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Old 08-28-2017, 07:03 AM
pt3407 pt3407 is offline
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Default Career as a professional drummer, and backup plan?

I'm currently in high school from Toronto and have to start thinking about what kind of field I want to go into. I really like playing the drums, and I was thinking about maybe going to school for it and to play shows. The catch is though, I don't know what it's like being a pro drummer or musician. How will I know if it's something I want to do as a job? I've heard of stories where people went to Berklee and they complained saying that they didn't know this is what it would be like as a musician.

And I've heard that it's extremely difficult to make a living from playing drums.
I was speaking to my mom about it and she said that she would be happy to support me if I knew I wanted to do this for sure but it would give her a heart attack if she saw that I was suffering by not making enough to even eat. How common is it to have a starving musician? She also mentioned that I should get a degree first or a backup plan in something else other than arts (science for example) and that I would be able to play drums while I'm in university studying that subject. I don't know if I would have time to play drums though due to school. Would it be a good idea to get a degree in something else first?

Thanks everyone.
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Old 08-28-2017, 07:48 AM
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Default Re: Career as a professional drummer, and backup plan?

You may want to read two recents threads on this same topic:

http://www.drummerworld.com/forums/s...d.php?t=138203

http://www.drummerworld.com/forums/s...d.php?t=138364

And then this one:
http://www.drummerworld.com/forums/s...d.php?t=138398
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Old 08-28-2017, 08:10 AM
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Default Re: Career as a professional drummer, and backup plan?

Sit down with a school counselor and discuss your options, and engage your peers/friends with the same.

Points to ponder:

What other talents or interests do you possess, and what sort of income are you aiming to earn once you have achieved a formal education or settled into a career based environment?

Veering away from music and the path of formal education, have you researched a career in a field that would afford you a comfortable, liveable income, while at the same time ensure you a healthy and balanced lifestyle?

You state that you are currently still in high school, so how are your grades, and have you academically set yourself up to qualify for admission for an undergraduate program (or programs) once you finish high school? Are you looking to earn a Major or a Degree?

The world is brimming with hungry musicians, and while focusing on the immediate future is a good thing, as a young man preparing to set-out into the real world, concentrating your energy towards long-term thinking holds the key to opportunity and success for your generation.

I bid you nothing but success in your pursuit to fulfill your dreams.
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Old 08-28-2017, 08:33 AM
loach71 loach71 is offline
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Default Re: Career as a professional drummer, and backup plan?

Quote:
Originally Posted by pt3407 View Post
I'm currently in high school from Toronto and have to start thinking about what kind of field I want to go into. I really like playing the drums, and I was thinking about maybe going to school for it and to play shows. The catch is though, I don't know what it's like being a pro drummer or musician. How will I know if it's something I want to do as a job? I've heard of stories where people went to Berklee and they complained saying that they didn't know this is what it would be like as a musician.

And I've heard that it's extremely difficult to make a living from playing drums.
I was speaking to my mom about it and she said that she would be happy to support me if I knew I wanted to do this for sure but it would give her a heart attack if she saw that I was suffering by not making enough to even eat. How common is it to have a starving musician? She also mentioned that I should get a degree first or a backup plan in something else other than arts (science for example) and that I would be able to play drums while I'm in university studying that subject. I don't know if I would have time to play drums though due to school. Would it be a good idea to get a degree in something else first?

Thanks everyone.
Talk to Rob "Beatdown" Brown.... he is a very accomplished pro drummer in the GTA. He has a website and is a major contributor on YouTube. He can also give you some pointers about drum instruction at Humber College. (damn sight cheaper than Berklee!)
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Old 08-28-2017, 08:35 AM
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Default Re: Career as a professional drummer, and backup plan?

Quote:
Originally Posted by pt3407 View Post
I'm currently in high school from Toronto and have to start thinking about what kind of field I want to go into. I really like playing the drums, and I was thinking about maybe going to school for it and to play shows. The catch is though, I don't know what it's like being a pro drummer or musician. How will I know if it's something I want to do as a job? I've heard of stories where people went to Berklee and they complained saying that they didn't know this is what it would be like as a musician.

And I've heard that it's extremely difficult to make a living from playing drums.
I was speaking to my mom about it and she said that she would be happy to support me if I knew I wanted to do this for sure but it would give her a heart attack if she saw that I was suffering by not making enough to even eat. How common is it to have a starving musician? She also mentioned that I should get a degree first or a backup plan in something else other than arts (science for example) and that I would be able to play drums while I'm in university studying that subject. I don't know if I would have time to play drums though due to school. Would it be a good idea to get a degree in something else first?

Thanks everyone.

I'm a professional drummer meaning that is what it states on my tax return as my occupation as well as my business cards. It is also my mindset, meaning that I do whatever it takes to bring in the show. This isn't a career field for everyone. Basically, it means that you're going to be self-employed unless you find a band that can really and truly catch a break. There are some on this forum who have caught that break.

Here are some positives to making music your living: You get to be your own boss and make you living doing what you love to do as opposed to wishing that you were doing it. You may get to travel and see parts of the world that you would never see otherwise; I have been some unbelievable places and have played some really stunning venues! All of your equipment is tax deductible and/or depreciable. You’ll meet some great people and get to perform with great people. You may get to play the exact kind of music that you love.

