Being a Music Creator With a Day Job

Being a Music Creator With a Day Job

This post is near and dear to my heart, because this is me. I've struggled with this mentally over time, thinking that I was a fraud…that I couldn't be considered a music creator if I had a day job. It's either one or the other. Well…that's a lie.

I'm sure you've heard the stories of the songwriter or artist leaving it all on the line, and diving head first into trying to have a full-time career without spending time working for someone else. Some choose to live at home with parents, others in cars while trying to play shows, looking to meet anyone they can that may give them the break they need. Or, making post after post on social media to be seen. Now there is nothing wrong with this, so long as that is what the songwriter/artist wants to do. But the thought of that "needing" to be done in order to "make it" is a lie. This blog is dedicated to, and for the songwriter, artist, and/or producer who also has a day job.

First, what is making it? I think all of us at some point have a skewed definition of that, defined by what we've "seen". But when is the last time you sat down and said, "What do I want to do?". Forget about what you see others have, and what other strive to obtain…what do you want?

I asked myself this question when I was 19 years old, about to begin showcasing for record labels after finishing a 6-song demo. Then I had a vision…I saw myself getting back home to a penthouse apartment, I'm talking clean! Wall to wall windows, the works! But you know what I heard when I walked in…Silence. In those few moments, I realized what I wanted, and what I didn't want all at the same time. At the time, what I had in my head in terms of "making it" in music, I was not willing to make those sacrifices. Constant travel/touring, constant session after session…I did not want to have a career on terms identified/glorified as the "only" ways to achieve success.

I wanted family. I wanted to come home to hear kids laughter. I wanted to hear the voice of my wife. Was I willing to go all out for a career and risk not having that? No. So what I chose instead was to have the ability to have and build a career outside of music, to be my resource in building the type of music career that I wanted, on my terms, all the while building and supporting my family. With this indeed comes certain challenges, namely, how do you balance time between working a day job, spending time with family, and continuing to build your music career?

It will look different for each of us. But here are some helpful tips and things to keep in mind in order to find that balance:

1. Establish what your overall goal is for your music career

Is it to make a full-time living from writing, recording, and performing music? If it is, you have to be sure to account for learning and keeping up with the changes in the music industry. Plan it out. Write it out. Set a timeframe/deadline where you want to be making a living solely off of music by. Learn what you would need to do to fulfill this.

Sure, one song, if it gets the right placement, could change your life. But that's not really a plan. That's hope. I'd say the plan is to define those actionable, tangible things you can do that lead to making a living full-time in music. This could be from teaching music lessons, performing at venues that actually pay you to perform, licensing music to services that pay to use music, etc. For some, it's solely focusing on sync licensing (writing and creating music for film and TV). I thought that would be something I'd like to do on a regular basis, but in research, learning, and personal experience, I found that even if that was making a living doing that, I would not be fulfilled. So ask yourself that. Is the plan or goal that you have for yourself ultimately going to fulfill you? I've come to the realization (just recently actually…as in over the last year) that I get fulfillment from writing, recording, and releasing Christian and Inspirational songs to inspire and encourage people. That is what I want to do for the rest of my life, whether it is bringing me in a full-time income or not. Do you see what I mean? Do you see how the thought process and thinking through what you want, and how you are fulfilled brings you to the type of music career you want to have?

2. Set aside time each day to move your career forward, by taking at least one action

This is why you need to define your goal first. If I said I wanted to make a living from producing music for other artists, and I don't carve out time in the day to reach out to artists who may be seeking producers, or on sites like where I can offer services, then am I really taking the actionable steps to reach my goals? No. So once you define your overall music career goal, make sure you are taking steps that lead towards that goal, and not things that take you away from that goal. WARNING: It is very easy to get side tracked. That's just human nature. So this is going to take discipline, and often having a close friend, or fellow musician who you can be accountable to.

3. Be willing to adjust for the unexpected. Don't cancel tasks, just move them.

I mentioned in brief above that I get the most fulfillment writing, recording, and releasing Christian and Inspirational songs to inspire and encourage people. My goal related to this, more specifically, is to write, record, and release 6-7 songs each year, along with developing content relating to the songs, like video devotionals. Let's say I plan to record a song a few hours before I being working. If something comes up, where my family needs me for something, or I'm asked by a neighbor or friend to help with something, I don't have to cancel my plans to records, I just have to move them. In the past, I've been plagued by the thought of, "Well if I can't get it done now, I'm not going to be able to get in done." That's a lie I told myself. It's an excuse. There is no reason why I couldn't move the recording time to the next day. Indeed, you don't want to get to a point where you are always adjusting. At that point, you may want to shuffle things around. But never feel like you have to flat out cancel your action that will move your career forward. Just adjust.

4. You don't have to hate your day job. You can still do something you love.

This tip is the gold one! I don't know about you, but I've heard many people dread the work they do. I used to be one of them. Then I realized that just because I'm not currently making a full-time living from my music does not mean I can't do something that I enjoy. Perhaps you could get a job working with a music company. Or maybe you are also passionate about helping kids, or managing a supermarket. Only you know. The key here is to balance. Find something you love that can still allow you the time and energy to build your music career.

Keep this in mind. When artists sign to record labels, traditionally they receive an advance (money) to fund their recording, and help them cover personal expenses so they can focus on "being the artists". This advance however is a loan. The money is not theirs, it has to be paid back. Similarly with a songwriter or producer who signs a publishing deal (if they are blessed enough to get an advance), it is a loan that has to be paid back. Indeed, one would have the time to focus solely writing, recording, etc., but on someone else's dime.

Now consider yourself…you who has a day job outside of your music career. Who is funding you? You. Who gets to make the decisions? You. I am saying all of this to encourage and inspire you to appreciate what you have, and not focus on what others have. I ask again…what do you want? Determine that, and then take the steps to make it happen. You're career isn't in the hands of someone else…it's in your hands. Act like it.