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Thread: Anyone professional musician out there?

  1. #1
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    Any professional musician out there?

    I've always wondered what the life of a professional musician was like. I think most people here probably have had our delusions of grandeur. Like the 1st time I listened to Kill em All, "WOW man. These guys don't give a flying sh!t! I wanna be a heavy metal rockstar!!" I used to sit around practicing my guitar for '1X' hours a day. Then I moved out to LA and the music scene was absolutely, positively THE most discouraging experience of my life.

    But I know a lot of people/bands that stick as a group, for years, just doing their thing, without even the slightest bit of commecial or record label success coming their way. They barely having much $$ at all, but keep at it!

    How do they do it?

    As for me, I'm 21 yrs old, working for a firm, 9am-5pm labor, average pay, which I would absolutely hate if it weren't for the people around me, and friends. And I'm actually getting outdoors now (something I never did when I was younger, because I was so busy practicing)

    Music and guitar is still top priority, but its more of a personal endeavor now. HRRM.
    Last edited by chrismatson; 10-17-2007 at 02:23 AM.

  2. #2
    Mad Scientist forgottenking2's Avatar
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    Well, at least here (Houston). All the professional musicians I know mainly make their living teaching then they have the paying gigs (weddings cover bands and such things) and then there's the "playing your stuff" kinda gigs.

    I only know two small studio owners so my experience with recording work is very small and I saw those sessions mainly as doing a favor for a friend than actual work. I am not saying there isn't any studio work/musicians in Houston, I just haven't run into anybody that does it.

    As far as playing goes, if you can manage a solo gig that's the jackpot right there. I was an entry level jazz musician and I got $400 in one night. It was a lot of work to put together and I was lucky to have the referral from a SUPERB jazz guitarist on the North West side but it paid off.

    I think if you want to work as a musician you can make a living as long as you are willing to actually work. And just like in any line of work, you have to start earning entry level salaries (unless you have some kick *** contacts that can open some doors for you). I think the best way of thinking about this is like owning your own business. Except YOU are the business. You have all the freedom of owning your own business but also all the responsibilities and headaches (heartaches sometimes) of that come with it. Make sure you have (acquire them if you don't) marketing and management skills. Some finance savvy doesn't hurt either.

    If you really want to do it I say go for it. Put together an action plan, and start working towards it.

    Good luck.

    -Jorge
    "If God had wanted us to play the piano he would've given us 88 fingers"

  3. #3
    Experimentalist Koala's Avatar
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    Well I live off music and audio. Im more of a composer, mixer, sound designer for TV and film though. I too was to be a part of the music industry just as a musician for many years, but I ended up despising the whole scenario. I love music, and that whole industry started turning music into WORK for me. And I fear WORK. So I now live happily off making music and dealing with audio mostly from my home studio. Still I do write my own stuff, and hopefully once this industry cycle were going through comes to an end Ill get back into gigging and making CD's. But for now its all Pro Tools, in my pj's, with my bed and my shower a step away. It works out pretty nicely really.

    I think I should probably say that I don't have barely any formal music education(and I do hope to change that one day), I dont have Satrianis chops, or John Williams classical expertise but I do have degrees in both communication science and sound engineering and having made music for many years has been enough for what I do. I believe the key thing is actually making a commitment to what you want to do and just work hard as you can to achieve it. If you work hard enough, it will happen.

  4. #4
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    That's a really interesting thread. Hope that more of you can share your experience.

    I seem to be a bit in your position chrismatson. I'll have a bachelor in psyc by the end of this year, but I just realizeed that therapy/research isn't for me. What I really want to do is music. But I don't know where to start off with this.

    I assume that I should start by getting a good teacher and building up some chops as well as learning more music theory...if anybody as some tips, feel free to share.

    In any case, Koala, your post made me more hopefull. I would simply LOVE to do the same kind of work you're doing, but I always though that I needed to get something like a college degree in music to do a job like that.

