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  #1  
Old 08-10-2017, 04:51 AM
showbanddrummer showbanddrummer is offline
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Default Making a Living/Happiness and drumming

There are so many questions that I find myself wanting to ask older musicians, or my teachers. But, out of caution for being inappropriate, I never ask people. There are some really important topics that I rarely if EVER hear discussed openly between music students and teachers. So, my hope is that with the relative anonymity of the internet I may get some thoughtful honest responses. I don't feel like I could ever ask a teacher something like "how much do you make?" or "how much does your wife make? Is that why you can afford this house in Woodland Hills?" I am hoping to get some honest input from drummers who have been working in music for most their life. I know this is a huge post, so please comment on whatever part you would like to. And if I need to clarify what I mean by any these questions please let me know.

At the nexus of ability level, location, age, and personal values I find myself wondering about some very important musical and life decisions. Music has taken the front seat of my attention for the last 14 years or so. I've mostly always been happy to do so, and the sacrifices I made rarely felt like sacrifices. I've had no problem living and eating on a shoestring budget. I think I will always prefer to live simply and modestly. However, I've come to realize how my decisions have impacted my relationships negatively. I am "mostly" happy with the work that I do now, but I also feel that I would NOT like to continue the work that I'm doing for next 30 years. My current financial situation is not sustainable by any means. I am currently surviving with a combination of teaching drumlines, private students, and playing pick-up gigs. I enjoy the teaching for the most part. But it does feel like a grind driving all around town to teach at 4 different schools for only $25/hour. I put my best effort to be good at what I do, but marching percussion is not my specialty and therefore I'll never truly excel at it. If I truly wanted to excel at that job I should be devoting outside time to become more of an expert...but that takes me farther away from what I want to do musically. Also, I do my best to put forth my best attitude and professionalism on my gigs. But, I don't really love calling tunes with guys I've never played with before and probably won't ever meet again. The once per month jazz casual gig ends up being in many ways a frustration rather than an enjoyable learning experience.

I don't mean to complain. I know it takes work to make a living and to make good music for life. I've started a couple of quartets to focus on original music. I think the music has great potential, but scheduling rehearsals and gigs is so difficult because we are all so busy just trying to survive. My fear is that my actions are going to leave me ending up being trapped. Over the last couple years since I moved to Los Angeles I have continued to get more work, which is great. But, I'm afraid that my work is going to continue to be teaching that I feel unqualified to be excellent to be at, performing experiences that limited musically or motivated primarily from a need to work. And on top of that, I fear that even if I'm making more money, I'll never be able to really be financially independent living in Los Angeles county. If I am going to feel Ho Hum about a job, I figure I'd might as well do something that pays really well.

I struggle with practicing also. Because my performances are so inconsistent, and the type of work I do so varied, I find it incredibly challenging to find my priorities in practicing. I find myself asking, how much should I spend on this Philly Joe transcription?....I haven't played a straight ahead gig in 2 months, and I don't know when the next one is. Should I work more on reading, or is it in pretty good shape....I don't know, I don't have an outlet to test and challenge me and inform me on what my weaknesses really are. I tend to find myself practicing a lot of technique, coordination and metronome stuff only because it's the only thing I can actually assess my improvment on in the practice room. All the other stuff....listening....communication....shaping.... improvising...requires me to play with people.




Have you ever struggled to find an outlet to play with people, in a focused and creative way, outside of what you were being paid to do? How did you form relationships with new people?

How do you make decisions on how to prioritize practice material? Have you ever had difficulty being motivated to work on things you had no foreseeable outlet for?


How much of your time do "survival" jobs take up of your time? What is your attitude towards them? If given an opportunity to quit would you?

How has an honest assessment of your ability level influenced your life decisions? For example, if I knew I could play like Mark Guiliana, I would feel more bold about sinking all of my resources (financial, emotional, mental) into playing jazz. At some point in life I think it makes sense to look at oneself and ask "based on my current abilities and rate of progress, what am I likely to be able to achieve in life and what costs? Do the rewards justify those costs?"

What sacrifices have you made in order to pursue music as a career? Has it impacted your relationships? Family? Marriage?

What is your financial situation? How much do you make? Where do you live and what are you able to afford with your income? House? Retirement?


Do you make any significant amount of money from your creative outlets? If so, how much? What percent of your income?

How has location helped or hindered your career/life? I often wonder if I were to relocate to a "smaller pond" I may stand out more, make connections and relationships easier and have more playing opportunities. Also in a different city with lower cost of living I may actually be able to work towards having financial independence and perhaps even be able to finance creative endeavors.

Last edited by showbanddrummer; 08-10-2017 at 05:22 AM.
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Old 08-10-2017, 07:37 AM
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ineedaclutch ineedaclutch is offline
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Default Re: Making a Living/Happiness and drumming

That's a heavy question bud. You're going to get a hell of a lot of lookers, but not so many posters. This is one of the few fields that pay is not discussed openly. I do it for fun but I make at least an extra 1.5k a month doing cover gigs, because I like to make people dance. I don't care if I'm pumping 4 on the floor all night as long as the the dance floor is packed. I'll play Brown Eyed Girl and Sweet Home Alabama all night if need be.
Music is my hobby and if I can get paid to do it why not?
My real money is made during the day, and my hobby pays for one of my passions. If anyone can figure out how I can make my motorcycles and cars pay for themselves I'm all ears.
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Last edited by ineedaclutch; 08-10-2017 at 08:15 AM.
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Old 08-10-2017, 10:07 AM
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larryace larryace is offline
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Default Re: Making a Living/Happiness and drumming

It's simple to me. Only about 2% of musicians (total guess) make good money. Music today is a great hobby but as a career? I couldn't make it work. If I worked 5 days a week at the pay I get, I would make a whopping 26,000 before drumheads, sticks, gas, tolls, blah blah blah.

But it's the best gd hobby on earth.

I tried to make it work, but i couldn't earn the money I needed.

So I dropped music as a way to make a living.

I totally had to do something to earn money so I could live in a house, so I could practice as to not disturb people, so I could get good at drums, and play with high caliber musicians. So I did.

PHEW!

I'm commenting on just a small portion of your post.

Don't let me discourage you. I'm just relating what I experienced. I needed to learn to make money at that time, so I did what I had to do. Took 20 years off, learned how to make money, and returned in 2003. No regrets in today's climate.
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Old 08-10-2017, 11:37 AM
mikel mikel is offline
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Default Re: Making a Living/Happiness and drumming

Cant comment on how much music teachers earn, and certainly not in the US. As for making money from playing, it was never a career plan.