Here are some negatives: It's a difficult life at best and you are ultimate the only person responsible for your success or failure; no one else. Unbeknownst to many who go out and play gigs for money, you are also responsible for insuring your gear as business equipment; homeowners insurance will not apply as the moment that you mention that you were playing in a venue in which a loss occurred, the insurance company will deny your claim because it was used in the pursuit of obtaining a profit. You will also be responsible for reporting and paying your own taxes which means keeping up with your profits and expenses pretty much on a daily business. You will meet some not so great people and play music with some not so great people. You will more than likely spend time playing music that you really don’t like, with people you don’t like in order to keep a roof over your head and food on your table.
Making as living playing music means that it is a life where you are more responsible for your success or failure than any other career field. Remember, most everyone who walks into a GC and comes out with a pair of drumsticks thinks that he/she is already a professional drummer even if that is their first pair of drumsticks.


If I were in high school looking at the future and what my career would be, I would still probably choose the same. However, here are a few things which I would do differently:

I would be far more focused than what I was and not do one thing which would derail my drumming career. This would include drug use. You have to want this more than anything ever so don’t be your own worst enemy.
Take up piano, guitar or both, in addition to the drums – Not only, will it make you more employable as a musician over someone who plays only one instrument, it will garner you more opportunities and more respect among non-drummer musicians. You will be able to band leader, compose and correct charts and fix musical problems in the bands you’re playing in. You do need to know that there are musicians and singers out there who hate drummers; some are fairly well-known front men and most wear guitars. If you end working with this type of artist, being able to play something else besides drums might mean that you’re more employable and can switch to an instrument that isn’t in their crosshairs or even find another gig quicker and leave that situation altogether. This means being able to land on your feet and pay your bills, keeping a roof over your head.
Do take your mother’s advice – Do have a plan B; I don’t have a degree in music but in Computer Science. Maybe you should try minoring in music and a major in something like Marketing. Garth Brooks has admitted that he isn’t great singer; he’s just a great businessman and he was a business major at Oklahoma State University. You will never hear Gene Simmons lay claim to being “The Best Bass Player in the World”. He’s simply the best business man playing a bass guitar. Having skills outside of the actual process of playing music is going to be a must!
I would get a town where music is important much sooner than I have: Location is everything. You have to foster relationships with the artists you want to work with and you can’t do that long distance. You simply have to be a part of the community. This might mean leaving Toronto and actually going to college in a music/media town so that while you’re earning a degree, you’re also making those important connections.

Here is some reading which you might want to take up so that you know what you’re getting into. Keep in mind that if you make the decision to go do something else as a career, there isn’t any shame in it. Many fine people have done so.

Zoro - The Big Gig
Gene Simmons – Kiss and Make-up
Duff – McKagan - It’s so Easy and other Lies
Martin Atkins – Tour Smart – Be forewarned this one is loaded with the F bomb but has quite a bit of wisdom in it.
Hal Garper - The Touring Musician

That should get you started. You can immerse yourself in the research and make an informed decision.

Mike

http://www.mikemccraw.com
http://www.dominoretroplate.com
http://www.facebook.com/mike.mccraw
http://www.youtube.com/drummermikemccraw
http://www.myspace.com/drummermikemccraw
http://www.linkedin.com/in/mikemccraw
http://twitter.com/mikemccraw
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  #6  
Old 08-28-2017, 09:10 AM
toddbishop toddbishop is offline
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Default Re: Career as a professional drummer, and backup plan?

Do check out those other threads about it. This question about how hard it has come up several times-- it's hard to say. It is a never ending struggle, and most people eventually burn out on it and find other work. But it's not actually difficult for a decent college-level player to get a full time job playing the drums on a cruise ship-- you just have to be willing and able to do that kind of work. It's also not difficult to get some drum students-- that's a way any reasonably competent player can pay the bills. Somebody with a lot of hustle can do very well with that. So that's your base line-- you can always do those things whatever else happens or doesn't happen.

But getting to the level where you can do that takes a lot of work-- it takes a lot of work even to scuffle. I don't think you have to be especially talented, but you do have to commit. It takes 5-10 years for a committed younger player to learn to play well enough to do gigs, and then you have to continue your education after that-- basically for the rest of your career; but definitely intensely for at least another 5-10 years. If you want to be a real player player, you have to be practicing 4-8 hours a day for some period of years in there-- a few years up to a decade-- plus doing a lot of playing. How much of that you have to do depends on your talent, your goals for your playing, and your surroundings-- if you're around good players and playing a lot, you'll progress faster. If you're around bad players, and not playing much, you may never get there no matter how much you practice.
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  #7  
Old 08-28-2017, 01:45 PM
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Default Re: Career as a professional drummer, and backup plan?

My backup plan was teaching music. Didn't work out so well, but there is a market and I'm really good at it. Just had some bad luck.

Anyway.

I was a full working musician at some point, or at least making a living and in the process of building something comparable to a normal job in terms of steady income.

I was lucky in that I found a band petty much the same week I moved to the city. It was no high living, though. I was paying my rent and had good meals almost every day, but that was it. Nothing left over.

At the same time I was in this band I went through several other bands with a more rock'n'roll dream type mentality.

I'm not a big proponent of having to get your degree right now mainly because if you're heart isn't in it and you're not sure about it it's a waste of money and time. As long as you can get by it's ok to wait a little bit IMO.

I will advise you though to do some simple math and find a different steady way to pay for housing, food, practice room etc.. so when you have dry periods, which we all have, you're not suddenly in real trouble. You have those things and can feel good about using your free time to hone your skills and take some chances in regards to the types of gigs you try out.

It's simply uncertain. Sometimes there's lots of work, sometimes there's barely none and you need to get out and socialize in the right environement. This means no guarantees, you're just getting out there, getting to know people that may represent an opportunity right now but most lightly they'll just be referrals or possible things either steady or substituting in the future. This means getting to know other drummers as well. It's not uncommon for teachers to use their best students as substitutes either.