  5. #5
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    Hi Chrismatson,

    (this started out small but is becoming a necessary rant )

    I'm going to post something I posted previously because it's good advice,

    and I think much of it applies to your question(it is edited down abit for the specific reason to apply to your questions, and I've added some content to address your individual questions)

    well lots of people are giving you their opinions, and when it comes to opinions it is in your interest to be objective about what information you decide to apply to your life

    so what advice can I give you that will help:

    LIFE IS ABOUT CHOICES

    and Chrismatson your direction in life should be about your choices, because it is your life.

    it is not a positive thing in life to wonder what if, and have regrets.

    for other musicians (like myself included ) we literally BREATHE music.

    for musicians who literally breathe music and it is our passion,
    our priority is to steadily keep progressing so that we can eventually be the most complete knowledgeable creative musician we can be

    you sound like you also are a dedicated musician, so that will motivate you to deal with the "music business" as a business

    Then I moved out to LA and the music scene was absolutely, positively THE most discouraging experience of my life.
    I'm not surprised by that statement,
    I know some people who moved out to LA, and others moved to New York and were very disappointed in discovering the music business was not only a business but more importantly a very dysfunctional business,

    what I mean is they were aware that when they went out there they would have to do certain things for their "business" to be successful and for them to be able to survive as musicians

    what quickly became common experience was the amount of dysfunctional people involved and running the music business.
    Necessity at times dictated that they were compromised into working with many of these dysfunctional people/musicians.

    not only did they have to "work with" some very flaky musicians, who were more into "image as a rock star", than any "substanance" necessary for their band/business to be successful, but also had to deal with "crooked" bar owners, management taking money from band, etc.

    the people they had to deal with in this business were
    1. unethical
    (very similar to what an unethical salesman will do anything to get a sale, doesn't matter if they are not telling the truth, it is "marketing", and they rationalize that based on this strategy they can DO ANYTHING under the guise that it is marketing),
    2. had many drug abuse issues which meant at times that they would be unrealiable, unable to do their necessary "job as a musician" or manager, or whatever because of these dependancies,
    3. had issues,
    for example:
    they screwed around on their wife, and now the wife found out so they are getting a divorce so the business/band is put on hold until everything can be worked out,
    they don't have a supportive wife/girlfriend so they can't practice/play in the band,
    they are managing your band/money, but have to claim bankruptcy because even though they give the appearance of being successful(nice car, decent house, etc, turns out they are in MAJOR DEBT for EVERYTHING THEY HAVE)
    Lead Singers Disease/control freaks
    the band has to change musicians(bass players, guitarists, etc) more often than most people change 4 rolls of toilet paper

    and that's just a few of the many examples of these dysfunctional people

    and these people will promise you the "world" as a "salespitch", and give the illusion of being competant, capable, and being able to meet your business needs,

    in the bigger cities(I'll just name the ones my friends went to LA, New York, Phoenix, etc.), its true you have more opportunity but you also have a MUCH greater chance of meeting and having to work with these dysfunctional people.

    Fact: if your just starting out in a town you will meet alot of these dysfunctional people

    why?

    because chances are if they are not dysfunctional, you will probably not meet up with them as they will be in successful businesses, bands, etc., and won't being looking for your services,
    (but if you do meet these people who have "it" together try to network with them)



    But I know a lot of people/bands that stick as a group, for years, just doing their thing, without even the slightest bit of commecial or record label success coming their way. They barely having much $$ at all, but keep at it!

    How do they do it?
    and to do that you have to prioritorize:

    so some more necessary advice:
    (and these are just a few of the many important priorities in life)

    1. live your life within your means(financially)

    2. try to have balance in your life as much as possible

    3. be a student of music(no matter what your level of proficiency on a musical instrument) throughout your life, and for that matter be a student of life throughout your life,

    please realize a couple of things:

    as stated the music business is a business, and in any business it is in your interest to be very knowledgeable about the choices you make in that industry.

    but after objectively ripping on many dysfunctional people in the music business it is important to state there are some who are really good people,

    not only famous ones(that I've been fortunate to have met and hung around with many times) like Steve Morse, John Petrucci, Eric Johnson, Paul Gilbert, etc.
    but also there are many here at IBreatheMusic.com who not only are professional dedicated musicians but will help out people in numerous thoughtful community oriented ways.

    many of these musicians/people are really good human beings !

    so life is about choices,

    do as much research as you can to make the best choices for you,
    and I hope you have experiences with good people/musicians !!
    Last edited by Schooligo; 10-16-2007 at 10:02 PM.
    "Success is arriving at a Personal Satisfaction within yourself"

    Dedicated To Guitar!!!

