Thanksgiving is almost here and you know what that means! Lots of uncomfortable questions from your relatives about your career!
I love my family, but these questions are like green bean casserole: they’re there every year and your Aunt Linda is the only who likes them. It’s not your Aunt’s fault; being a professional musician is a strange idea to her, and she just wants to understand what you do (the green bean casserole is definitely her fault though).
Here’s how to talk to your relatives about being a professional musician.
(Also don’t miss the actual BINGO scorecard at the end.)
“So, what do you do?”
When this question comes up, say with confidence:
“I am a professional musician, Aunt Linda.”
(assuming that you have an Aunt, and her name is Linda)
By speaking in a tone of confidence, you’re saying, “this is a legitimate career choice.”
If you instead say, “I just kinda play music…?” Aunt Linda now views you as a lazy chump who can’t be bothered to stop playing Wonderwall long enough to go get a “real job.”
Being a Professional Musician is a real job, so say it with confidence.
“How does that work?” Are you in a band?”
This is the usual follow up question. You see, Aunt Linda can’t wrap her brain around what you just said. In her mind, you’re a member of KISS (If you actually are, well done, you’re a skilled communicator. But if you’re not, you’ve got some explaining to do).
Prepare a short 2 sentence blurb about the kind of things that you do, touching on each aspect without going into too much detail.
“I play for several artists in the LA area, as well as teach one day a week at a local music academy. Every week looks a little different depending on who I’m playing with, and I love it!”
Now Aunt Linda has a good general idea of what you’re actually doing instead of half-playing Stairway to Heaven while you power through the last few episodes of Master of None. If it seems like she needs more information, you might try mentioning a recent gig you played. I find it helpful to think of a recent gig before arriving at Thanksgiving, so that I have something to talk about.
For example: “Well Aunt Linda, last week I played at Hotel Café with a group named Savage Garden. And next week I have a jazz gig playing for Cyberdyne’s company holiday party.”
“But wait, what’s your JOB?”
Oh Aunt Linda. She means well. When this question inevitably comes up, extend some patience. She is still having a hard time understanding, and she geniunely wants to. Explain to her politely that being a musician is your job. It looks a little different than the traditional job but you’re able to support yourself doing something that you love.
If your relatives keep prying, you can break down your schedule a little for them: “I mostly work nights and weekends playing live, but during the week I’m praciticing, learning new music, recording, or teaching.”
“You get paid MONEY to play music? Wow! How much do you get paid?”
This question is definitely the most uncomfortable, especially since you’re not asking anyone else how much money they make. Again, have patience. You’re blowing their mind by telling them that music is your job. They’re just trying to understand.
If you don’t mind getting specific, mention what one recent gig payed.
“It definitely varies, but for example at the recent Savage Garden show I made $75.”
(Savage Garden has had a rough few years)
If you DO mind getting specific, give a range of what gigs could pay.
“It definitely varies, gigs could pay anywhere from $50 to $500 or more. Every gig is a little different.”
Your Thanksgiving Duty
This Thanksgiving, your job is to help Aunt Linda and and everyone else understand:
- Being a Professional Musician is a valid career choice.
- No, you’re not a member of KISS (unless you are), and here’s an idea of what you do.
- You do make actual money doing this. It’s your job.
You can get as specific as you want, or leave it general, that’s up to you. Either way, be patient with your relatives this holiday season. They love you and just want to better understand what it is that you do for a living.
“When are you going to audition for The Voice?”
Never, Aunt Linda. Never. I don’t even sing, I play the bass. You know this.
To make this time of year (and the questions that come with it) a lot more fun, print out this Bingo card and bring it to dinner this Thursday. You’re welcome.