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  • What Do Musicians do When they Get Older?

    All of us know some all in musicians who went at it but never had the success they had hoped for. Somewhere around the late 50's to about 60 is where I have seen musicians who had previously toured and gigged a lot, start losing opportunities and begin to have less gigs available to them. Most of them have also never saved, had no retirement, etc. In fact the only ones that I know who are doing well either had some success when they were younger and invested but i'm not talking about them. In the group I'm referring to, the only older musicians that I know that have a pot to piss in really have wives that had careers that allowed them to have a pension, insurance, buy and pay off a house etc.

    This topic is very timely here as there have been various references here to it in other threads so I thought I would start one. I'm interested in a discussion of ideas for musicians that come to this point, as to where they go from there? I mean what the hell do these guys do? Start businesses, reinvent themselves? Gig part time and move to mexico where it's cheap? I'm sure we all have stories of people we know and our own ideas.

    I will say that the really talented and skilled guys I know that are around that age started to lose gigs and since they were always full time, they didn't really have other careers and when things dried up for these guys they basically stopped working. Their wives either still worked or if they were single..well there were a couple sad cases where guys i know had to move in with kids, friends or relatives. This is some scary ****************!!! So what do ya do if you hit that point? My sense is that we should all try to plan for that by saving, living lean, no debt. Thats really all I have. What do you say?


    Eidt: Let me add that I read an interview with Francis Ford Coppolla where he said his wine business totally finances his artistic work. He is doing everything independently these days so the wine business takes care of funding it, not studios. he goes on to say that maybe in the future artists will have to have some other form of income to subsidize their art, and now the last 40 years or so in Music and 100 or so in Film were an anomaly. Before that artists didn't make much money and had to do other things to support their art. He thinks we are going back to that and smart artists will do what he has done. I think he's on to something.

  • #2
    Fortunately for me, my wife has a great job with healthcare, vision and dental benefits, and while we still have to pay for it, it isn't much compared to what it would be without it. She's always made good money and has been very gracious and supportive about me following the dream. I the past 6 or 7 years I gave up trying to make any kind of go a it, but I'm the guy you're talking about- forced to do what I know, which is construction, a career I kept because of the flexibility it allowed me to come and go and set my own hours. Today, no one wants to hire a soon-to-be 56 year old guy who dropped out of college to go all in with music. Especially not in this down economy. Retraining? Sure, but again, even had I started a program at age 50, the chances of getting a job would have been small, and getting smaller.

    There are still solo gigs here and there, but as I get older, more and more younger guys are coming into their late 30s and early 40s and taking those gigs. I've had to work harder learning new material, not necessarily current, but fresh. I work on my playing a lot, as age tends to make the muscles not work as well and technique starts to slide rapidly if you don't stay on top of it. I've seen quite a few guys my age and older just disappear from playing because they reached a certain point and quit working a t, and found out they couldn't keep up or that no one wanted to book them anymore. My former duo partner is like that-62 years old, and figures that since he teaches guitar to beginners, that's all the practice he needs, and then complains that he can't get a gig. I told him he needed to work harder than ever if he wanted to be marketable. He just says "well, ****************, between that and teaching, that's all I'd be doing!" Yes, it is. It sucks to get old, but whe th body starts to go, you have to work harder to make it do what you want it to.

    I will probably never be able to retire, because I don't have any retirement. I'm not counting on Social Security, and really, if the government was smart, they'd raise the retirement age to at least 70 anyway. (that's a whole 'nother argument I only bring up as an aside) but as my dad used to say, "if you think the government will take care of you, look what they did for the Indian!" We could argue for months about how thins should be, but I'm more interested i taking them as they are. And the reality is, I'll have to keep cutting up pieces of wood and nailing them together until I drop, and hopefully I'll have gigs until that happens, too. In the meantime, I want to devote what time I have left to helping other young folks with anything I'm able to, run around the country on my motorcycle, hopefully see Ireland some day, and after that I can call it a pretty good life.
    <div class="signaturecontainer"><a href="http://www.patcoast.com" target="_blank">http://www.patcoast.com</a><br><br><br><br><font size="1">&quot;The guy would be strumming along, singing the verse to “Margarittavile” and then he would hit his harmonizer pedal for the chorus. It went from sounding like a guy singing and playing guitar to sounding like the Stephen Hawkings trio.&quot;-<i>Christhee68</i></font><br><br><br><br><font size="1">&quot; the singer of my cover band used to find it funny to let out gaseous forms of vile hate and sadness that would make a plaster baby Jesus weep.&quot;-<i> FitchFY</i></font></div>

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    • #3
      I'm 55 years old and play four gigs per week. I also do weddings and corporate gigs.