You have to be a marketer. Always put your best foot forward, play any gig as well as you would you last, exchange cards, phone numbers at every opportunity and so on...

It is a free market, with certain styles and environments people will talk shit about you behind your back for no other reason that you're the competition. You really just have to rise above it and create your of niche over time. As someone else said, this may mean learning to fill other seats than a drum throne behind a drum kit. Even for just the experience you should jump on those opportunities and give it a chance. You never know who you'll meet and what other opportunities might come to you that way. Play the numbers game.

Sadly rumors matter more than reality sometimes, but if you're lucky you get to work with people who have a bit of social intelligence and can keep their egos in check. This will most likely be people ho have matured also through other types of work experiences.

Situations that don't really pay where you have to deal with wanna-be rockstars are probably best to stay away from unless you really really need the money.

The music business is different today and things like being a semi-competent engineer is just par for the course.

My perspective is that if you really want it, you will make it. The thing is though, that the price you have to pay might be too steep for you. Some get lucky, but even in those cases, most artists have paid their dues many times over.
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Old 08-28-2017, 03:28 PM
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Default Re: Career as a professional drummer, and backup plan?

Wow, you've gotten as lot of great advice here from people who know what they're talking about. One thing I'll add - most teen boys aren't thinking about settling down and having kids, but you might want to give that a moment's thought. Unless you're one of the lucky few who make it big, you're probably looking at a lifetime of financial insecurity amongst others with unsavoury lifestyles. The odds of having the necessary stability to raise a family go down dramatically. Just sayin'....
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Old 08-28-2017, 03:28 PM
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Default Re: Career as a professional drummer, and backup plan?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Skitch View Post
However, here are a few things which I would do differently:

I would be far more focused than what I was and not do one thing which would derail my drumming career. This would include drug use. You have to want this more than anything ever so don’t be your own worst enemy.
Take up piano, guitar or both, in addition to the drums – Not only, will it make you more employable as a musician over someone who plays only one instrument, it will garner you more opportunities and more respect among non-drummer musicians. You will be able to band leader, compose and correct charts and fix musical problems in the bands you’re playing in. You do need to know that there are musicians and singers out there who hate drummers; some are fairly well-known front men and most wear guitars. If you end working with this type of artist, being able to play something else besides drums might mean that you’re more employable and can switch to an instrument that isn’t in their crosshairs or even find another gig quicker and leave that situation altogether. This means being able to land on your feet and pay your bills, keeping a roof over your head.
Do take your mother’s advice – Do have a plan B; I don’t have a degree in music but in Computer Science. Maybe you should try minoring in music and a major in something like Marketing. Garth Brooks has admitted that he isn’t great singer; he’s just a great businessman and he was a business major at Oklahoma State University. You will never hear Gene Simmons lay claim to being “The Best Bass Player in the World”. He’s simply the best business man playing a bass guitar. Having skills outside of the actual process of playing music is going to be a must!
I would get a town where music is important much sooner than I have: Location is everything. You have to foster relationships with the artists you want to work with and you can’t do that long distance. You simply have to be a part of the community. This might mean leaving Toronto and actually going to college in a music/media town so that while you’re earning a degree, you’re also making those important connections.
Preach! The OP should read this post at least five more times.
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Old 08-28-2017, 04:41 PM
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Here you go. It's only 2:33, and it's worth your time.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rqqbARxsOOM

Then go buy this book. It's a very realistic look at the industry. It's a good read.

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Old 08-28-2017, 05:28 PM
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Default Re: Career as a professional drummer, and backup plan?

One of my guitar instructors got his education, had a very lucrative job as an architect, and then gave it up for his love of guitar. Today, he sells guitars at a shop, teaches lessons, and does some session work here and there. It doesn't pay anything even close to what an architect would make, and he works more hours now. That's where the passion comes in.

I had no backup plan for myself, and just went for it. Things ended up not working out, so I got a job driving for a junk yard that rented WWII Jeep body parts to movie sets, for below minimum wage. Turned that into a job delivering computers for a rental firm, which turned into configuring computers and troubleshooting. From there, ended up being on Dev teams for some of the biggest websites in the world. Just kept building up and building up.

Still making music, and still not seeing any money. But it's only been 31 years, so I have to be patient. One big thing I learned is that the music business has nothing to do with how good you are, and more about who you know or what kind of lucky break you can get.

But if I had it to do all over again, I would have gotten a degree in Business, because that would have been useful, even with music. And when things went swirling down the bowl, as they did, the struggle to build a Plan B while starving on my feet would have been a bit easier.

I'm going to throw in my "Welcome to Hollywood" story, free of charge.

Met this singer in 1987 who liked my song writing demo, and she ended up wanting me to be one of her writers. So she takes me to meet her producer. We drive up deep into the Hollywood Hills to this incredible mansion.

The producer meets both of us outside, and he's so very friendly. We talk about her project as we walk down this never-ending hall. We go into his office, where we sit down, and he shows me a prospectus. It notes song-by-song what is recording, and includes an estimate of how much each songs "costs" to make, ranging from $90,000 to $120,000 per song.

We take the elevator up, and end up on this long catwalk. Eventually, there's this clearing, where we can look down onto a huge study, with a sunken-in area that is all hardwood flooring. There's a huge mixing board in the middle of the floor, with two kids, one at each end, hunched over instruments.

He explains what is going on here.

