This is just a quick rant before I go to bed.

A Facebook friend of mine (and a wicked awesome guitar player) just posted this article on musicians getting paid. Read it. Read it before you read my comments. Ok, you read it now? Then here are my comments…

I couldn’t DISAGREE with this article more.

Listen, the world doesn’t owe you anything. Just because you practiced and studied and composed doesn’t mean that what you do is valuable to anyone besides you. The worst thing you can do for your music career, from my humble perspective, is to adopt a sense of entitlement. That is the fast track to becoming jaded and burnt out and a failure.

Music is not a business. It’s not a good or a service. It’s an ART. Art expresses, art probes, art challenges, and art entertains. Expression/challenge/entertainment are not things that anybody really NEEDS. The entertainment industry is by definition expendable.

No one NEEDS entertainment, but many people WANT entertainment. And  it is from that angle that I humbly suggest to you that your job as a musician is to demonstrate to anyone and everyone that you have what they want.

A few years ago a band asked me to sit in with them on a benefit gig. This was a band that I admired and paid attention to but had never worked for, in large part because they were bigger, more successful, and “cooler” than I was. But they asked me to join them, and they didn’t offer me any money for it. Condescending, right? I jumped at the opportunity, and I was pumped. The reality is that I knew I could hang on their level (because of my extensive practice/studying/etc) but had never had the opportunity to demonstrate that. I grabbed the chance when it came and I nailed it. The band has hired me several times since then.

The pattern I just mentioned has repeated itself time and time again for me during my career. I take MANY low-paying or even pro bono gigs, but I always bring my A-game. Networking happens when you least expect it, but it doesn’t happen at all unless you show up. If I’d had an unwavering dollar figure standing between me and showing up I would have missed out on basically everything I have going right now.

“Don’t work for free” is a BS motto for musicians. How about this one instead: “Try your hardest every chance you get.” Musicians spend a LOT of time trying super hard and not getting compensated for it. That’s part of the deal. But it doesn’t suck, because real musicians love music! They love playing their instrument, they love practicing their instrument, they love playing music with others, and they love playing music all by themselves. They love listening to new music and they love going to see other musicians that they’ve never seen before and they love revisiting old familiar records that they haven’t heard in years. Oh, what’s that? You don’t love those things? THEN WHAT THE HECK ARE YOU IN THE MUSIC BUSINESS FOR? Playing music isn’t about making money. It’s about doing what you love, and doing it so much, until you become so good at it, that somehow you manage to cheat the universe and find yourself in situations where people actually give you money to do the thing that you love.

If money is all you want then go get a real job. I’m serious right now. Being a musician is not a real job… it’s a totally awesome privilege, and you don’t deserve that privilege just because you went to music school.

The world doesn’t owe you anything. But you can make them think they do… if you have the opportunity to show them. Take that opportunity wherever and whenever it appears.

Rant over.

HT: Jon Visser