Last night at the gym, I thumbed through the latest issue of American Songwriter magazine (a magazine that I never subscribed to but am more than happy to receive for free – not sure how that happened but never look a gift horse in the mouth…) The letter from the editor mentioned in passing how many of us struggling musicans have day-jobs. Reading that gave me a little feeling of validation given that almost everything I read about the music industry is geared toward the entrepeneurial aspect of the singer-songwriter business and pursuing music full time.
I pursued music full time for six months, struggling to get a west coast tour off the ground, with a brazenly delusional view of the time this would require. While I was definitely happy being my own boss and not being stuck in an ugly office (plus being able to work in my pajamas and fluffy bunny slippers), contrary to whatever glamorous images you may have gotten from shows like American Idol, the real music biz is work. LOTS of work. Non-stop hustling for a paying gig. I couldn’t play music for anyone or offer piano or guitar lessons unless I was guaranteed payment ahead of time. Commerce and business overtook all of my music relationships. That plus the stresses of moving back home at 30 (after having lived on my own since I turned 18) and trying to hold down a semi-long distance relationship proved a bit too much.
So I returned to my day job (as a legal secretary/paralegal in trademark law). It’s nice to have health coverage again, and I’m able to pay my bills on time now – and slowly recoop losses from recording Strangely Beautiful and the Transformers album. And if I’m going to hit the road for a full fledged tour, I need to update my press kits and demo DVDs. Doing all that shit right costs a pretty penny. So to move things along semi-brisquely (I’m as impatient as they come), I’ve been working 12+ hour days, then hitting the gym for 2+ hours (my boss is intense and has definitely earned the title of Bipolar Cyborg – I spend half the time at the gym blowing off steam from her ridiculous bullshit). Add to that an hour + commute each way and then staying up to handle music biz emails. Sob story, cry me a river, I know…
But it does make for a very sleepy DannyKatz. And one that’s jacked up on way the fuck too much coffee.
What’s resulted from this schedule is certainly not a lack of inspiration (my commute to and from the office provides me about 80% of my lyric writing time – and the motherfucking freaks I’m forced to stand next to on the subway are an endless source of lyrical inspiration – “See a song in everyone”) but sheer fatigue which I worry impacts my performances. It’s amazing how much more on point I am when I get 8-9 hours of sleep versus the 5-6 I usually get.
Most frustrating about this is that I can’t stay in touch nearly as much as I used to. And the whole reason I brought my music to the ‘net was so I could meet and stay in touch with many of you.
So I took two days off from the day job (the only time that I’ve taken solace in being able to use the migraine excuse – I get awful ones on occasion) to sit down and map out a tentative budget and business plan for the next 10 years. It’s amazing how many musicians I’ve met who never think of doing this, flying by the seat of their pants. If you ask them, they mention some vague shit about “making it.”
Paraphrasing something Derek Sivers of cdbaby.com said, I’ve been learning to see my music career as a road trip. Sure, the journey is as important if not more than the destination, but you’d plan a roadtrip with, at a minimum, a map to your destination and a destination itself.
Having my destination worked out allows me to at least tentatively plan the next 2 years. I say tentatively because if 30 years have taught me one big lesson, it’s that all the planning in the world won’t prepare you for all the weird curveballs life throws at you. But that being said, some planning never hurt.
As an aside, if you want some life planning yourself, I recommend stevepavlina.com (except when he waxes poetic about that philosophy lite Secret book). I see him as a life coach with something REAL to say (vs. someone like Dr. Phil who irritates me to no end).
So yeah, I need to learn me some patience. But along those lines (hello a.d.d. my old friend…) I had a laugh the other night when I was leaving the gym. It was Friday at midnight, and as I’m walking from the gym through Grand Central Station I hear Billy Joel’s “Why Do I Go to Extremes?” blasting through the station. An appropriate song given where I’m at in my life, but I do find hearing it blast through the station a bit odd. That is, until I stumble on a spinning fundraiser hosted by New York Sports Club called “Saints and Spinners” (groan).
Friday at midnight, and there’s a motherfucking spin class going on in Grand Central Station. What a strange city this is.
But as I was grocery shopping at 1:30am this morning, all I could think was that with all my stubborn drive (and bizarre hours), this is a good place for me to be.