"You see that kid on the left? He programs drum beats. That's all he does for 8 hours per day, all day long. I pay him $7 per hour. And that kid on the right? He's on the synth, making up hooks, baselines, melodies, and whatever I want. I also pay him $7 per hour."

Suddenly, the look on his face changes, and he now looks angry and threatening. Add this to the fact that I'm on his turf, and the intimidation factor multiplies. He gets into my face and yells at me.

"I don't care if your name is Ludwig von F**king Beethoven! Hollywood does not NEED you! The music business does not NEED YOU! Now GET THE F**K OFF MY PROPERTY!"

He grabs the singer by the arm, pulls her into some hidden room using a secret door, and I'm left alone to find my own way out, which took almost 15 minutes. Then there was what I call the "Second Walk of Shame" out of the Hollywood Hills, where the roads are windy, there are no sidewalks, and the people drive like maniacs.

Today, I've been with a great band for 15 years. We stopped doing shows in 2009, but still record. We get lots of play on Dr. Demento, as well as roughly 175 college radio markets in the US and Canada. Still, no money.

I probably have enough stories like this one to write a book, because I didn't give up. Not only was I pursuing it as a drummer, but also as a song writer. I never made money, but what a ride.
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Last edited by DrumWild; 08-28-2017 at 05:30 PM. Reason: Clarity
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Old 08-28-2017, 06:54 PM
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Default Re: Career as a professional drummer, and backup plan?

Skitch is the man! Please re-read his post carefully and judiciously. I'd like to add a point if you do decide to go to a music school.

Music schools are great for exploring your instrument and sparking creativity, but they don't prepare you for the real world of being a musician, and any degree you earn means little in terms of getting work as a player. It's obviously important to learn and grow, but being a professional musician isn't a process where you study, meet a certified achievement level, and go straight to work, such as being a dentist, lawyer, teacher, etc. Unlike almost every other profession, there's no "career path" for the arts. You'll be completely on your own and will have to rely on being in the right place at the right time for your best career opportunities. Being a professional musician can start at any time, and then end at any time, if it happens at all.

So, go to a music school for the right reasons: to learn and grow as a player. Don't go there believing that it will start your career in music.

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Old 08-28-2017, 07:42 PM
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Default Re: Career as a professional drummer, and backup plan?

Yeah apart from the opportunity the learning environement gives, there's only two real reasons to go to music school.

1) You might meet a lot of your future band mates and referrals.

2) If you teach publicly it pretty much triples your salary.


If none of that interests, you it's worth considering just moving to where you want to start making a stand and just spend some of that school money on privtae lessons with the best people you find there.

Now, did I learn to teach at the level I do in school. Well, yeah if you mean the schools I were a teacher. It takes a lot of experience. It just gave me papers and such is the law.

The fact that I want to take a jazz master on drums this late in life is a combined reason. It's a little gift for myself and during those 2 years I'll hopefully have the gigs both as a teacher and musician to get by in that small city with a very nurturing and and alive jazz environment.

I also just find teaching teenagers how to play eletric guitar not so interesting anymore. I enjoy drums the most as well as working on guitar with the youngest kids. If I want to compete as a drum teacher in a more urban area I need a degree on that specific instrument to be taken seriously. Just the way it is.

It's a different thing, though. I like teaching and it will probably never represent less than 50% of my income. Probably more.
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Old 08-28-2017, 07:54 PM
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Default Re: Career as a professional drummer, and backup plan?

One of the best things you can do is....play out in your local scene just as much as you can. If you can't do that yet, hang out at the places you do want to play and meet the people. Be a supporter. Get face time where it matters most...to you. You have to be known to be hired.

Also, it's not about you. It's about what you bring to the table musically. It's either liked or not by the other musicians. It's simple really. Do you play for yourself or do you play so the others have a stable platform? Stable platform gets you hired. Don't try and impress, the opposite will happen. Just. Play. Music. Not lead drums. Know your instruments role in a live music situation. (mainly support) Everyone depends on the drummer to be solid, and to not throw the players for a loop with the latest displacement you learned. Groove will get you hired 1000x more than 280 BPM bass drums.

If you are a great player...meaning someone who plays well with others...both musically and personally.... people will absolutely be wanting you to play with them..they will approach you. A solid dependable drummer is worth their weight in gold to good musicians.

You become a great player primarily by playing with others just as much as you can take. Practice is good....but in reality playing with others is far better for your growth as a musician. You need others. You cannot get great in the practice room, JMO.

Also, record everything you do and listen back unbiased-ly....as if you were critiquing someone else. Then use all your own criticisms to smooth out the rough spots in your own playing.

You need a local reputation as a first call drummer. That's one of the best things you can do for yourself.
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Old 08-28-2017, 08:41 PM
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Default Re: Career as a professional drummer, and backup plan?

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It's a difficult life at best and you are ultimate the only person responsible for your success or failure; no one else.
Yes and no. I've said it many times: The main problem with being a musician is that you have to work with other musicians.

Having a successful career as a musician is actually quite simple. The main reason it becomes difficult is that so many musicians are incredibly unreliable and not willing to do the work that it takes to rise above mediocrity. It takes a LOT of work and sacrifice.
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Old 08-28-2017, 09:17 PM
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Default Re: Career as a professional drummer, and backup plan?

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Having a successful career as a musician is actually quite simple. The main reason it becomes difficult is that so many musicians are incredibly unreliable and not willing to do the work that it takes to rise above mediocrity. It takes a LOT of work and sacrifice.
Sadly, this is a lot my experience, too.

