Every project you take on in the music industry needs to balance a variety of factors. It’s the scale inside your head that determines if whatever project you happen to be tackling is worth it. I want to examine what some of these key factors should be and how they need to be weighted relative to each other if you want to have a successful breadth of projects. As we’ve discussed before – in the music industry you need to diversify your income streams, but if these diversified income streams are making your life impossible, then they shouldn’t necessarily be what you are trying to orient your entire life around. Every project you take on needs to go through this because the second you start to lose value of yourself and instead prioritize the music industry over everything is the second that the validity of your work goes down the drain and you become just another shill. If you want to keep being the best you that you can be then you need to keep these factors in mind.
The first factor is of course stress. This comes in many different ways, and in fact can be broken down into a variety of subfactors. For some people this might include work hours, but for me that’s more tied into income. For me stress comes from three things – deadlines, lack of flexibility, and bullies. Now, the first two things on that list are okay in moderation. Of course we need deadlines, otherwise nothing would get done – that’s fine. We also do need to be able to stand firm when we need to. It’s how you make sure that your morals stay upright and ideas get executed properly. This too should not really pose a problem as long as the people in question aren’t utterly pig headed. It’s bullies that you need to watch out for. A lot of people forget that this is only rock and roll and if they are getting too caught up in their own circle jerk then you have an obligation to call them out – otherwise you will get lost in their madness and feel awful about yourself.
The second key factor to keep in mind is income. This balances itself out in a variety of ways. First of all obviously is the raw number that you are making. I’m not going to try and tell you how much you should be trying to make – but you need to probably keep numbers in mind when taking on new clients. Of course, asides from the raw number you need to consider the pay per hour. You need to make sure that however much time you are contributing is worth it relative to the pay. Income can manifest itself in other ways too. If for example you get taken out to eat a couple times a week because of a gig, then maybe it makes sense to take a job that pays a little (but not a lot) less than you would like. Obviously getting paid in ‘experience’ is fucking stupid – but if you are getting a chance to work with legendary musicians or getting connections that could pay off long term that’s another reason to take a pay cut. But again – working for free is rarely a good call, and you need to make sure that all the numbers will end up working out. You don’t want to undervalue yourself.
The final, major factor is your enjoyment. There are a lot of jobs I do for minimal pay just because I enjoy them. I mean, yes I think a lot of them will probably turn into something greater, hell, a lot of them already have, but that you need to appreciate that not all of this music industry stuff is there to make you money. You need to do a lot of volunteer work if you want to get anywhere. That’s how it works in any industry, whether you like it or not, and quite honestly as far as I can tell that’s how its worked in a lot of industries for decades now, for better or for worse. If you enjoy a project and you think that it could help you make a ton of money in the next few years or get you to meet people who could help you to make a ton of money then it is definitely worth it. After all – we all got into this for the love of it – we shouldn’t be turned into money grubbing freaks just because now we are trying to go out and be ‘professionals’.
The other factors that play out tend to be smaller – but they are very important. Many of them can be job specific, like having a particularly cute co-worker, or a boss who has supported you in other projects for years. Some factors can be categorized as subsections of those two main factors, like the notion of long term time investment I touched on with regards to income. Others can be personal. For example if you have health issues you would obviously want to make sure that whatever jobs you take on will be sensitive to that. I’ve never actually listed out the factors that influence me, but I feel like I probably should, and you might find a benefit from doing it yourself. The thing is – the better you know the factors that impact whether or not you take a job then the more selective you will be able to be and the less time you will waste on dead end jobs that you know that you are going to hate every minute of.
Above all, music is supposed to be a fun thing and we are not supposed to stress out to much over it. If people keep influencing you to feel shitty about yourself and hate your work in the music industry then that means that you probably didn’t look at these factors properly and that you should maybe re-evaluate your position. It’s not always your fault – people screw up, it happens. Yet by looking hard and long at every one of these factors before accepting someone new’s money then you know that you will be able to figure out a better tomorrow and one that helps not just you but also all of your friends. After all, we’re just trying to build a better community.