent.
  • You’re happy with your current level. Unless you are already a world-class player, you probably shouldn’t be settling. And world-class players got to be where they are through hours and hours of dedicated practice.
  • You don’t feel you need to learn theory. Again, unless you are extraordinarily talented, people love you, AND you’re a gig magnet, it couldn’t hurt to bone up on the nerdy side of music. If you can articulate your ideas in an educated manner, it goes a long way toward i.) being taken seriously, ii.) getting better results, and iii.) not looking like an idiot. You will also be able to attract better musicians to surround yourself with.
3. You’re not comfortable with self-promotion. Yes, it’s icky at first. Yes, most musicians are actually introverted. But if you want to people to know about your music, you have to use your words like a big person. I am NOT saying to spam your friends. But give them a reason to see you play. And don’t be afraid to casually mention it (when appropriate) to everyone you meet. (I know when someone’s not a good listener when I’ve met them several times and they still don’t know I’m a musician.)

4. You won’t do anything to compromise your art. Then you probably won’t get paid. The exception is probably busking, where you can do your thing and don’t have to answer to anyone (except the cops). But for most people, we have to take gigs that aren’t exactly our dream scenario. Hopefully though, the side jobs get closer and closer to your goal until eventually how you spend your time is in full alignment with your goals. (And I’ll be honest, it’s easier to be happy about a gig that isn’t perfect than to land the perfect gig.)

5. You refuse to pigeon-hole your genre.
  • Musicians who say they play everything -- unfortunately -- have to actually LIST every genre they play before someone believes them. “I play everything: Jazz, punk, classical, classic rock, pop, latin, you name it.” Only saying “I play everything” makes you sound like you haven’t actually found your style yet and comes across as amatuer. TRUST ME.
  • If you have a genre and simply refuse to describe it, you will immediately alienate (or at least lose the interest of) the person you’re talking to. You may think you are intriguing them with your mysterious music, but you’re really just showing off your ego. It says, I’m too good for genres. My music is impossible to describe. I can’t be categorized. A lot of great players can be categorized (even if they started a new genre!). You can too. If you need help with your elevator pitch, ask your friends -- but you need one. If you don’t accept you have a niche, you will never be able to take advantage of it.
6. Only your close friends and family come to your shows. Let’s face it, if you aren’t engaging people who don’t have a vested interest in you, you aren’t going to make it professionally. This isn’t to say that you can’t turn things around. Try videotaping your shows so you can see what you are doing (or not doing), make sure your songs are well-crafted and well-executed, and get outside opinions. You know the old quote about doing the same thing but expecting different results? It might be time to try something different.

7. You’re waiting to be discovered. This is why I hate shows like the X-Factor and American Idol. They keep perpetuating the myth that one day someone will realize how great you are and do all the work for you. It’s like not getting a job because you’re waiting to win the lottery. Listen, you can’t control other people, the economy, or chance, but the one thing you have complete control over is you: your actions, how hard you work, the choices you make. So make cold calls. Follow-up. Get yourself on the path you want and don’t sit around waiting for others. Don’t wait for the phone to ring. As the old Chinese proverb goes, “No one who can rise before dawn 360 days a year fails to make his family rich.”

8. You love your day job. God forbid this happens to you! If you actually manage to find a job you enjoy, that allows you to keep music as a hobby, DO THAT. If, as your music grows more successful, you are able to cut back your hours, even better. But think about the lifestyle you want. If you are ready to live gig to gig without security, that’s one thing. But if you want to take care of your future, use the steady day job to keep the income flowing so you can support your music habits.

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