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Care to share? What’s your day job?

February 23, 2012

Many successful musicians have made more money from their day job than the music thing.  Many more have eked out a humble living while pursuing their dreams.  Jack White was an upholsterer.  Eddie Vader was a night watchman.  Kurt Cobain: janitor.  For the ladies…Cyndi Lauper cleaned out dog kennels and pierced ears.  And Ozzy stumbled his way through trainee plumber, construction worker, car factory “horn tuner,” and slaughterhouse worker (ah, that explains a lot…).

Some of the best day jobs for musicians include:

  • Temp staff (so you can readily say “take this job & shove it!”)
  • Food service (hey, ya gotta eat…)
  • Sales (obnoxious…but at least you can promote while prospecting)
  • Creative freelance (copywriter, editor, web & graphic design – you know you’ll need those skills anyways…)
  • Author (definitely good for the song writers in the group)

Some of the worst day jobs?

  • Full time corporate gig (working for the man…blah!)
  • Butcher/carpenter/logger (careful with that axe, Eugene!)
  • Nanny (but who needs more dependents?)
  • Caregiver (who needs more Depends?  Aw, it’s just a joke…)
  • Bartender (this one depends upon the person, but “bad idea” in most musician circles)

At the Denver Music Summit last fall, a few of the speakers stressed the opportunities for musicians to get a job in the music industry while pursuing those dreams, such as:

Song writer(!); session musician; background singer; recording & sound techs; music teachers; instrument builder and/or repair; piano tuner/tech; record store manager; manufacturer’s rep for instrument sales; music librarian (need a degree); music therapist (maybe you can fake a degree here); voice therapist and/or speech pathologist (sound like more degrees…); website design & marketing & content; personal assistant; celebrity bodyguard; ethnomusicologist (sounds kinda snooty); concert hall manager; bar or club owner; night club manager; concert hall marketing; stage manager; churchy ones like cantor, organist or ensemble, or choir director; music store manager( or sales slave); floor show group (for casinos, hotels…think Disney trooper or Up With People!!!); cover band hell;  Publicist; public relations guru (I haven’t met one of these yet); music journalist (whoo hoo!);  Ad executive;  radio program director;  DJ or VJ; A&R coordinator; promotion manager;  band manager;  lighting crew; and don’t forget pyrotechnics.

Are you in the camp that still thinks you’d rather just make a living as a musician?  Cheers!  But a few fun facts for you:  half of all Americans will live in poverty sometime before age 65.  1 in 2.  What percentage of those are musicians?  In New Orleans, the vast majority of musicians make between $12K-$15K (or less).  So you might want to take another look at the employment options above…

So what’s your day job?  Care to share? 

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. February 24, 2012 3:55 pm

    Hey, Denver! This is a nice big comment area…how about sharing a little? Here, I’ll get us started…

    My day job is multi-pronged: owner of 24/7 Incentives Inc (promotional products company I started in 2000) and principal of Dementia SOS (public awareness and prevention initiative for CO – see http://www.ColoradoDementia.org), and author of the Denver Original Music blog.

    I’m also a singer/songwriter and founder of Odin’s Other Eye (classically modern rock for a new age). This is money pit…but I love it! And I also founded a band called True Infinity.

    Non-paying gig: Musicians In Action(.org). I founded this project in 10/09. M.I.A. is an all-volunteer nonprofit (9 devoted board members) that mobilizes local musicians to aid CO’s homeless.

    How about you? Care to share?

  2. February 27, 2012 5:01 am

    there’s no such thing as a day job. its called life. you have to live it the way you want. if you want liberty then we must embrace chaos. true freedom is not a routine but an expression of the universe becoming self-aware. i have a lot of time to ponder these issues because i dont have a day job, i have a life. i’ll go smoke another doobie now.

  3. March 2, 2012 6:07 pm

    My day job is sales in the health food industry. I would rather be doing music only but I would not have been able to build the recording studio I have today with just music income.

    My advise to young original bands is to move in together, cook group meals, work enough to pay for your instruments, transportation, recordings but leave as much time as you can to be working the streets looking for people who appreciate your music. You have to go all in and make music the only focus, don’t have kids, don’t go into debt, don’t buy a house, drive cheap cars.

    If you really want to be successful you need lots of time to hone your craft, promote your shows and work, work, work.

  4. Matt R permalink
    May 1, 2012 5:30 am

    Im too scared to consider myself a musician, it frightens me to even think of people seeing me perform! I live vicariously through you guys and I appreciate hearing about your lives, its very intriguing to me. Every month I check out the Make A Star (makeastar.com) competition to vote for my favorite artists that month and track them to see if they win. I love original music and recommend the competition to all artists and music fans as well.

  5. November 16, 2016 6:57 pm

    I work a 40 hour a week job at a corporation. It has it’s benefits, believe me.

    1) I know my hours. I know my hours next week, I know my hours in 3 months.
    2) PTO: If I have a big event, I can take the day off and still get paid for it. This is critical, as I don’t have to decide if a cheap (or free) gig is worth it. I still have my salary to fall back on.
    3) I can still support my family and keep up with my home expenses.
    4) And oh man, is this a biggie: My bandmate is in the same boat with a 9-5. We practice once a week, but our practice starts at 11am on Sunday and goes until 8-9pm. We know exactly when our practices are, roughly how long they’ll be, and can move them to Saturday if there’s a big Packers game on at 11:30am.

    We don’t expect pay right now. We have zero pull (life, man.) but are getting there. If a venue throws us a few free drinks, we’re on the moon.

    But I think it’s key to know that we’re both hobby musicians. We cannot devote the time, sacrifice the pay, or sacrifice our wives and families to dedicate full time without a reasonable rate of return.

    We are Evil Atoms, and man, is the industry tough in Denver.

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