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  1. #101

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    I tried being musician with a day job for some time. It's possible, but one needs a solid routine if having a day job, with minimum distractions during the evenings devoted to practising. Four hours of practising should be enough for any professional musician to keep a solid practise schedule. As a working musician, I do all kinds of stuff, arranging, all music styles, teaching, you name it, and I don't have time to do practising every day these days because of being out of school. I might have some hours but life in general takes place, even as a full time musician. One has to hustle gigs, prepare for lessons, and there's so many other things, cooking, chores, exercising etc. For me exercising is important. I don't have a chance to get a decent paying day job without a degree in another field, so for me it's really tough these days because of the pandemic. I worked like two weeks full time and got only 150 euros from a dead end job, being a booker who conveys customers to a insurance sales negotiator, so I quitted. I didn't have an hourly wage, only commission. I am next to being broke at the moment, and gigs are running low during these tough times. I hope I am able to get more students for next semester. I'll never give up, I know all this pandemic stuff is really messing up my mind in many ways. Well, my inner voice is telling me I should have studied something else. But I am stubborn enough to keep it up with being a full time musician.

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  3. #102

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    I started out very young as a guitar player in bands and studio....always just assumed it was my life.
    As a result of having lots of different guitars [I bought lots of stuff in the 70's , 80's, and 90's when I could get old Fender Strats for $150 etc.] I got into doing repairs and restoration instead of paying somebody else to do it. As the music gigs dwindled [thanks to the influx of "hobby players" and the internet] I found myself doing more work on other people's guitars so all of a sudden I had a new "Day Job". Of course due to all the virus stuff in the past months the work has dwindled down even further.
    Things are very bleak...... I guess my new day job is keeping a positive attitude!

  4. #103

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    Quote Originally Posted by rlrhett
    To the extent that university is preparing you for a career and is not just a place to park 18-22 years olds without having their parents shoot them, offering a degree in "jazz guitar" seems down right immoral.
    There's a lot of solid truth in your post, which is why I "liked" it even though I can't buy into the premise of this statement. The fact that a particular career is not lucrative does not make it invalid. Society needs people who choose to study music, art, archeology, astronomy, education and other less-well-compensated fields.

    And to address the OP's question, I played and taught guitar full-time at various points in my life, but I have had a Silicon Valley day gig for quite a while now. The myriad positive aspects of this choice have already been laid out quite well elsewhere in this thread. In an interesting switch, though, full-time music saved me from bankruptcy after the dotcom crash. At that time I played a house band gig three nights a week and taught 20 private students at two music stores. But it was not enough to quite cover all my expenses or to make me happy to deal with drunks in the band and on the dance floor indefinitely; when I got a call for a good consulting gig, I took it.

    Folks I know who were still full-timers before COVID would play in multiple bands, write a column, teach privately, perhaps teach adjunct at a college, do pit band gigs, generally hustle HARD for every penny, play the occasional shit cover gig with terrible musicians cuz the $ are there, endure financial instability, and ... more often than not have a partner who has a day gig that provides medical insurance. The others would wind up as the beneficiaries of fundraisers held by all the working musicians in the area when some medical catastrophe threatened to bankrupt them. And then there's Pat Martino... and Kenny Burrell...

    So, OP, please do go for it if you want to, and enjoy all the REALLY fun times that you can have ONLY as a gigging musician :-), but know that it will be a financial challenge and do try to put away some savings when you can. Creating some sort of social media revenue stream might be the best path towards steady music income that there is today.
    Last edited by starjasmine; 09-09-2020 at 01:26 AM.

  5. #104

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    Quote Originally Posted by BGulecki313
    I said in my original post, by "day job" I mean working a job that isn't music related during the day, like being a mortgage officer or working at a bank. Teaching lessons is technically a day job, but it's music related and that's what I'm going to school for.
    I was asking if anybody else pays the rent by just teaching lessons during the day and getting gigs at night.
    In that case I guess I haven't had a day job in 50 years. Being retired now and looking back, if I wasn't on the road I always did repairs on steel guitars, guitars, etc. worked in music stores and taught (steel guitar mostly) but also 6 string guitar. I also bought and sold an incredible amount of guitars, amps, and sound equipment.
    I have to give credit to the AFM for teaching me that music is a business and not just an art form. I've always had health insurance. Raised a family, bought a house, cars etc. It can be done.

  6. #105

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    I did it kind of! But I'm 63 and grew up in the age where gigs were ple tiful 6 nights a week. You could also make extra income teaching and doing jingles and show work if you could read.
    But those days are gone, and replaced with tracks, loops etc. The technology changed it and like Wal-Mart it put the musicians,arrangers,etc out of work.

    It really became the singers/ entertainers and tracks. Sure kids still play for beer and and friends. But with rent and housing costing so much,and gigs still paying anywhere from $50 to 125 if you're really lucky. Good luck surving!

