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  • The Full-Time Musician: "Don't You Have a 'Real' Job?"

    "Don't You Have a 'Real' Job?"

    By Team HC |

    by Dave Ruch    (adapted by TEAM HC)


    Have you ever heard that question as you’re setting up for a gig, or in polite conversation with the person who booked you?

    It’s often followed by a bit of backtracking:

    Or, you know, I mean...is this all you do?

    For those of us who perform full time, we’ve gotten quite used to this one.

    And, of course, it’s an entirely well-meaning bit of conversation, often started by someone who doesn’t know a whole lot of professional entertainers or musicians.

    They’re really just trying to be friendly, making a bit of small talk with someone with whom they assume they’ll have little else in common.


    And because what they’re really thinking is “you couldn’t possibly make a living doing this, right?” – but they’ve stopped themselves because it sounds too blunt – what comes out instead is “so, is this all you do?

    Unfortunately (for them), they quickly realize “is this all you do?”sounds an awful lot like “you don’t do anything more important or consequential than this?

    Then the backtracking begins.


    The Answer is “Yes!”

    I take great delight in telling people that “yes,” this is my full-time job, and I support my family of four doing it.

    That’s amazing.

    You’re very lucky.”


    Those are some of the typical responses.


    Taking It a Step Further

    Working in schools as a visiting artist as much as I do, I get the “is this all you do?” question pretty frequently, but I’ve noticed that my answer seems to take on extra gravity in deep, late winter.

    This seems to be the time every year – somewhere around February/March – when overworked, underappreciated teachers start wondering (briefly, for most) what else they could be doing with their lives.

    The carefree, “doing what you love for a living” lifestyle starts looking awfully appealing to worn out educators, and they really want to know how it all works.



    So, we talk about the logistics.

    The conversation doesn’t usually last long.

    Once I start to describe how I buy my own health care, have no pension or 401k plans from my employer, spend more time on marketing and administrative stuff – and driving – than I do actually “doing what I love,” the reality starts to set in.



    It’s A Dream Come True

    It’s just not ALL dreamy…

    Don’t get me wrong. I wouldn’t trade my life as an independent performing artist for anything in the world.


    I’m my own boss, I design my own shows, make my own hours much of the time, set my own rates, and lots more.

    But I also deal with all the computer malfunctions, booking arrangements, insurance, accounting, travel logistics, correspondence, advertising, marketing, PR, taxes, retirement plans, and everything else related to running my own business.


    So, yes, This is All We Do! But we also do it all, don’t we?



    For more, see Julie Balzer’s article On Being a Full-Time Artist

    And Carolyn Edlund’s How Being a Full-Time Artist Will Change Your Life





    Since leaving a white-collar marketing job in 1992, Dave Ruch has been educating and entertaining full-time in schools,historical societies and museumsfolk music and concert venueslibraries, and online via distance learning programs.

    Along the way, he’s learned a great deal about supporting a family of four as a musician.

    Sub Title: "Don't You Have a 'Real' Job?"

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    It isn't attractive for anyone but the people who get a kick out of entertaining. The monetary versus egocentric returns are weighted towards the latter.  While there's a certain rugged individualist in the mix that few might have the courage to embrace, there's also, with strict regard to the family of an entertainer, the purely selfish angle.


    No retirement plan, no employer group medical provider advantages, no guarantee of income, no sense of financial security for Mom and kids while you're out on the road, you'd have to assemble the honesty from deep down and admit that it's pretty much self-importance as the driving force to wander as a minstrel.  That, to me, is not even close to the selflessness the family needs in a partner, father and household contributor to ensure he or she can compromise their ego to better arrange the family's security now and in the future.

    So, for the purpose of correcting the gist of this article, I would pose the real question to be "Don't you think you're being a little selfish to risk the security and well-being of your family to satisfy your ego?"


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