  6. #6
    The Silent Still Draven Grey's Avatar
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    Schooligo,

    It's posts like yours that make me really like this forum. We make our life what it is by our choices. We choose to grow, we choose to do the things that help us reach our goals, we choose who we become. I never like the idea of luck very much. Those opportunities arise because the choices I made along the way put me in a place where opportunities arise.

    chrismatson,

    What do you consider a professional musician to be? Some have careers in music as composers, as teachers, as music directors, and as studio musicians, each living quite well in that area - like Jorge mentioned.

    Oh, and Jorge...

    I lived in Houston for over 30 years (Ummm... Go Texans!?). It seems like the music scene suffers a lot there, and musicians have to take up other music-related jobs in order to make any money.

  7. #7
    Mad Scientist forgottenking2's Avatar
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    LOL @ Go Texans. Actually they did beat New Orleans a couple of days ago (or did they? I didn't finished watching the game ).

    About the music scene here, I agree with you on that one. Although there are a couple lucky guys who just play (cover dudes with good connections) but yeah most of my musician friends and myself had to do other things (most of us taught). It seems I'm going back in that direction, the recession construction is going through (have you seen the real estate market lately?? ) is sort of pushing me in that direction. Alright, I missed it, so I'm using the recession as an excuse lol .

    -Jorge
    "If God had wanted us to play the piano he would've given us 88 fingers"

  8. #8
    Banned JNagarya's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by irinamarella
    . . . . I seem to be a bit in your position chrismatson. I'll have a bachelor in psyc by the end of this year, but I just realizeed that therapy/research isn't for me. What I really want to do is music. But I don't know where to start off with this.
    Sounds a bit like me. It was intended (by others) that I be a visual artist -- "Famous Painter Starves to Death in Garrett After Eating Own Ear!" -- and I was good at it, but there was no challenge. "Here, draw this," said Teacher. Dutifully drew it, no effort. "That's deserves an A," said Teacher. Yawn.

    It disappointed some, and I tried art school anyway, but I chose writing (results were immediate; I could keep the original, and sell copies, which can't be done with one-of-a-kind paintings).

    Ultimately, along the way, I had the "opportunity" to try my hand at other things I found of interest, fascinating. One was counseling (individual and group--that included training), even cofounded a crisis center. Have decades of study in psych. But it gets tiresome listening to other's problems, and them rejecting all suggestion, advice, reflections back to them of the answers they suggest for themselves, while one's own problems are coming into flower but being neglected for theirs.

    Did law for a long time -- got an education in it. Legal history is an enduring fascination; otherwise I'm argument-averse, even while having superior skills in argumentation. (Blame both on my being the youngest of three in birth-order, my-mother-the-law-maker, and no court of appeal.)

    And that's not everything. But don't be surprised if one tries a range of possible careers before finding one about which one can be passionate. Something one loves to do, even at times to exhaustion (there are times I've written for 24 to 36 hours without breaks except for another cup of coffee because so enjoying what I was working on.) Another way of putting it:

    "When I arrived in San Francisco, I became unemployed, so I had to find a job. But I was very particular about the kind of job I got, because I didn't want to work. So I became a newspaper reporter. I hated to do it, but I couldn't find honest employment." -- Mark Twain

    Just between you and I -- and don't betray my trust by telling anyone else about this:

    Do what you love to do, and it willl be play, not work. Other's will be jealous, and become hostile, if you let on that that's what you're actually doing; but you can get them to see you as working, if, when they're watching, you give out a grunt and a groan now and then, and maybe wash your hands before eating (the latter may be excessive; but some observers are skeptical of appearances), until they go away.

