View Poll Results: Do you play as a job or as a hobby?

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  • Career

    56 15.82%
  • Hobby

    174 49.15%
  • I get paid occasionally/not full time musician

    124 35.03%
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  1. #1

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    Hi, ive been browsing this amazing site for about 2 weeks now, and lately I've been thinking about a career in music. I just would like to gauge what type of skill level is required to have a career as a performer, because I can see most of you have a lot of experience and skill.


    So, how many of you are professional musicians and how many are just playing jazz guitar as a hobby?


    Also, if music is your living, what are some pros and cons of music as a career?

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  3. #2
    I play as a career(while going to school to get my degree for a better career in music hopefully). There are a ton of downfalls to this career choice, as nothing is really stable. The biggest pro is the fact that I play guitar for a living, I get to do what I love, and I always have my guitar by my side. Cons, too many to list haha.

  4. #3

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    I want to get to the point where I can do this for a living. Right now I play the occasional gig and get paid for that, but not much. It's not worth showing up for those gigs for the money, but I love to play and that's why I do it.
    Becoming professional means I can focus all my time on getting better. There are not enough hours in the day anyway, so it's not like there is any other option to me, since all I want to do is play the guitar and nothing else.

    It's a rocky path to choose. I could have chosen something like working in an office doing things I dread, waking up every morning knowing I could have spent those seven hours practicing instead. What happens when you get home? Chances are you're tired from work and have little energy for effective practice. I know some cats work day jobs and are able to play at a high level. More power to them.
    It's not for me though. I know where I'm going with music and I will get there, even if it has to take decades.
    Once you've been bitten by the jazz bug and contracted the disease/curse, then there is really no other option.

  5. #4

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    I guess I'm semi-pro...I really see my performing self as an amateur...I do it for fun, but I do make money from music...but I only play 10-15 gigs a year. Most of my money is made from teaching.

    I used to gig more, at one time every weekend, but not only jazz. Now I'd much rather only play the music I like and make my money another way.

    Making a living playing only jazz is TOUGH. Even a lot of pros--big names, gotta supplement their income with teaching. In Chicago, we've got world class players, I'm talking cream of the crop, toured the world with jazz legend type players, playing at restaurants for folks drinking overpriced wine and contemplating adultery. Jazz is a rough way to make a go of it.

    I'm damn glad I have my teaching gigs. (high school and private lessons)

  6. #5

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    I picked "I get paid occasionally, not a full-time musician"... I'm not a pro and I'm not trying to be one.

    And I consider music my hobby.

  7. #6

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    Strickly a hobby for me. I play a couple hours a days because I enjoy it.

  8. #7

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    If you have youth or time on your side and no overblown monetary responsibilities I'd say go for it, it's better to give it your best shot than to sit at the end of a saloon bar gazing into your cheap scotch and muttering the Marlon Brando line from 'On The Waterfront' (I could'a been a contender....).

    Seriously, if you have the self discipline, clear focus, contacts and luck you will eventually make something of yourself.

    Remember though - you gotta pay them dues before you can sing your own song!

  9. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by mr. beaumont

    Making a living playing only jazz is TOUGH. Even a lot of pros--big names, gotta supplement their income with teaching. In Chicago, we've got world class players, I'm talking cream of the crop, toured the world with jazz legend type players, playing at restaurants for folks drinking overpriced wine and contemplating adultery. Jazz is a rough way to make a go of it.

    I'm damn glad I have my teaching gigs. (high school and private lessons)
    Have you actually talked to these guys about their gigs at restaurants? I'm curious if they are unhappy. I see lots of people talk bad about these kinds of gigs, but personally I would be happy to have a regular gig at a couple of restaurants playing background music. Its a low stress venue, and you can get away with a lot more. (I haven't played restaurant gigs, but i've played Business functions, I assume the atmosphere would be about the same)

  10. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by jazzbow
    If you have youth or time on your side and no overblown monetary responsibilities I'd say go for it, it's better to give it your best shot than to sit at the end of a saloon bar gazing into your cheap scotch and muttering the Marlon Brando line from 'On The Waterfront' (I could'a been a contender....).

    Seriously, if you have the self discipline, clear focus, contacts and luck you will eventually make something of yourself.

    Remember though - you gotta pay them dues before you can sing your own song!
    This is the best advice I ever got and I took it to heart. I eventually ended up doing something else for a living and playing when and where I wanted. Do I regret not sticking to it, trying harder/longer to make it in NY? Yeah, sometimes. But hell, everyone has some regrets and I just think about all I've been able to do for my family and life seems pretty damn good.

