Why I quit music as my main income stream

a musicians journey

through the mountains and the valleys

photo by Priscilla Du Preez

Music is no longer my main income stream and i love it

I've been playing music my whole life, I've been teaching music since I was 19 and up until 2017 I had only thought of music as my only career option. I would never have thought that I'd be writing about this topic today and had you told me two years ago that I'd be doing something completely different for a career, I'd tell you that you were crazy!

Why would you want to do something else you might ask. Many people think that my life is glamorous and easy going. This is just simply not the case

Financial security is one of the biggest issues that creatives face. Your work is infrequent and you will be negotiating your wage from gig to gig. You're always planning 5-10 steps ahead in order to keep work coming in. There's no off switch. If you don't continue planning, that money will run out.

The inconsistency of seasonal work is a regular part of a creative career. As a musician, you've got your tour schedule which if you're lucky and playing with different bands can take up 1-4 months of your year. You also have your smaller local gigs here and there. Finally, if you add teaching into the mix and you're lucky to get a few days worth of work you might be looking at a healthy calendar. However, now you've got to somehow make that all work out without having any conflicting schedules. One week you don't have a minute to yourself and the next week you're looking for more work. If you're touring and teaching, your touring schedule may suffer because you have to be back in your hometown for teaching and on the other hand, your teaching will be adversely affected because you're on tour. It's just hard to juggle everything that you need to do to keep that money coming in consistently.

Overall my mental health suffered. Juggling all of these things and still not knowing if my future was secure or if I'd be able to make it as a creative if I just honed my skill in enough just wrecked me mentally.

It can be harder than an office job and still pay significantly less. Many musicians play at weddings, pubs and clubs as one of their main income sources. Unless you've got some ultra cool niche thing only you guys are able to do, you're most likely going to be playing some music that you hate. I don't know anyone who can't wait for the next opportunity to play 'Wonderwall' for the 184th time this year. You're going to have to play it, let it kill your soul and and accept the measly fee that comes with it.

Teaching in a school or university isn't what its cracked up to be either. When you start, you soon find out that some students are capable and others are not. You will take on students from both camps and because you need the money, you will try your hardest to get the non capable students to succeed and you will fail. It will be disheartening and you will learn to numb yourself from this in order to keep paying the bills. You will put in more than you will get out.

I will still do gigs. Just not as my main income stream. I get to choose which gigs I want to play. If I'm saying yes to a gig, you know it's because I want to be there and not because of the money. When you're happy to be there, you're also going to bring a good vibe. For the musicians that are reading this, we've all had the experience of having to play with someone that could not wait to leave before you'd even started playing the first note.

I will still teach. I love to teach. How I teach will look different though. I will be able to choose my students more carefully and invest my time specifically into individuals that I feel I can help. I'll also be able to share my teaching online which will be able to help more people than I ever could 1 on 1.

There is so much more I could write here but I think I've painted a picture of how hard it can be to live this life. Since I've been working a 9-5 job, I am able to keep music as a passion. I'm finding myself excited to play music once again. I hadn't practised in over a year and I could hardly find the inspiration to go and create anything. I was just so jaded with how little creativity was allowed in my work. Doing something removed from my passion allows me to separate work and play so much more. Now having put that all to the side, I can have my passion back and I can be selfish and do it for my own pure enjoyment.

For the last decade, I've been in this industry and have done it all. I've toured the world, I've seen some of my students finish music university and so much more. I feel like I've accomplished so much but for now, I'm getting back to why I got into music in the first place and that for my own personal enjoyment.