Revaluating life - want to drop uni and pursue drums

Drumsarefun

Member
I'm not sure if this is right place to post this, but this forum is so great and I can't think of any other place where I could get genuine advice from knowledgeable people on this topic.

I live in UK and i'm currently at uni, but frankly I hate it. I don't enjoy any of it, but most importantly I don't really like the degree itself.

It's cliche, but I don't want to spend my life in a job I hate. I don't see the point. The thing that I enjoy most in life is drumming.


I just want some insight from people who are more involved in this scene. How viable is it to make money? I accept I may never be rich, and I'd be willing to sacrifice money for doing something I enjoy.

If anyone would suggest I go for it, where do I start? Are general music colleges (contemporary ones like ACM here in UK) worth it - it seems they aren't great for drums?

Is it just gigs, session drumming and teaching mainly? How do I get started?

I just think I'm 19 - i have no obligations, responsibilities (kids, mortgage) why shouldn't I?

Thanks all
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
One of the worst times in the last 100 years to try and earn a living from music.

You need to have a money making machine these days.
 

JustJames

Platinum Member
If you hate your course, change your course.

Nobody has ever complained that they studied too much.

It might be different if you wanted to drop uni to pursue a "once in a lifetime" opportunity, but you want to drop uni 'cause you aren't enjoying it, and you think you'd be happier playing drums full time.

A university education is a great thing. It will teach you the importance of self motivation, critical thought, objective analysis and plenty more besides. Even if you end up doing things that have nothing to do with your field of study, a university education will stand you in great stead. I studied economics, spent a large chunk of my career implementing IT systems in corporates and now I sell car parts for a living.

Identify a career that will earn you a decent salary, and that you can enjoy, and pursue it, starting with a suitable course of study. Speak to career and course advisers, but realise that they may know less than you about what's out there. Sound them out anyway, but feel free to discard what they say.

Keep drumming as a safety valve and a stress release. If a music career opens up for you, that's great. If it doesn't, music remains the most fun you can have with your pants on.
 

Red Menace

Platinum Member
I'd recommend finding something that you don't completely hate and could make a decent living in then major in that. I can be done, to make a living off of music but it is a lot of luck in addition to skill.

Keep at your studies, get a good job and take lessons from good teachers. Build your skills as a drummer and play around with many different types of bands. If you come across some style of aspect of being a working drummer that gives you trouble then take it to your teacher and work on it till it's flawless. If you find a gig that pays all your bills then great! If not, then you'll have the skills you need to supplement you income drumming.

I have a full time job that pays the bills and the money I make drumming pays for my toys.
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
Nobody wants to spend their life hating their job... any job. There are plenty of musicians who'd rather be playing something other than whatever they're doing, even though they're making a living. So please don't get stuck with the idea that playing drums full-time will necessarily bring you happiness.

There are advantages to being young and having few responsibilities. I think that's the time you invest in yourself in school. If you don't like what you're learning and just can't see yourself in that career, then take another path. Someday, you'll be glad you did.

You can keep drumming and growing as a player while you're in school. School and employment and music aren't mutually exclusive. You're probably not going to take the music world by storm at your age anyway, so it's okay to set a 3 or 4 year plan to pursue music more seriously, after you have a path to make money and pay for gear, a new car, and a nice flat and the expenses that go with it.

I appreciate your ideals, but don't assume you're going to hate anything that's not music. And you'll be able to both to an extent. How cool would it be to have your regular paycheck on a job that you enjoy, and play drums nights & weekends for fun and extra cash!? Best of both worlds.

It's not easy to make a living just playing. I had a few day jobs for many years before I finally walked away, and I'm glad I didn't have to struggle or incur a lot of debt by just playing drums at the time.

Starving for one's art is highly overrated. Be smart.

Bermuda
 

DrumWild

Senior Member
Step 1: Marry well.

I left university 32 years ago to pursue music. It didn't really work out. What ended up happening was that I made a division in my head between what I do for money and what I do for happiness.

So when I need money, I work.

When I need happiness, I turn to music.

To me, happiness at work is about as unrealistic as a stable living in music. That's not to say that you can't do it. I do think the odds are stacked against artists, especially today, when we're a few generations deep into a culture that believes that music should be free. That's another discussion in a highly-heated thread nearby.