Sometimes it's because the music is nt their thing or they're just burned out, but too often it's simply that they're not in it for the music, got their minds pretty much on the ol' B & P, H & B (they think they're David Lee Roth ala 1984) and simply have no natural integrity or work ethic. If you see the potential and want to push just a little bit further it can get annoying.

It's simple things like being on time, being prepared, doing your share of the booking work. Just doing what you said you would do, like now, not after 3 weeks of the rest hasseling you. It ends up being a lot of opportunities lost and brings everybody down.

Now, once you're in the band, if the money is good, you can always live a different lifestyle. Go to bed early(or as early as possible) when the rest of the band goes partying and go work out and do some pad work before the others wake up in the morning. The partying musician lifestyle lost it's charm for me very quickly. Some people never grow up, though.

It's not really hard work. It's just a question of simply doing it.
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Old 08-28-2017, 10:11 PM
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Default Re: Career as a professional drummer, and backup plan?

I tried it for a while.
Decided it wasn't for me, and pursued something else.

I'll never stop drumming though.
And I don't regret the time spent doing it - just the opposite.

No wisdom to share - only "You'll never know unless you try".
Oh - and have a backup plan.
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Old 08-28-2017, 11:17 PM
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Default Re: Career as a professional drummer, and backup plan?

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I'll never stop drumming though.
That's important - if you have the passion to play, a regular job won't diminish your passion. In fact, the job makes playing time even more special. The best part is, new heads, sticks and other gear won't be a financial burden. :)

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Old 08-29-2017, 12:04 AM
AllTheCoolNamesAreTaken AllTheCoolNamesAreTaken is offline
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Default Re: Career as a professional drummer, and backup plan?

I would just like to request more stories from DrumWild. They're crazy!
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Old 08-29-2017, 04:12 PM
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Default Re: Career as a professional drummer, and backup plan?

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I would just like to request more stories from DrumWild. They're crazy!
Yup, I always find these fascinating too.

I've been thinking about this story since I read it yesterday. Crazy.
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Old 08-29-2017, 05:36 PM
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Default Re: Career as a professional drummer, and backup plan?

Maybe I'll share another one in its own thread. Between music pursuits and my years as a professional Pee-Wee Herman impersonator, there were some truly odd experiences.
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Old 08-29-2017, 09:27 PM
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The single most important and best thing to have ever happen to me was to make the decision NOT to pursue music as a living.

As disappointing and "life/dream altering" it was at the time (30 years ago), it allowed me a much happier life in the long run.

An education in a totally different industry that allowed for some sort of stable employment. The "typical" family lifestyle and have always had the freedom to do what I want, when I want and how I want in music.

The connection of putting food on the table or a roof over my head was never tied to music.

My Dad (also a jazz drummer) when he was alive, always talked brass tacks to me and put things in a real perspective. Long term impacts to these sorts of decisions. He never talked me out of it. Actually just the opposite .. he thought I should of gone for it. But, he always painted the real picture that I could not of possibly grasped in my late teenage years.

All of this said... I also knew, based on my own assessment of keeping company with many fabulous teachers who did it for a living - realized in no uncertain terms that I wasn't that good of a player. This wasn't self doubt - it was a true honest assessment.

I'm much worse now than I was then, but I don't care. Life has panned out and am much happier spending time with my family than I could ever be on ANY gig.
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Old 08-30-2017, 12:51 AM
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Default Re: Career as a professional drummer, and backup plan?

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That's important - if you have the passion to play, a regular job won't diminish your passion. In fact, the job makes playing time even more special. The best part is, new heads, sticks and other gear won't be a financial burden. :)

Bermuda
Most of us on here during the day are stuck in the office, waiting to get home and hit stuff noisily. If the passion is true, it won't go away. If it's not, you'll find something else to be passionate about, or sit around watching reality TV shows.

Interesting note: "noisily" is recognized by chrome auto-spell.
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Old 08-30-2017, 04:38 PM
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An education in a totally different industry that allowed for some sort of stable employment. The "typical" family lifestyle and have always had the freedom to do what I want, when I want and how I want in music.
To me, this is really important. I think one thing no one tells you is that if you want to do music for a living, sometimes (or a lot of the time) the best paying gigs involve music/settings you hate. For example, when I was playing hammered dulcimer, I enjoyed playing concerts; however, the best money I ever made was playing weddings. I grew to HATE playing weddings although it was good money.

Also, the one time I got to "tour" for a summer, I was playing really terrible, outdated, poorly-produced Christian-based music in a different church almost every night for 11 weeks straight. To make it worse, I was playing bass and keyboards instead of drums. While the money wasn't great, all of my expenses were paid, and I have the right to say, "Yes, I have toured before." Also, the majority of the people I traveled with had so many issues, our name should have been Dysfunction Junction.

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Old 09-01-2017, 05:33 AM
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Default Re: Career as a professional drummer, and backup plan?

Thanks for the replies everyone. I appreciate all of the information given to me here and it definitely will help me.
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Old 09-01-2017, 05:42 AM
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I'm a professional drummer meaning that is what it states on my tax return as my occupation as well as my business cards. It is also my mindset, meaning that I do whatever it takes to bring in the show. This isn't a career field for everyone. Basically, it means that you're going to be self-employed unless you find a band that can really and truly catch a break. There are some on this forum who have caught that break.

Here are some positives to making music your living: You get to be your own boss and make you living doing what you love to do as opposed to wishing that you were doing it. You may get to travel and see parts of the world that you would never see otherwise; I have been some unbelievable places and have played some really stunning venues! All of your equipment is tax deductible and/or depreciable. You’ll meet some great people and get to perform with great people. You may get to play the exact kind of music that you love.

