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Playing with signed artist vs engineering job? Help.


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I've asked many people for advise about this but I need an opinion from someone's who's has to make a similar decision.

 

Basically this band I'm in just got signed with a pretty known indie label up here in Montreal, Canada. I studied computer engineering and am working at a full time pretty well paid job.

 

I'm having a huge life dilemma as I don't know whether I should gamble my steady job and do the musician's life.

 

This band is not really a "band", it's a solo artist who writes everything but has a backing band, so I have little creative input.

 

I'm just wondering if anyone's had to make this decision before. Realistically can you live off being a recording/touring musician without a day job?

 

The job I'm at now will not let me take a few months off to go on a tour, so I have to pick one or the other.

 

I do have a passion for music but this particular project is not my own and I'm trying to be realistic about life (having a steady income for a possible family in the future, etc).

 

I'm not a gambling man so it's hard for me to take the leap and sacrifice income and experience. I don't want to end up like Anvil :S.

 

Any words of wisdom will be greatly appreciated.

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If you're young, you aren't married, and haven't started a family yet - I'd say take the music gig.

 

You can sit at a desk later when you're old and not as pretty and need to make money to support a family.

 

But you can't do it the other way around.

 

Life is long. There's plenty of time for both careers, but if you're going to do music it has to be now.

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One thing you don't provide is your age, which is a relevant consideration. Another question - how satisfying is your current FT gig and employer?

 

Supporting yourself in the music business is not impossible. Eventually supporting a family in music is also not unheard of.

 

I think many of us on this forum would concur the odds are rarely in a musikero's favor. The corollary of that, of course, is nothing ventured nothing gained.

 

I don't know what the economy is like in Montreal, but the job market here in the California Bay Area is very bad. Those with full-time jobs are far more thankful for their lot in life than they might have been a few years ago. The particular music venture you're talking about seems finite and closed-ended - not your gig, not your project, etc. Will it provide enough networking and connections for the next gig when this solo artist moves on?

 

I'm by nature not a risk-taker either, and it has served me very, very well in enjoying a far more lucrative career than I deserve. Given the scenario you briefly sketched I'd keep the day job, but that's just one man's opinion.

..
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I have never been in that situation. So PLEASE Think it through before you listen to me ... an old fool.

 

In my 53 yrs of which I have played part time or full time for over 45 yrs I can look back on some things. I wish, when I was in my early 20's I had stayed with music full time. I was making $8000- $12,000 a year back in the early 1970's which would be over $30,000 in todays money. I gave it up and now often wonder how good I could have been if I had followed my passion? What opportunities would have come my way?

 

I was NOT an engineer nor did I go to College so I didn't have a lot of options and went into sales.

 

Long story short, I am now a full time musician and a part time massage therapist. I am likely to old to hook a real touring job, but I would take it if it popped up.

 

just a rant from an old fart.

Jimmy

 

Those are my principles, and if you don't like them... well, I have others. Groucho

NEW BAND CHECK THEM OUT

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Let another old guy weigh in. I graduated from college in 1972 and by then was in no danger of being drafted. I had always thought that I wanted to be a lawyer but was rethinking it when I had the chance to go on the road with an unsigned but touring band. As noted above, one could make money doing that back then. For the next two years I worked clubs, did sessions, and even wrote jingles. It changed my life. I went back to school, this time in mass media and turned it into graduate degrees and a teaching career that has lasted 30 years and I got to stay around my love of sound and music. If you don't take chances when you are young, you will never take chances. No one I know these days much regrets the things they tried, only the things they didn't try. Besides I don't think the future is that bleak for computer engineers even if you have to go back to that line after a while. Go for it.
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As previous responders have stated, without knowing more information about your current situation makes it difficult to give you advice, but I'll say this; unless your name is on the contract, you've got absolutely zero leverage to keep your position in the band. If the record label decides they want to do a wholesale change of the lineup that is supporting *their* artist, there's nothing that you can do about it.

 

...and loyalty is the first thing that goes out the window when contracts with record labels start showing up.

 

Sorry if that sounds a tad jaded, but it's experience talking here. Canadian major label experience, for what it's worth. ;)

 

Now, that being said, there's no guarantees in anything in life, and you can be sure that jobs in your 'day gig' field will be around when/if you need to come back to the 'real' world. ;) If the rest of your responsibilities are few, I would say to absolutely pursue this opportunity, but look at it as a gateway to the 'inner circle' of the industry. That is, use it to network with other players in that area, as they will be your go-to resources when/if the current gig goes away, or when you're on hiatus between albums.