  7. #106

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    i'm also 63 and there was never a time I could play jazz 6 nights a week and make a living. If I wanted to play casuals and society gigs and hotel gigs there was a period I made a living playing back in the late '70s and '80s but that was playing horrible music with mediocre players.

  8. #107

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    Quote Originally Posted by jzucker
    i'm also 63 and there was never a time I could play jazz 6 nights a week and make a living. If I wanted to play casuals and society gigs and hotel gigs there was a period I made a living playing back in the late '70s and '80s but that was playing horrible music with mediocre players.
    Yeah, we are similar in age and I should qualify that my full-time gigging days were more about sneaking jazz standards in at casuals and wedding gigs than playing jazz full time. I love rock, funk and soul, too, so I wasn't spending those gigs hating life. I loved (and still love) playing for its own sake, and getting $1k per man for a 3 hour wedding gig did not make me unhappy in the least. Generally, the bands that could snag that kind of dough were composed of excellent musicians, and if the musicianship is there, I'm not wishing I could play Autumn Leaves with bad players instead of playing the Chaka version of Tunisia with a rhythm section that kicks ass.

  9. #108

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    In my heyday I played 4 nights a week. Jazz. Much of it my own music. I always taught.

    Now I do it by teaching in prisons. During the pandemic I’m getting paid well to write curriculum for four different institutions. I have a studio where I rehearse my band, record and sometimes put out videos. I release albums. Now I gig once every couple of months.

    The key is to stay creative. Now more than ever. I help others with their projects. Practice. Stay motivated. I’m also part of a jazz collective. We’re planning some jazz streaming.


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    Last edited by henryrobinett; 10-14-2020 at 04:07 PM.

  10. #109
    I can relate. Im 66 years old and when I grew up 5 or 6 night a week gigs were common. Long gone ! One thing I that I have not seen mentioned was doing demos for song writers . There are vanity producers who trick gullible people and way overcharge them especially in major music cities. Some of my clients were not that talented but it was creative and helped pay the bills. One very frustrating thing about major music cities is that its hard to make a living with out traveling and if you are gone a lot nobody know you exist. Catch 22! To make money the last few years I have playing retirement homes and including Benny Goodman Charlie Christian songs with my boom box. Some classical and chord solo and some playing with recordings of what ever the people might like or requests. One market that has not been mentioned is special needs people and call it music therapy. Mental ill populations maybe blind. Sick children in hospitals. Even a lot of well known players are open to adding their parts at their home studios I see. Well known singers dont like to pay if they are not working so you meet and play with players who have these gigs sometimes and still drive a long way to play some jazz for very little money. Bringing some CDs to your gig can help increase your income. The man who wrote Classical Gas has been doing this type of work in recent years . The general business gigs hopefully should come back next year.

  11. #110

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    Yeah. I used to do a lot of transcription gigs. These were union gigs that you set up to go into schools or facilities to play. We did a teaching kids about jazz program. We did mostly elementary schools but also middle and high schools.

    I’ve never been gifted at hustling gigs. I was lucky that I played with hands where someone hustled and later when I formed my own band word of mouth traveled - I was known enough locally because of the bands I played in - that people called me. When they stopped calling I was stuck because I never learned how to hustle gigs! Still don’t. It’s tough when you are trying to keep a band going. Now I have an excuse!! lol.


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  12. #111

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    I am interested to follow this thread. Most of our forum members are hobbyist, I suspect, but there are some who have made a living at being musicians. I have never attempted it, preferring a degree of economic security that comes with having a full-time job with benefits.


    The need to hustle constantly was mentioned above. I have a friend who is a talented singer; she worked for an airline as a translator while she was getting her feet into singing; she is now a full-time professional musician, even during Covid. The last time I asked a few years ago, she was earning as much in music as she had been working for the airline. Her primary accompanist is her husband, who is an outstanding pianist. There are a number of things that she and I have talked about, the main one being that your success as a professional musician has more to do with what you do off stage then on stage: cultivating positive working relationships with other musicians, cultivating relationships with booking agents in clubs, casting a wider net for potential gigs. She has applied for and received a number of grants for specific projects. She has traveled to New York with some of those grants to research and record music by specific composers. In addition to her "home" clubs here, she has also extended out to be able to play in clubs in New York, Chicago, etc. and to develop a presence and name in those markets as well. She has put out CDs as well as digital music for sale, although I suspect this is a smallish percentage of her income. She also very carefully and attentively develops and maintains her relationships with her fanbase. With COVID-19 she has done some live streaming, although I have not talked to her to see how successful that was. This all takes a lot of discipline. She gets up in the morning and she is doing the business of being a musician. That often occupies the day, *not* including practicing, learning new songs, doing arrangements, etc. This is just getting gigs and revenue streams.

    just sitting at home and learning the modes of the harmonic minor scale in all 12 keys are not going to help someone make a living. Practicing your instrument is part of the onstage work, even though it's behind the scenes. Your success depends upon your offstage work. It is two full-time jobs.

