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Does a music career make you feel stuck?

Marion 26 Mar 03 - 04:43 PM
alanabit 27 Mar 03 - 03:05 AM
Deni-C 27 Mar 03 - 03:19 AM
alanabit 27 Mar 03 - 03:23 AM
GUEST,Pat Cooksey. 27 Mar 03 - 06:00 AM
wilco 27 Mar 03 - 08:47 AM
pattyClink 27 Mar 03 - 09:48 AM
Mark Ross 27 Mar 03 - 04:07 PM
GUEST,Jack. 27 Mar 03 - 06:03 PM
Deckman 28 Mar 03 - 03:55 AM
treewind 28 Mar 03 - 04:26 AM
alanabit 28 Mar 03 - 06:14 AM
Deni-C 28 Mar 03 - 08:25 AM
Rick Fielding 28 Mar 03 - 10:24 AM
GUEST,Eliza C 28 Mar 03 - 10:39 AM
Art Thieme 28 Mar 03 - 10:46 AM
Marion 01 Apr 03 - 12:28 PM
Rick Fielding 01 Apr 03 - 11:07 PM
GUEST,.gargoyle 01 Apr 03 - 11:36 PM
Seamus Kennedy 01 Apr 03 - 11:42 PM
GUEST 01 Apr 03 - 11:55 PM
Mooh 02 Apr 03 - 10:15 AM
Fay 02 Apr 03 - 10:38 AM
GUEST,Marion 04 Apr 03 - 01:14 PM
Thomas the Rhymer 04 Apr 03 - 03:54 PM
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Subject: Does a music career make you feel stuck?
From: Marion
Date: 26 Mar 03 - 04:43 PM

Hello all. Here's something that's been troubling me about the music career path I've recently started on. And I think my
complaint is inherently part of the business, not a reflection of how it's going for me (which is quite according to my hopes).

A music career seems very cumulative - you build up a reputation and a network of contacts as you go along, that are very
important to continuing to find work. Related to this is the model of "paying your dues" in the early years than having it pay off
later.

The problem that I see is that this makes it difficult to move geographically, or to do something else for a while and then come
back to music - because it would mean losing your reputation and network and starting again from square one.

I like to move to new places, and I like to change jobs every year or so, and I've always done jobs that were easily picked
up and dropped so it wasn't an issue. But now I'm worried that if I spend a year or two making a go of it as a freelance
musician, I'll feel like I can't move town or take a year off or my dues-paying would be wasted. (I realize that I would still
have the business skills and performance skills I'm developing if I started again later.)

I feel too young to be tied down to a career, even if it is a cool career; and I certainly don't want to spend the rest of my life
stuck in Toronto.

Pardon the rambling - what I want to know is, do any of you have success stories about dropping or moving away from a
music career then starting again? Or, do any of you musicians secretly want to move to a different country, or take a long
sabbatical, but feel that you can't because it would be too much of a professional setback?

Thanks for your thoughts, Marion


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Subject: RE: Does a music career make you feel stuck?
From: alanabit
Date: 27 Mar 03 - 03:05 AM

As you are obviously already aware, making a living from music is essentially a management skill. You have made this clear in your other posts.
If you go somewhere else, you want to be set up and properly equipped from day one. Nowadays, that means you need your internet/phone answering, post box to be there. You also need PA and transport, demos and info material for agents and contacts. It is about contacts. You won't usually get through an agent's door - let alone a record company's - if you do not have the contacts. You also need to start getting on local radio (not quite so difficult) as soon as possible.
It has often struck me that one of the biggest differences between a European musician and one from your continent is the sheer difference in logistics. If you are prepared to sleep in pig sties and spend the first few months doing Irish Pubs and the like, you can work from day one over here (using house PAs in the IPs and travelling by train). It is not a good long term plan, but the distances here are that much shorter. There are at least a dozen towns with a population of over a quarter of a million within a couple of hours drive of Cologne, for instance. Most of them have IPs and you can gradually work your way into better paid private gigs.
You are Canadian and (I believe) your first language is English. This language travels well. You may very well have fluent French, which is no disadvantage - and even the awareness of another language is an enormous help in learning new ones.
With the right contacts, you could probably get work in Japan and South East Asia. If you have some Spanish, that language travels well and it would open up South America and many of the tourists resorts in Southern Europe.
It is about being organised (which I am not!). As long as you are single, you can simply choose to go to Switzerland and do a month or two in a ski hotel. If you are up for it you will do it. I often wish I could get into a VW bus and simply disappear off to Austria, Switzerland and Italy for a few weeks again - without having to clear things with anyone and paying bills by the post.
Look forward to chatting about it when you get here. I think that Pat Cooksey in Nürnberg knows what he is doing too. I should pick his brains when you are here too. Good luck.


