Unrealistic Real Visions
My room mate and I recently had a discussion about musicians and artists and the necessity of working “real jobs.”
As a musician that doesn’t play country or pop music in Nashville, I find it challenging to imagine being able to support oneself only by means of producing music, playing shows and doing all the other things that musicians do. Yes, it’s true, I believe that real art and music is undervalued today, but there’s also too many of us. I once met a 19 year old girl from Wisconsin with a beautiful Northern American accent trying to swing some twang and make it as a country singer. Best of luck to you, get in line.
A good friend of mine just got back from touring Japan and Europe in a hardcore/metal band. He mentioned that he is going to have trouble paying his $125/mo rent (wow that’s cheap!), along with his utilities and phone bill over the next month. Luckily the band he plays for has been willing to front him some money at times. His comment reminded me of the “artist and musician” friendly, affordable lofts on 1st Avenue and at the Rymen Auditorium in Nashville starting at 600 a month. That’s laughable. Even if I played for Toby Mac I’d still need some help from Dad to get the one bedroom at 1200 a month.
I don’t understand how an aspiring musician in Nashville could afford a place like that. That’s half of what I make now, with my entry level management job, working for a large company. Rent is supposed to be 20 to 25% of what you make!
I am frustrated because I invest so much in my current job and I still feel like I don’t make enough, I’m still scraping by. There are only a few precious hours a week I have to devote to writing and recording my own music. And still, most of the time I’m too exhausted from work to accomplish anything significant.
Growing up as a young guitarist I had this dream to support myself with my instrument. I was able to do this for a few years in college but it involved teaching guitar to other people, not playing live. So I joined a band to see what that was like. There’s tons of guitarists who’ve been able to support themselves playing live but they are just the tip of the iceberg of the millions of musicians who work low paying jobs. I’ve always been inspired by Steve Vai; his music, take it or leave it, is incredible, but his business sense is arguably more inspiring.
Steve Vai self recorded his first album at his home studio and got a record deal with a major label. I’ve heard he still makes 7 dollars per record from his first album “Flexable.” He has built various studios for his own music, owns his own record label and helped build a guitar company that reshaped the electric guitar for nerdy guitarists such as myself.
Steve Vai’s accomplishments are truly incredible. He’s created an environment for himself so that he can constantly play his guitar and work on his music. That rules.
What I’m trying to come to terms with is: “Does my art suffer because I work a real job?” In many ways, yes it does, but the experiences I have at my “real job” also effect my art. My productivity and work ethic at my job effect my music.
I would argue that it is unrealistic to believe that your art would be better if all of your time could be devoted to it. As much as I love Steve Vai, how much better are all of his new albums than his first breakthrough record Passion and Warfare? Yes I’m glad Steve puts out new records every few years and is insanely productive but that record changed everything for Vai. Most artists, I would argue, with vast amounts of free time would probably spend it partying or watching shows on netflix. Am I wrong?
The life of the modern musician is changing for those who don’t perform in the popular arena. The line of separation between popular music and the underground scene seems to deepen from my perspective. Still though, the avenues of opportunity seem limitless to those who seek them.