Someone said this recently to me and it sparked the thoughts for this “Guitarist Survival Guide”. It turned my thoughts to a conversation I had with a friend of mine who is also a talented film music composer. I was asking her advice because I have been asked to do the music for an independent film. “How much should I charge?”, I asked. Her reply really surprised me: “Well, I have to SAVE UP to be able to do film scores, there isn’t much money in it really.” Wow…really? She went on to say that most of her income comes from writing Jingles for adverts, (quite a few of which have been on national television). She said; “my passion is writing film music, it is what I love to do, but I need to have the other work to pay for it”.
Basically, she knows that she would be miserable if she wasn’t able to write film music, she VIEWS HERSELF as a film music composer. She also views the other more mundane side of what she does as “saving for or paying for doing what she loves”.
This is a great perspective to have. Maybe, instead of viewing our jobs as dead end jobs, we should view them as “saving for what we really want to do”, and start finding ways of doing what we love rather than thinking. “If only I was a successful musician…etc. etc”.
I was speaking to another guitarist, who tours the world playing guitar for a living. He is what most of us would consider to be “a professional musician”. I was asking him what its like to be a “successful musician”. He said something that really got me thinking.
Sometimes being within touching distance of your dream can be worse than your dream being out of reach”.
I asked him about what he gets paid per show and he said between £200 and £300 ($300 to $500). This might seem like a lot of money, but consider this: If he plays a gig every other night it works out at £100 to £150 ($150 to $200) and for the amount of travelling and hours put in, hour on hour he is actually earning about the same as the minimum wage. This means that in order to make a living, he has to do gigs all the time…otherwise he can’t make a decent wage. He really loves what he does, but being on the road playing someone else’s music, also means it is very hard for him work on his own music.
It would be very easy to look at my friend who tours the world and be envious: but I’m not…Why? I’m not, because I spend 3 days a week writing, recording, and promoting my music. I know that writing my own music is what makes me happy. But to do this, I work two 13 hour days teaching guitar and work most evenings after the kids are in bed.
I mostly teach young people who have been thrown out of school. They, not only don’t appreciate who I am or what I do, but most of the time are down right hostile! Sure, I teach masterclasses and play gigs and sell songs….but the reality is I need to “save to do what I love”. This means a sacrifice… no big holidays…no fancy car, and yes; even buying nice guitar gear is a struggle (ironically, it seems only bank managers buy expensive guitar stuff!). So my point is this: being a musician isn’t for everyone, especially if financial security and having a big house, nice car, and nice holidays are the things that make YOU happy.
My advice to the guy in a dead end job? Start saving for the things that make you happy: If its being a musician, start doing it after work or cut down to 4 days a week…if its having financial security and having nice things: then stop moaning and do your job the best you can. Its all about perspective really! We need to stop wanting what others have and be honest about assessing what really makes US happy in life.
What do you think? Is this good advice or a cop out?
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