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Subject: RE: Does a music career make you feel stuck?
From: Deni-C
Date: 27 Mar 03 - 03:19 AM

Very interesting thread, this.....

What's an IP?

Thanks deni


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Subject: RE: Does a music career make you feel stuck?
From: alanabit
Date: 27 Mar 03 - 03:23 AM

Irish Pub.


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Subject: RE: Does a music career make you feel stuck?
From: GUEST,Pat Cooksey.
Date: 27 Mar 03 - 06:00 AM

As one who has made a living from music for 30 years I think my best
advice would be, do what your happy doing, if it doesn't feel right
don't do it.
As for travelling about, I have just returned from Coventry in
England, where I hadn't played for 10 years, I only intended to
do one gig and ended up doing six, the same happened when I was
in Ireland last September.
Allways look forward and if you leave something good behind it
will be there when you get back.
The story of my brief flirtation with the world of labour is still
well known in Coventry, I started as a builders labourer on the
Coventry City Football ground in the early seventies, on the first
morning I was given a hod to supply a large Irish bricklayer one
floor higher, after escorting one brick to him I was advised that
the hod in fact held twelve bricks, surely you jest, I remarked
to the foreman, and he, seing the humour of the situation, put
me on teamaking for the rest of the day, I then resigned.
Marion, got your PM, I'll write today and we'll meet when your
in Nurnberg.

All the best.

Pat.


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Subject: RE: Does a music career make you feel stuck?
From: wilco
Date: 27 Mar 03 - 08:47 AM

Marion:
   In every profession, the mobility of your skills is a big issue; some don't transfer as well as others, due to language, licensing or credentialing issues, distance, etc. I've changed professions several times, and hope I have a few more to go. My experience has been to get
organized and a "business plan" to market your skills. Keep us posted!
Best of luck!!!


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Subject: RE: Does a music career make you feel stuck?
From: pattyClink
Date: 27 Mar 03 - 09:48 AM

The world is full of musicians who long to not have to travel. Sounds like you have the urge to. WHy not "hit the road" for a few years?


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Subject: RE: Does a music career make you feel stuck?
From: Mark Ross
Date: 27 Mar 03 - 04:07 PM

You call this a living?

Mark Ross


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Subject: RE: Does a music career make you feel stuck?
From: GUEST,Jack.
Date: 27 Mar 03 - 06:03 PM

Depends on what you call a living Mark, sounds great to me.


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Subject: RE: Does a music career make you feel stuck?
From: Deckman
Date: 28 Mar 03 - 03:55 AM

Hi Marion, I read your letter a couple of times and something struck me. I think your question has little to do with a "music" career. You could substitute another word, such as "teacher" or "pilot" and the question remains the same. Hmmm? CHEERS, Bob


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Subject: RE: Does a music career make you feel stuck?
From: treewind
Date: 28 Mar 03 - 04:26 AM

My grade VIII cello examiner asked if I wanted to be a professional musician, I said I wan't intending to and he suggested "you'd rather be a good amateur than a mediocre professional?"

Pat's right about doing what you're happy doing, but when I was at school and faced with the remote possibility of a career in music I could see even then that once you did music for a living it wouldn't be (so much) fun anymore. As I had potentially lucrative interests in sciences that developed into a career (of sorts) in engineering and now software, that was the path I chose.