    Give it a go, find out what it's really like to do it, then make your decision to stay or leave on your terms.

  11. #10

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    I can't speak for their enjoyment. I can speak for what restaurant gigs pay.

    Enjoying what you do is only part of playing music full time. There's also bills to pay.

    Making a comfortable living playing jazz just ain't easy...and if you hit a dry spell of gigs...rough way to make a living. Not impossible, but not easy. I'd say 1 in 10 musicians is actually cut out for it, maybe 1 in 20.

    For the record, I do enjoy playing restaurant gigs for exactly the reasons you mentioned.

  12. #11

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    Hobbyist.

    I began lessons when I was 52 after owning a few guitars off and on for around 40 years. I'm now 58 and have been learning theory and site reading over the last 6 years. I figured that you're never too old to learn, but I'm kicking myself that I wasn't more serious at a younger age. I got a lot of catching up to do, and this stuff does not come easily to me. I think I make it harder than it has to be, even though I have an excellent teacher who is also an excellent player.
    Last edited by zigzag; 02-06-2012 at 11:32 PM.

  13. #12

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    Music/Guitar is my main living, but not just performance, so I voted "occasionally". I manage a guitar store, teach private lessons, play live gigs, host jams and events at my venue, and sell my book here and there. Between all of those, I get by. I'd be way more mad at the world and current music scene if I tried to "make it" as an original jazz recording/performance artist- Being able to keep it fun and challenging is where it's at for me. I can play "pro" level gigs, but I prefer to think of myself as a student of the endless process of creating meaningful music... There is always more...

  14. #13

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    I guess i am more amateur than pro. I used to play a couple of gigs every weekend for pay but right now we are down to averaging 3 or 4 per month. I don't do this for my living, I am a retired engineer. Actually, we do get paid but don't consider ourselves to be professionals. Jazz and jazz guitar have been my passion and my hobby most of my life and for me that is enough.

    wiz

  15. #14

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    Maybe a little more than a hobbyist but still an amateur, even though I play the occasional gig with some professional friends of mine. I usually let the other guys divide what little money the venues are paying them, since I make a pretty good living on my day job. I enjoy the fact they let me play with them.

  16. #15

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    I only do about 10 paid gigs a year plus a few non-paying benefits. I rarely get more than $50 for a gig. I used to have 12 regular students, but I'm not teaching currently. I don't like the term, "Semi-Pro." I feel that my playing is at a professional level, though maybe somewhere near the bottom of that categorization. So, I call myself a, "Part-time Professional." The amount I make doesn't impact my financial situation noticeably - tends to cover expenses at best - but it validates (to me) my view of myself as a 'professional'. Having said all that, I'd still do it for free!

  17. #16

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    Quote Originally Posted by JonnyPac
    Music/Guitar is my main living, but not just performance, so I voted "occasionally". I manage a guitar store, teach private lessons, play live gigs, host jams and events at my venue, and sell my book here and there. Between all of those, I get by. I'd be way more mad at the world and current music scene if I tried to "make it" as an original jazz recording/performance artist- Being able to keep it fun and challenging is where it's at for me. I can play "pro" level gigs, but I prefer to think of myself as a student of the endless process of creating meaningful music... There is always more...
    Right on Jonny, keep the dream alive.

    You seem fairly young, and owning a venue at your age, that's really impressive. I'm wondering if you can make a profit with just music, or do you need to sell drinks, food, etc.

  18. #17

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    But you know "professional" players that are not "good" players, right?

  19. #18

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dark Star
    But you know "professional" players that are not "good" players, right?
    I guess we're looking it at differently.

    For me it's a matter of 1) whether the occupation qualifies as a profession and 2) are you doing well enough financially to consider that occupation to be your profession.

    How well you play... doesn't directly factor into my definition of a profession or professional. So your comment is not relevant to me in the question of whether someone is a professional.

    But yes, I agree there are amateurs or hobbyists that play much better than some professionals. Especially since for music there is no certification required or organizations licensing the "professionals".

    It seems all someone has to do is claim the are a pro. But under my definition that won't be enough.
    Last edited by fep; 02-07-2012 at 02:38 PM.

  20. #19

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    Quote Originally Posted by fep
    Right on Jonny, keep the dream alive.

    You seem fairly young, and owning a venue at your age, that's really impressive. I'm wondering if you can make a profit with just music, or do you need to sell drinks, food, etc.
    Thanks!