Here are some negatives: It's a difficult life at best and you are ultimate the only person responsible for your success or failure; no one else. Unbeknownst to many who go out and play gigs for money, you are also responsible for insuring your gear as business equipment; homeowners insurance will not apply as the moment that you mention that you were playing in a venue in which a loss occurred, the insurance company will deny your claim because it was used in the pursuit of obtaining a profit. You will also be responsible for reporting and paying your own taxes which means keeping up with your profits and expenses pretty much on a daily business. You will meet some not so great people and play music with some not so great people. You will more than likely spend time playing music that you really don’t like, with people you don’t like in order to keep a roof over your head and food on your table.
Making as living playing music means that it is a life where you are more responsible for your success or failure than any other career field. Remember, most everyone who walks into a GC and comes out with a pair of drumsticks thinks that he/she is already a professional drummer even if that is their first pair of drumsticks.


If I were in high school looking at the future and what my career would be, I would still probably choose the same. However, here are a few things which I would do differently:

I would be far more focused than what I was and not do one thing which would derail my drumming career. This would include drug use. You have to want this more than anything ever so don’t be your own worst enemy.
Take up piano, guitar or both, in addition to the drums – Not only, will it make you more employable as a musician over someone who plays only one instrument, it will garner you more opportunities and more respect among non-drummer musicians. You will be able to band leader, compose and correct charts and fix musical problems in the bands you’re playing in. You do need to know that there are musicians and singers out there who hate drummers; some are fairly well-known front men and most wear guitars. If you end working with this type of artist, being able to play something else besides drums might mean that you’re more employable and can switch to an instrument that isn’t in their crosshairs or even find another gig quicker and leave that situation altogether. This means being able to land on your feet and pay your bills, keeping a roof over your head.
Do take your mother’s advice – Do have a plan B; I don’t have a degree in music but in Computer Science. Maybe you should try minoring in music and a major in something like Marketing. Garth Brooks has admitted that he isn’t great singer; he’s just a great businessman and he was a business major at Oklahoma State University. You will never hear Gene Simmons lay claim to being “The Best Bass Player in the World”. He’s simply the best business man playing a bass guitar. Having skills outside of the actual process of playing music is going to be a must!
I would get a town where music is important much sooner than I have: Location is everything. You have to foster relationships with the artists you want to work with and you can’t do that long distance. You simply have to be a part of the community. This might mean leaving Toronto and actually going to college in a music/media town so that while you’re earning a degree, you’re also making those important connections.

Here is some reading which you might want to take up so that you know what you’re getting into. Keep in mind that if you make the decision to go do something else as a career, there isn’t any shame in it. Many fine people have done so.

Zoro - The Big Gig
Gene Simmons – Kiss and Make-up
Duff – McKagan - It’s so Easy and other Lies
Martin Atkins – Tour Smart – Be forewarned this one is loaded with the F bomb but has quite a bit of wisdom in it.
Hal Garper - The Touring Musician

That should get you started. You can immerse yourself in the research and make an informed decision.

Mike

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What other careers do you recommend which would be useful in the industry, other than computer science and marketing?
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Old 09-10-2017, 03:02 PM
pt3407 pt3407 is offline
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What other careers do you recommend which would be useful in the industry, other than computer science and marketing?
If anyone can give some suggestions that would be really appreciated.
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Old 09-10-2017, 04:33 PM
Groov-E Groov-E is offline
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Default Re: Career as a professional drummer, and backup plan?

All aspects of business -marketing, management, accounting, economics- will never go out of style unless capitalism goes out the window.

I never regretted studying law - even though business training would have been more helpful in what I do now- as it teaches students to understand the foundations of society (constitution, judicial and executive powers, etc.) and aims to develop reflexes in critical thinking and analysis. AI is going to take its toll on legal practice, but the rule of law will (hopefully) remain relevant.

Anything to do relating to health care and the elderly will be a gold mine, but your heart needs to be into it and is by nature more time-consuming.

I see the money being made in software development and programming, and whether or not future programs will be created by other programs I think human intervention will always be required and highly paid.

My buddies in project management all earn twice my salary, have three times and more paid vacation and get to "work" from home. For drumming, which is your main objective, I would say without hesitation to go down that road !

Last edited by Groov-E; 09-10-2017 at 09:44 PM.
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Old 09-11-2017, 06:02 PM
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Default Re: Career as a professional drummer, and backup plan?

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What other careers do you recommend which would be useful in the industry, other than computer science and marketing?
Not to sound like a jerk, but if someone is interested in jobs in the industry, I'd look at a company or industry that's not dying at the moment.
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Old 09-11-2017, 06:29 PM
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Default Re: Career as a professional drummer, and backup plan?

My best advice would be to go and enjoy yourself with drumming. You'll far surpass anything you wanted if you do it for the love. You might get lucky, you might not but don't let it be the be all and end all :)

Enjoy it whilst you're young. Glad I can look back and not regret anything. Even the crappy experiences make you a better musician.

As most people have mentioned you will meet some weird and wonderful folk along the way. I remember when I was looking to get into my first band and a guy gave me a demo tape which consisted of him making guitar noises and singing, I converted it to mp3 and it's still comedy gold!

If all else fails there will always be a 9-5. Nothing to be ashamed of. We all gotta survive :)
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Old 09-11-2017, 07:21 PM
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Default Re: Career as a professional drummer, and backup plan?

If you are seeking security or a plan, then music might not be for you.

I had no backup plan at all, when I set out to become a pro musician. I had more irons in the fire than drumming, which included other things, like songwriting. I went out and gave it my best.