      I don't play songs for the young. I play tunes that older people enjoy. They have the money and they like what I do.

      I will do it for as long as I can.
      <div class="signaturecontainer"><font size="2"><font face="Comic Sans MS"><font color="DarkGreen">“One who loves &amp; understands nature will never be alone &amp; will never be afraid.”</font></font></font><br />
      <font size="1"><font face="Comic Sans MS"><font color="DarkGreen">-Rachel Carson-</font></font></font></div>

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      • #4
        Fortunately for me, my wife has a great job with healthcare, vision and dental benefits, and while we still have to pay for it, it isn't much compared to what it would be without it. She's always made good money and has been very gracious and supportive about me following the dream.


        This is the exact situation I'm in too.

        I had been playing in bands since I was 18. The last band...I was playing in a cover band (in Chicago) that worked about 170-180 days out of the year. And, while the gig was professional, work was steady and the income good, after 2 years of that, it turned into one long tour without a break. Every single weekend taken up, no time for friends/hobbies and, barely any time for my marriage. Add to that, very little time for original projects etc. Combine all of that, with 19 years of playing in numerous bands, years of paying dues, and it's like being stuck in the minor leagues.

        So, after much trepidation, I gave notice, relocated closer to family, bought a house and started school full-time. I've never looked back since. On the one hand, sure, I miss playing music, but what I really miss the most is the creative outlet; writing songs, recording etc. Playing music just to make a living isn't worth the sacrifice to me anymore. I'm 37 now, and even though I could've probably played for another 10-12 years, I didn't want to end up in the broke/no-longer-viable group of unemployed musicians. I know guys like that too. Most are extremely bitter and have nothing but contempt written all over their face. No thanks.

        In hindsight, I feel very fortunate to have even had the chance and the support from my family to pursue music like I did. Even though I never "made it", I still feel fortunate to have made a living at music in any capacity.

        And sventvkg...

        +1 what you said about Copolla subsidizing his art. Most musicians would benefit greatly in getting a business degree of some sort.

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        • #5
          What do you call a musician with no girlfriend?

          Homeless....


          Seriously, I know far too many players way more talented than I who are middle aged and broke, no prospects, no nothing.

          I stayed in school, got a career in electronics/engineering that goes quite well with my playing, and I've had the same level of (non) success playing area bars and clubs as others I know who quit school to pursue their "dream".

          I'm sure in the next ten years or so I'll be playing the "old man" bars not the clubs with 20 something year old girls bopping around......

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          • #6
            So far old musicians lose viability, lose gigs, most get bitter and end up broke and barely surviving. This has been my experience as well. Really Really makes you think, doesn't it? Anyone successfully transition to something else?

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            • #7
              I almost got caught up in the "dream" - joining or forming a band with a stacked line-up, that plays a wide variety of hits from past and present, note for note, and causes the bar patrons to mistake the band for the actual jukebox. Getting management, and playing 2 or 3 gigs a week for thousands of dollars each, so no one has to "work for a living."

              I listen to my more experienced counterparts, and I'm going for the full benefits and eventual retirement. I'm only 28; they've been through it all and have much wisdom to pass down.

