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Wednesday, June 18, 2014

How do pro musicians keep it fun after many years?

By Ted Slowik

There's a reason they call it "playing" music
 
Work is work, and play is play, and never the twain shall meet, right? Unless you happen to be a working musician, in which case you "play" for a living.
 
I'm not a professional musician, but I've thought about becoming one. My biggest reservation about turning pro isn't whether I'd be good enough to be successful. I worry that if I did music full-time it wouldn't be fun anymore.
 
As a hobbyist/aspiring pro I can come home from my day job, pick up my guitar and play for a couple hours and all the stress and worries of the day melt away. If I was a working musician, what would I do for fun? Play golf?
 
I’ve become acquainted with several professional musicians. I’m friends with many more who, like me, have day jobs and do music on the side or as a second career. But I know a fair number who do music full-time and I deeply respect their entrepreneurship.
 
Some who have been doing it professionally for many years sometimes hint at the grind of performing five to eight shows a week, playing the same venues and festivals. It might have been fun the first time, or the first dozen times, but after a while they fall into a routine that sometimes gives way to a rut. Sure, they can spice things up with new material or collaborating with a different bunch of players. But sometimes a few music pros sound tired, like office workers complaining about their jobs.
 
Mind you, musical performance might be one of the most difficult professions one could choose. You work with tobacco users and alcohol drinkers and sometimes drug abusers and sex addicts. You endure long-distance relationships with loved ones and betrayals by people you thought were your friends. If you’re lucky enough to emerge from years of that lifestyle with your health and sanity intact—well, then, you’ve accomplished something.

So my question to all professional musicians is this: How do you keep it fun after years as a working player?