I probably didn't have the right lawyer who had the proper naked pictures of a relevant producer. Or maybe it was something else. The factors that have nothing to do with music are big. The factors that have nothing to do with entertainment are also big.

For whatever reason, there I was, with no backup plan. I won't get into my story in great detail, but I will say that it was difficult. I probably struggled more than someone who graduated college and then had difficulty finding work.

On another forum, I asked drummers a question that is somewhat related to this.

Suppose something happens, like your band leader dies, or the band gets dropped, and you suddenly do not have a gig. Where do you go to find another one?

My thought process behind that question was that there MUST be some kind of inside resource. There is not.

A good friend of mine was a big-time pro drummer for about a decade, before he got let go. I thought that another big band would be quick to snatch him up and he'd continue on. But that never happened. He never reached that level again. He had to try other industries and struggle with odd jobs.

It's more risky than starting your own business. I've seen many businesses fail. The majority of restaurants fail within the first 6-12 months. I've seen drummers get completely lucky and get picked up by a band, and then that band goes on to have a level of popularity for a handful of years, and then land almost right back where they were before.

If you're truly interested in a career in drumming or music, then I think it's good to investigate every possible angle you can imagine.

* What gigs are out there?
* Are recording studios struggling or thriving?
* Are the tried-and-true approaches still working, or fading out?
* What are the new approaches to making money?
* Are there things I can do that do not hinge upon the popularity of a band?

You can think of things outside of music that might be useful, such as a business degree. Sign one bad contract, and it can potentially bring you down. Trust others to handle things for you, and it might be the last time. The more you know about the "business" half of "music business," the better.

At this point, I'm convinced that the universe is playful in nature. It has no end. We're conditioned to start with kindergarten, which leads to grade school, which leads to high school, which leads to college, which leads to marriage and kids, which leads to a gold watch, which leads to retirement, which leads to an old folk's home, which leads to... you get the idea.

But it doesn't seem to lead anywhere, from my perspective. It just IS. It's about now, and there seems to be no end. This is what makes it "playful" to me.

Maybe that's why we call it "playing music."

Although I gave it a shot, and it didn't work out, and things are a bit more difficult for me as a result, I have NO old man regret. I don't wonder "what if I had tried."

For me, I don't think that I could live with anything less.
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Last edited by DrumWild; 09-11-2017 at 07:22 PM. Reason: spelng
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Old 09-12-2017, 05:14 AM
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Default Re: Career as a professional drummer, and backup plan?

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.

A good friend of mine was a big-time pro drummer for about a decade, before he got let go. I thought that another big band would be quick to snatch him up and he'd continue on. But that never happened. He never reached that level again. He had to try other industries and struggle with odd jobs..
I've seen this too.

In fact, one only has to pick up a copy of Modern Drummer or other such drumming magazine that is 5 to 10 years old, and see how many players were featured in ads or interviews at the time who have since fallen off the radar.

Sure, some are still out there making it work on lower profile gigs, or are doing it overseas out of the magazine spot light, but many others...? yeah.
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Old 09-12-2017, 05:39 AM
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Another scary part is that you're relying on other people in most cases. Do they have the work ethic? The songs? The appeal? The popularity? The youth? The image? Addiction issues? Potential relevance for the times? Being good is a small part of it, if it's a part of it at all. Depends on the situation.

Anyone who has suffered the wrath of "The Group Project" in college knows what this is all about. I remember showing up at the workshop, waiting, waiting, and then having to admit that they just weren't going to show up.

If I had to go back and do it all over again, I might have more aggressively vetted musicians and bands. That's a tough call, because some of them had really good songs, and other things going for them, but something would end up going wrong.

That's the curse of hindsight, so I know that even if going back and having a do-over were possible, that I'd probably do most of the same things all over again. Roll the dice, flip the coin, draw the card, and put it all on black.
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Old 09-12-2017, 07:36 AM
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Default Re: Career as a professional drummer, and backup plan?

I went the "self-taught and play your ass off live" route while I went to school for many years, which was always gonna be my backup as I kept playing drums. I ended up going to school for acoustic engineering and not music, but all the while I was playing a lot of gigs over the years with bands from all sorts of genres, eventually recording and playing with better and better people.

After I got my B.S. I actually spent the next few years trying to get into grad school for mechanical engineering because I didn't want my "backup" to be acoustic consulting work, and I wanted to do noise and vibration engineering work.

So I'm currently a mechanical engineering MS student and teaching assistant, but I recorded an album within a month of being here and then managed to find a bigger underground band that plays gigs out of town every weekend and I managed to play my first dates in the UK, so I feel pretty happy with my drum side. I chose Cincinnati over another school/better program actually because the other city was a college town and I'd have 0% drum opportunities there. Still not making a ton of money playing drums, but I doubt most people are in it for that. I'm at least breaking even on most out of town gigs now, which is more than I could have said before.

On the tail end of my thesis now, so when I move and start working at an engineering job, i'll just want enough vacation days to tour, but ultimately the city NEEDS drumming opportunities, and it's what I've always prioritized.

I didn't go to school this whole time to just avoid life, but rather I wanted a "backup" career that I would actually enjoy. My goal is to just play A LOT in basically any kind of project and in front of lots of people, but as Bermuda said, it doesn't hurt being able to afford gear while you do a job that doesn't feel like a job.

So if you don't go the business route, consider majoring in a field you are genuinely interested in because it'll pay off in the long run and you can focus more on playing instead of stress, even if it isn't the best paying career. And keep in mind if you want to keep playing I think the best way is with other musicians live, you need a city with opportunities. And be very very patient.