              I've heard a lot of people preach the whole "Forget what you're doing 10-20 years down the line, man, it's all about what's in here *pounds heart*," but it seems you at least need to plan for the future.
              <div class="signaturecontainer">You may not want a &quot;lead bassist,&quot; but I'm giving you one anyway. <br />
              <br />
              Everything from Peter Gabriel to Days of the New to NOFX to Depeche Mode to Killswitch Engage to Lonely Island to Gregg Allman...</div>

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              • #8
                Sadly I know too many in this situation. And it isn't just musicians...road managers, soundguys, lighting guys...there comes a time when they know they are not gonna make another round trip. Some are lucky enough to pick up some studio work here, but most are working clerical temp jobs, temp warehouse, etc. The saddest part is when these guys sell off gear they have owned for decades...and some of it has not held it's valuse, and some has definitely gone 'vintage'. The money is not enough, though; you can see the sadness in their eyes when you ask what happened to your such-and-such, and they say, I had to sell it off to pay for the dentist, doctor, rent, car insurance, etc.

                In many ways, they lived the life I gave up on early in my musical career, when I found out that I was not cut out to be a sideman on the road...and I didn't think (correctly at that time) that I was strong enough to front my own band then. I see these guys with great roadwarrior tales, letting their Bluesbreakers go, selling off their mid sixties Strats, Teles...SGs...Twin Reverbs...and think to myself, dang...that was the tradeoff in life, look at that great gear they accumulated...but some of them won't even qualify for Social Security because they worked under the table for decades.
                A few I know have managed to get union gigs in Vegas shows, a couple are 'fillers' in Branson. Having worked in and out of the biz for nearly forty years here in a number of different capacities, I think all told, I may have made the right decision back then. I don't play as much as I would like, but I get paid well when I do. I still get 'sideman' calls occassionally, but ususally I pass unless it is someone I really know and like playing with...a luxury my aforementioned peers don't have. Music is a cruel mistress...
                _"We are currently experiencing some technical difficulties due to reality fluctuations. The elves are working tirelessly to patch the correct version of reality. Activities here have been temporarily disabled since the fundamentals of mathematics, physics and reason may be incomprehensible during this indeterminant period of instability. Normal service will be restored once we are certain as to what 'normal' is."

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                • #9
                  Well isn't this a depressing little thread. Just to play devil's advocate, the guys who are making a strong living in the music biz aren't in here discussing matters with the amateurs. They're too busy making a living. But I wouldn't encourage any young person to go into the music business unless they knew exactly what they wanted and it was a realistic goal, like learning how to design and fix electronics or teach music. Personally, I'm glad as hell that I went the college route because I'm set. I'm not rich, I'm very middle class, but I'm financially secure. I think it's a lot more fun to do music when you don't HAVE to do it. But that's me.
                  <div class="signaturecontainer">---<br />
                  Richard MacLemale<br />
                  <a href="http://www.richardmac.com" target="_blank">My Website at www.richardmac.com</a></div>

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                  • #10
                    Yea i'm interested in people we may know and maybe people those people may know. As a professional, one of the few on these forums who makes all my money via music, I have lots of stories of successful musicians who are able to survive when they get older but I must admit, I have more stories of the ones that didn't. And those are the really sad ones. I remember in my mid 20's when it hit me..I'm NOT going to end up old, broke, bitter, playing in a corner of some dive bar with no other options. At that point, that's future I was seeing with all the stubborn older pro's who didn't know when to give up and start doing other things in their 40's...Scared the ****************ing **************** out of me to the point of paralysis for a good 5 years in my late 20's-mid 30's. I didn't have faith in the future and I tried to do other things.. Silicon Valley job in the late 90's, back to school, etc..Finally realized I could have success and it's been great since then but..It's NEVER too far from the back of my mind what CAN happen and I will tell you this. If things don't work out the way I hope in the next 10 years, i'm going to have to cut out for something more secure as well. I'm not much into the American Way of Life..Being house poor, debt, car payments, etc ..Working to live..I'll probably take back off to other places in the world, play my guitar in cantina's, hike, fish, travel explore, and just vagabond around..I don't see myself working some job unless it's production work within music..It just feels like I would be working to have a home, waiting around to die..I can't see that happening for me. ...What's the point? Get a job doing something you don't give a **************** about, so you can pay your bills, eat, keep a roof over your head and gas money, so you can go to work to make money to, have a house, car, food etc...just a big circle jerk of ignorance if you ask me...I would rather be hiking Machu Picchu or playing some cafe in Buenos Aires, Copenhagen, or spending a couple months Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, etc...It's all doable..Anyway, i'm going WAY WAY off here but you get my point. The way I see it is if I should fail at music, then I'm going to end up hating having to do anything else anyway so i'm ****************ed!...Failure is NOT an option for me. It's all about #WINNING I guess )))

