All Play and No Work…

Yes, I know… I have seriously fallen down on the job here as of late. There have been a lot of developments personally, in the “other side gig” and at my day job that have conspired to keep me away from here for a while. But hopefully I’m back on the horse and ready to talk about something that I’ve noticed goes unattended by the VAST majority of musos… the “work” part of making a go in the scene.


I’ve been thinking a lot about how muso like to think about their work as a calling, as something they hope will be an inspiration to the masses, as a platform for a message that needs to be delivered to their generation…

…in other words, they think of their music as almost anything but work. Hey, I get it. It’s really not something that seems like work if you are called, inspired, and/or you’re hyped about the message you want to get out there. At the end of the day, though, if you don’t look at your craft as WORK, then – in my humble opinion, you’re heading down a dead-end track. I mentioned a while back that there are so many aspects to trying to get a band off the ground that it’s tough to keep track of them all – even if your goal is the relatively modest one of just making a decent living. In order to juggle these things it takes more than passion, it takes dedication, time, and – the bane of my particular existence – organization. In other words, it takes work ethic.

I guess this post today is as much of a lament as anything, because if you’ve recently heard an old curmudgeon talk about the lack of work ethic in today’s generation (it’s a favorite topic) then you can, in my experience, multiply that problem by a factor of ten and get your typical musician stereotype. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve worked with a band or muso that feels that it’s not just OK, but that it’s actually EXPECTED that a group show up late, be so intoxicated as to barely be able to stand, and put forth just enough effort to noodle through three sets of unrehearsed garbage because “we play what we FEEEeeel…” This, in a nutshell, is crap.

I can’t sit here behind this keyboard and tell you that I’m anywhere close to my goal of making a second income with my playing… yet. I’m still a little young in my efforts (to be so old) but i can tell you that I’ve read many interviews by many folks – performer and executive alike – that have been generous enough to point us in the general direction of making a successful living in a tough business. Exactly none of them have mentioned getting there by winging it. Yet ALL of them have at some point during the interview made mention of a strong, DIRECTED work ethic that keeps the musicians focused on a solid plan to reach concrete goals… it’s basically small business 101 when you get down to brass tacks! 

Do this for me… go ahead and Google something to the effect of “success in the music industry” … or indeed any sort of search that’s even CLOSE to that string of words and let’s take a look at the first-page results. By the fourth or fifth article the content is actually tiresome. “Think like a business person,” “set specific goals,” “find unexpected opportunities,” “have a definite plan” – the list goes on a bit, but you can basically break down all this sage advice into two main bullet points: 1) Think through a solid plan and then 2) stick with said plan. That’s it. Small business owners all over the world do this every day and you know… it tends to lead to success. The music business is no different. At the end of the day the last word is that it’s a business. Treating it like a hobby is just asking for hobby results. I have every intention of proving it as the days move forward, and hopefully one or two of you will be around to see me write about both the successes and failures of our efforts here as the Brass fumbles our way through planning and executing our own business goals.

Wish us luck – we’re pulling for you too!

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Julian Vickers
Julian Vickers

2 Replies to “All Play and No Work…”

  1. Yes it needs to be treated as business, but you still need to remember that its suppose to be fun too. Don’t become too rigid with it being a business that must be controlled, that you lose some of the fun and enjoyment. If you don’t enjoy it then it really becomes a job.

    1. Completely agree! It’s a fine line to walk but it can be done – problem is your typical muso gives ZERO thought to anything outside of the music itself… and some don’t even get that far! And yet everyone seems to want to make it a legit means of support. Unfortunately there’s no free lunch and you can’t have the monetary progress without some of that ‘un-fun’ stuff coming with it. Had a wise old man tell me “it don’t matter the job, there’s always going to be bull that comes with it.” Truer words never spoken. I guess the trick is finding out how to walk the balance… as always. Thanks for the comment!

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