Music as a career - be careful what you wish for...


Senior Member
If all you are wishing for is a career in music (a range of jobs wider than most) then that's what you'll get. Or you'll fall short and be disappointed or just burn out. I used to want to be a pro saxophonist. That led to study (much outside of my interests), taking any old gig, doubling (or attempting to) and just finding myself in less than inspiring musical situations all the while thinking I was doing the right thing. I was moving so far away from what initially attracted me to it all. I would have been better off painting or doing parkour since they would have been closer to the original mode of creativity. I'd just try or investigate everything in an around music (from teaching to post and further into the tech end) and figure out what things work for you and what doesn't. Completely non-musical work makes up much of it while other jobs outside of music may be closer in some ways.


Senior Member
When I was a kid I wanted to play in a band. I just assumed that meant that the group got together and worked on music... wrote songs.
One band I was in; all we did were show up for practice and then drive around and try to score some weed (without any money). These were probably the best players I've ever played with. Finally got into club bands...then the Disco era struck and most clubs went to DJs, and the music we had to play was no fun.
Long story short, I finally asked myself, "what the hell am I doing with a bunch of alcoholics at 2AM?"
At 25 I was jobless with no particular prospects.
Skip ahead many, many years and I consider myself the luckiest man on the planet. Life is good. Back in music.


New Member
It took a long time to shift my goal posts, to figure out what the hell I was doing. Music was completely wrecked for me, and I felt so naïve, and so very lost. Long story short, I was encouraged by my wife to follow an alternative interest in science all the way through to a PhD in soil/plant science, and I finally feel like I've found the place where I should have been so many years ago.-s
For me it's the opposite, I come from the academic and deeply hated it. I left the university without knowing what to do and decided to producer sample libraries because that's all I could do. I'm now a full time composer/soundeditor/sound designer and couldn't be happier.


Active Member
For me it's the opposite, I come from the academic and deeply hated it. I left the university without knowing what to do and decided to producer sample libraries because that's all I could do. I'm now a full time composer/soundeditor/sound designer and couldn't be happier.
Just goes to show that everyone is different. So glad you found your happy, too! :D


Senior Member
Interesting post.

10 years is a long time. Life can change a lot, as it should. Along with the industry and trends in music and media generally. A lot changed between 1975 and 1985, especially culturally. It is no different today, things have changed enormously in last 10 years, even if you haven't really noticed. I'm glad to hear you moved forward in other ways, shows how versatile you are.

"But isn't music what you really want to do?" I find it very weird when people say that because I work in science and research too. That's a huge disservice to my (very interesting) job. Weird that people can't accept that you can have more than one interest. Glad to hear you got your PhD. Lots of things you can do in life and music is just one of them.


Active Member
Art vs Craft. The Greatest Composers wrote potboilers, but with consummate skill and taste.

A section violinist partakes of collective emotion. The pleasure is that of honing ones skills in this direction. An occasional solo engagement is the icing on the cake (professionaly speaking) where our violinist can really be him/her self.


Active Member
... I would dream to just, wake up, take a walk a la Steve Jobs, have a coffee, nice lunch in the sun, write some music in the afternoon, look at beautiful places in the world on Google, write some more music, have a relaxed life as a musician..Getting older has really got me into thinking like what do I want to do in my life, remember you only live once, do what you want etc..
I'm dreaming about this too but it is infact a DREAM, there's no work without stress. I work as an engineer and it leaves a very little time to music, and moreover a very little energy to think and write something. I don't love my actual work as I love music but I think I could be classified as "lucky" about it, especially here in my country.

Music keeps coming to my mind like a river, sometimes less actually, but maybe because I'm very tired...
As I was younger I was thinking about a life in music and composing great scores and so on but cames in and I realized that maybe working in the industry will be a living hell for me and my creativity. So I work on some project when I have time but mostly I work and study for myself. I think that life has a right path for everyone of us, as the OP pointed out very well, and often dreams and reality don't go well together.

While I could see myself working in music in the past, now I couldn't, I think that my creativity could die hard. So I think that, unless life brings me in front of a clearer choice, I'll keep music for myself and for the listeners that would like to listen to it.

I think that we could write some kind of rule here: "be afraid of your dreams if you didn't clash them with reality first".


Senior Member
I am still trying... Which is why I'm moving from the UK to New York next month after accepting a job invitation to be an assistant studio engineer and in-house composer for their studio. Certainly a new path in my life that's for sure! ;)
Congratulations! Glad to hear there are opportunities in New York after all.

I'm still trying, yes. I'm not good at anything else. Might not even be good at this.

Eric Hunter

New Member
Congratulations! Glad to hear there are opportunities in New York after all.

I'm still trying, yes. I'm not good at anything else. Might not even be good at this.
Don't sell yourself short. It's more about longevity than talent. And not having other options can be a blessing in disguise. The illusion of choice can be paralyzing.


Active Member
Yeah, the inner struggles are real! Great post OP, and good to hear you landed in a nice spot.

Music seems to be the thing you choose, because you cant choose anything else. Its a last resort to stay sane for me, so I cant let music go.

Back in college, when I took classes in film production, it also ruined my illusions about film for many years. I thoroughly enjoyed movies, and suddenly I just couldn’t.

