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Reality Cheque

Money, music, and the struggles of pursuing
your art

                We
have spoken a lot about keys to success and how people define success
differently on this blog over the past few months. This month we will look at
the eternal conflict between the life of an artist and sustainable income.
Nobody likes to talk about the infamous “M word” in artistic circles, but you
can only deny the necessity of money and sacrificing lifestyle for so long before you seriously impact your well-being.
                So, to kick this month off, I thought it would be cool to share a little bit more
about one of the industries I am actively involved in: Music. Here in Canada,
the music industry is… well… sad. The respect for artists and supports
available are limited and the audiences to concerts of genres like classical
music are ever-dwindling. In addition to being involved in performing a variety of
genres, I have friends who are folk, rock, opera, pop, and gospel singers.
Despite an abundance of talent, energy, education, perseverance, and desperation, the consensus
is the same: It is bloody hard to make it as a musician in this country.

                Admittedly, I can’t comment on what it’s like in other countries, other than to say that resources for
classical music and many other genres in places like the United States and
Europe are leagues above what they are here in Canada. This has lead to most of
us either just scraping by or having to take on a second (or third, or fourth)
job. For many of us, we have a job that we enjoy and that pays the bills, and then
music is a kind of accessory income. Doing what you love and making money doing
it whilst not depending on only that income? Sweet!
                I
have always been afraid that going into music and trying to pursue that as my
sole career would make me resent performing. My logic is simple: When you
depend on something for your own well-being and it lets you down consistently,
you begin to resent it. It’s inevitable. Yes, you can work your ass off. Yes, you
can network and make connections. Yes, you can have all the talent in the world.
But the reality is that there are a select number of people who end up being
able to sustain themselves on just their art, and most of those kinds of successes are
really just a result of chance.

                But
is having your art as an accessory income selling yourself short? We’ll examine
this further this month, and I’ll be honest, I sometimes have regrets that I
wasn’t able to take more time to work on my art and refine it so that I could
have more opportunities. But this isn’t the be-all-end-all. I am still putting
some time into getting jobs in the music field while pursuing a more reliable
career, and I still love both music and the field I’m going to be going into.
To me, that’s a win.

                One
more thing to think about this week is that if you aren’t depending on
something for your next rent or mortgage payment, dentist bill, or grocery list,
it is easier to feel successful in it. The little gains mean more and the
pressure and stress is much less. 

One Comment

  • Damaria Senne

    Sadly, artists have to deal with the dichotomy of art vs money in most fields. The problem persists across countries too, I think.

    One of the most disillusioning moments for me was the realisation that I could write what I was inspired to write, and struggle to sell it and/make a living at it. Or I could write what clients want and make a living. I chose the latter, because i really wanted to make a living at writing. However, some days are hard, because there is still a huge part of me that is inspired to write stuff clients didn't ask for; stuff I don't know if they have a market. So I continue to write that as a hobby, I guess, hoping that the material will eventually command enough of an audience that I can phase out client work.

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