 

In your current situation, you are a 'hired gun', and you need to have that mentality to ensure that the money keeps coming in 365 days of the year.

 

Good luck!

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Do you enjoy the music?

 

Are you or will you be salaried as the back-up musician, or are the musicians taking the risk without any of the payoff possibly due the artist?

 

Do you write your own music now?

 

How long of a commitment is asked, and what is offered in return?

 

Is it just show=$x, or are there incentives, benefits?

 

Is there touring involved, or is that something down the road, where you can still work for now?

 

Regardless of the answers, one thing is certain: it will be a long time before you see any money (profit). Any stipend for living, all touring expenses, recording expenses, etc., will be charged against your (the artists) future earnings with interest of course. You can go bankrupt before your deal is over, or you get dropped.

 

On the other hand, if you are to be a hired gun, and all parties understand this, and you are salaried, even if its a paycut from what you enjoy now (likely), you will have lots of opportunity right now that may never present itself to you again, whether just touring, or networking and meeting other musicians and artists who can use your services in the future. If you do write your own music now, this can be a springboard for your own career and you can learn by watching.

 

The reality is this: most musicians, even those at the top tiers, dont live like Ludacris, they live more like Ed Begley, Jr.: they pay too much for their home, which would be pennies on the dollar they pay now if they lived anywhere but Hollywood and Manhattan, but they live a comfortable life and do what they love.

 

If you are dependent-free at this point in your life, this is the time to take the opportunity and max the potential on it; once you are married/have kids, your responsibilities tend to outweigh your options.

 

GOOD LUCK and let us know what you decide.

T

 

Hitting "Play" does NOT constitute live performance. -Me.
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Do the math.

Look at the contract.

Examine your personal risk tolerance.

 

Your day job pays X, plus whatever benefits. You come home after putting in your 8 and you have a life. You might even have a retirement account, health care, and other benefits.

 

How much does the music gig pay? You go to the music gig, you go on tour so you are basically working 24/7, because you are NOT home, and you won't have much of what most people consider 'a life'. I always insisted that a road gig needed to pay me as if I was working 24/7.

 

How long is your work guaranteed? The bitch about working for a solo artist is that he doesn't care about you. Even when he says he does. And as soon as he gets even minimal exposure, there will be some entrenched keyboard player that everybody knows, who has a personal relationship with the manager, agent, or label, who is waiting to take your gig once the money is right. And the artist gets stars in his eyes, having this guy on his team.

 

I've spent my entire life in the entertainment industry, since junior high school. I never seriously considered doing anything else. And now I'm about to retire, and I can tell you that it will be a modest retirement, funded by my deciding, in my 40s, that I needed to get a job with a retirement program. So an entire lifetime of playing, writing, singing, engineering, producing, etc brought me a lot of money and had I been smarter about how I spent it, my retirement would be glorious. But I was a young wastrel, doing all the wrong things. And I lost a boatload in the stock market twice, trying to catch up in a hurry.

 

But in order to have a secure retirement, even though I owned a studio and was still in demand as a player and engineer, I took a union theater gig. I worked a lot harder in the last few years than I wanted to, splitting my time among too many gigs. And I see my friends who took straight jobs right out of college living good lives with nice homes and newer cars and big retirement accounts etc etc.

 

Long term I've had a fantastic time, and done things and seen things that many people can't even imagine. And I'm fine with that, and with the modest lifestyle that confronts me now. It was a choice that I made, not really understanding the choices, but my life... bachelor into my 50s, no kids, no long term commitments, ready to roll at a moments notice... that is not for everyone.

 

I also know that the industry is not paying what it once did, nowhere near; and the little bit of loyalty that used to exist is totally gone. So you'll make less than I did even though expenses are higher, and your chances of moving on will be fewer.

 

Looking at todays situation, I would not opt for a career in music. Music should be fun. Playing is, but the rest of it is a life-sucking, heart-crushing grind. I'm very glad to be getting out now, rather than trying to get in.

 

 

"I believe that entertainment can aspire to be art, and can become art, but if you set out to make art you're an idiot."

 

Steve Martin

 

Show business: we're all here because we're not all there.

