A lot of people who find out that I do this music industry stuff for a living have only one question for me, “How”? And it’s true – figuring out the leap from being a part time music industry type person to a full time one is really hard and requires a lot of thought and foresight. It pays to have a backup plan, but then again, if you have a plan B, then that’s your plan A. Navigating these waters can be treacherous and a lot more chaotic than you might imagine. There’s a lot you need to be aware of, but at the same time, moving to be a professional can be a lot easier than you expect. It merely requires the hard work and discipline that we have discussed in so many of these articles.
The first thing you need to make sure of before hopping in is that you are good at being poor. If you can get by on less than a thousand bucks a month then you’re already off to a great start. You need to be aware that in the music industry it’s hard enough to keep yourself alive, much less another person – if you’re in a relationship and about to take the plunge just be very aware of the finances first, even more so if you have children. Most people doing this live at a poverty level, it’s kind of scary. That’s not what you need to know though, what you need to know is that you need to be willing to scale back on responsibilities and financial obligations. You need to have a decent amount of cash in the bank while you wait for your work to start taking off. More importantly, you need to be ready to join the lower class and stay there, because you’re going to be there for a long time, if you ever manage to escape.
But again – to make the leap really isn’t that hard. If you are willing to work for twelve to sixteen hours a day and actually do stuff, (A rarity in this industry) then you should be able to turn a profit relatively early on. What I think that a lot of people forget about the music industry is that it is called an industry for a reason – people work and need to eat. I don’t like having to slave away at a computer all day either, but it’s so much better than some sort of fucking job at a desk following someone’s orders. If long hours and late nights don’t appeal to you then this might not be the career path for you, the reason that so few people seem to really get by in the music industry is that it’s fucking hard, there is no way around it.
I think what a lot of people don’t understand is that a career as a freelancer in a creative profession is not that hard to start, the real question is getting established and knowing how to network. To take the leap you need to be aware that a lot of your day is going to be networking and trying to charm the people who have money into giving you some, and the people who are already giving you money into giving you more. This is not ever going to be a convenient or sensical task, in fact it will always be quite the opposite, I know this from bitter experience. That doesn’t mean it’s not fun. In fact its quite rewarding to see years of hard work paying off like this and coming together to drive your work and your entire scene forward.
Don’t think I’m discouraging you though, there is surprisingly little that you need to do to make the plunge, you just need to know for a fact that there are people out there who want to work with you and would rather that you be on board full time or at least give you enough money to survive. If you’re not sure, ask. People in this industry tend to be brutally honest about their finances, largely because there is so little and because so much of it is cash based anyway it’s really hard to do otherwise. Expense reports are crucial and be ready to dig deep into your pockets in case it all falls apart.
I think what I’m really trying to say with this piece is that life in the music industry is possible if you’re willing to be a minimalist. You need to be able to strip back the veil and realize that there is a whole lot more here at stake than just yourself. Your contributions to the industry, if you choose to go full time, are almost inevitably going to have the power to make or break careers. We live in an age where there are very few gatekeepers and to go full time you need to take advantage of that, and then find those few gatekeepers who do matter and befriend them, and hopefully get them to want to work with you – again, there comes that networking word – the most crucial thing to making a living at this.
Essentially – you need to realize what you’re truly good at in the industry and capitalize on it. Organize your networking around and be unwilling to do it for free. If you start charging for services before you go full time then people are going to start to get a hint for what you want to do and you’ll slowly be able to start self selecting and only taking on serious projects ie the ones that pay. As you grow your business you’ll eventually realize that in this organic process you will find that switching over to an arts driven career is a much more natural process than you might have initially realized. There might be a few months of trauma, but by the end it is almost always worth it, and if not, at least you fucking tried – and that’s important.
So what does this mean for you? It means that the end goal is in sight – closer than you might imagine. It’s going to require you meeting the write people, and having a whole bunch of the ‘right people’ willing to work with you, but it’s doable, you can do it. Just keep on driving and growing your business, organically shifting towards what will hopefully be a better future. Be ready to embrace poverty and destruction because that’s the way to live in this industry, freedom is the basic state of man and the music industry allows for that above all else.