I also left my pursuit of becoming a pro musician, because I hated the bars and the late hours of gigging. I pictured myself older and didnt like where that route led. So the hustle and bustle of music had to go.

But always loved music and I became more interested in writing. I need the intellectual part of music, otherwise I get bored too soon. After the homerecording boom in the late 90s, I realized that I could enjoy music from home, in my own studio, in my own time. Even offline :sneaky:

Its a great position to be in. I dont depend on any money from music, I dont have a toxic boss, or colleagues with piercing elbows, nor do I need to listen to corporate bullshitters. I can do what I want and enjoy it, and will do it my time out.
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Active Member
Nope, not at all. I think this offers us an insight as to why you are an engineer, and very good one.
I would have to write for hours to explain, but the short answer is there is no way you could possibly make even 50% of the distinctions of what is "reality first" without a few tour of duties.

Ok.... without getting into the meaning of life, let me offer a few pragmatic points that I hope can be useful and removed from my personality and how I see the world.

  • I think it's about a 2:1 ratio (+ or - 10 to $15,000) . So $50,000 full time music = $100,000 regular/adult job.

$200,000 vs 50,000 music -----take the day job, and use the money for your passion projects.

Seeing a few of my classmates from conservatory transition to the NYC corporate world, realize a lot of the extra money you make is is going right back to buy to shit that belongs in THAT world.
Lot's of 6 + figure jobs are "up or out" and competitive.

Say you got the 85,000 year job......what are you going to wear to work ? That Pink Floyd shirt you wear while taking bong rips. So ....... let's say 3,500 go to suits. You can't really claim anymore that music gear you bought is a business expense and deduct it from your taxes. Need to take a client out to lunch...... more money. You might ponder if the car you drive projects the right professional image and you discover Golf and sales are like chocolate and peanut butter.

Oh, and now you have a steady income the Miss wants to be a Mrs.

For everyone here, you are on the other side of the street. Basically under the 50% of your current salary is just going to cause too much stress and resentment. You'll go back to the day job. Plus all the money you need to set up shop, website etc....

I can tell you, not being able to pay rent in NYC sucks ass !! My creativity had to take a backseat to the very the fuck am I going to survive.

If you are even slightly serious I would advise

  • Write a business plan, and get honest feedback
  • Go to SCORE. (if in the USA) It's apart of the small business Association and 100% free. It stands for Service Core Of Retired Executives. Expect to find a former CEO who donates his/her time each week for a few hours where you can ask them anything about starting a business. It's wonderful. It was akin to seeing a proctologist, but I always left with clear and actionable ideas. Also, in NYC, there were a number of record label they knew the subject better than I did.
  • Take an evening class on entrepreneurship, and read up on the subject. I had a class at the NYU extension division and it was again very useful to both hear others read their business plan and bounce ideas off others
  • Do form a "mastermind" group. You are going to need other people and other people will need you. Even if it's just pure "motivation" and not feeling so alone, that will help prevent burnout and quitting.
  • Don't leave your steady job with KIDS !!! Married is helpful, married with kids is different. (This is also distinct from musician having kids)
  • You will change, and so will the world around you. Understand the "core" of your dream, and be flexible about the surface. This will help you make decisions and survive the detours that everyone will go on at least once. (ie. The shitty wedding/resort/corporate function gig might pay you enough to record that avant grade jazz albums etc. Those who have a more vague "tag line" that is authentic for them, and answers the internal "why" brings better vibes to others, and less lament for things outside of artistic taste. It could be "Music is love" or "Music is a celebration of life". Personally that makes me vomit, but as the dark cloud I can tell you I have shot myself in the foot more than once, and who you are and how you treat others makes a difference. I still feel bad as -- I am a very good sight reading guitarist which is rare - rushing to leave a church easter gig which I took 100% for the money an old lady grabbed my arm and said " I just want to tell you that was one of the most beautiful music I have ever heard". It was just the wrong time. I hated everyone in that band, hated the gig, and when I heard that I just dead pan looked her right in the eye and said "Well, you don't get out much do you". Her smile went .... :-/ It's odd, I have never been asked back to that band. I wonder why?)

I have to leave it here, but the ideal talents are yes the Business and Music skills, but also "finger on the pulse". That's different. I've seen many very talented business people simply make the wrong choice on where things were going. It was impossible to know at the time. Who knew in 1995 that laptops would basically destroy the business of large studios, or the possible reality that midi samples could fool people in thinking it was real etc
I hope I understood what you mean correctly and I try to reply.

Someone (more than one person) told me that I'm an anomalous engineer, I'm a creative one that from what I could see it is pretty rare. I'm not saying it is best or worst, only facts...

I cannot (and I don't want to) leave music, I feel it in my head and as you said I spent some of my money in plugins, courses etc...
As some other ones are saying here I'm becaming to feel free in composing music this way, with a stable work and some little time to do the music I want when I want it.

My work needs a good amount of creativity too so I'm not far from where I belong actually, I know life changes and I'm ready to see where it will bring me.
My sentence here don't want to be pessimistic, only real and encouraging instead. We need to live to do music, there is a different path for everyone of us to take our music and bring it with us until we will end our life, I'm ok with mine, I only want to make music, to learn about it as much as I can, because I need it and not because of the money.

I hope you understand what I mean, even if I'm learning to write better in english I still have some limitations.

I agree with most of the things GtrString said.