I started drumming back in the late 60s and it was always a "Calling", It was just something I loved doing, partly for its own sake but mainly to play with others, in a band.

Like most back then, I started a band with my mates and we played all our own songs. It was a creative and fun thing to do as we were all learning our respective instruments as we went along. There was no blueprint for learning to be a Rock musician, It was all being made up, and changed on a weekly basis.

The whole allure of music back then, for me at least, was the fact it was "Our" music. No one had a formula or a plan, It was rebellion and freedom from any sort of formal teaching or rules.

We never thought of making money at it. The hope for us was to write the best songs we could, make a demo, and if we were lucky get a recording contract so more people could hear our music. Play gigs at the City Hall in Newcastle and have fun for a few years before we had to get proper jobs, bite the bullet and work for the man.

We never did get a contract but I would not have missed that fantastic era for anything. I was always skint and always hungry, but always happy to be playing music and being creative. I have never stopped playing in bands, but for the last 40 years it has been for the sheer pleasure. I will never stop playing and gigging because as I say, music for me is not about money, Its a "Calling".
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Old 08-10-2017, 12:01 PM
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mikyok mikyok is offline
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Default Re: Making a Living/Happiness and drumming

Drumming is a welcome escape from the BS 9-5 for me. I'm my own boss, I love what I'm doing and I'm on a way better hourly rate plus the most important thing for me is I'm working with my best mates. You can't put a price on the last point.

I've been lucky enough to study music and devote time to it but I think we all hit that age of responsibility aka marriage, settling down. When I left uni the careers advice was basically become a school teacher and that was it. At 21 I wasn't qualified to teach anyone anything!

As much as the office sucks it's guaranteed money every month and keeps the bills paid so all the money made from gigging gets trousered. If you can make a full time living out of playing my cap is doffed in respect.

I've never had a problem with playing any old crap on stage as long as my wallet is replenished at the end of the night.
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Old 08-10-2017, 12:36 PM
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Default Re: Making a Living/Happiness and drumming

Kudos for posting this, not an easy topic to discuss without being labelled but I do think that this is the ONLY place on the internet where that doesn't happen.

Honestly.

In response, I have thought about these things for years. For the first say 15 years of my drum career, I just did crap jobs to pay for drums, took days off when we were playing away somewhere and never had a holiday. At that moment, I really didn't think about it. I was working to play drums.

However, as the years progressed, you leave bands, join bands, then leave bands again but in the context of my working life, I was always far too knackered to practice that much when I got home. Staring at a computer screen all day completely sucks the life out of me and after about 10 years, I left Leeds.

I now live in a small commuter town of London, nowhere near my musician friends and nowhere near anyone who wants to make music it seems.

At 40, I speak with so many people about making music but nothing ever comes of it. It's like everyone wants to talk about it so they look cool, but can't be bothered to commit.

Sound familiar?

All bands have been the same for me, but that's because I've never really worked with a quality singer/songwriter. ie Someone who knows exactly what they're writing and delivers it. Collaborative works are fine in isolation, but in a working band that doesn't play covers, you need a very strong singer/ songwriter to drive the band forward.

I can't even find decent covers bands these days - they're all so serious and up their own @rces that I just don't want to spend any time with them. Your playing covers guys, get over yourselves.

Maybe it's my location, maybe it's my style of playing. Lots of times it's the people I can't stand. I once went to an audition for a band that already had a really good drummer. They said that he wasn't actually a full-time member of the band and wanted to try out more permanent ones. So i Learned about 15 songs perfectly, played them well at a jam and then they told me they were gonna stick with the guy they already had. Absolutely fine, but don't get me to put all that effort in when you clearly had the current guy in mind.

I could be a teacher to some of the kids on my estate, their mums say that they start dancing whenever I start playing and start badgering their mums to get them a kit. Never professionally though as I am self-taught and have spent too much time training in IT rather than drums.

I might sell all me kit soon and just go back to being cheapy mccheap. Being paid to play the drums is something that either you fall into, or you've not had to work from an early age just to be able to go out with your mates. Or you have pushy parents in a big house that allowed you to make the noise.

So many factors that affect it and difficult to nail down. Personally I blame my folks for getting me violin/recorder/keyboard lessons when I was regularly beating up my lego boxes to Dire Straits at 10 years old.

It's because of this that I am getting my friends kids into drumming early but also pushing their parents to get them lessons and get tooled up with the correct technique from an early age
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Old 08-10-2017, 01:36 PM
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Default Re: Making a Living/Happiness and drumming

There's no money to be made playing the kind of music I like to play. And at 47 I only really do things anymore that I actually want to do. But the payoff isn't about money for me and my fellow band mates. It's about having fun. It would almost seem "wrong" to be making money when doing what we're doing in the band. It's just not work. It's a total blast. We get to meet other bands who have now become good friends of ours. We get to go out frequently, have fun, make people happy, and drink shit loads (usually on the house).

My former wife hated my playing with drums as it meant me spending time with people I liked (as opposed to looking at her ugly mug every evening). So I didn't play drums for a long time. Like probably 15 years or so.

My current wife is hugely into my band. Loves the stuff we do and likes the people involved. And she's quick, when I'm groaning about my day job, to point out that if I could earn a similar amount of money playing drums that I earn in my day job that I can crack on and do it. Unfortunately I earn a good salary basically talking shit all day to people who value what I have to say (yikes)....so I can't follow through on this dream. In fact it's not a dream at all. It just IS.

Not sure that I'm answering anything you've raised...just chewing the fat from a personal perspective on my part.

I'd be very interested in how much some pro-bands are making in their careers because (other than right at the top of the pile) they aren't making that much would be my perception. Nowhere near what I make in my day job.

I guess that if someone offered me a pay cut by half, a dramatic reduction in my standard of living, a not insignificant amount of hard work and pressure, to do something I truly love to do (and I do), then I'd stick with where I'm at.
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Old 08-10-2017, 02:34 PM
Random User Name Random User Name is offline
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Default Re: Making a Living/Happiness and drumming

I love drumming but from my experience unless you are in a covers band and a teacher at the same time you make very little money. Even if you get some good chances it's still ridiculously hard to make a living. Here's what happened to me:

I studied at DrumTech in London (Now part of BIMM) six years ago. When I was there I did session work for a band signed to Island records. I thought I landed on my feet but they sadly disbanded and it came to nothing.