My job doesn't pay the best in my field, but I love what I do and it's only a four day (as in thirty hour) week. For a folkie that wants to get around and play music it's ideal.

Anahata


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Subject: RE: Does a music career make you feel stuck?
From: alanabit
Date: 28 Mar 03 - 06:14 AM

I can't argue with that treewind, but I think we are talking about different worlds here. To get into even a mediocre orchestra, you would have to be a very accomplished cellist by most amatuer standards. The folk music/busking world which Marion is operating in is a little different. It is an advantage rather than a prerequisite to be a very accomplished musician or singer. Nobody goes to a Cyril Tawney concert to hear hot licks on the guitar, yet few punters come away disappointed. Being a good folk singer is actually an amalgamation of several different skills if you want to make a living from it.


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Subject: RE: Does a music career make you feel stuck?
From: Deni-C
Date: 28 Mar 03 - 08:25 AM

I agree. alanabit. Those punters. Keep 'em happy, it's the only way in the end.

Nough said...


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Subject: RE: Does a music career make you feel stuck?
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 28 Mar 03 - 10:24 AM

Hi Marion. GREAT question....in fact the BEST question I've seen here in a while.

MOst of the folks that I've known who've locked themselves into one area have done it because of family responsibilties, rather than "establishing a base or a network".

Music does NOT pay well, unless you're very well established in the mainstream. And......it's paying less every day.

For many years I made visits to Hospitals, Schools, Old folks' Homes etc. I made union scale, which in today's dollars would have been between 200 and 300 bucks per show. Not "adult" money,(cuz it wasn't consistent) but for a musician, enough to live on when it was added to the money you'd make from clubs, occasional coffee house and folk gigs (in those days (late 60s. '70s and 80s'), playing commercially was the 'kiss of death' as far as being hired for folk venues)

Today, virtually ALL venues are 'price negotiable', which basically means you're gonna make WAYYYYYYY less than a few years ago. In Toronto the RULE now for experienced Jazz, Blues and Rock players, is SEVENTY FIVE BUCKS A NIGHT! That is HALF of what it was, when I decided to get out of the bars and concentrate on teaching. This comes from my best friend (mentioned many times in Mudcat) who has won numerous awards and is possibly the finest guitarist I've ever seen. Wanna drop down to the Rex and see veteran musicians playing world class JAZZ? Be aware that the whole band is makin' is makin' 300 bucks....ughhhh.

So it boils down to "are you inventive"? "Can you think 'out of the box"? "Are you smart enough to keep ahead of the crowd"? If you are, then you can work ANYWHERE. At decent money.

Don't forget that it costs a lot to live in Toronto, or New York or London etc. So if you wanna stay in some beautiful rural area for a year or so.....you can cut your teaching rate in half and do BETTER than you might in a Metropolis. There are ALWAYS folks who want/need music in their lives, wherever you go. "Guitar Teacher" (with fiddle, mandolin and banjo) may not be as much of a financial 'lock' as undertaker.....but it's close.

When I lived (for a short time) in Amsterdam, I'd go out everyday and plunk myself on a park bench. Pull out the banjo, put a smile on my face, and sing, play, and try and talk to folks. Payed for a lot of trips that way.

Cheers

Rick


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Subject: RE: Does a music career make you feel stuck?
From: GUEST,Eliza C
Date: 28 Mar 03 - 10:39 AM

Marion,
It depends on what kind of music career you want to get going. If you merely want to work in and around Toronto, then yes you would have a problem moving about, but if you want to tour, I'm afraid the only thing you will be restricted from doing is being at home. I have been on the road for fourteen years now and I have lived loads of places, and found that it really doesn't matter where you live as you rarely see it!
As a session musician you would also have to travel, and the best thing to do would be to build up a CV of sessions you have done, get a website, people will get in touch if you're good. I don't see any barrier to moving about there either.
If you wanted to leave music for a couple of years your profile would go down a little, but if you have a catalogue that is out there and available it will never quite go away. You can keep chasing and chasing the "momentum", wear yourself out: what's the point in that?
Good luck anyway. Canada and America are huge places to work in, so hard to get your head above the crowd. Plenty of tasty road though!
cheers,
ec


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Subject: RE: Does a music career make you feel stuck?
From: Art Thieme
Date: 28 Mar 03 - 10:46 AM

Not stuck, just frustrated on occasion. To para phrase Daniel Boone when asked if he'd ever been lost in the woods during his long wanderings, Daniel said, "No, I never was lost. Once I was mighty befuddled for a week or so."