 

 

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I'm trying to be supportive to you as a musician, but the long and short is: the band thing is not about you, it's about the lead guy. For you there is no security, no royalties, and no reason why he wouldn't drop the backing band in a minute given the choice.

 

I've been single for 10 years, my kids are grown and gone, I have money put away from my working life, and the planets aligned for me to take a 9 month LOA from my long-standing career five years ago - and never went back.

 

I'm not depending on anyone (other than my agent) to keep me employed. It's my gig. I do get out on tour with other artists every so often - but these aren't steady or predictable and you need to be in the loop and be very flexible.

 

I am making a living as a musician - although I relocated to a major city where that became possible. There was an incredible leap of faith, hard logistical work and good timing involved. You need a lot of courage to make it happen for yourself and you have to ask yourself beyond this initial opportunity what you are willing to do next.

 

Tough decision alright. My advice would be to consider the next gig, not this one... in other words, Plan B. If you're comfortable with Plan B, then go ahead and do Plan A.

 

 

 

____________________________________
Rod

victoria bc

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If you go the touring route, is it possible to do some consulting on the side? I don't know the specifics of what you do, but you can type code anywhere. If for instance you were working on a web application or corporate intranet with VPN access, you could do that from your hotel room in whatever town you're in.

 

Even if jobs were small and few and far between, that would at least keep experience on your resume during your touring - so that if the music thing falls through, you at least have recent experience in your other career field.

Dan

 

Acoustic/Electric stringed instruments ranging from 4 to 230 strings, hammered, picked, fingered, slapped, and plucked. Analog and Digital Electronic instruments, reeds, and throat/mouth.

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Great advice above.

 

Generally, I'd say do it, aware of the caveats others have mentioned. Let me give you my perspective.

 

I graduated college with a degree in mechanical engineering, and I got what I thought was my dream job at GM. I was single, and knew very few people in the town where I worked. This allowed me to do things at work I would have been very reluctant to do later. I was able to work late, work weekends, and take work trips that were weeks long. If the job had continued to be like that, I would have done it for a long time. (It didn't, I lost interest and thus motivation to do more than the basic amount of work and time required.)

 

This is not unlike being young and going on the road as a musician. When you don't have the commitments at home, personally nor financially, it gives you freedom you don't have later.

 

I was playing music back then, but not very well. Skip ahead to a year or so ago, and I was finally able to take the plunge to do music full time. However, I'm much older and set in my ways now, and I have a wife who I like to spend a lot of time with. So while I may be willing to travel some to gig, it's not as much as 15 - 20 years ago when I was completely "free." I often wonder what my life would be like had I been able to pursue music back then.

 

Good luck, and keep us posted.

"I'm so crazy, I don't know this is impossible! Hoo hoo!" - Daffy Duck

 

"The good news is that once you start piano you never have to worry about getting laid again. More time to practice!" - MOI

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I don't look at being a pro musician as a job, I consider it a calling. I don't want to do music for a living, I have to.

 

Honestly, at times I wish I didnt have the calling. I'm a smart fella and could make way more doing something else. But I have it and that's that. I don't have kids and have never owned a home (I'm 45) and never will. Being a musician is a life style choice.

 

If you don't have the calling, run like hell. :laugh: There are lots of good musicians with day jobs. If you think, err, KNOW you have the calling, get on board and enjoy the ride. It gets mighty bumpy at times, I wouldnt trade it for anything. :rawk:

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indie label

 

This band is not really a "band", it's a solo artist who writes everything but has a backing band, so I have little creative input.

 

Man, be serious. This is a shit sandwich for you.

 

 

It's certainly inconclusive, that's for sure. Being "signed" doest mean much in the grand scheme of life.

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My first reaction (which isn't necessarily wrong) is to go do the music thing. What's the worst thing that could happen? It lasts a few months and either fizzles or you are replaced. Your education doesn't disappear with it...you can always go get another job; might take a little longer than normal in today's world economy, but you would eventually get a job assuming you're good at what you do.

 

But, at the same time, I'm a practical sort, so part of me says to keep your job and play music on the side...easier to do it that way than to do music full time (with touring) and do a day-type job on the side.

 

If you've got no dependents and no ties to a specific area (so that you are free to look for work elsewhere if the music thing is a bust) and you don't need a ton of money, then why not give the music thing a try? There are no guarantees in life no matter what you chose. Sven Golly had some good advice...I'd revisit that before deciding.