I had to move out of London as it was too expensive so moved back to Devon, where I joined a hip-hop band who had quite a bit of influence. We toured the country and played loads of festivals and got critical acclaim from people in the industry. I also got complimented on my drumming by drummers who play for established bands, it was wonderful and I loved every minute of it. But I made bugger all money and still had to work part time.

I was in another band after that, supported a few big name bands and also got signed to a label. But the band broke up swiftly after, as the guitarist and singer couldn't stop arguing (one of them had a drug problem to which didn't help). Again zero money. And I worked full time during my tenure with them.

I play in two bands right now and still gig regularly. But at the same time I work in a great job that allows me to travel to other countries and has put me on the property ladder.

Drumming is still very much my passion and I will never stop. But I don't see it as a reasonable or comfortable source of income anymore. Some of my friends are in the business or teach music but again make very little.
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Old 08-10-2017, 03:11 PM
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Default Re: Making a Living/Happiness and drumming

It's an honest and courageous question and I commend you for it.

I'm another who settled for the day job early on and am just returning to drumming for fun, so I have no right to advise really, but I will say this:

If you decide to get a straight job to support your passion, what career would you pursue? Chances are, without going back to school or apprenticing for years, you're not going to find a job that pays better than $25/hour. If you go to college, you're going to need big bucks and/or accumulate massive debt and have no income for years. If you apprentice in a trade you make (small) money while you learn but as good as many college graduates when you're certified. But you have to have some aptitude and be willing to do manual labor.

I'm just sayin'.....don't assume that if you decide to look for a good paying job outside music, you'll find one easily. You could give it all up and end up making less in the end. Now THAT would suck!

Whatever you decide, here's hoping you come out on top!
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Old 08-10-2017, 03:26 PM
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bermuda bermuda is offline
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Default Re: Making a Living/Happiness and drumming

Thought-provoking aspects, you're going to get some wildly diverse perspectives and experiences. I might as well add mine! I'll start out by saying that I play full-time, and live in Los Angeles.

Quote:
Originally Posted by showbanddrummer View Post
Have you ever struggled to find an outlet to play with people, in a focused and creative way, outside of what you were being paid to do? How did you form relationships with new people?
I'm not a musician that creates, per se. My desire has always been to play drums, and I've never had a creative or artistic agenda beyond that. So any project I do is satisfying to me, it doesn't need to meet an artistic standard. I think that all of my band and project situations came from someone asking me, usually through mutual musical friends and bandmates.

Quote:
How do you make decisions on how to prioritize practice material? Have you ever had difficulty being motivated to work on things you had no foreseeable outlet for?
These days, I practice as needed. It's been a long time since I sat down and worked on stuff 'just because'.

Quote:
How much of your time do "survival" jobs take up of your time? What is your attitude towards them? If given an opportunity to quit would you?
I don't consider any of the work I do as survival, or mercenary. I enjoy playing the drums, so I enjoy each band/gig, and don't wish to leave. I've only made one decision ever to quit a particular gig, and that was due to the backline gear involved, and the physical discomfort in using it. I tolerated it for years actually, but the pain eventually rivaled my enjoyment of playing, and I refused to 'work' like that.

Quote:
How has an honest assessment of your ability level influenced your life decisions? ... "based on my current abilities and rate of progress, what am I likely to be able to achieve in life and what costs? Do the rewards justify those costs?"
Not really. Both my life and music career have gone very smoothly, I would say better than I imagined at any given time along my journey.

Quote:
What sacrifices have you made in order to pursue music as a career? Has it impacted your relationships? Family? Marriage?
Not sure if by sacrifices you mean a day job or alternate career, but I maintained day jobs for many years and never considered them sacrifices or a detriment to my drumming pursuits. In fact, I don't think I missed any opportunites or gigs as a result, and a regular paycheck certainly made life easier on every level, including keeping my gear in shape with fresh heads, sticks, and cymbals (not to mention being able to pay rent, buy clothes, and eat!) No impact on friends or family.

Quote:
What is your financial situation? How much do you make? Where do you live and what are you able to afford with your income? House? Retirement?
While I don't discuss my income, my finances are quite good. I live in Los Angeles, own my house, and have a retirement plan. Life is very good, and I know I'm privileged to be a musician who can say that.

Quote:
Do you make any significant amount of money from your creative outlets? If so, how much? What percent of your income?
I don't have any specific things I do for creative purposes, I basically hit drums.

Quote:
How has location helped or hindered your career/life? I often wonder if I were to relocate to a "smaller pond" I may stand out more, make connections and relationships easier and have more playing opportunities. Also in a different city with lower cost of living I may actually be able to work towards having financial independence and perhaps even be able to finance creative endeavors.
I'm certain that being in L.A. has provided opportunities I wouldn't have almost anywhere else. But it's all relative. A big fish in a small pond may have more opportunities and lower expenses, but the income from that community is typically commensurate. Financial independence is a worthy goal, but it's elusive even with a 'normal' career.

But should you really view music as a vehicle for financial success? I mean, it's great, but particularly with your focus on creativity, wouldn't you be just as happy playing, writing, etc regardless of the income? Is the money more important than that?

Bermuda
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Old 08-10-2017, 03:58 PM
toddbishop toddbishop is offline
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Default Re: Making a Living/Happiness and drumming

That's a lot of questions:

Quote:
Originally Posted by showbanddrummer View Post
Have you ever struggled to find an outlet to play with people, in a focused and creative way, outside of what you were being paid to do? How did you form relationships with new people?
Not really. I've always been around players. For a few years in the 90s there weren't many jazz musicians my age and inclination in town, but I was playing with older and younger people, and doing other things. When you need people, and you have something to offer, they turn up when you look for them.

Quote:
How do you make decisions on how to prioritize practice material?
I prioritize stuff I think will help with the jobs I'm doing, or with jobs I may get called for; or things I think I should know just to be a good drummer, or things that are creatively important to me.

Quote:
Have you ever had difficulty being motivated to work on things you had no foreseeable outlet for?
No. I don't work on stupid stuff, either, though.

Quote:
How much of your time do "survival" jobs take up of your time? What is your attitude towards them? If given an opportunity to quit would you?
Any time I've had to have a day job, I would never let it take up more than 20-30 hours a week. I would do the best, most professional job I could, but I would not take my work home with me and would not seek advancement.