As an old fart, I can tell you that the trick to life is to NEVER stop learning. Right now, I'm learning some things that hopefully will land me a new career. At the same time, I'm taking guitar lessons and learning Music Theory.

Gotta take care of the work and money. Gotta take care of the music and happiness. Your mileage may vary. Beyond the advice to never stop learning, you may write off the rest of what I've said as anecdotal evidence that means nothing. Best of luck.

EDIT: One more thing... while I did leave university and pursue my dream, and fail miserably, a few important things happened. One was that I had a TON of fun making music. That was then. Now, I have absolutely NO old man regrets at all. No wondering "what if" or what could have been.
 
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Drumsarefun

Member
Thanks everyone, I just have to do some thinking. Will most likely finish degree and see from there, or possibly take a gap year now and reconsider

But I'm wondering is it really that hard to make money? I just think of my first drum teacher for example. He's no drumming master, nor is he loaded of course

But he teaches, plays in a few bands etc and he does ok.

If including being a drum tutor is it still so hard? I understand a lucky break as a session drummer is much harder for example


Then again would I be happy teaching I'm not even sure.

One more thing I also love the idea of moving abroad, Spain or somewhere else in Europe. How does that change things? Easier/Harder to find work?
 

Drumsarefun

Member
Step 1: Marry well.

I left university 32 years ago to pursue music. It didn't really work out. What ended up happening was that I made a division in my head between what I do for money and what I do for happiness.

So when I need money, I work.

When I need happiness, I turn to music.

To me, happiness at work is about as unrealistic as a stable living in music. That's not to say that you can't do it. I do think the odds are stacked against artists, especially today, when we're a few generations deep into a culture that believes that music should be free. That's another discussion in a highly-heated thread nearby.

As an old fart, I can tell you that the trick to life is to NEVER stop learning. Right now, I'm learning some things that hopefully will land me a new career. At the same time, I'm taking guitar lessons and learning Music Theory.

Gotta take care of the work and money. Gotta take care of the music and happiness. Your mileage may vary. Beyond the advice to never stop learning, you may write off the rest of what I've said as anecdotal evidence that means nothing. Best of luck.

EDIT: One more thing... while I did leave university and pursue my dream, and fail miserably, a few important things happened. One was that I had a TON of fun making music. That was then. Now, I have absolutely NO old man regrets at all. No wondering "what if" or what could have been.

That's so great to hear from someone who was once in a similar position to me, really appreciate your advice.

So if you don't mind me asking, did you just try to get big with a band? Or did you try all manner of things (random gigs, giving lessons etc?
 

DrumWild

Senior Member
That's so great to hear from someone who was once in a similar position to me, really appreciate your advice.

So if you don't mind me asking, did you just try to get big with a band? Or did you try all manner of things (random gigs, giving lessons etc?
I moved to LA with the goal of joining or forming a band, and then taking it somewhere. This was back when getting discovered was the goal.

There was one time where I ALMOST got there. Long story short, my band was checked out by a record executive during an important gig. He said that he was interested in signing us, and wanted us to go to his office.

We went, and he talked for a bit about how much his nephew loves the band. His nephew this and that. And then came the difficult word: He told me that I didn't have "the look" that a rock band needed, or that fans expected, and laid it all down, telling us that he would sign the band, but ONLY if his nephew replaced me.

I told the guys that I was going to leave, and that they should follow me if they can see that he'll do to them what he did to me. I walked out alone. They all signed without me.

The nephew turned out to be a prima donna who wasn't really all that good. The band suffered, the music suffered, and they got dropped for poor performance. It was more complicated than this, but that was it. My opinion is that they got dropped for wanting to kick the nephew out.

My story spans over 30 years, so I'll keep the anecdotes to a minimum.

Most of my bands ended up being for the sake of music, and did not make any money. My current band has been together for over 25 years, and I've only been a member for 15 years. We get a TON of love from Dr. Demento, and get some solid play in over 175 college radio markets in the US and Canada. That and ten bucks will get me a beer on the Sunset Strip, only if the bartender thinks that I'm cool enough to serve.

Joined a cover band for a while, but left after playing for 8 hours and making only $12. It happens.

I've had some students here and there, but it's all freelance and at people's homes. If you want to teach at a music store, then they want a degree on the wall.

I've done songwriting, and have submitted songs via an online service that matches songs up with artists. A few nibbles, but so far no big bites.

Right now, there are recording studios in California that are suffering, because everyone can record their own stuff. They still get business, but not as much.

