Countless flights, infinite late nights, scars, girls, beers, parties, tears, screams, running from the cops, making new friends, longing for death, making thousands of dollars in forty five minutes, living paycheck to paycheck for years. When people ask me ‘what do you want to be when you grow up?’ I can’t help but wonder is this what I want to be when I grow up? That’s sort of the fuck of the music world – no matter how successful you are, a lot of what I listed above is inevitable. There isn’t really a way out of it – you just need to keep on hustling and keep on hoping that you are going to get somewhere that doesn’t totally suck, and if you’re a musician then you need to simply accept that you are not going to find a schedule that will be conducive to a 9-5 unless by some miracle you become one of increasingly few players who can make it as session musicians in an ever more digital world. This is a hard life – and you might realize too late it’s not what you want.
Here’s the thing – the concept of a ‘nine to five’ has been much derided as a product of our parents generation and functionally led to the gig economy. Except as much as the grind of a nine to five sucked and ruined lives, it seems to most of us the gig economy is a much worse reality. At least the nine to five had set hours, life in the music industry has no set hours. Furthermore – life in music usually has some truly punishing hours as we’ve been over countless times before. This is a job and you better believe that all the dudes on those big tours grossing thousands of dollars a night view every venue as a job site and every days load of interviews, social media posts and practice as a key part of what makes their job a job. Sure it can be the best job in the world but sometimes it feels almost needlessly punishing. It’s not the sort of thing that I really want to have completely dominate my life as it has.
That’s where the question of what you really want starts to come in. That’s where it becomes a question of looking at how to evolve your career and realizing that maybe a career in an especially notorious industry isn’t something you want after all. I’m not complaining here at all, I’m merely in a moment of self reflection. This is the sort of thing that keeps me up at night sometimes after an especially trying week. When the mistakes of past lives seem to loom especially large and where the unfortunate reality of the industry leers down at you. Then again – this might be all of life and I might just be confused and screwed up. Why should I complain after all? I’ve hacked the industry, I get what it takes to properly grow and I frequently love what I do, but sometimes you need to look back at the heat and accept you might need a different reality.
This is of course a highly personal post and I’m honestly questioning the wisdom of posting it, but I feel like I have too. This post isn’t there to say that you should quit the music industry. This post is saying that you need to sometimes be careful of your career path when you are too deeply invested. It’s not a situation you always want to find yourself getting lost in and it’s one that I think requires a degree of mental health that many of us lack – after all if we had that mental health then the odds are we wouldn’t be working in the music industry. These things are stressful and sometimes it’s good for everyone to get them off their chests. I think it’s one of those questions of being too invested in your work. That’s the struggle of the industry, if you’re deep in this then you love it, and it’s art at the end of the day. If you love the art then you are not going to half ass it, you’re going to end up grinding away to find solutions and sometimes that love can hurt you.
Such is the workaholics dirge and it’s one that in music can be a challenge. The music industry isn’t a place that is always super friendly to the sensitive and you need to have the balls and the ability to fight through the murk. Every day can feel like a struggle but that’s why we love it. If you aren’t out there working your ass off and trying to find solutions then you are going to hurt yourself. You need to have other options out there other than music, options that, ideally, don’t fall into the punishing glut of the gig economy. This is the world that we live in, we fuck up and we fight, we drive forward and we struggle, but we always find a way out of the situation we get ourselves in. That’s what I think attracts a lot of people to the music industry. The sense of struggle is very romantic and working your way through that allows you to face your personal demons and move forward with a new life that is put together and beautiful.
What I’m saying to you is open your eyes, be cautious, realize where your real priorities are and then work to build it into something greater. I know this article has been a bit of a sob story and I know that a lot of us who work in this business have a lot of struggles that we can’t quite wrap our heads around but also know that we will grow together. People in this world have each others backs because many of us face the same demons. We need to work together to travel through that rather than let ourselves be hurt. If we can figure out this sense of transcendence and use our collective lives to grow and be better versions of what we can be then we have achieved, if we’re just self serving then we are the problem. Get better. Grow. No zero days.