The Twenty One Occupations of an Independent Artist
I’ve been playing music for around eighteen years. Since I first picked up guitar, I dreamed of being able to make a living writing and playing music, because nothing else in life seemed to give me the same kind of joy. For the majority of those eighteen years, I thought that if I practiced hard enough, that if I wrote enough good songs, if spent enough time honing my craft, that some level of success would come my way. I didn’t need to “make it big,” I just needed to make enough money to keep doing what I loved.
With this mindset, I spent years and years playing and writing a lot of great music with friends and family. I recorded several albums worth of material with different bands, and I became decently proficient at several different instruments. I wrote a couple of hundred alright songs, most of which I’ve forgotten how to play at this point. One thing I didn’t do, however, was make a single dime along the way.
I was arrogant, you see. I thought I could just do the creative part and the rest would all fall into place. I didn’t like the way rejection felt when venues turned me down for gigs. I didn’t like making calls to get people to come to shows. I didn’t like posting about my music on social media platforms. I didn’t like paying for advertising or nice merchandise for the bands I was in. I didn’t want to have to drive long distances and work my butt off setting up and tearing down some equipment only to make a pittance of pay. I didn’t like the thought of getting home at 1:00 or 2:00 in the morning, only to get up and be at work by 7:30 the next day. I was too shy to network with fellow musicians and develop working relationships. I HATED trying to promote myself and sell my work to people in any way whatsoever.
When Kendra and I started playing music together a few years back, I learned that she hated all of these things just as much as I did. The difference, though, was that she did all of these things anyway. She wrote music and created just as much as I did, but she also held all of the other occupations that come along with being an independent artist. As it turns out, all those things that aren’t as much fun as creating are incredibly important.
Together, we’re not just songwriters and singers. We’re also instrumentalists. We’re critics. We’re administrative assistants. We’re sound engineers. We’re booking agents. We’re visual designers. We’re writers. We’re website curators. We’re videographers. We’re promoters. We’re financial advisers. We’re long-haul drivers. We’re SEO specialists. We’re outreach coordinators. We’re investors. We’re teachers. We’re students. We’re sole-proprietors. We’re Brown Mountain Lightning Bugs Board Members.
It takes all of these things to be able to make any money as an independent music artist, and some of them are a LOT less fun than others. In fact, some of them can be a downright miserable experience. You learn to deal with a lot of rejection and disinterest as a musician entering into the professional world. You also make friendships that last forever, and you get to experience the world in a way that few do.
I don’t regret those years I spent trying to be a successful musician without all the other jobs that come along with that title. I am glad, however, that I’ve come to see all those other jobs as just as important. In the future, I hope I can pick up a few new occupations and add them into to the mix.
THANK YOU for reading and for coming along with us as take our journey as independent musicians!