I was asked a few questions recently for a University in England's music department about my career and path in music. I thought that there may be some others who would find this interesting and hopefully helpful so here you go.
How did you get into the industry?
I took piano lessons as a kid but actually didn’t pick up bass till I was in high-school. I moved away to study music performance in college but ended up dropping out before finishing my degree to pursue music more. After spending about six months crashing on friend’s couches, I started playing with local friends more regularly and doing fly out dates (Not a full tour but when you fly to a city where you’re playing a one-off and then fly home after.)
Studying under an amazing bass mentor in college and traveling like this was a hugely influential time of my life and taught me what it meant to truly be a ‘pro’ musician.
Side note: Some people think that being a 'pro-musician means just doing music 'full time'. Couldn't be further from the truth. Another post for another time...
A few years later, my buddies who were playing in OC asked me to join in on bass/synth-bass/ BGV’s to fill a position that had opened up. After about a year with them, I was asked to take on the role of Music Director and have been doing it ever since. Every single gig/opportunity I’ve ever gotten has come from friendships and relationships.
How long have you been working in this industry?
I’ve been making music full time for the past 6 years.
What is a normal day like at work?
-I don’t really have a ‘normal’ day. It’s always changing. Here's what it looks like when I’m on tour as a music director:
-Busses will pull in to a city as early as 6am.
-Crew loads in around 9am and I meet with the them and management around 11am to get a game plan for the day.
-I meet with the band around 12:30 to talk about the last show, any changes needing to be made to the set and talk about the plan for sound-check.
-We’ll soundcheck around 1pm and then I’ll have some time off again before we play that night’s show. Bus call (when you need to be back in the bus before it heads out) is usually around 2 or 3am and it starts all over.
What do you like and dislike about your job?
Obviously the music and the fact that I’ve gotten to do it with some of my closest friends. I LOVE traveling and having been given the opportunity to see parts of the world and experience cultures that I would have never gotten to see otherwise. I actually very much enjoy the administrative side of the role of Music Director and partnering with an artist to make their musical vision become a reality in a live setting. The list goes on…
Two of the hardest parts of doing this for a living are the uncertainty of the future. Besides major tours, you really only have a game plan of gigs booked about two months out. After that, you just have faith that things will open up and fall into place. Also, being away from your significant other and family for long periods of time. As much as I love traveling, any more than two weeks having to be away from my wife pretty much sucks. If it’s longer than that, I try to fly her out to hang.
Did you ever have any problems with finance? If so, how did you deal with financial problems?
That’s the ultimate question when it comes to making this a career isn't it? I used to think that the ultimate goal was making your full income come from being a musician ONLY. When, in reality, I’ve come to find that most successful people in the industry have created some sort of supplemental income. For some, it’s a part time job, others own rental property or some sort of side business. Look at artists and songwriters; their supplemental income comes from royalties and record sales not just from the live show. Good musicians figure out how to show up and get paid in return for their time. Smart musicians figure out how to make their money work for them and get paid outside of just time spent.
The other thing I learned was to live and be content within your means. If you love having a brand new car with a huge payment or a large mortgage right off the bat, you’re probably not going to have the financial freedom to pursue music as much as you’d like.
What advice would you give to someone trying to get into the industry?
My advice is actually to read anything you can get your hands on. Here are three books that come to mind to get you started:
Is there any inside information that most people wouldn’t know about?
1. Nobody has things ‘figured out’ as much as you think. Every one is nervous about what to do next.
2. No matter how good you are, friends ask friends to make music. Period.
What was your first job like?
Working retail at Old Navy in South Pointe Mall, Lincoln NE. I can still smell the fresh flip-flops and graphic-tees. Not the answer you were looking for?...
Is it difficult to keep up with the advances in technology for the essential equipment?
Hugely! Especially playing for a pop-electronic artist who has been a massive game-changer in the genre. Thankfully, I don't find it difficult, I find it hugely fun. I love nerding out with it and am always trying to think how new technology can benefit my role and what I bring to the table. I love that you said advancements and not 'trends' in technology. There's a huge difference. One is a tool to create something new. One helps you fit in with everyone else.