    But be prepared: if your effort to persuade is successful, you'll have to do the real work of answering the question typically asked by the suspicious: "What do you do for work?"

    What they actually mean is, "By whom are you employed?" That imposes a bind on you: either you tell the truth and debase yourself in their estimation; or you lie and debase yourself in your own eyes.

    Obviously, that's a situation to be avoided by means of any halfway-persuasive rationalization you can plan out ahead of time, as telling the truth is dangerous, and it is a moral defect and sin to lie. Either, if taken too seriously, could necessitate your seeking pyschological help.

    There is a way to wiggle out of it I've invented that works most of the time. I answer, simply and promptly, "I'm self-employed" (a simple delaying tactic which the suspicious interpret as meaning that you actually "work"). Then, without hesitating, continue on with this explanation (appropriate pained expression, and conspiratorial wink, does wonders to successfully convince):

    ". . . and it's a real bitch: the employee is so lazy that the boss has to do all the work. But the boss can't fire the employee, because then he'd have no one to blame for alll the screw-ups."

    That psychological gambit (see Games People Play, Eric Berne) usually works because they recognize, from their own tortured existence, the ultimate essence of a real-world work situation; and immediately, suspicion demolished, they become sympathetic to your plight. Then you can quickly usher them to and out the door, before they can ask any more questions, because you must get back to "work".

    Now you can heave a sigh of relief, wash your hands, and pick up your guitar and play . . .
    Last edited by JNagarya; 11-25-2007 at 01:23 AM.

  9. #9
    Banned JNagarya's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by forgottenking2
    LOL @ Go Texans. Actually they did beat New Orleans a couple of days ago (or did they? I didn't finished watching the game ).

    About the music scene here, I agree with you on that one. Although there are a couple lucky guys who just play (cover dudes with good connections) but yeah most of my musician friends and myself had to do other things (most of us taught). It seems I'm going back in that direction, the recession construction is going through (have you seen the real estate market lately?? ) is sort of pushing me in that direction. Alright, I missed it, so I'm using the recession as an excuse lol .

    -Jorge
    I know nothing about the Houston music scene. (It has one!?) What about Austin -- it has at least some national recognition, what with the late Doug Sahm/Sir Douglas Quintet (and "Austin City Limits" providing a showcase even for musicians not from Austin)?

  10. #10
    Mad Scientist forgottenking2's Avatar
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    Austin is awesome. I have gone to check out live music (I caught Johnny A last time I went). I have never thought about moving up there. Since my wife wants to move closer to her family (in New England) I think we might end up moving to Boston eventually. For now Houston is where is at for me. At least until the wife graduates, then we'll see.
    "If God had wanted us to play the piano he would've given us 88 fingers"

  11. #11
    Banned JNagarya's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by forgottenking2
    Austin is awesome. I have gone to check out live music (I caught Johnny A last time I went). I have never thought about moving up there. Since my wife wants to move closer to her family (in New England) I think we might end up moving to Boston eventually. For now Houston is where is at for me. At least until the wife graduates, then we'll see.
    I've not been there to check the music scene, but it is likely fairly robust in Boston, what with Berklee, and a billyun other colleges/universities bursting at the scenes with hormone-rich students.

  12. #12
    Registered User SkinnyDevil's Avatar
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    I'm gonna go back and read all these posts slowly - great stuff in there!!!

    To answer the initial question: Yes, I'm a professional musician. I teach, record, gig, write...it's a nickle & dime biz, but it all adds up. I also train others & provide opportunities for them to do the same (employing several engineers in my studio and 7 instructors in my growing network).

    Beats the hell out of working for a living (hahaha!!!).

    I'm not quite certain I understand your position, though (I'll read it again - I'm not the sharpest tack in the box). Are you saying you chose NOT to be a full-time musician, or that you want to but don't know exactly how?

    What was it that disturbed you so about the LA scene?
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    "...embrace your fear..."

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