Quote:
How has an honest assessment of your ability level influenced your life decisions?
It hasn't.

Quote:
For example, if I knew I could play like Mark Guiliana, I would feel more bold about sinking all of my resources (financial, emotional, mental) into playing jazz. At some point in life I think it makes sense to look at oneself and ask "based on my current abilities and rate of progress, what am I likely to be able to achieve in life and what costs? Do the rewards justify those costs?"
Maybe for a year I had doubts about my abilities. But I saw some mediocre players getting by, and figured that if they can do it...? I also knew that, whatever my limitations, I had something to say, so I just went with that. It turned out that I wasn't a precocious talent, but by the time I was 27-30 (and especially now) nobody could tell the difference. It kind of evens out as you get older-- the tortoise and the hare was not BS. Provided the tortoise shows up.

The rewards are extremely minimal, and it's fine-- I wouldn't mind a little more money. Mainly you get to have a good time playing and developing your artistry, and you get to feel like you're a player, and you have a purpose. A few people get excited about your playing. People who need a lot of validation and a full middle class income tend not to have a happy time of it.

Quote:
What sacrifices have you made in order to pursue music as a career? Has it impacted your relationships? Family? Marriage?
I kept my expenses low much of my adult life, and I didn't have kids. Bought a house when I was 40 and got married at 49. I don't consider any of that to be a sacrifice. My teeth aren't in great shape.

Quote:
What is your financial situation? How much do you make? Where do you live and what are you able to afford with your income? House? Retirement?
It's generally been hand to mouth. Between teaching, playing, writing, painting, Airbnb-ing a second unit at my house, I get by OK. Like most artists now, I have to cobble together a living from multiple sources. My house is worth ~$150k more than I paid for it, and I'll eventually inherit enough money to constitute a small nest egg. But I don't plan on ever retiring.

Marrying someone with a good job who also respects what you do is an excellent idea.

Quote:
Do you make any significant amount of money from your creative outlets? If so, how much? What percent of your income?
Not really. I sell a few paintings every year, and I did a Europe tour that made money a couple of years ago. Otherwise, for my band, it's normal club gigs, a few festivals, a tour every couple of years, and a few CD sales.

Quote:
How has location helped or hindered your career/life? I often wonder if I were to relocate to a "smaller pond" I may stand out more, make connections and relationships easier and have more playing opportunities. Also in a different city with lower cost of living I may actually be able to work towards having financial independence and perhaps even be able to finance creative endeavors.
Well, yeah. Artists traditionally don't flock to cities where it's impossible to live cheaply. What's going on with New York and some other places right now is an aberration. I left LA when I realized I was going to have to work 40 hours a week just to be in town and still not be able to afford to do my work or take advantage of any of the benefits of being there. I moved to Portland because there was an opportunity and it was cheap. If I was in my 20s now, I'd probably be thinking about Detroit or something. Anyplace cheap that has some players.
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Old 08-10-2017, 04:12 PM
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larryace larryace is offline
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Default Re: Making a Living/Happiness and drumming

Really liked your post Todd.
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Old 08-11-2017, 03:17 AM
Groov-E Groov-E is offline
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Default Re: Making a Living/Happiness and drumming

I do well not playing drums for a living.

I invest some of my hard earned money into drumming.

I wish my main income was drumming.

It aint.

My passion is though.

If you are young, look at dennis chambers, heracio hernandez and john blackwell -rest in peace brother - and well....

They are not the ones with yachts and summer homes, nor the means to pay for harsch hospital bills.

They might be doing okay in the best of situations. But they are not well off.

Call me a sellout, but youngsters, go into harvard law and banking or insurance. Better yet, IA and software and social media trendy crap. Suck it up and keep drums as a hobby. Raising a family aint happening on drums.

Yes, It truly pains me writing this. Sorry and please prove me wrong. For my own sake.

Edit : apologies again, but I stand by what I wrote. I feel like I am on the verge of making it as a drummer at 37, but if I handnt the thousands to invest in our project it would not go far...
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Old 08-11-2017, 03:29 AM
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Default Re: Making a Living/Happiness and drumming

The music biz is too fickle, and mostly not based on anything related to music.

My drums are tied to my happiness.

My work is tied to my money.

My money is not tied to my happiness.
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Old 08-11-2017, 04:02 AM
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Living Dead Drummer Living Dead Drummer is offline
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Default Re: Making a Living/Happiness and drumming

Welcome to LA! hahahahaha.

Here's the story. I do the same things as you.

I tour and record with whom ever hires me. I tour around the world when I am presented with the opportunity. Sometimes work is great, almost to an overwhelming level. I think this past Feb. I did 10 gigs with 6 different bands. And sometimes it's as dead as dead can be.

To work myself through the hard times I teach, both privately at peoples homes, and also at a music school in Burbank, where I hold the position of Sr. Drum Instructor and Show Director. It's not great money, but it helps between the gigs and allows me the flexibility to take off on tour for a couple months at a time with short notice.

As a result of this lifestyle my finances are always in flux, but I have yet to ever make a late rent payment. I have a cheep apartment (as cheep as LA can be anyway) with a roommate to pickup half the slack and keep an eye on the place for when I'm touring in long stretches.

Could I live like this for another 30 years, probably not, but I have food on the table, a roof over my head, and I play the drums for a living.

I'm not knocking anyone who has a 9-5, but if I'm being honest with myself, I am way to stubborn to break down and go "get a job". There are times when I can't leave the house because I have $2 in the bank and am out of gas, but it has never taken my eyes off the prize. That being the whole making a living as a musician thing. Getting better gigs that pay more and keep me working more frequently.
I also refuse to play in a cover band. Again, not knocking anyone who does that. It's just my stubbornness again. I didn't move 3,000 miles across the county to do something I could have done at home. I stick to original material. On rare occasions I'll take a cover gig, but only for a friend who needs a sub for a night, or when invited to an "all star jam" BS thing.

I enjoy teaching a lot, but for me it is a side gig. Being on the road or in the studio behind a kit is ALWAYS #1.

I've lost relationships over this, friends, even family. I think I've only seen my mother 3 times in the last 8 years. I'm lucky that my family supports my life, and understands why I've never once gone home for the holidays. Girlfriends on the other hand, not so much. But hey, if they can't handle me the way I am....