Those who write and record movie scores do so over in Europe, because they can get studio musicians for $50/hour, while in the US the union players cost at least three times that amount. That's the word I got from someone who does professional mixing and mastering.

I was going to try getting some work scoring music for "adult entertainment" films, since Northridge was near where I lived at the time [the "adult" film capitol of the world, at the time]. But the internet has cut a big hole in that industry's budget.

It wasn't that long ago in LA that Josh Freese was playing on anybody and everybody's recording for almost nothing. He really lowered the rent. Wonder whatever happened to him.

That's not to say it's not impossible. There's a comedy retro metal band in LA called Steel Panther [formerly Metal Skool]. They're making BIG money in LA, San Diego, and Las Vegas. Last time I checked, that was their schedule, playing one night per week in each location. The drummer owns the project, and will show you his tattoos that represent when he was making $1,000 per week, $5,000 per week, $10,000 per week, $20,000 per week, and so on.

He owns the band and the concept, makes the backing tracks, licenses the backing tracks to other 80s tribute bands. He's also got some talented people in his band who have been at it for over 20 years before working with him, and they had relatively lower levels of success before this project.

If you can find our own niche, handle the business aspect, figure out how to monetize it, and don't mind working some previously uncharted territory, then you might be able to make something happen. For every Steel Panther, there are tens of thousands of other bands that make nothing of it.

I mention them because I don't want to be a complete downer. I gave it a shot, didn't get there, and have no regrets. I don't regret leaving university, either, because the music program at the time wasn't that great, and I'm learning more now in my individual private studies than I learned back then. Just beware of survivorship bias.

But if I had it to do all over again, I might have changed my university major to something business related and pursued a degree in that, so that the business knowledge could work in conjunction with my music knowledge. There are lots of new business models out there.

One of my guitar teachers taught in France and Spain for a while, and loved it.

I guess I can close my ramble with this:

My experience back then was my experience, and it was back then. The industry, fan expectations, purchasing habits, business models, and lots of other aspects have changed dramatically. They're not done changing. From my perspective, the environment is more hostile than ever.

You know you best, and the environment where you'll work to make things happen. Don't let me or my experience determine your decision. Instead, allow it to give you some pause for thought, to consider your own position, location, potential, and opportunities. In the end, you'll be the only one who can make the right decision. I could tell you YES or NO, and I'd be wrong in both instances.

Success, failure, benefits, consequences. They're all yours for the taking. If you try, you'll regret it. If you do NOT try, you'll regret it. That's Kierkegaard for ya.

And these children that you spit on
As they try to change their worlds
Are immune to your consultations
They're quite aware of what they're going through

-- David Bowie
 

makinao

Silver Member
I dont know how it works in your university, but if it's possible, don't quit completely or go AWOL. Take an official leave of absence for a term or a year. Spend the time 1) looking for other courses in your university that might excite you if you return, 2) checking out if a life of drumming exclusively really is enjoyable and profitable.

I took a semester off when I was a sophomore in pre-med because I wasn't happy. I came back and shifted to broadcasting, loved it, and got my bachelor's degree. I learned production in general, and most of my projects were musical. The college of music was right next door, so I was able to join the jazz band and the new music ensemble. After college I ended up as a college art professor (which took getting a Masters and a PhD), a part-time record producer (everything from church choirs to pop-rock bands), and a session drummer (once in a blue moon when my friends are really desperate, hehehe). I'm 59 and six years away from retirement. When I do, I promised myself that I'd enroll in drum lessons to get rid of bad habits I've picked up over the years, then form/join a band and play kick ass music :)
 
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Morrisman

Platinum Member
Seriously - try and get a gig on a cruise ship for six months - change of scenery, lots of playing, and some income.

My nephew is drumming around the Mediterranean at the moment, straight out of a jazz drums degree. I don't think he plans to do this beyond the six month contract, but its a great chance to try drumming for a living, for a controlled period of time.
 

Lee-Bro

Senior Member
If you want to make a living playing music, then you're essentially starting your own business. Perhaps you don't view it that way, but that's what it is as soon as money gets involved.