Last edited by ghostnoted; 09-13-2017 at 09:07 AM.
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Old 09-12-2017, 07:57 AM
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Default Re: Career as a professional drummer, and backup plan?

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Another scary part is that you're relying on other people in most cases. Do they have the work ethic? The songs? The appeal? The popularity? The youth? The image? Addiction issues? Potential relevance for the times? Being good is a small part of it, if it's a part of it at all. Depends on the situation.

Anyone who has suffered the wrath of "The Group Project" in college knows what this is all about. I remember showing up at the workshop, waiting, waiting, and then having to admit that they just weren't going to show up.

If I had to go back and do it all over again, I might have more aggressively vetted musicians and bands. That's a tough call, because some of them had really good songs, and other things going for them, but something would end up going wrong.

That's the curse of hindsight, so I know that even if going back and having a do-over were possible, that I'd probably do most of the same things all over again. Roll the dice, flip the coin, draw the card, and put it all on black.
Yup.

One problem I had was the singer and I were motivated, but the rest of the band wasn't quite as motivated, and it held us back. We eventually moved on as a duo, but the signs were there that wasn't going to work either, but I couldn't leave because there was always record company interest, and we even in early negotiations with a label when it finally did fall apart.

Looking back, I can say I wish I had spend more focused on MY CAREER over "the band" (i.e taken more side gigs, etc) but at same time, if I had, I could have easily looked back and said the other way around.

Quote:
relying on other people
Quote:
The factors that have nothing to do with music are big.
A friend of mine was in a fantastic band that signed a big deal with Warner Brothers in the mid 90's. They made a great album with a name producer. WB paid for a MTV video.

Then there was a corporate shake up at Warner brothers, and their A&R guy got pushed out.

The label didn't bother to support the band any further, their videos never got played, CD went straight to the 99 cent bin, the band fell apart, and everyone's music career came to an end. Musically, they should have been huge. But alas, it didn't happen for reasons beyond anyone's control.
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Old 09-19-2017, 04:43 PM
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Default Re: Career as a professional drummer, and backup plan?

Here is how I went about doing it..

Played drums all through school took some lessons in school. Lived at home for couple years working a decent day job and giggin out. Got the opportunity to travel with the company I was working for. I did that for 7 years. Everywhere I lived around the world I studied percussion like India, Philippines, Jamaica.

Moved back to the states when I was 27. Started up a band started recording my own stuff in the basement of the bachelor palace. Met a woman who is a mortician, feel in love started a family.

9 years later 2 kids boys 7 & 3, house is paid off, everyday I told my wife I wanted to play drums again get your @$$ back to work..

Tomorrow 9/20/17 she starts a 60k year job as a mortician, she gave me the keys to the checking account and told me to have fun. I have just about everything on order and more to come tax return time. I will keep the day job until we can retire early and then Im going full balls into music I will be in my 50's playing thrash metal and or progressive metal.. and if that doesnt work out I guess a hard rock country band where I can still beat my china and rip some quick rolls on the double bass pedal..
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Old 09-19-2017, 05:05 PM
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Default Re: Career as a professional drummer, and backup plan?

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A friend of mine was in a fantastic band that signed a big deal with Warner Brothers in the mid 90's. They made a great album with a name producer. WB paid for a MTV video.

Then there was a corporate shake up at Warner brothers, and their A&R guy got pushed out.

The label didn't bother to support the band any further, their videos never got played, CD went straight to the 99 cent bin, the band fell apart, and everyone's music career came to an end. Musically, they should have been huge. But alas, it didn't happen for reasons beyond anyone's control.
This reminds me of a friend of mine [a fellow drummer] who was actually an A&R guy with one of the big labels, who decided that it was his time to shine. He wrote an album and got some solid players, including Robert Palmer on guitar.

He also invested $50,000 of his own money into the project.

He's just about done with the album, when they bring him a song. He declines the song. They say that he has a choice. He can:

1) Record the song and put it on the album. The song will be used in a major motion picture release, and the album will be cross-promoted.

OR

2) He can reject the song, lose the cross-promo, and be dropped for poor sales.

He gives in, records the song and puts it on the album, even though it's a really BAD song. The album is pressed. Then, the movie people decide to go with ANOTHER song at the last minute.

Now, he's stuck with an album, with his photo on the cover, and it includes a horrific song that he doesn't even like.

Obviously, no cross-promo. They sell 18,000 units and are dropped for poor sales.
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Old 09-20-2017, 01:01 AM
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Living Dead Drummer Living Dead Drummer is offline
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Default Re: Career as a professional drummer, and backup plan?

Advice I was given by a highly successful musician friend of mine.

"There is no plan B. If you have a backup plan, you will eventually fall back on it. If you're going to do it, do it."

It's not great advice, but it's also the best advice. When I left my 9-5 day job over 13 years ago to pursue music full time I ended up having a few part time gigs here and there to help bring money in. Not only was I miserable, even if it was only a couple days a week between tours, but it prevented me from being able to drop at a moments notice for gigs.

Eventually I gave up any kind of part time work as well and only focused on being behind the drums 100% of the time. True, I still have a "part time gig" in the form of teaching lessons. However that's actually something I enjoy doing. I don't make a lot of money at it, but I don't need to because I like it. Plus it allows me to drop on a dime for anything that comes up.

And it has...
More than once I've have people call me with a week or less notice for a tour because their drummer flaked out, quit, got fired, whatever. They call me "Nick, can you hit the road for 2 weeks starting day after tomorrow?" I can almost always say "yes" now.
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~Nicholas Mason
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