When it comes to practice, I have a strict Mon-Fri schedule. 10:30am-2PM in my studio practicing. Working on basic stuff, as well as pushing what I know to be my weaknesses. I also use that time to chart songs and work on material for upcoming gigs. Even if I have nothing on my calendar (and thankfully thats rare), I stick to the 5 day a week practice thing. Some days it's hard to pull myself out of the house to do it, but I force myself and always feel better after I did.
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Old 08-11-2017, 04:21 AM
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Old 08-11-2017, 07:03 AM
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Default Re: Making a Living/Happiness and drumming

Thanks everybody for the replies. It comes down to this in my head: if all of my energy is put into just surviving, then what's the point? I'd be better of getting a "real job" and surviving well. If, I can survive and have resources left to study, play, and grow, then the trade off of not making much money is worth it.

Todd, I really enjoyed your reply. If you or anyone else would care to comment on the following parts I'd greatly appreciate it.


Quote:
Not really. I've always been around players. For a few years in the 90s there weren't many jazz musicians my age and inclination in town, but I was playing with older and younger people, and doing other things. When you need people, and you have something to offer, they turn up when you look for them.
Can you elaborate on that? How do people turn up when you look for them? Specifically? My experience lately has been that people may turn up....late....then leave after 1 hour of rehearsal....then never neglect to practice the music, then not be available for gigs because they have to work cocktail gigs. How did you form relationships with hard working, like minded players?



Quote:
Well, yeah. Artists traditionally don't flock to cities where it's impossible to live cheaply. What's going on with New York and some other places right now is an aberration. I left LA when I realized I was going to have to work 40 hours a week just to be in town and still not be able to afford to do my work or take advantage of any of the benefits of being there. I moved to Portland because there was an opportunity and it was cheap. If I was in my 20s now, I'd probably be thinking about Detroit or something. Anyplace cheap that has some players.

I've been thinking a lot about trying to move someplace cheaper. Anybody have any ideas of cities I should be looking at? Atlanta was a little bit on my radar. Todd, I've even thought about trying to check out settling down in Vancouver, WA and trying to play in Portland.
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Old 08-11-2017, 04:24 PM
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Default Re: Making a Living/Happiness and drumming

Here's my personal story. I'll try to be brief.

My first love was computers and programming. My second love was music. Neither is taught in elementary or high schools in Mexico, beyond learning to use a word processor or playing melodica.

When I finished high school I told my dad I was undecided between studying music or computer science. Now, my dad has an artist's heart. He majored in Philosophy and Literature and loved theater; he taught, he directed plays and even acted in some of them and he's the kind of artist that is unwilling to compromise his artistic integrity. As a result, was often grumpy about it because everyone else he worked with was compromised in some way or another, not giving 110% percent or whatever. Also, as a result, we never had much money nor fancy things.

Anyway, I asked my dad and he said, with no hesitation, to go for computer science so I could get a decent job. He said I could always make music if I really wanted to.

Fast forward 22 years and I have a PhD in Computer Science with a decent tenured job in a public university and 15 years of experience; a job that gives me 6 weeks of vacation each year and plenty of spare time for other activities. In those 15 years I've recorded 10 albums of electronic music and been in a band for 2+ years with some workmates. I'm probably not the best drummer or musician I could be but I'm having fun and it's totally uncompromised because I don't depend economically on it. My dad, on the other hand, has been without a steady or decent-paying job for years, is divorced, lives alone, and still struggles to make ends meet. He's had a few job offers (mostly teaching) but he often refuses them because of his (mostly bullshit) artistic integrity. And he still gives great advice but doesn't follow it.

Of course, everyone follows a different path. Just don't be so stubborn to realize you might be in the wrong one for you.
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Old 08-11-2017, 06:52 PM
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Default Re: Making a Living/Happiness and drumming

Hi. My name is John. I'm a hobby drummer with a day job.

Hey ShowBand, for me it was a tough choice. Stay home and be a carpenter where unemployment was + 35%, or join the Army, move away and learn a skill. I grabbed my wife and small child and left home for good.

Remember that life is a series of choices - some are easy, some necessary and some don't seem like choices at all. But there you have it - everything YOU do is totally up to you.

If you need stability and security, musicianship may not fit as your primary occupation. If you need to follow your passion and can tolerate fiscal uncertainty, a day job may not be mandatory. Most folks here find some sort of compromise between the two. Very few are lucky enough to be totally in one camp.

Some drummer guy once wrote, "If you choose not to decide you still have made a choice." Might as well be proactive! I wish you the best!
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Old 08-11-2017, 10:20 PM
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Default Re: Making a Living/Happiness and drumming

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Originally Posted by showbanddrummer View Post
I've been thinking a lot about trying to move someplace cheaper. Anybody have any ideas of cities I should be looking at? Atlanta was a little bit on my radar. Todd, I've even thought about trying to check out settling down in Vancouver, WA and trying to play in Portland.

If you want to make a living as a drummer playing for major artists you need to be in LA, NY, or Nashville. That's kind of it.

You can make a living in other cities playing music, but it will be harder to land major tours or recording projects. It would be mostly cover bands, theater perhaps, smaller scale stuff.
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Old 08-12-2017, 02:23 AM
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Ok let's take more philosophical approach, because sometimes even the simple things are very hard and the obvious chooses are very hidden. All of the sayings like "the glass is half full" and "count your blessings" are way of finding the balance in your own universe. Because everyone's life is different and we make our own choices. I'm sure every single member on this forum will have a story to share, or at some point had to make not easy choices. Maybe what are you struggling right now is a challenge on your way and the answer for it is up to you to find. Usually is your gut that has the answer. Follow it :)

My personal story is irrelevant, because it's mine. I'm a drummer, which means that playing drums is what makes me happy. Money aren't the key for happiness, just a tool to support the living.
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Old 08-12-2017, 07:20 AM
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I moved to Los Angeles with the thought I was going to make it in drumming or die trying.

I eventually realized I didn't want to die. Though it wasn't for a lack of trying. i played in bands in front of reps from every record company that existed at the time. I've heard myself on the radio, played all the name clubs, and have some stories many wouldn't believe.

In retrospect, as much as I sacrificed toward the goal of making it, and as much I thought was I was giving it my all, I now realized I didn't sacrifice nearly enough and nor give it as much as I needed to.

Though I'm ok with that now (although I went through a long period of time where I wasn't).

