Artist or Technician?
Success is measured subjectively. If you're trying to carve out a career in music, what exactly does that mean? For many people, this starts with making music their main source of income and quitting their 9-5. The biggest challenge is figuring out how to actually make money with music.
There seems to be two ways to go about being a musician:
- Write your own music, create your own sound, make an album, book shows, market yourself as an artist. The only way to be successful is to have a solid fanbase that will support your career.
- Master your instrument and hire yourself out for any gig that needs your skills, whether that's as a sideman, a studio or pit musician, or even somebody that plays music at weddings or other formal events. As a technician, you could spend your entire career being heard by millions but only known and truly appreciated by a few.
You can straddle the divide, but it's difficult. Both are time consuming and could easily be full time jobs. I see friends put their personal projects on hold to tour with a show that pays well. I also see great musicians struggle to make ends meet because they're not using their entire skill set, instead just focusing on making their own music.
I'm trying to find the right balance myself because I love making my own music, but I also love playing in other people's groups. There's something exciting about sitting in with a new group every now and then. It expands your ear, inspires new ideas, and keeps you sharp. I'm not sure I'd want to give that up. But at the same time, I want to carve out my own niche even and leave behind some of my own music.
Can you do both? I have many years to try. We'll see what happens.