  13. #112

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    Another hobbyist here, though with friends who've had major operatic carreers. I've had many long talks with them about what it takes, and what it is actually like, to make a living at it.

    And my mentor/boss in the music store 40 years ago was an old jazzer. It was hard enough back then, i can't imagine doing it now.

    Boss talked of playing the western half of the US traveling in jazz bands in the late 40's and early 50's. The guitar player was normally the least important person in the band.

    So if the club owners stiffed the band leader a bit on the last Saturday night of a gig, the guitarist was likely to wake up Sunday morning alone, with an unpaid hotel bill, and no band in sight.

    And no money. Yea, that was him several times.

    Then he met this "flashing-eyed West Texas filly" as he put it who wouldn't consider marriage to some stupid jazz guitarist. So he got a job in the LA aircraft manufacturing as a tech guy in cockpit wiring/layout/testing.

    Eventually ending up in Salem with a music store while his wife was the newspaper Society/Lifestyle editor.

    And many of our regular customers were chasing a living in music, this in the early/mid 70's just before disco destroyed the local club scene.

    To all you who make a living in music, I applaud you! Takes guts, incredible marketing work, diligence, and maybe general stubborn cussedness to stick it out.

    But thank you, we love hearing your work!

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  14. #113

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    Wait a second! Didn’t Wes Montgomery have a day job? Exactly. And you think you shouldn’t have one?

  15. #114

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    Quote Originally Posted by 2bornot2bop
    Wait a second! Didn’t Wes Montgomery have a day job? Exactly. And you think you shouldn’t have one?
    Wait a second, didnt Wes Montgomery died way too young? Exactly. Day jobs kill!

    Seriously though, he only did it because he had a big family, lots of kids, and he didnt do it forever. Soon as he got a record deal, he quit, as far as i remember.

    Also, never work a job just to pay the bills. If something else makes you (relatively) happy, then ok. But if it's music, do only music.

  16. #115

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    Should go and weld sheet metal to get by seeing as that’s what Wes did.

  17. #116

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    musicians of any genre what are the odds of making enough money to live on let alone retire on, slim to none...the folks I knew that had good day jobs retired between 50 to 60, then there's those like me that played clubs, honky tonk's and juke joints that are still working part time at 69...which one do you wanna be?

  18. #117

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    Wes only had a day job because he had a family to feed? Pretty good f****n' reason, I'd say.

  19. #118

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    I remember asking myself when I was a senior in high school this question: If I could have a great paying job pushing paper in an office cubicle at 50 verses still having to play $50 gigs at 50 to put food on my table, which would I choose? I’m well past 50 now but the answer is the same. I’ll take those $50 gigs if I can find them!

    That said I believe just about the only way to make it is to have at least five different income streams. At anyone given time some will be dormant.

    1. Live gigs. I still have them but not often. My own gigs or sideman. For me these are their own subdivisions.
    2. Private students. I have a few but I’m not promoting them at the moment
    3. Institution students - college and or prisons.
    4. Studio work - studio guitar session work.
    5. Producing or engineering, mixing, mastering other people’s projects.
    6. Selling my own albums. Tends to be more a promotional expense but it does create several income streams.

    I’m just saying that there are many ways to earning a living in music and in jazz. It takes as much creativity as playing bebop. But it rarely comes down to one thing. And the one thing we love the most sometimes has to play the supporting role. But the way I’ve designed it for myself EVERYTHING is music. Everything is jazz. Everything supports my ability to play. And playing well is important for me to do everything else. So i see it as a Henry jazz ecosystem.


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  20. #119

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    I spent many hours on the day job wondering why the hell am I here and not pursuing a career in music? Not wondering so often anymore these days, with the COVID and all....

    Heck, I am lacking the talent anyway...... :-(

  21. #120

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    If I had to guess, I would say that less than 1% of all musicians nationwide make a full-time living playing music. I played steady in the 60's/70's but when Disco/DJ's appeared in the 80's, the writing was on the wall. I got a full-time job and later, my own business, yet continued to play as a soloist part-time. I think the best opportunities are solo today but you must be a good salesman and businessman. Signed contracts, deposits are the soup du jour and a strict time schedule negotiated upfront. Since I usually play Classical Guitar, it's 45 play 15 off. So, a 2 hour gig is 1.5 hours play time--no exceptions unless they want to pay more. I only play upscale venues. Period.
    So, if you think you can buck the trend, get a day gig and go for your dream. However, the odds are heavily stacked against you and performance opportunities limited. Jazz is all but dead for performance opportunities as attested by many talented members here and elsewhere who cannot make a living playing live. . . unless you're in the 1 percent. Sad, but true. Play live . . . Marinero