When Should You Quit Your Job? (1 of 2)
Derek is an MBA in entrepreneurship, painter, and bassist for Onward We March, a local progressive metal band. He teaches business skills to artists and writes weekly music business advice for his blog Derek Thinks Music. Got a business question about your art? Shoot him an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Musicians I talk to seem to view being a full-time musician as the be-all, end-all metric of success.
I get that. Playing music all day is a big slab of groovy in my book.
But we’re defining success in the wrong way.
Defining success as having music as your only job is dangerous. Going full-time as an artist before you’re financially ready will wreck both your art and your sanity. What you’ve effectively done is given up a low-paying stressful job with a low-paying stressful job without benefits or stability. Music is not an easy living. Unless your creativity is fired solely through desperation, making yourself miserable because you didn’t plan ahead is silly. Ask anyone who has let The Hunger consume them.
Real success is about being happy with your only job being music.
Before you decide to make the leap, consider a few things.
1) Stability allows you to be more experimental with your music.
Experimenting with new sounds and styles in inherently risky. Failure is a very real prospect. Once the band establishes a “sound” and becomes full time musicians, everyone’s ability to pay the bills relies on that sound. Would it be easier or more difficult to completely revamp your sound if your rent depending on success? (This is strictly conjecture, but I suspect this may be one reason why some bands peak on their first album.)
2) Growth eats cash
This is a cardinal rule of business. Even if going on tour will score you a tasty lump of cash, you have to pay expenses like van rentals, merch, promoters, and venues before you’re able to earn that cash. You’ve got to eat and pay for places to sleep while on tour. Will you burn all your cash before you can earn it? Yes, you can use credit cards to delay paying for a month, but mistake with credit cards are expensive and eat into your profits.
Working at a restaurant can kill the joy of its food with boredom. The same could be said of playing your top 3 hits for years on end. For some, music is an escape from boring reality. Changing music from an escape to an obligation can have a profound effect on how you view your music. The life of a full time musician is about hustle. If you’re not naturally inclined to that lifestyle in addition to the process of creating and performing music, it’ll be easy to get burned out.
Before making a big decision like this, you need to do serious soul searching into what you actually want out of your music.
-Do you like writing and recording but hate performing?
-Do you value stability over creativity?
-How much am I wiling to cater to my fans?
-Will I only be happy with a sold out stadium, or would I be happy having a few dedicated fans buying music through bandcamp?
-Would I actually enjoy the musician lifestyle?
There are big questions.
Next week we’ll talk about how to prepare.