This morning I came across post from a young industry professional hoping to offer guidance to those aspiring to follow their path into the music business. The article outlined four things everyone should do in order to pursue a career on the business side of entertainment with the highest likelihood of success. The first two were fairly obvious, referring to networking and settling on a specific goal, but the third tip made me do a double take. I’m not going to link the post in question, but here is a screenshot:
Whether your goal in music is to be on stage or work with the people on stage, here is something anyone who has found lasting success in the industry will tell you:
Don’t quit your day job unless it is an absolute must.
While it is true that the industry is a demanding place where professionals often spend extended hours at the office, newcomers to the field should not feel pressured to dive that deep from the jump. Furthermore, most cannot afford to abandon their current life in hopes of creating a new one, especially in a field where the vast majority who attempt careers never make it.
There is simply too much risk involved with music to be ignorant about the reality of the situation, and any good professional can recognize that. You can fully commit yourself to making connections and developing an identity in the world of music while at your current job. Maybe you cannot do it as much as you would like, or as much as some of your peers, but you will be able to do it while also keeping a roof over your head and that is a big deal. Bigger than most realize, in fact.
The music business thrives on creativity, both from artists and the professionals who work with them. You need to be able to think on your feet, spot developing talent, recognize emerging cultural trends, and always be looking toward the future. In order to the do that to the best of your ability you first need to cover the more necessary part of life, such as housing, food, clothing, etc.
Some will say that comfort is the cousin to laziness, and that those who are the most successful in music get that way by constantly forcing themselves out of their comfort zone. While there is some truth in this, those driven to succeed in music always find a way to make it, and that drive is an essential part of what makes any music professional great. That drive exists in all of us, regardless of what we do in music, and it pushes us to work hard each and every day.
Still, that drive will only get you so far if you are constantly worried about bills, and until music is bringing in enough money to cover your expenses your drive will be (rightfully) stifled by concerns over your quality of life. If you can work and work on your journey into music, do so until you can no longer maintain a healthy work-life balance. Before you jump altogether, consider asking for less hours. At least in that scenario you still have some money coming in, which is always better than nothing.
Having a career in music is a dream for many. It can be your reality with hard work, good networking, and smart planning. Don’t bite off more than you can chew, as they say, and in time you will find a place to call home in this wild, wild industry.
James Shotwell is the Marketing Coordinator for Haulix. He is also the host of the Inside Music Podcast and a ten-year music industry veteran. You should follow him on Twitter.