 

You've been given pros and cons on this thread. Just got to weigh them and decide what's best for you.

Steve (Stevie Ray)

"Do the chickens have large talons?"

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Huge variety of opinions here, which proves that every individual and every situation/opportunity is different.

 

DON'T THINK FOR ONE SECOND THAT ANY FULL-TIME MUSICIAN MAKES A LIVING WITH ONLY ONE GIG. Unless you're an established artist who gets royalties from songwriting credits, a recording contract and a following that allows you to tour regularly, you're going to have to pick up as many gigs as you can. Of course, we all have our main, steady gig backing up an artist or being part of a tribute band or wedding/coroporate events band. But even the busiest of artists or bands take breaks from touring. There's no REAL money in loyalty to one band. You have to freelance and do as much as you can. You also need a good list of subs for conflicting dates.

 

I live in Montreal. I've backed up major label artists, indie label artists (probably same label as you), played in countless cover bands, wedding/corporate, tributes, galas, cabarets, etc. And it's still what I do. If I want to earn a living, I have to keep the hustle. I also hate having down time. So the more gigs, the happier I am, financially and psychologically.

 

Bottom Line: If you're going to make the jump, now's the time. Opportunities like this don't present themselves everyday. You have to ask yourself if you would be happy being a full-time musician. Do you like being on the road? Would you live a more modest lifestyle in exchange for living off of your passion? That is, if music is your true passion.

 

If you do make the jump, don't count only on this artist. When a record label gets involved, they often change members of the band. It's happened a few times with me, and most other musos I know. Branch out, meet other full-time musos, get their emails, phone numbers. Go see them play, invite them to your gigs, go to jam sessions. If you want gigs, the Montreal musician network has to know you exist and what you're capable of.

 

Just keep in mind, there will always be jobs available for computer engineers if ever you need to go back. You could always pick up a part-time job while doing your gigs. There are plenty of musicians in Montreal who make a decent living as full-time musos. I'm only one of them. I could also tell you that if you're a keyboard player equipped with good gear, have good chops, could read music, versatile in a few genres (rock, pop, jazz, latin, etc.) and get your name out there, you could be VERY busy. There's a huge lack of good keyboard players in this area. The ones that I know who fit the above criteria are constantly gigging.

Ian Benhamou

Keyboards/Guitar/Vocals

 

[url:https://www.facebook.com/OfficialTheMusicalBox/]The Musical Box[/url]

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I'm an Electrical Engineer by trade (for the past 24 years). Look at the income you'll make with your engineering career over the next 25 years, vs. what you might expect to make as a hard-working muso. You may find a staggering delta.

 

I chose engineering as my primary job back tehn because I knew it would allow me to play when I want, where I want, and with who I want. I can purchase most gear that I want, and always know where the next meal is coming from.

 

Just my $0.02.

 

Paul

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No one I know these days much regrets the things they tried, only the things they didn't try.

 

Lotta truth in that. I went the other way, leaving music to go into engineering and I sometimes wish I had tried harder for the brass ring in my youth - that was in the 1970's though. If you really want to do it, despite the fact that you will be just a sideman to the 'signed artist', I'd try running it by your employer again. Pitch it as a sabbatical to satisfy a lifelong desire for a finite period of time, after which you'll return to engineering fresh and recharged. If they don't buy in, they're probably not going to turn into the sort of company where you'd want to spend your entire career anyway. Touring pro musician might even be an asset on your C.V. to the right sort of company. I was once offered a job at Walt Disney Imagineering. The guy I interviewed with had a Kurzweil synthesizer in his office and said that one thing that made my resume stand out from the herd was my musical background. It's a big old world and you just never know what's gonna pop up.

Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.

-Mark Twain

 

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If making money is secondary to your passion for music and with little or no responsibilities, pursue the full-time gig.

 

OTOH, as a non-risk taker, find a way to balance your passion for music and career.

 

Try to work out an arrangement with the band that allows your participation when you can get away from the job.

 

Otherwise, focus on behind the scenes work i.e. songwriting, composition, recording, etc.

 

As mentioned, unless your band becomes extremely successful, it will take several outlets to make a decent living as a muso anyway. :cool:

PD

 

"The greatest thing you'll ever learn, is just to love and be loved in return."--E. Ahbez "Nature Boy"

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Remember when being "signed" used to mean something? :D

 

So, what advantages do you believe you'll get form being on this "label" act? What kind of contract have they presented to you? Any guarantee that they won't drop you off the tour in the middle of Davenport, Iowa? Will you be entitled to performance royalties from album sales? What's your touring fee? Is there an advance from the label? What kind of marketing do they promise to put behind the album?