I rarely felt stuck because I liked where I was. I played at Chicago's No Exit Coffeehouse for 37 years because I felt like I'd returned home every time I walked through the door. Did other stuff too, and made living somehow---a battle that goes on to this very day!!! As Buck White once said to me, "Art, I never had less or enjoyed it more."
Some buy in to the money and fame chase. Others like the adventure of the long old road plus the hunt for songs --- the reall thing --- that are the folksongs of the places they wander in.

If you buy the cheap seats at the concerts, you still get to hear all the music. The Beatniks of my youth gave me that philosophy and outlook. I've always appreciated it. The journey is the Grail, and you've always had it clutched in your own two hands.

Art Thieme


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Subject: RE: Does a music career make you feel stuck?
From: Marion
Date: 01 Apr 03 - 12:28 PM

Thanks for your responses.

Deckman said, " I think your question has little to do with a "music" career. You could substitute another word, such as "teacher" or "pilot" and the question remains the same.

It's true that committing to any career makes mobility more difficult though not impossible (as would a girlfriend, a baby, a cat, or miscellaneous other things I want but don't want). But it's my impression that a music career is much more dependent on local reputation and contacts than most other careers.

I'm not really asking about touring, as some of you have suggested; I doubt that I'd enjoy much touring unless I were in a band and the band was full of people I really liked. I like moving, not travelling. What I'm wondering about is the feasibility of going off to work for the Franciscans for a year then coming back to what I'm doing now, or deciding to be a local musician in Vancouver rather than a local musician in Toronto - that kind of mobility.

Rick, I think you'd better send your little $75-a-night jazz friends to me for career counselling - I'm averaging better than that an hour.


Marion


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Subject: RE: Does a music career make you feel stuck?
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 01 Apr 03 - 11:07 PM

Hmmmm, I hope they don't read Mudcat...I'm being far too candid at times on this forum......but truthful.

Cheers

Rick


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Subject: RE: Does a music career make you feel stuck?
From: GUEST,.gargoyle
Date: 01 Apr 03 - 11:36 PM

Marion - with your gentetic pre-disposition to security, cacooning, and homei-ness....

You are already hopelessly, STUCK....be content where you are....no matter what you do...you will always question "Did I do the right thing?

Of ALL the careers you could select MUSIC can be the MOST nomadic and care-free....you are too attached to "reputation-dues-networks" to ever become a "big-fish" in the "ocean of life."

Stay in Toronto - perhaps you can find a husband - and pursue music as a hobby - after the kids are grown.

Sincerely,
Gargoyle


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Subject: RE: Does a music career make you feel stuck?
From: Seamus Kennedy
Date: 01 Apr 03 - 11:42 PM

