Wednesday, June 13, 2007

It's tough to be a singer.

From the blog "A Singer's Life" by Michelle Bennett

You'll enjoy this insight into the life of a professional singer:

Do you want to be a singer? Consider this first:

1. Absolutely no guarantee of appreciation, recognition or work. Guarantee of criticism and numerous failures which are sometimes very public.

2. Filling out endless applications for money, schools, competitions, auditions and jobs with little or no success. Rejection.

3. Perpetual lack of money. Having to scrounge to pay for coachings, lessons, travel, sheet music, language training, body work, etc. Sometimes having your telephone turned off, health insurance cut, with no way to pay the rent. Or else making the decision to prostitute your soul and life time in a day job in order to pay for the things which fulfill you on the side.

More here.


Terminal Degree said...

I have mixed emotions about this post. Yes, it IS indeed tough to be a musician. And there are NO guarantees. But really, in what field does one truly have a guarantee of appreciation or recognition? Yes, there are folks who make six figures doing what they love, whether in business, law, medicine, or even the arts, but again, there was never a guarantee of success in any of these fields. The fact is, IMO, that no one is entitled to success.

Furthermore, taking a "day job" is hardly prostituting oneself. I spent years in "day jobs" doing work I didn't particularly love. But you know what? Most of the other folks in those entry-level jobs weren't thrilled with the work, either, and they didn't have music as an outlet like I did. And let's face it, working in an office or as a barista may be hard work, but it's hardly 12 hours in a coal mine. There is nothing shameful about doing honest work, even if it isn't in the field of one's "calling."

That said, I do think it's wise to warn student musicians that there was never a promise of success. I didn't reach the place where I was making a living as full-time musician until I was in my 30s. (And some musicians never do reach that goal.) I won't easily forget the days of rummaging through the office fridge on weekends looking for other folks' leftovers, or of having a monthly grocery budget of $50.

I think what musicians often forget is that there are few fields in which there are guarantees or recognition. My dad was an elementary school teacher for over three decades. Yes, there was a guarantee of steady work, but it wasn't a prestigious job, and there were days when he didn't love it. But there were also days of great satisfaction. And my mom, a salesperson, struggled for years before becoming successful. Musicians, with all of our struggles and frustrated, are hardly the only ones who are faced with regular failure and criticism. There is a gamble in any field.

And yet, I understand Bennett's frustrations. I've had them too. But my hunch is that the CEOs of major companies have gone through similar angst at some point in their careers...but without the artistic and emotional outlets that we musicians have.

Now if there were only a way to get affordable health insurance as a musician...the rest would be so much easier to cope with!

Sorry to hijack your comments!

Michelle said...

Thank you both - Philip and terminal degree - for your thoughts on yesterday's post. That post has caused a bit of a stir, and I felt compelled to write a follow-up today:

I know what I wrote was somewhat harsh, however one only need watch one episode of American Idol or teach a few music lessons to understand how out of touch with reality many young people considering a life as a professional musician are. The 5 points are less my own frustrations than a one-sided, one dimensional perspective into the life of a singer. They are offered as a reality check to my young readers. They represent areas which are often very important in the life of the average person - such as financial success or predictability - where a professional singer may have to choose another approach to life.

Of course, the points can be applied to other professions - especially those where excellence and mastery are key.