Of my friends who have "made it" at various levels, the levels of sacrifice most of them make are insane. As it is now, I hate leaving my wife and kids for a 8 or 10 hour day, I can't imagine leaving them for weeks or months at a time, or just not having a wife or kids to begin with.

A while back a good friend was coming through town on tour, and he invited me to hang out on the tour bus. Maybe at 20-something that would be a cool way to live, but at 40-something, ugh. I'd rather be at home in my bed with my wife.
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Old 08-12-2017, 08:47 PM
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Default Re: Making a Living/Happiness and drumming

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Originally Posted by showbanddrummer View Post
Thanks everybody for the replies. It comes down to this in my head: if all of my energy is put into just surviving, then what's the point? I'd be better of getting a "real job" and surviving well. If, I can survive and have resources left to study, play, and grow, then the trade off of not making much money is worth it.

Todd, I really enjoyed your reply. If you or anyone else would care to comment on the following parts I'd greatly appreciate it.
Thanks-- it's true, if there's something different anyone can do that they'd enjoy doing, and make a reliable living at it, there's very little reason not to go ahead and do it. The random jobs people suggest always make me want to jump off a bridge, though. I'd be looking for something through friend/family connections, or something you've been good at in the past or are interested in. Something that makes organic sense.

One more thing: You could die next year, or in five years, or when you're 40... who knows? I know a part-time singer who was a banker-- dude was very proud of the retirement he set up for himself. Sometime around actual retirement age, he found out he had cancer and was dead like 6 months later. He might as well have spent his working years writing poetry. I know a dozen other dead people. You seriously might as well do wtf you really want.

Quote:
Can you elaborate on that? How do people turn up when you look for them? Specifically? My experience lately has been that people may turn up....late....then leave after 1 hour of rehearsal....then never neglect to practice the music, then not be available for gigs because they have to work cocktail gigs. How did you form relationships with hard working, like minded players?
I don't know-- I've lived in the region most of my life, and I guess I know a lot of people through school, college, drum corps, and through my brother, who is also a drummer; then through going to jam sessions and other people's gigs, and playing sessions and gigs.

It helps to be kind of obsessed with music and have an idea of what you want to do-- people know you as a creative person, and they recommend people to you, or vice versa.

Quote:
I've been thinking a lot about trying to move someplace cheaper. Anybody have any ideas of cities I should be looking at? Atlanta was a little bit on my radar. Todd, I've even thought about trying to check out settling down in Vancouver, WA and trying to play in Portland.
A saxophonist friend was trying to get me to move to Tucson-- decent scene he said, not overrun with good drummers. Kansas City seems to have something happening. Artists are apparently swarming to Detroit, houses are so cheap (still?). Seems like you have to look into New Orleans. And Vegas.

Portland's a good scene-- there are a lot of good musicians here-- probably too many good drummers for the amount of available work. It seems to be getting a little better lately. It's the hip town right now, but I don't know what the value of that isó there are no A&R people sniffing around signing bands like in the 90s.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Living Dead Drummer View Post
If you want to make a living as a drummer playing for major artists you need to be in LA, NY, or Nashville. That's kind of it.

You can make a living in other cities playing music, but it will be harder to land major tours or recording projects. It would be mostly cover bands, theater perhaps, smaller scale stuff.
People living in NY/LA/wherever believe that, it's not really true.

a) You're not getting those big recording dates/tours with major artists anyway. I mean you generically, of course.
b) There are actually big gigs available in other places, and there's less competition for them, and it's easier to meet, play with, and be friends with the people doing them.
c) The premise is flawed. Anyone who can make a living in music in any capacity, and make good music, they're a super *. IDGAF about scale.
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Old 08-13-2017, 08:09 PM
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Originally Posted by DrumEatDrum View Post
I moved to Los Angeles with the thought I was going to make it in drumming or die trying.

I eventually realized I didn't want to die. Though it wasn't for a lack of trying. i played in bands in front of reps from every record company that existed at the time. I've heard myself on the radio, played all the name clubs, and have some stories many wouldn't believe.

In retrospect, as much as I sacrificed toward the goal of making it, and as much I thought was I was giving it my all, I now realized I didn't sacrifice nearly enough and nor give it as much as I needed to.

Though I'm ok with that now (although I went through a long period of time where I wasn't).

Of my friends who have "made it" at various levels, the levels of sacrifice most of them make are insane. As it is now, I hate leaving my wife and kids for a 8 or 10 hour day, I can't imagine leaving them for weeks or months at a time, or just not having a wife or kids to begin with.

A while back a good friend was coming through town on tour, and he invited me to hang out on the tour bus. Maybe at 20-something that would be a cool way to live, but at 40-something, ugh. I'd rather be at home in my bed with my wife.
This sounds just like my story. I moved to LA 31 years ago and put my all into it. Even today, I'm still active with a band, and I get to listen to myself on Dr. Demento, just about any day that I want. My band has had big hits with 175 college radio markets in the US and Canada. But none of it is a money-maker.

I think that there are some serious things to consider with the music "business."

* Music has some to do with it, but that's not the entire picture.

* You have to fit in with trends.

* You have to be charismatic, or have a charismatic leader.

* Popularity and good looks are essential today.

* Your popularity, if achieved will fade. Then what?

The list goes on, but I think the most important thing to realize is that TODAY we are at least a few generations deep into a culture that no longer wants to pay for music. They'd rather stream from one of those services than purchase a CD or a download.

When someone expects what you have to offer to be free, what can you do?
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Old 08-13-2017, 08:16 PM
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Default Re: Making a Living/Happiness and drumming

There was one other thing that my main band learned regarding our performance of our original music.

That is, there seems to be a correlation between the distance the gig is from Los Angeles and the amount of money you make, as well as how people receive you.

When we would play in LA, nobody would care. We'd be luck to sell 2 or 3 CDs.

But one time we traveled up to UC Davis and played the G Street Pub. We didn't even advertise it or promote it in any way. We just showed.

People followed us into the parking lot, raving about the show. They were buying CDs like crazy, as well as t-shirts. I think we sold $800 worth of CDs, and close to the same with other merch. They also asked when we'd be there again.

None of the above ever happened in LA. I think the area is saturated, so the audiences are jaded. There's also too much to do. Add traffic to the mix, and you have more people inspired to stay home and get online entertainment instead.