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                    • #11
                      Yea i'm interested in people we may know and maybe people those people may know. As a professional, one of the few on these forums who makes all my money via music, I have lots of stories of successful musicians who are able to survive when they get older but I must admit, I have more stories of the ones that didn't. And those are the really sad ones. I remember in my mid 20's when it hit me..I'm NOT going to end up old, broke, bitter, playing in a corner of some dive bar with no other options. At that point, that's future I was seeing with all the stubborn older pro's who didn't know when to give up and start doing other things in their 40's...Scared the ****************ing **************** out of me to the point of paralysis for a good 5 years in my late 20's-mid 30's. I didn't have faith in the future and I tried to do other things.. Silicon Valley job in the late 90's, back to school, etc..Finally realized I could have success and it's been great since then but..It's NEVER too far from the back of my mind what CAN happen and I will tell you this. If things don't work out the way I hope in the next 10 years, i'm going to have to cut out for something more secure as well. I'm not much into the American Way of Life..Being house poor, debt, car payments, etc ..Working to live..I'll probably take back off to other places in the world, play my guitar in cantina's, hike, fish, travel explore, and just vagabond around..I don't see myself working some job unless it's production work within music..It just feels like I would be working to have a home, waiting around to die..I can't see that happening for me. ...What's the point? Get a job doing something you don't give a **************** about, so you can pay your bills, eat, keep a roof over your head and gas money, so you can go to work to make money to, have a house, car, food etc...just a big circle jerk of ignorance if you ask me...I would rather be hiking Machu Picchu or playing some cafe in Buenos Aires, Copenhagen, or spending a couple months Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, etc...It's all doable..Anyway, i'm going WAY WAY off here but you get my point. The way I see it is if I should fail at music, then I'm going to end up hating having to do anything else anyway so i'm ****************ed!...Failure is NOT an option for me. It's all about #WINNING I guess )))


                      Well... if you get a job doing something you like, you don't have those problems. You also don't have to worry about "failing" at music, because you can't fail... you just continue to make music. I think that one of the most important things you can do is life is to find something that you enjoy doing and do that as your job. I think a lot of people don't accomplish that. I feel really lucky to have a career that I enjoy. Life is too short to do something 8 hours a day that you hate, I agree with you, and yes, a whole lot of people out there do it. They probably feel like they don't have a choice.

                      Lots of musicians say that there IS nothing else that they could do that they'd possibly like. I think without exception that they're wrong. They just haven't discovered the other things the world has to offer that they could do, or they've closed their minds off to the possibility. This sets them up for failure and problems with self worth when they inevitably don't make it, and can kill their love of music. Seen it happen to a whole lot of people. It happened to me.

                      Like I said, tons of people hate their jobs. I went through 5 careers before I found something I really enjoyed doing. I think some people go through life and they don't find something and that's just the way it is. Or they find something but it doesn't pay or doesn't work out for them. Writing is another example. Painting, any kind of art, same deal. It is a travesty to think that you can only be ONE THING. If you tie your sense of self worth to music, you're ****************ed. We all want that one thing that makes us special. It's a sham... we're already special. We're already one of a kind.

                      When I was in high school in the early 80's no one ever talked to me about career choices. All they wanted to know was if I was going to go to college or not. Now we hit them as early as 12 and we talk about different careers and what's out there, and we keep talking to them, and we still end up with seniors who have no clue or concept what they want to do. But a strange thing is starting to happen... kids are starting to pay more and more attention now. Probably because they have a parent who got canned or they know some other adult who lost their job.

                      The fact is that making a living via original music is almost impossible now and it's just going to get harder and harder. It's hard enough finding ANY job. Making a living as any kind of musician is going to get harder. And just because people want to do it ever so badly doesn't mean that it's going to happen. This is the cold hard reality of the situation.

                      You shouldn't sell yourself short. There are probably a million things that you could be good at AND still do music. You have options.