Marion, I play all over the United States, from Florida to Alaska and Maryland to California, with the odd gig in Canada.
I've been professional for 33 years.
For the first 8 years I was part of a duo in Masssachusetts, and we built up a good reputation all round New england on the Irish Pub scene.
Money was OK, about $300/$400 a week back then but we both got married and our wives had jobs outside the home, so our income was enough.
We broke up (the duo, not the marriages!) and I went solo.
For the next 13 years I played the Washington D.C/Virginia pretty exclusively as the House entertainer in a fine Irish pub. My wife and I had 2 sons and she wanted to stay home and be a full-time Mom, and I wanted to be close at hand while the boys were growing.So I worked 6 nights a week for 13 years in pretty much the same place for the security.But I also got the occasional gig in CA or CO where I also built a name.
Byt the time the boys were in sophomore years in high school, they were big enough to not need me at home so much, so I decided to branch out and travel.
I got a great agent who gets me super gigs, festivals and concert-style shows and one or two pubs that I like.
Now to my point. I loved being the House entertainer in the pub in VA.
I loved the security, the regular wage and the proximity to my home. I could sleep in my own bed every night. I loved going to my sons' Little League games, and school activities and PTA meetings.
Now, I love traveling to different places, meeting different and interesting people, and performing in new venues, making new friends and so on. Oh yeah, and playing golf.
You can travel outside your regular circuit on a limited basis now, and make a name for yourself so that when you want to travel more extensively later, you'll have a foundation on which to build your bookings.
Also if you do a really good job in the places on your current circuit, you can use them as references down the line.
I'm really fortunate in that I do what I love, and I love what I do.

All the best in your endeavors.

Seamus


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Subject: RE: Does a music career make you feel stuck?
From: GUEST
Date: 01 Apr 03 - 11:55 PM

Hi Marion, If as you said, you average $75 per hour and its in the music biz, then you are doing a hell of a lot better than most of the musicians I know,be it Jazz, Folk, Country, or even Rock.
I know from experience, I was making more 20, or even 30 years ago than I do today. plus there was a lot more happening, then as now.
Most of the veteran musicians I know have had to diversify and not always music related.
Just goes to show, we love the bucks, but thats obviously not the only reason we journey on.

Bless'em all,
Glen


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Subject: RE: Does a music career make you feel stuck?
From: Mooh
Date: 02 Apr 03 - 10:15 AM

Marion, another good question! Thanks for the topic.

The music career is what liberated me.

I still work a part-time job for the pension and benefit plans mostly, but I make more money in music and could easily go full-time any time I want. My only problems are that I want to stay in rural Ontario, and I don't want to play bars anymore. To satisfy those conditions I have set myself up as a smalltown strings instructor, and occasional performer. Performance would drive me to bankruptcy in short order, mostly because there would be a lot of driving and about half the pay I made in the 70s playing bars. So I play just a couple of times a month now and teach about 25 hours per week.

What liberated me? I was unemployed for a time after losing a good paying job, and music made it so I can be my own boss, set my own conditions of employment, set my own schedule, and get rewarding, satisfying and fun work all the while.

In 5 years I have built up a client base (ooh I love those business expressions) by very little advertising and a lot of word-of-mouth. Each year I've been able to fine tune my lessons, and last year I even gave myself a pay raise. Sure, there's more to be made in the city, but I've got low overhead here, and I like the lifestyle.

I had left music for several years when the kids were real little, and when the money started to dry up on account of disco, karioke, dj's, and a general trend away from live music in pubs. The tail end of the 70s were pretty good years, but I got tired of drunks and smokey bars and declining fees. I quit playing, married, had kids, but continued to play for my own amusement. I've been back in music for 15 years or so, most seriously the last 5 years.

I've considered relocating and starting fresh, maybe a few years before retirement, and I know I'm free to make that judgement because I can do what I do almost anywhere.

Peace, Mooh.


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Subject: RE: Does a music career make you feel stuck?
From: Fay
Date: 02 Apr 03 - 10:38 AM

I think the performance industry is a rather flexible career compared to many others. I don't think it should make you feel any more 'stuck' than any other career which rely more heavily on promotion and having up to date knowledge in the field.

If you want a career that is, if you are just looking for jobs to carry you through a couple of years at a time, then that's different.


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Subject: RE: Does a music career make you feel stuck?
From: GUEST,Marion
Date: 04 Apr 03 - 01:14 PM

Thanks for the stories Mooh and Seamus, and for your thoughts, all.

Marion


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Subject: RE: Does a music career make you feel stuck?
From: Thomas the Rhymer
Date: 04 Apr 03 - 03:54 PM

Marion,... I love this thread! Blessings upon your wonderous spirit!
Timing is hitting, and is everything the nail on the head!

Love and Luck!
ttr


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