Consider all the things a business owner/manager has to deal with:
-Who covers your performances if you get sick, injured, or want to go on holiday?
-Are you and your equipment properly insured? In the event of theft or destruction, do you know how to get replacement gear the same or next day? Do you have the funds available to buy replacement gear and then wait potentially several months to be reimbursed by an insurer?
-Should you get sick or injured, where will your income come from? In the U.S. even self-employed people can get their own disability insurance (paycheck insurance). You should look into the UK's version. - Check this site for a start: https://www.gov.uk/financial-help-disabled/overview
-How do you grow your brand in an already crowded marketplace?
-Is your business a specialty store or a variety store? In other words, can you play a variety of styles or just one?
-Do you have the proper tools to be in business for yourself? This includes not only the typical drums, cymbals, percussion, sticks, heads, etc., but also a way to transport your gear, a place to securely store it, etc.
-Who are your business partners and networking resources? In other words you're going to need to establish relationships with talent buyers, musicians, bands, production companies, etc. It takes time to go out and meet all these people.
-Are you good with time/calendar management? If not, look into software or apps that help you manage contacts and time.

I'm not trying dissuade you from pursuing a musical career. I'm offering some insight into the foundation things you should have in place before just making a go at it and figuring it all out along the way.

Re: obtaining a degree that you may never use, I have a degree in Political Science. I intended to go to law school. However, serendipity took me right into financial advisory right after graduation from my undergrad. The degree I obtained taught me a lot about doing research and other skills I use to this day with managing a band and running a financial advisory practice.
 

TheElectricCompany

Senior Member
All the advice here is fine and good, but do you have any audio or video of you playing? I could speculate all day about how my true calling and passion in life is to be a Major League Baseball player, but that's not taking into consideration I'm shit at the sport.

There's a million wildly talented musicians in the world and only so many paying gigs to go around. There are no paying gigs for the guys who just don't have the talent, and there's a lot more of those guys than the first category.
 

mikel

Platinum Member
Its life. I spent 51 years doing jobs I either didnt like or hated, but they paid the bills and fed me.

Drumming and music were always the things I enjoyed in life, but over the years it was plain to see that as a career path it is tenuous at best. The number of good, well educated, musicians is huge and the job opportunities very small, so unless you can write great songs the chances would be limited.

Uni is not the only way into the job market. There must be something else that floats your boat? If you have manual dexterity, always probable with a drummer, go for an apprenticeship. You get paid while you learn a trade and Britain is crying out for trades people.

Music is always there regardless of the position you are now in, If you are lucky you could still end up as a full time drummer, sometimes you are simply in the right place at the right time with the right people. Luck is a big factor in earning a living from music
 

Drumsarefun

Member
I moved to LA with the goal of joining or forming a band, and then taking it somewhere. This was back when getting discovered was the goal.

There was one time where I ALMOST got there. Long story short, my band was checked out by a record executive during an important gig. He said that he was interested in signing us, and wanted us to go to his office.

We went, and he talked for a bit about how much his nephew loves the band. His nephew this and that. And then came the difficult word: He told me that I didn't have "the look" that a rock band needed, or that fans expected, and laid it all down, telling us that he would sign the band, but ONLY if his nephew replaced me.

I told the guys that I was going to leave, and that they should follow me if they can see that he'll do to them what he did to me. I walked out alone. They all signed without me.

The nephew turned out to be a prima donna who wasn't really all that good. The band suffered, the music suffered, and they got dropped for poor performance. It was more complicated than this, but that was it. My opinion is that they got dropped for wanting to kick the nephew out.

My story spans over 30 years, so I'll keep the anecdotes to a minimum.

Most of my bands ended up being for the sake of music, and did not make any money. My current band has been together for over 25 years, and I've only been a member for 15 years. We get a TON of love from Dr. Demento, and get some solid play in over 175 college radio markets in the US and Canada. That and ten bucks will get me a beer on the Sunset Strip, only if the bartender thinks that I'm cool enough to serve.

Joined a cover band for a while, but left after playing for 8 hours and making only $12. It happens.

I've had some students here and there, but it's all freelance and at people's homes. If you want to teach at a music store, then they want a degree on the wall.

I've done songwriting, and have submitted songs via an online service that matches songs up with artists. A few nibbles, but so far no big bites.

Right now, there are recording studios in California that are suffering, because everyone can record their own stuff. They still get business, but not as much.

Those who write and record movie scores do so over in Europe, because they can get studio musicians for $50/hour, while in the US the union players cost at least three times that amount. That's the word I got from someone who does professional mixing and mastering.