 

If you don't immediately know the answers to these questions, it's time to do some homework before making any decisions.

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Who's to say you have to give up your job because you are now an "indie artist"? Find out what's entailed. Look, you're not going to be touring during the holiday season are you? (Not to sound completely ignorant, but Christmas/Kwansa/Hanukkah/etc are celebrated in Canada, right?)

 

Touring will take place generally in larger cities and college towns. So realistically, unless you get hooked up with some tour behind a bigger act, it will be business as usual for a while, at least until mid-January when kids are back in school. And if the label isn't throwing money at you to get out there, the economic realities of getting in the van and gassing up will set in, and you'll find not much has changed, if anything; I'll bet the distribution of your artist's discs won't change that much either.

 

Breathe, take a nap or a Xanax, quit sweating it. You may find you're getting all worked up needlessly, and that you can still be in that band, and keep your standard of living/job...at least for a while.

 

God knows it didn't change for me for 5 years; when it changed it was because I needed to upgrade my salary by getting a job with benefits. :thu:

 

I've gotten 5 pay raises since then, my guys are making less. I have insurance (and a wife and children, and a house); one lives at his girlfriend's, another lives at his girlfriend's in another state, and one is getting his second divorce.

Hitting "Play" does NOT constitute live performance. -Me.
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"Any guarantee that they won't drop you off the tour in the middle of Davenport, Iowa? "

 

I joined a tour in Paduca Ky because of similar circumstances. Next stop? Birmingham Iowa.

"I believe that entertainment can aspire to be art, and can become art, but if you set out to make art you're an idiot."

 

Steve Martin

 

Show business: we're all here because we're not all there.

 

 

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Remember when being "signed" used to mean something? :D

 

So, what advantages do you believe you'll get form being on this "label" act? What kind of contract have they presented to you? Any guarantee that they won't drop you off the tour in the middle of Davenport, Iowa? Will you be entitled to performance royalties from album sales? What's your touring fee? Is there an advance from the label? What kind of marketing do they promise to put behind the album?

 

If you don't immediately know the answers to these questions, it's time to do some homework before making any decisions.

 

Best answer yet.

 

"Independent" labels are a dime a dozen.

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" No one I know these days much regrets the things they tried, only the things they didn't try. "

 

The problem with that is that it is true no matter what you do. If you choose A. you'll always wonder about B. If you choose B, you'll wonder about A. Pick the blue pill, or the red pill, Neo.

"I believe that entertainment can aspire to be art, and can become art, but if you set out to make art you're an idiot."

 

Steve Martin

 

Show business: we're all here because we're not all there.

 

 

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IMHO if you enjoy playing music so much that you CAN'T quit playing music, go for the music. But DO NOT rely on the artist you play with (or any other artist for that matter). He might do it or not. He might follow his manager's advice or not. You can't rely on his (or his manager's) career moves. You got to go to music and be prepared that you'll change artist you play with many times in your musical life. Follow the musical path only if you want to play music, but don't count too much on others. Again, if you feel that music is "uncertain", you're right. This is pretty much the truth. But if you're young, unmarried and without any loans, you can go down the music path and save a day job for the future

yannis

Be grateful for what you've got - a Nord, a laptop and two hands
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I've played music fulltime for most of my life and now find myself in a dayjob. I miss having the freedom I used to but now that I'm in my 50's I think more about retirement and security than I used to.

 

But times are different now than they were when I lived a musician's life. I am pessimistic about the economy - period. There seems to be fewer gig opportunities and more people willing to work for nothing to get them. It's hard to jump into the job market with a resume that says you were a musician for the last 20 years unless you want to teach music or be a church worship leader. And living off a musician's income is not easy - banks loathe you, taxes haunt you. A musician is always at the mercy of their market and their fellow musicians with no safety net.

 

I have friends in name bands today who say they have all but given up on selling cd's or chasing a record deal because internet downloading has killed that market. They live off their performances which means they are on the road for life, and that's not as much fun as it sounds.

 

But I loved playing music for a living when I did and the truth is, that's what I intend to do when I get old enough to collect social security... right along with my jurassic rocker buddies (no need to raise any hands - we know who you are) :).

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