There are people in LA who make money. Steel Panther comes to mind. The drummer owns the project. Ask him about his tattoos, and he will tell you that this tattoo represents when he was making $1,000 per week, and this one is $5,000 per week, $10,000 per week, and $20,000 per week. I don't know if he's transcended that number, but they make BIG big bucks.

It can happen. There's only ONE Steel Panther in LA.
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Old 08-14-2017, 01:39 AM
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I like to think of this as a fun hobby that pretty much pays for itself. I have a full time career and have no plans on giving it up. The band thing is a once or twice a week practice, sometimes more sometimes less. Gigs come in a few times a month, again, sometimes more, sometimes less. It is a fun positive hobby where we get to create.
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Old 08-14-2017, 07:21 PM
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People living in NY/LA/wherever believe that, it's not really true.

a) You're not getting those big recording dates/tours with major artists anyway. I mean you generically, of course.
b) There are actually big gigs available in other places, and there's less competition for them, and it's easier to meet, play with, and be friends with the people doing them.
c) The premise is flawed. Anyone who can make a living in music in any capacity, and make good music, they're a super *. IDGAF about scale.
I can't speak for anyone else, I only know my own path. BUT, the majority of success in my career has come as a result of moving to LA.

*Keep in mind, my definition of "success" is probably different than others.

I was actually passed on by a few huge gigs because I didn't live in LA. That was one of the driving factors in moving here.
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Old 08-14-2017, 10:23 PM
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Great post and lots of very good responses.

I for one have worked for the AZ State Government for 23 years. A great "day job" and it has afforded me a good schedule for playing as well as income for bills & living.
I've been drumming all during that time in bands & on recordings. From jazz to ska to rock, I've been blessed to play it all.

But it's just a paid hobby.

I thought long and hard about doing a cruise ship gig for a time, but after meeting a drummer who actually did that job, I thought twice.

I currently play in a rockabilly band and our bass player/singer has been a professional musician for the last 30 of his 51 years on this earth. He plays often with us as well as other bands he sits in for, but still lives at home with his parents and is on government assistance for food.
So he has no real overhead to deal with, but says he'd rather deal with the "living with his parents" stigma & be free than be tied to a desk from 9-5.

I see his point, but that would never be me. There's a reason for the term, "starving musician".

The family situation was never an issue as I only do this part time & work gigs around family obligations. The wife supports me and we have a good time about it.

The money I make is nominal and is trousered for my effort. I use it to replace worn or needed drum stuff, but most times I save it for rainy days or travel needs if we have a gig out of town.

This year, it's being used for my first NAMM show in LA and that makes all the saving & playing worth it.

But I could never do it full time. I'm just the world's okayest drummer & guys like me don't get hired by musicians that matter.
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Old 08-14-2017, 10:32 PM
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I don't think I would want to play drums 5 days a week. Unless I was making a grand a night. Too much of a good thing is not a good thing anymore. 100 bones a gig...for probably 8 to 10 total hours...only as a hobby. It's a hard lifestyle, sleeping during the day, up at night, drink, bad food, all the temptations...crap money...Like I wouldn't want dessert for every course. Music for me is best kept in balance. I like playing once a week on average. 3x a month minimum, 12x a month max. The max part hasn't been a problem lately since I went from 3 bands to 1 band.
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Old 08-15-2017, 04:20 PM
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I have read through every response, and it's great to hear everyone's story. I'm hoping my responses can help in some way.

Have you ever struggled to find an outlet to play with people, in a focused and creative way, outside of what you were being paid to do? How did you form relationships with new people?

It has mainly been word of mouth. When I was in my 20s, I played with a couple of bands. I primarily did Christian-based music, so I played a lot of churches, coffee shops, etc. Something happened whenever I hit about 32/33 years old - people stopped calling. My friends all got day jobs, and I was too old to play with what few younger folks were playing (which was screamo at the time. I didn't want to play it anyways). I focused on becoming a singer/songwriter.

How do you make decisions on how to prioritize practice material?

I only practice stuff these days that has a practical purpose. I don't learn any "hot licks" these days because I'll never use them.


Have you ever had difficulty being motivated to work on things you had no foreseeable outlet for?

Yes. Therefore, I don't.


How much of your time do "survival" jobs take up of your time? What is your attitude towards them? If given an opportunity to quit would you?

Knowing what I know about "the industry," I did manage to finish college while I was an active musician. I ended up going back and getting my masters and later my EDS (in higher education administration). I now work at a community college, and I absolutely love my job. At any point before this job, I would have dropped it all to be a full-time musician if given the chance. Getting an education and teaching was my "Plan B," and I'm glad it was.

How has an honest assessment of your ability level influenced your life decisions? For example, if I knew I could play like Mark Guiliana, I would feel more bold about sinking all of my resources (financial, emotional, mental) into playing jazz.

I think I tend to get myself into trouble because for a while, other people thought I was better than I was. :) Bands: "Hey, play this gig with us! You'll be fine!" Me: "Uuummmm...ok! Sure!"

On a more serious note, I have a pretty freakin' good ear for music, but I was never really properly trained or even knew what to do with it really. I just played a lot with whomever would have me.

If all of my years of doing this has taught me anything, it's this: When it comes to "making it" in the music business, it's soooo much more about who you know as opposed to what you know. You can be a suck drummer (or a singer, guitar player, bass player, etc.) and get a good gig if you know the right people. Believe me, I've seen it.

At some point in life I think it makes sense to look at oneself and ask "based on my current abilities and rate of progress, what am I likely to be able to achieve in life and what costs? Do the rewards justify those costs?"

This is a great question. Sometimes you just have to jump. You'll never be 100% ready. Ever. Sometimes you just have to go for it.

What sacrifices have you made in order to pursue music as a career? Has it impacted your relationships? Family? Marriage?

Back in the 1990s and early 2000s when I was pursuing music full time (I was in my 20s at the time), I had no social life. The only people I knew or who I was close to were my other band members, but they all had girlfriends (and I think our singer was on wife #1 at that time.) So, I didn't really have anyone to hang out with, and I was (and am) overweight, so I spent a lot of time playing video games on my weekends off. I always had a part time job, and I was in college too (off and on), so I always had something to do.

I guess my own personal sacrifice was this: In 2000, I toured for 11 weeks with a group, and we played 6 nights a week (playing bass and keyboards). Although this group was a Christian "band" of sorts, I secretly named our band "dysfunction junction." Granted, no one was perfect, but it got pretty bad on the road at times. The guy who produced to band BEGGED me to come back and play drums during 2001. I told him I needed to take classes so I could finish my undergraduate degree so that I could get married the next year. The producer was nominated for a Grammy and the former drummer of the band and the producer ended up playing with someone on Jay Leno. I STILL believe I made the right decision. I've been married since 2002, and I absolutely love my wife.