    The venue I own is a modern art gallery with a stage for live music (fits 30 listeners). We throw art/music events every month, weekly jams (folk/country night and modal jazz nights). There are 12 small art/music studios that locals rent to do their craft that pay the overhead. It basically breaks even financially, but I get to jam and teach every week- The lessons at $20 per 30 min is where I make a bit of profit. Managing the guitar store (across the street from the gallery) is my "day job"; buy, sell, trade gear, etc. Keeps me busy!

  21. #20

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    I've been a full-time professional for 45 years or so. Jazz occupies the majority of my gigs, but not to the exclusion of other forms that I enjoy, from Flamenco to classical to World music. Teaching was important some years ago, but I found that it took a lot of my creative and mental energy, so I stopped teaching and replaced it with arranging, producing and performing at Senior facilities and schools. CD sales make up part of my income as well, and I enjoy being the music director for vocalists, which involves arranging and leading the band or orchestra along with playing. It is a difficult lifestyle at times, and luck plays a big part. Also, I got in when a 6-night-a week schedule was standard, that's now a distant memory. My ability to sight-read in different styles was very valuable; being able to take a show for a few weeks often meant the difference between Ramen and real food. I have found that the style of music is less important than the level of fellow players. Background gigs are OK, concerts are better in most every way. Jazz is an anti-marketing term, however, and if you can find something else to call it, you'll get more gigs and better money.

  22. #21

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    I'm not sure how to characterize myself, semi-pro? There was I time when I made all of my money from playing gigs, I was working 5 nights a week with many different kinds of bands. Over the last few years I got more into teaching (for the money) and now I play 2 or 3 nights a week, almost always with one of my bands, teach 30ish private students a week, and teach theory at a private college here in Seattle. I do still play the occasional standards gig, but usually find them to be long, and not at all worth the money.

    The number of corporate/money/wedding gigs has gone down in recent years as well, although I am lucky enough to still get calls for those pretty often. (fingers crossed).

    I'm about to release my first record and start working as a band leader for the first time in my life in a month or two. I'll let you know how that goes. If I can sell these things and fill a few venues, I will consider myself pro, regardless of how much money I make. but of course, I already do consider myself pro..... because if I didn't I wouldn't have produced a record in the first place. right? i'm confused. what does "pro" mean again? and who's keeping track?


    oh yeah, one last thing.... I have never had a "real job" and am still debt free, live comfortably, and have free time. I think that qualifies me as "pro"..... but,.... my list of "who i've played with/studied with" does not include anyone who played with Miles, I didn't go to school in new york, I've never won any awards, and my high school jazz band sucked ass.
    Last edited by timscarey; 02-07-2012 at 05:58 PM.

  23. #22

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    Great post, Tim! you're kickin' ass, IMO.

  24. #23

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    In the world of jazz, it is a few elite that make a living from gigging. Most pro jazz musicians are more than happy if they can support themselves with anything music related- teaching, composing, recording, producing, etc.

    I get a kick out of guys that say they are pro, and still living under mom and dad's roof. Give them a wife and kid, and they're punching a clock somewhere like the rest of the world. No shame in feeding a wife and kid. Jazz probably won't do it.

  25. #24

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    Quote Originally Posted by cosmic gumbo
    In the world of jazz, it is a few elite that make a living from gigging. Most pro jazz musicians are more than happy if they can support themselves with anything music related- teaching, composing, recording, producing, etc.

    I get a kick out of guys that say they are pro, and still living under mom and dad's roof. Give them a wife and kid, and they're punching a clock somewhere like the rest of the world. No shame in feeding a wife and kid. Jazz probably won't do it.
    Living in destitute obscurity is not a prerequisite to qualify as a pro jazz guitar player. I don't care where someone lives, if they are functioning at a proficient level as a performing jazz guitar player, show up on time and sober, and remain sober throughout the gig, have a good professional appearance and on stage persona, have good functional dependable gear, can perform the charts that are thrown in front of them, can tolerate and adapt to the multi personalities of other band members, are adequately prepared to do what is expected of them by the leader . . . then they are pros. I don't care if they live in a basement of their local parish church and eat what the parishiners provide them and they earn nothing as an artist . . . . . They're pros! That's my opinion of professionalism.

  26. #25

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    So, for you, it's about having all the skills to function at a professional level? Then a fully trained grad out of Berklee is a pro. I get your definition, but I think we're looking at things more from a career/income perspective, otherwise, I'm a pro in about 9 different fields, using your description.
    Last edited by cosmic gumbo; 02-07-2012 at 08:21 PM.