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When Are You Going To Get A Real Job?

One question that all musicians have been asked on numerous occasions is “when are you going to get a real job?”, or perhaps its younger sibling “so what do you do for a real job?”.[1] Always this question is asked with a conflicting mixture of scorn and poorly concealed jealousy, although it is arguably a very fair question if you’ve just seen my band playing to fifteen people and not selling any merchandise…

Nevertheless, many people have a curious fascination with the world of the musician, which seems to promise no small degree of riches, decadence and glamour, in return for very little “real” work.

While it seemed to promise this to me too, upon reflection getting something in writing to that effect would have perhaps been wise. Despite playing in bands since 1989, I’ve yet to receive any riches, very little glamour, and only minor decadence, and I seem to have done an awful lot of “real” work in the process.

Not that this has stopped me from trying, which makes me much like the majority of people that play in bands. Because for every household name, there are another ten fairly well known bands making a very decent living, and for every ten of these there are another hundred that are making, well, a living. And for every hundred of these, there are thousands upon thousands upon thousands of bands that struggle on year in year out, doing an awful lot of work for very little reward and doing any number of crap casual jobs to keep the wolf from the door.

And ultimately we’re not doing it for the promise of riches, glamour and decadence. You do meet people at the start who indeed are doing it for these reasons, but they all drop out very early on once reality sets in. Those of us who stick at it for many a long year are those that aren’t really all that fussed about being cool and glamorous,[2] although we’d very much appreciate some of the riches. We’re doing it for the love of the music. For the adventure. For those brief but transcendent moments of genuine magic when everything in the universe just clicks together in one beautiful chord.

Because we don’t really know how to stop. We just keep driving down the road until we break down. And while it’s a road to nowhere in particular, the scenery along the way is always worth looking at – even the bits you’re looking at it in absolute horror. It’s a fucking bumpy old road though.

But what’s it actually like? Stay tuned…

[1] Another question you’ll also get asked repeatedly is something along the line of “there’s a new series of X-Factor soon, why don’t you apply for that?”. You will entertain notions of punching people that ask this, or perhaps pushing them in front of a bus, but ultimately you’ll offer a meek “oh that’s not really my thing” and try and quickly change the subject.

[2] Which is lucky.

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