As far as other people I know who are full time, well, here's how it's ended up for them:
  • An old band mate of mine is my age (42) plays music full time, and he has burned through three marriages, has two teenage sons (with two different women) and he only gets to (or has to) see every other weekend, and almost positive he has very little to do with financially supporting his boys. His voice has gone to total crap, and he's not a good enough guitar player to "sit in" with people; he HAS to be the one singing. I give him maybe 2-3 more years, and he's done. No college education or any other skill. He's also burned through every decent musician within a hundred mile radius too.
  • Another friend has been a touring musician close to 20 years, and I've seen him on national programs (ex. The Today Show, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, etc.). He got married a couple of years ago and now has a kid. I hope they make it, but it's too early to tell quite yet. They had a baby last year. He had tons of financial help from his parents. He's never had a real job. I think the last job he had was a lifeguard when he was 16, and I think he only did that for a summer.
  • Another former band mate toured full time with a nationally-known tribute band. This guy is a killer guitar player and has sponsors, and does music for TV spots and also jams on a regular basis with some pretty famous people. He's been married twice, and he's now single.
  • Another friend is a full-time musician in Nashville. He's on marriage number 2 and no kids.
  • I have a producer friend who focuses on Christian music, and he seems pretty happy, but I'm sure they are just scraping by.
  • I met a guy last year who plays fiddle who's full-time in Nashville. He plays out quite a bit and supplements his income by teaching. A LOT!

What is your financial situation? How much do you make? Where do you live and what are you able to afford with your income? House? Retirement?

I make double the median income in my county (a small, poor county in the foothills of NC). With my income, my wife and I are slowly working ourselves out of debt. The consistent paycheck is nice. After homeschooling our kids for the past 5 years, my wife went back to work part time, and we just dropped our kids off for their first day ever at private Christian school this morning. I work for the state, so I have full benefits, and I'll have full retirement when I'm 62. Also, because I have a good day job, I can still play on nights and weekends without having to be "on call" all of the time. Also, my boss is totally cool with me leaving a little early if I need to (her husband is a musician, so this helps!). House? Yup, got one of those. Still paying for it, but we have one.

Do you make any significant amount of money from your creative outlets? If so, how much? What percent of your income?

I make anywhere from nothing to $125/gig playing in a band. When I play hammered dulcimer for a wedding, I don't leave my house for less than $400. Just about every bit of money I make goes back into music stuff, or we put it towards vacation or just save it. I don't make much, and it's not consistent enough to count it as regular income.


How has location helped or hindered your career/life? I often wonder if I were to relocate to a "smaller pond" I may stand out more, make connections and relationships easier and have more playing opportunities. Also in a different city with lower cost of living I may actually be able to work towards having financial independence and perhaps even be able to finance creative endeavors.

Like I said before, I live in a small, poor county. I play at the biggest church in the county (we have three morning services and we average over 600 each Sunday), and I play in a band that's starting to book gigs more and more. I'm definitely a big fish in a small pond, and I realize this. In other words, I may be "famous," but I ain't "rich" from music, that's for sure. I'm not sure if moving to a smaller place would be better in terms of pursuing a musical career. Sure, rent and cost of living is cheaper, but there are NO places to play. If you do get a chance to play, it'll be for chump change...just like I do. Plus, the pool of people to play with with be very small as compared to a larger city. If you DO find people to play with, they probably will suck...or it will be a genre of music you don't care for.

Sorry for the long post.
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Old 08-15-2017, 05:40 PM
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DrumEatDrum DrumEatDrum is offline
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Default Re: Making a Living/Happiness and drumming

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There was one other thing that my main band learned regarding our performance of our original music.

That is, there seems to be a correlation between the distance the gig is from Los Angeles and the amount of money you make, as well as how people receive you.

When we would play in LA, nobody would care. We'd be luck to sell 2 or 3 CDs.

But one time we traveled up to UC Davis and played the G Street Pub. We didn't even advertise it or promote it in any way. We just showed.

People followed us into the parking lot, raving about the show. They were buying CDs like crazy, as well as t-shirts. I think we sold $800 worth of CDs, and close to the same with other merch. They also asked when we'd be there again.

None of the above ever happened in LA. I think the area is saturated, so the audiences are jaded. There's also too much to do. Add traffic to the mix, and you have more people inspired to stay home and get online entertainment instead.
I experienced this a little bit too.

We'd play LA, do OK at best. Drive out to Riverside, and kids would line up like we were actually rock stars or something.

I begged my band to adopt a plan to take better advantage of this, but they always seemed to think concentrating on building our names in Los Angeles was a better use of time. In retrospect, I see some of the the other band members just weren't as driven as I was.
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Old 08-15-2017, 05:46 PM
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Default Re: Making a Living/Happiness and drumming

Making a living, and being happy about drumming...mutually exclusive, isn't it so?

For the overwhhelming majority, I'd say yes.
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Old 08-15-2017, 06:26 PM
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Default Re: Making a Living/Happiness and drumming

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I experienced this a little bit too.

We'd play LA, do OK at best. Drive out to Riverside, and kids would line up like we were actually rock stars or something.

I begged my band to adopt a plan to take better advantage of this, but they always seemed to think concentrating on building our names in Los Angeles was a better use of time. In retrospect, I see some of the the other band members just weren't as driven as I was.
Little weird from my end of things.

Whenever one of my dirty punk outfits would roll down through LA, we'd get fandom way better than anything in the bay area home towns.

In SF or Oakland venues, nobody cared, but when we'd show up to places in and around LA people would crowd the stage, show up to the venue with earplugs and just generally love it.

I'm wondering now if a band simply gets more credo if they traveled for the gig. Maybe we try harder at the non-hometown gigs? Dunno. Weirdly opposite of your experiences I guess.
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Old 08-16-2017, 03:55 PM
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Default Re: Making a Living/Happiness and drumming

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I'm wondering now if a band simply gets more credo if they traveled for the gig. Maybe we try harder at the non-hometown gigs? Dunno. Weirdly opposite of your experiences I guess.

You know, I've had the most difficult time to get our band to play locally because it's so clique-ish here. It's almost impossible.
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