                      Sorry - you didn't ask for a lecture. It's just that I used to feel the exact same way and when I didn't make it in music it crushed me and it took me several years to learn to love music again.
                      <div class="signaturecontainer">---<br />
                      Richard MacLemale<br />
                      <a href="http://www.richardmac.com" target="_blank">My Website at www.richardmac.com</a></div>

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                      • #12
                        I think If I fail to make sustainable money in songwriting and production, I'll either open a cafe/bistro that features killer singer songwriter's and environment and the best home made food, or i'm going to finally put out my World's Greatest Chocolate Ice Cream!

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                        • #13
                          I think If I fail to make sustainable money in songwriting and production, I'll either open a cafe/bistro that features killer singer songwriter's and environment and the best home made food, or i'm going to finally put out my World's Greatest Chocolate Ice Cream!


                          You know, I've thought about that too- opening a venue for singer/songwriter/ roots /americana groups. Even if by 'opening' it, it means convincing someone else to use their place and I'd just help book it and promote the crap out of it.

                          What got me thinking about it again is these guys:

                          www.coatesmusic.net

                          Here's their CL ad:

                          We are a folk/rock band from the Seattle/Tacoma area and we are eventually coming to Spokane and Coeur D'Alene on tour. What are the best venues to play around here that feature local, original music? We like to stick to bars and clubs but wouldn't be opposed to a coffee shop if nothing else came up. We are looking for a spot that there might be a little bit of a built-in crowd although we're not hoping for miracles. You can listen at coatesmusic.net THANK YOU!


                          It's sad that they got not one response that I'm aware of and I can't think of a sinlge venue around here that would be worth their while. I think they're quite good.
                          <div class="signaturecontainer"><a href="http://www.patcoast.com" target="_blank">http://www.patcoast.com</a><br><br><br><br><font size="1">&quot;The guy would be strumming along, singing the verse to “Margarittavile” and then he would hit his harmonizer pedal for the chorus. It went from sounding like a guy singing and playing guitar to sounding like the Stephen Hawkings trio.&quot;-<i>Christhee68</i></font><br><br><br><br><font size="1">&quot; the singer of my cover band used to find it funny to let out gaseous forms of vile hate and sadness that would make a plaster baby Jesus weep.&quot;-<i> FitchFY</i></font></div>

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                          • #14
                            Might be worth a shot, but the hospitality industry can be just as cut-throat. Just like there's the "rock star" dream in music there's the "I'll be Emeril" and just like there's the "I'll go for being a regional act" there's the "I'll just open a little place" --it's tough tough tough.

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                            • #15
                              Might be worth a shot, but the hospitality industry can be just as cut-throat. Just like there's the "rock star" dream in music there's the "I'll be Emeril" and just like there's the "I'll go for being a regional act" there's the "I'll just open a little place" --it's tough tough tough.



                              yes, it is tough. It always sounds easier than it is. Still, I see a growth and resurgence in Americana/folk music around here, with alot of guys like me doing it solo, and the gal I just started playing with doing it with a band, but few places to play it. One venue she booked us into requested that we learn some covers- not real popular ones, and we're free to put our own spin on them, but they're just afraid to froll the dice on an all original Americana act. This entire area is either classic rock cover bands all playing the same basic set lists ( actually, two types- 60s-70s dinosaur rock and 80s-90s and newer) or blues bands that really play blues-based rock or a mix of blues and classic rock. That's about it. I think there could be a good niche audience for good neo-folk Americana music. If I could get 150 people a weekend to come out, it would be a great thing.
                              <div class="signaturecontainer"><a href="http://www.patcoast.com" target="_blank">http://www.patcoast.com</a><br><br><br><br><font size="1">&quot;The guy would be strumming along, singing the verse to “Margarittavile” and then he would hit his harmonizer pedal for the chorus. It went from sounding like a guy singing and playing guitar to sounding like the Stephen Hawkings trio.&quot;-<i>Christhee68</i></font><br><br><br><br><font size="1">&quot; the singer of my cover band used to find it funny to let out gaseous forms of vile hate and sadness that would make a plaster baby Jesus weep.&quot;-<i> FitchFY</i></font></div>

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