Drugs, booze, women, and more women. Or maybe not… I didn’t expect to become a professional at not getting drunk when I became a musician. Nor did I expect to become a professional at not getting a girlfriend.
About two years ago I left my “real job” and started playing music full time. It took a while to book enough gigs to pay my bills. It took even longer to make enough to have extra spending cash. Eventually I started making as much as my old 9-5 job and started to notice that it had kind of turned into a regular job in its own weird way. Except for…
1. Even if you’re working your ass off, your friends still act like you do nothing all day.
I spend more time working each day now than I ever did at a 9-5. Most of my days are spent booking, designing promotional material, practicing, working on my website, promoting on social media or maintaining gear. Oh, and then I have to go actually play shows.
2. You’re Nocturnal.
My friends give me shit for sleeping in. I used to feel bad about it, so I tried to change my sleeping schedule. I’d get on track about Wednesday, and then after a weekend of playing gigs until 2 or 3am, I’d be right back where I started. Eventually I realized it was pointless for me to wake up at the ass-crack of dawn. If I was working second or third shift, wouldn’t I adjust my schedule accordingly? So why not as a working musician? So now when I get home at midnight or later, it feels like 5 in the afternoon and I typically sit on the couch watching TV for a couple hours to wind down after my “work day.”
3. You Develop Really Strange Social Habits
I do my grocery shopping at 3-4am after shows. I drink on my couch now instead of going out. I spend a large portion of my day on social media, guilting people to come out to events. You’ll find that the general rules of society don’t apply to you as a professional musician. I told my brother recently when we were going to a wedding: “You can ignore the dress codes when you’re a musician, because when you get there in a t-shirt and jeans, someone will inevitably assume what you’re there for and say—’Hey, you must be the music guy.'”
4. Your Dating Life Is Really Really Weird.
You have money now (if you’re successfully working your ass off). You can make your own schedule, and, I mean let’s not forget that you’re a musician! You’d think dating would be no problem, right? Think again. First of all, when you have a night off from playing shows, you usually won’t feel like going out to the bars. Let’s not forget that you’ll probably be traveling, so you may not even be at home a lot. Last but not least, a lot of women (who are past their teenage years, that is) assume that anyone who says their job is “playing music” is either A.) Broke as shit, B.) Terrified of any kind of commitment or C.) Immature or D.) All of the above. When I was in high school and a girl heard I was in a band, it was a sure “in” with her. Nowadays when I tell a girl this, the follow up question is usually—”Yea, but what’s your real job?” But I digress… ironically; if you’re any of the aforementioned things, you’ll probably have trouble making it as a working musician in the first place unless you luck out and get a record deal or something.
5. You’ll Actually Enjoy Playing Music Even More
This is the weirdest thing to me. You’d think that playing shows 2-5 nights a week for hours and hours each time would make me hate playing music after a while. In fact, it’s been the opposite. I love playing even more now. I love practicing and learning and writing new songs. I love playing guitar and singing for my friends around a campfire. It consistently blows my mind that I actually get paid to do something I absolutely love.
6. You’ll Become a Professional Drinker
After you spend 4 nights a week every week for two years in a bar, you get pretty good at drinking. Not the type of drinking you’re probably thinking of; but controlled, social drinking. It’s very rare that I drink more than 3 beers during a 4-5 hour night. People will buy you shots all of the time. Sometimes I turn them down, sometimes I go ahead and take them. It all depends on where I’m at in the night, buzz-wise, and whether or not I have a show the next night. I know my limits better than the best of frat-boy partiers or even old-school alcoholics, I guarantee it. I know exactly how many drinks in how much time it takes for me to get drunk and I know how to stay below that level. I don’t drive drunk, and since I’ll most likely be waking up and playing another show the next night, I don’t want to wake up with a hangover.
7. You Are Surprisingly Good at Managing Money
I told someone the other day that I had never been able to manage my finances well enough to pay all of my bills on time and fill up my car all the way until I started playing music for a living. I think it’s the sketchiness of an irregular paycheck that makes me extra careful to leave myself enough money to take care of myself and my obligations.
8. You Learn That Sick Days Aren’t A Thing Anymore
I can’t remember the last time I cancelled a show. This past winter I played shows three nights in a row with a high fever. You learn to power through the pain and get the show over with. Just replace the beer with a screwdriver or some whiskey and you’ll be fine. I will warn however, that singing with a throat problem is never recommended. If you have a sore throat, you need to take the financial hit and cancel the show. You can do some serious harm to your vocal chords trying to do that. Which brings us to the next one…
9. Your Fingers and Voice Become Sacred Objects.
I absolutely freak if I smash my finger or blow out my voice. It could potentially mean a week or two of cancelled shows and subsequently, no income. As a result, I don’t scream much at concerts (I whistle instead) and I try to be careful about my fret hand. Which is interesting, because I’m kind of clumsy and end up smashing my hands up a lot anyways. Oh well.
10. Everybody Acts Like You Have The Best Job In The World Or Something.
Do you think I’m going to argue with them?! I can’t think of a better way to make a living. Can you? 🙂