I was going to try getting some work scoring music for "adult entertainment" films, since Northridge was near where I lived at the time [the "adult" film capitol of the world, at the time]. But the internet has cut a big hole in that industry's budget.

It wasn't that long ago in LA that Josh Freese was playing on anybody and everybody's recording for almost nothing. He really lowered the rent. Wonder whatever happened to him.

That's not to say it's not impossible. There's a comedy retro metal band in LA called Steel Panther [formerly Metal Skool]. They're making BIG money in LA, San Diego, and Las Vegas. Last time I checked, that was their schedule, playing one night per week in each location. The drummer owns the project, and will show you his tattoos that represent when he was making $1,000 per week, $5,000 per week, $10,000 per week, $20,000 per week, and so on.

He owns the band and the concept, makes the backing tracks, licenses the backing tracks to other 80s tribute bands. He's also got some talented people in his band who have been at it for over 20 years before working with him, and they had relatively lower levels of success before this project.

If you can find our own niche, handle the business aspect, figure out how to monetize it, and don't mind working some previously uncharted territory, then you might be able to make something happen. For every Steel Panther, there are tens of thousands of other bands that make nothing of it.

I mention them because I don't want to be a complete downer. I gave it a shot, didn't get there, and have no regrets. I don't regret leaving university, either, because the music program at the time wasn't that great, and I'm learning more now in my individual private studies than I learned back then. Just beware of survivorship bias.

But if I had it to do all over again, I might have changed my university major to something business related and pursued a degree in that, so that the business knowledge could work in conjunction with my music knowledge. There are lots of new business models out there.

One of my guitar teachers taught in France and Spain for a while, and loved it.

I guess I can close my ramble with this:

My experience back then was my experience, and it was back then. The industry, fan expectations, purchasing habits, business models, and lots of other aspects have changed dramatically. They're not done changing. From my perspective, the environment is more hostile than ever.

You know you best, and the environment where you'll work to make things happen. Don't let me or my experience determine your decision. Instead, allow it to give you some pause for thought, to consider your own position, location, potential, and opportunities. In the end, you'll be the only one who can make the right decision. I could tell you YES or NO, and I'd be wrong in both instances.

Success, failure, benefits, consequences. They're all yours for the taking. If you try, you'll regret it. If you do NOT try, you'll regret it. That's Kierkegaard for ya.

And these children that you spit on
As they try to change their worlds
Are immune to your consultations
They're quite aware of what they're going through

-- David Bowie
Wow, incredible story, thanks for sharing!

It does make me feel I'd be really out of my depth
 

Drumsarefun

Member
Seriously - try and get a gig on a cruise ship for six months - change of scenery, lots of playing, and some income.

My nephew is drumming around the Mediterranean at the moment, straight out of a jazz drums degree. I don't think he plans to do this beyond the six month contract, but its a great chance to try drumming for a living, for a controlled period of time.
Funny you should mention, my family mentioned that, and I really like the idea of that.

But it brings up another issue, are they really going to take me with such little experience?

Regarding the jazz drums degree, is that something that's needed? And more importantly, do people think degree in drumming is worth it? I would love to do that
 

Drumsarefun

Member
I dont know how it works in your university, but if it's possible, don't quit completely or go AWOL. Take an official leave of absence for a term or a year. Spend the time 1) looking for other courses in your university that might excite you if you return, 2) checking out if a life of drumming exclusively really is enjoyable and profitable. 3) consider something in which

I took a semester off when I was a sophomore in pre-med because I wasn't happy. I came back and shifted to broadcasting, loved it, and got my bachelor's degree. I learned production in general, and most of my projects were musical. The college of music was right next door, so I was able to join the jazz band and the new music ensemble. After college I ended up as a college art professor (which took getting a Masters and a PhD), a part-time record producer (everything from church choirs to pop-rock bands), and a session drummer (once in a blue moon when my friends are really desperate, hehehe). I'm 59 and six years away from retirement. When I do, I promised myself that I'd enroll in drum lessons to get rid of bad habits I've picked up over the years, then form/join a band and play kick ass music :)

I am considering a year off yes the may let me.

As an alternative to my degree, what are people's thoughts on a drumming degree/qualification of some sort, can it be a big help in finding work?

If I took a year off now and tried to make drums work, I wouldn't even know where to start frankly. Which does make me think, that I'd be out of my depth
 
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