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Discussion Starter #1
Just sharing a video from a Winnipeg-based YouTuber. It kinda hit home for me. I applaud his honesty.


Years ago, I did the recording engineering thing for a while in Toronto. I did some training at Wellesley Sound and worked out of a friend's studio in North York. I count myself lucky that I managed to get any experience at all. No studio that I applied to at the time was accepting interns.

Long story long, I eventually came to the conclusion that I really just wanted to play guitar, jam and gig around town on occasion. But if I'm being honest, I like jamming more than anything. (With kids, though, it's tough doing any of those things.)

So I guess I also "failed" at a music career. Or maybe I just took the roundabout way of playing more guitar.

Has anyone else here dabbled in the music biz? Or maybe you've found your own way in a music career? I'd love to hear your stories.

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For me, "career" is too strong of a word, but music is my only source of income and currently occupies pretty much all of the time that I'm prepared to give it. I started teaching music part-time in 2004, shortly after my daughter was born, when I was a stay-at-home dad. I began teaching one evening a week and by the time of the shutdown, I was teaching three days a week with 5 or 6 regular paid gigs a month plus a number of "one-offs", often as a sound tech. Teaching provides about two-thirds of my income and gigging provides about two-thirds of the enjoyment. Not a "career" by any means, but I average close to $40/hr. for the time that I spend performing and teaching.
 

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I'm fulltime with guitar repairs in my shop and have been for 10 years, does that count as a career in music? Probably not but, it pays way better than gigging and moderately better than teaching.
Before doing repair work I tried to make a go of it playing and teaching but it's way too inconsistent and I do not have the mindset to constantly hustle to get gigs. I am also not a natural "frontman" which means I have to generally play a support role. If you are a sideman, you are in a precarious position.
Bottom line is that you have to be in charge or in demand or you are going nowhere.
 

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Lol. That poor guy. I never tried to make a living from playing but even I was getting $300 per night, sometimes more. My son is on his second successful venture. Other friends have succeeded at writing, performing, production and local hero stuff but it's always a scramble.

I think his biggest mistake was trying to latch onto the big time "establishment" instead of grabbing the low-hanging fruit. He has too much talent to settle for the shit that does others so well. Poor guy.

"I'd rather be a big fish in a small pond, than a small fish in a big pond." -- Julius Caesar
 

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I was expecting this to be that video "the hardest thing to do on guitar" - disappointed!

I've been in bands on and off and teaching guitar on and off for 16 years, so yes I have a music career. Only the teaching pays, and I try very hard not to think about the money spent on giving it a proper go.

The downsides are known, but I've played across a good chunk of North America and have met some truly great people on my journey.

If you start into music in the hopes of making money, you're already doomed.
 

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Short answer:

I teach music privately full-time. It's a living. I like it.

Long answer:

My first job out of high school was playing bass/keys/guitar in a dance band, gigging almost every week, sometimes twice a week, even the odd matinee. I was bored without a day job so for a few years I did both, and they paid about equally. I was young and naive, overly energetic, and a party animal, so it all kind of worked. I added the odd lesson here and there, mostly for friends, but I disliked a schedule that tight. Suddenly it all came to an end (I'll spare you the details and me the keystrokes) and I was amateur for a few years.

When my kids were little I started gigging again, usually several bands at a time, some recording, some teaching. I lost my day job in '98 which totally fucked me up so I turned to music full-time by setting myself up as a private instructor. Since '99 I've taught mostly full-time from my little home lesson studio, and I plan to continue that for a few more years. Until a couple of years ago I was still gigging regularly in two bands and two duos plus one-offs here and there but now all I do are one-offs. I record at home as the local studios with a couple of notable exceptions closed with the influx of digital home recording. I don't enjoy traveling enough to drive long distances to studios for peanuts.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
I record at home as the local studios with a couple of notable exceptions closed with the influx of digital home recording.
Yep, many of the music studios in Toronto were on their last legs when I finished my training. Or I think they moved to Hamilton.

