This post originally appeared in “The Load In” the weekly digital magazine from Startup Musician. To sign up for free, fill out the form below.
There’s an strong assumption in today’s culture, and it’s ingrained deep inside every one of us: that you’re going to graduate high school, go to college, find a job, and do that one job for the rest of your life. It’s in our movies, TV, language, and the way we’ve set up our society. This way of life is likely what your parents did, and probably your grandparents as well. There’s not anything inherently wrong with this life model, it’s just that this model doesn’t fit particularly well with being a freelance musician. When you get a gig, even if it’s regular work, that work isn’t going to last forever. The tour is going to end, the album is going to get finished, or the artist is going to “go in a different direction.”
In conversations with other musicians, whether for the podcast, the upcoming book, or just in person, I’ve noticed a trend: no one ever really feels like they’ve “made it”. There’s no freeze frame while the credits roll. They quite never feel like they’ve arrived at the the thing they’re going to be doing forever, and worse yet, it could be over at any moment. And these are musicians doing awesome things all over the country and world! These are the musicians you would assume have it all together. I can’t tell you how encouraging for me to hear this because I feel THE EXACT SAME WAY.
The “typical” life plan (one job foreverrrrr) is like driving into a cul-de-sac. It’s a comfortable cul-de-sac for sure, but there’s nothing quite like the open road. My own career has taken it’s share of twists and turns. I’ve gotten to do some really cool stuff, and at the end of the day, I make my living by doing music things full time. That’s incredible! But at the same time, I frequently ask myself, “Is this it? Is this my peak?”
As I turn another year older, I’m forced to ask myself the same questions. It’s just something that comes with being a freelancer. But there’s one question I’ve learned to throw out completely: “Is this what I’m going to be doing for the rest of my life?” Because the answer is a resounding “NO”.
There’s no job security in this profession. That’s simultaneously a frightening and beautiful thing. Frightening because I never know what I’m going to be doing past about 2 months from today (THIS COULD BE THE END). But beautiful because I get to do so many different things. I get to play lots of different types of music, with lots of different people, in lots of different places… how awesome is that?
So, if you’re feeling stuck, or feel like you’re not doing the things you really want to be doing with your music career, don’t worry. If you’re happy with where you’re at, enjoy it! Wherever you’re at right now is not where you’ll be in a year. Embrace the frightening beauty of that fact, and just keep going.