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How to thrive as a musician while still working a full time job

As a musician, it sometimes arises in conversations as to how I do it. How can I hold a full time job, have a social and family life, and still manage to do my musical thing? To some it would appear that I have a magic act down or perhaps a juggling one. However, it is not as hard as many people think to overcome and thrive as a musician. One needs only to have determination and see opportunities where they present themselves.

Time Management

By definition a full time job is 40 hours a week. Anything over this is considered overtime. Where most people are aware of this many people do not know that your job is NOT dependent upon overtime worked (unless specifically addressed in your working contract). Where there are states that are a hire and fire state meaning they can hire and fire for any reason, most states have laws which protect the worker from being in danger of being fired simply because he or she does not want to work overtime. Considering that a word week is 40 hours that leaves 72 hours of time to practice music a week (7 days a week * 24 hours -40 work hours -56 hours of sleep a week). Clearly, one can schedule in adequate time to play music within this 72 hours.
To make it easier to schedule your music into your life, talk to your boss about getting one day out of the week off. Do not pick a weekend day if your business operates 7 days a week. Everyone wants those days off. Instead pick a day between Tuesday and Thursday (again staying away from the long weekends or the weekend’s end). Most managers can accommodate this request.

If you can play your music at work

When I was in college, I had the stereotypical artist job of working in a coffee shop. Where this was a mundane job that really only worked to pay the bills, there was an advantage. Friday night was talent night and so I was able to play and promote my music. Some musicians that had demo tapes were even allowed to put their professional looking CD up for sale in the shop.
“Well, I work in an office, so my guitar would probably not be welcome there.” You might say. Don’t be so pessimistic. Do you have a demo tape of your music? Many work places allow employees to listen and play music on the job. If your music is grunge rock and you work in an office, consider making a demo tape of some lighter music just to get people to know your name and that you make music. If you work in construction or outdoors and heavy metal is ok, play it often.

• Note: Music that has offensive language and themes will more than likely be rejected. Where there is a time and place for music that makes a personal statement with such language and themes, one would do best to find a neutral topic so as to get one’s foot in the door.
Use the HR board
I know that you pass the board and see that John is having a yard sale on Friday or that the corporate BBQ is on Monday. Make your presence known. Don’t make a corny magic marker flyer, but make one that is professional. Yes, it is working for someone other than a label, but it is working in music. One does not get signed if one’s music is never played.

DEMO, DEMO, DEMO

Labels do not randomly sign musicians. They hear demo CDs. The great thing about sending out a demo is that it can be done in minimal time. One is encouraged to read our earlier posts on how to prepare demo cds to maximize the potential of getting that sought after call. Keep in mind that when you make your demo reels and send them out you are presenting your musical business card. This is how the potential label company will identify you. Ensure that you do not over use stock music, but that there is a blend between your track and the background music, loops, and such. Above all, make the first 30 seconds so dynamic that the listener must listen to the rest of the demo tape.
Apart from mailing in demo tapes to label companies, one can offer his or her music online. Many artists can and do get recognized by offering their music on stock music and royalty free websites. Am I saying that you should offer your full selection of music royalty free? Of course not. However, if one offers one or two tracks, those which listen to your music are more apt to buy the whole cd.
Manage the time you have, seek opportunities, be optimistic in your approach, play your music where you work utilizing every avenue possible (whether it be a corporate event or a private party for another employee), and above all get your name out there. Being a musician is great, but life requires work. If you want to ditch the 9 to 5 you have to put in the dedication and footwork to transition into a full time music career.
*Where we are emphatically in support of musicians, it is advised that in this economy one that one should not quit his or her job in pursuit of a musical career until he or she has actually been signed by a recording label*