This. So much this. See the thread, Steve always has great stuff to say on this sort of thing (read: having a sustainable music career). My take on it is a little long for a tweet, so here it is.
I’m in a very privileged position, I know that. Making my music is very much the day job, in the sense that it’s where most of my income comes from, and I get to prioritise it over anything else. I have to be quite business-like about it; I’ve had success framing my music making in a way that has allowed me to pursue funding. There’s enough interest, enough newness, in what I do to keep doing it. That has meant I’ve paid the bills with my music for several years now, and I’ve enjoyed the post tour bubbles of not having to do anything for a little while.
And yet, that’s not the only thing I do. I still find myself in much more job-like settings, at least compared to touring and creating music with MiMu Gloves. Some of these jobs include:
- Teaching music one-on-one.
- Teaching music in SEN/D schools (usually with Drake Music).
- Delivering training on Disability Equality & The Social Model Of Disability to workforces.
- Writing and speaking about my experiences as a disabled person.
I don’t necessarily need to do these things, no. And on the occasions where I find myself in a school at 9:30am after a 2-hour drive, I may wonder why. Sometimes I have to say no to them, especially before a run of gigs. So if it’s not a pressing financial necessity at the moment, why do it? Because there are many more ways to measure value than in monetary terms.
Just to be clear, I’m not raking it in on tour or anything. Our household cost of living is fairly low, for various boring reasons. I didn’t really want these extra jobs when they started coming my way, but pretty soon the lightbulb came on.
These settings, this stepping out of my art and facilitating something, it felt important. It felt useful. I started to see the streak of triviality in my own ambitions to get famous and sell records. Yes, my music matters to me, but if all that comes of what I have to offer the world is my own success, that seems a bit… irrelevant. There’s already enough music, right? I’m not curing cancer.
Okay, maybe that’s a bit flippant. There’s a baked in diversity issue with anything I do. The music industry is an ableist mess, so my presence in it, however small, will always be more than just another singer/songwriter having a go. That’s not a good thing though, is it? My being disabled matters a lot to people, because disabled people are so poorly represented in music.
My point! Work outside of your own art – day jobs, side hustles, whatever you call them – they don’t have to be a compromise, and they don’t need to contradict your art. Quite the opposite. They can enrich it massively. Working with young people, especially young disabled people, is making me a better musician. It feels useful and worthwhile, but I can also be completely selfish about it; it makes my music measurably better.
So don’t give up the day-job/side hustle, and if you don’t have one, I can highly recommend finding one. For me, there’s been so much more value to it than money.