Metalworks, one of the well known ones from the 80's turned into a recording school.

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Discussion Starter #10
if you got what you wanted and end up playing more that doesn't sound like failure to me

j
Thanks, I'm glad things turned out how they did. I think seeing that video brought back some memories for me.

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Discussion Starter #11
The downsides are known, but I've played across a good chunk of North America and have met some truly great people on my journey.
I've never toured, and I don't have any illusions about what touring entails, but I imagine meeting cool people would be one of the best perks.

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Discussion Starter #12
I think his biggest mistake was trying to latch onto the big time "establishment" instead of grabbing the low-hanging fruit. He has too much talent to settle for the shit that does others so well.
I can't fault a guy for going for it. But, yeah, sometimes what you're looking for is right in front of you.

Sadly, during this pandemic, YouTubers are the only ones being seen.

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Discussion Starter #13
I'm fulltime with guitar repairs in my shop and have been for 10 years, does that count as a career in music?
I remember when I was researching the music industry in Canada. I had this book that outlined just about every career path in the music business-- the type of thing that's now a Google search away. According to that book, you are a part of the industry. Because, you know, books never lie...

Anyway, I have tremendous respect for anyone who specializes in guitar or amp repair. I dabble, but I also know my limit and play within it.

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I've never toured, and I don't have any illusions about what touring entails, but I imagine meeting cool people would be one of the best perks.

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Tried very short tours years...well, decades, ago. Hated them. Passionately. We did it wrong. Sleeping on the PA, cheap greasy food, flea-bit motels, shitty weather. I liked my own bed, home cooking, local gigs, better take home pay. I met cooler people by playing local festivals, and hanging out.
 

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I never had the drive or the talent to attempt a career in music, so I went on a secure path that allowed me to pursue music as a serious hobby. I knew so many talented musicians who should have become Rock Stars who ended up as music teachers and instrument salesmen. Some folks I knew who gigged in the 70's told me they could make a living at it back then, but that disappeared around the time of the disco era.

However, today's technology is giving musicians a chance to earn income and monetise their skills in ways that did not exist even 15 years ago. I already knew who SamuraiGuitarist was before watching the video, so hopefully young, talented musicians can find innovative ways to monetise their passion and make it in the music business after all, on their own terms. The business model had changed dramatically.
 

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My sister plays professionally and has toured all over the place as a supporting player. For the stuff she does based in Montreal all those negotiating decisions get easier as part of the musician's union standard rates and conditions. Other markets that's less strong or the band can't meet anywhere near those rates so it's labour of love like you describe sleeping in the van eating a Timmy's bagel per day plus beer at the show. Pros and cons I guess.
j
 

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too much talent to settle for the shit ...
That's a funny balance.

I often try to take care of little odds and ends stuff so I can clear a space, literally and in my head, for The One Big Thing that's important to me. The little shit uses up all the time / energy / resources and The One Big Thing sits there undone.

But on the other hand as you say if you set aside opportunity after opportunity because it doesn't quite match The One Big Thing then nothing at all happens until that big project pays off. Hope is great but it doesn't have much nutritional value and the bank won't extend me a line of credit secured by hope.

j
 

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Playing music has been part of my entire life. Started as a family band as a kid jamming and playing almost daily. Eventually, working to make money got in the way. Add women to the mix.

Learned the hard that having a reg a job and playing in a bar on a Thursday and Friday night don't mix.

Got into writing our own material and had good response but life and work gets the better of you.

Started playing in 2 different bands in the last 10 years, one band was moving very fast and we had lots of bookings but the guitarist wife caught him sleeping with our singer... One band down... Second band was for fun and last year, 2 of the members got flooded and now the Covid 19.

So! play at home as a hobby is the way to go for me.

I also enjoy fixing guitars, basses and now amps...

Its a hobby !
 

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Discussion Starter #20
"Unfortunately young musicians tend to love the race to the bottom."

Interesting read. I'm not sure it's a generational thing as much as it is a lack of awareness among musicians not formally trained.

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