Dear Aspiring Artists:
The first thing you must decide is whether music is going to be your hobby or your career? The answer sounds obvious, but is actually much more difficult than it sounds. There isn’t a right or wrong answer, but it’s important that you make the determination early. It’s the most important decision you’ll have to make. It affects your entire future. Will it be something that you do in your spare time, or something you’ll put ahead of everything else in your life?
What I recommend is making a list of priorities. If your list begins with your family (as mine did), then job, and music is somewhere around third on your list, then you should consider this a hobby. If you’re willing to sacrifice money, relationships and having a social life in exchange for the opportunity to possibly have the opportunity to become a musician, then you’re probably in the career category. And believe me, that’s what it’s going to take.
Most people have the very best of intentions when they begin to pursue a music career. Think of it in terms of going to the gym. Each year, countless people decide they’re gonna start going to the gym. They sign up for a year membership to their local NY Sports Club, buy special running sneakers, a few workout outfits, go the first time and feel like Rocky training for his big fight against Apollo Creed. They are already envisioning them selves months down the road, getting ripped and in shape. They go home, eat carrots. They truly believe they’re going to go 4 times a week until the end of time. They have the drive, the determination. They’re motivated.
But then they’re a little sore the next night, so they figure they’ll take a little break. Then they work late the next night, followed by a happy hour the night after that. Then next week comes and they have a fight with their girlfriend, followed by train delays, food shopping and going to the movies. Little by little, the motivation begins to get buried and the dream gets postponed by life.
If this is you (it’s certainly me), don’t feel bad. It doesn’t mean that you don’t have willpower or that you don’t care enough. It simply means that you’re human. Life often gets in the way of our dreams.
This same type of thing happens with music. The planning stages are the most fun. It’s all about the dream. It’s like the first few dates of a relationship. Always new, always exciting.
A very small percentage of people are actually able to follow through and go to the gym as planned. I don’t know the exact percentage, but it’s something like – less than 25% of people who have memberships use it on a regular basis, and 65% don’t go at all. The entire business is built around human nature. It isn’t about being weak. The people who can overcome human nature are the exceptionally strong ones. That’s what it’s going to take to make it in music. If you don’t follow through, you aren’t weak. But if you can follow through, then you are exceptionally strong which is exactly what it’ll take.
And I’m not even talking about talent. Having the talent to make it? That’s an entirely different topic. I’m just talking about the work ethic.
Joell Ortiz spoke about that on the Bodega Chronicles. About sacrificing time with his son to pursue music. Making sure his son had pampers, but little else. He believed in his dream so much that he felt it was worth the risk. He believed that once his music career took off, his son would be in a much better place. Not everyone believes in their dream enough to take that gamble. THAT’S how you can tell how much you trust in your talents. Are you willing to bet your family’s future on it? Are you willing to go all-in?
If you aspire to be a “father-of-the-year” type – which is extremely admirable – then forget music. Music isn’t something you can really do if you have higher ranking priorities. You need to spend time with your kids? I understand that. If you tell me right now that your main focus is to be a good parent to your children, then that’s completely understandable and noble. I made that exact same decision. But it’s going to be nearly impossible to do that while trying to become a musician. You have to establish your music time as a “job”. It’s gut-check time.