Quit your career and just drum full time?

Targalx

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Has anyone here kissed a longtime professional career of some kind goodbye and went full-time drummer? I am not considering doing this, because I actually really like my day job. But I would like to read some stories of those who kicked their non-music careers to the curb to become full-time musicians.

It's something I do think about a lot, on how some folks just put all their eggs into the drumming basket. I know it's worked out for some, but not for many.

What was your former career? What made you ditch it? Have you ever thought about returning to your former career after playing drums full-time? How hard is it to make ends meet? Is the grass really greener on the other side?
 

dale w miller

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I think I worked backwards. I always did drum “full time”, I just supplemented my schedule as needed week to week depending on the amount of gigs/tours I had lined up. Eventually, that supplemental income became its own business that I buy time from instead of objects. This allows me to be even more selective with who I play with.

I’m down to working one day a week with my business outside of the regular phone calls I get from my director.
 

Roch

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I chose to live in rural areas most of my life so there wasn't an opportunity to get enough jobs..after a while, when I was quite busy with bands, I started to get sick of the constant loading and indifference that I felt about gigging..I started to tire of it, even though it was still a weekend hobby..I couldn't have generated enough income to raise my three kids and afford what I had/have, so it isn't something I ever really considered..I did wonder, at times, what could have been, but I have no regrets..I am with a band of old friends now and when we do gig it is for fun..not because we have to...
I have a colleague who has had to hustle all of his life as a full time musician..it shows on him now..he is starting to look pretty road worn, deaf, still drives undependable vehicles..backing up kids younger than his, etc..not sure he likes it any more..but, on the other hand, he did it....and that is no small accomplishment..
 
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dingaling

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To be realistic,
I’m self employed with a small business and pay $480/mo for basic healthcare which has a $4,500 deductible and I’m as healthy as can be (knock on wood).
In 2000 I paid $20/mo when I was a post college full time musician and drum teacher.
No way I could have health insurance today and be a full time musician.
Also add on rent or home payments, car insurance and gas, food, cell and internet, and taxes... so even in a cheaper state to rent in with low taxes, I think you would need parents or wife/husband to support you. I don’t see how that’s any longer financially viable. Unless you’re in a band that happens to pop but even then most of the band money goes into touring, merch, practice space, studio time, and travel (and beer). And if you get licensed most of the money goes to the song writer so your band would have to include you on that and then split it 5 ways. You could maybe do musicals and teach lessons and probably make just enough to live but 1. you have to want to do those and 2. If a musical ends you have to find a new one and that could be months or years. Students call out sick and take summer vacations with their parents so you don’t get paid but your rent is still due every month and so is your Heath insurance premium. I think the last group of musicians that could of done this was in the 90’s pre internet and music sharing.
 

TheBeachBoy

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I never had a real career, just decent (not great) paying jobs that I'd quit after not too long. I could never find anything I liked and didn't have any direction. Slowly got more and more gigs and when I was fired from my last job I decided to go all in. I got lucky that I play with really talented guys and that helped me get better as well. We've been going strong 11 years now and I'm making more than I was at any of my old jobs. My wife works as well, but two income families is normal now and she worked even before I was drumming full time. She loves her current job, too. She gets the health insurance from work and I get the flexible hours so we don't need to put our kid in daycare. Our work hours are almost completely opposite so we rarely need a babysitter. That right there saves us nearly around a thousand a month, plus the bonding time is priceless.
 

BennyK

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I walked away from everything in 96 and drummed full time till 2011 . I even had an offer to live the musical life in Winchester Virginia with a former band mate , but that didn't "work out " at the border .

Its all grist for the mill I suppose , but I wouldn't recommend it for anybody who needs a predictable stable life , even though the best music comes out of adversity AND ladies DO love outlaws as the song says , but that too is not something would advise as an altogether wholesome goal .
 
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drumgadget

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Oh yeah ........ at least twice in my convoluted working life.

First time my brother and I walked away from safe, somewhat boring steady jobs to join a "sure thing" project with tons of nice original material, great musicianship, good singers etc etc. Too bad the business side of things wasn't as solid .........

At least my employer was understanding ......... !

But that experience ultimately led to a total career switch - into the "feral" music biz of the '70s - working in studios (as an engineer) had its own frustrations, though. So away again for a short time, to again learn how freakin' hard it is to make a living as a drummer.

Finally landed on my feet in the film business, with a number of musical colleagues to play with. Best of both worlds? Well, not exactly ........ as a retired guy, trying to play jazz at a moderately professional level, I find it hard sometimes to be taken seriously. Never lived in a cold water flat, worried about getting enough to eat, etc etc. Maybe it's true that you have to go all in? Or is it just paranoia?

But ........ no regrets!

Mike
 

BennyK

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Trying to monetize your passion will make you regret it, then hate it

" Can't do the things I want to
Cause that's what money's for
Do the things I don't want
Gonna cost me even more " Climax Blues Band from the song ' Running out of Time '
 

jashoup

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I worked for 10+ years in finance, then tried my hand at an internet consulting business for a couple years, all while trying to play music on the side. But after feeling a little bit of my soul being chipped away every morning when the elevator opened on the 8th floor of a drab office building, I threw caution to the wind and returned to college at age 35, graduated with a master's degree in music at age 40, and now six years later I'm making a living from the drums. I make about half my income from teaching, both privately at my house and as adjunct college faculty, and the other half from performing. So, it can be done if you're creative about finding multiple income streams. I definitely put in WAY more than 40 hours a week to make less than what I did when I was working in an office. Every year gets better though, and I've been able to parlay my college gig into endorsements with Zildjian, Vic Firth, and Ahead drum bags, which helps make my "habits" a little more affordable.

For me, it was just a matter of that I wasn't happy doing anything else, and I was sick of putting in my time to earn a pittance while someone else made a lot more than I did from my efforts. At this point, I don't get to take expensive vacations to warm climates every year, but my whole life kind of feels like a vacation because I love what I do. It's definitely not the path for everybody. I am married and my wife was totally behind me when I made the decision to jump ship from the corporate world. She's a pretty rare one - I feel very fortunate to have a spouse that really has my back. She is also self-employed and we get health and dental through the Affordable Care Act (which has been amazing for us). It helps that we're in a fairly low cost-of-living area; if we were in a bigger city one of us would probably have to have a "real job" in order to make ends meet.

Nothing ever happens overnight, and there's no magic button, or else everyone would be doing it. But as I meet more and more musicians that are also making a go of it doing things similar to what I do, I find that if you commit to it you can find a way to make it work.
 

Drumprof

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You can do both.
I did the gig / private teach thing only for several years before getting an 8-5, but eventually realized, I needed something else if I was going to do better for myself.
The gig / private teaching thing was ok for a while and being in my 20's, I thought it was awesome. But by the time I hit my 30's, I realized 25-30 grand a year (tops), working my tail off and having no additional benefits wasn't really going to cut it long term.

No offense to those of you who do and I'm not trying to sound like a big shot or anything but I now I have a great day job with guaranteed, regular (provable) income, full benefit of insurance for me and my family, a retirement account with around 80,000 in it, an excellent credit rating and I still play over 100 gigs a year.
You can do both!
Before the 8-5, I didn't have a consistent enough income that I could prove to get a mortage for a home, and apartment living was getting pretty old.
I had no insurance at all, nothing as far as retirement savings for later in life and the only credit I could get was a basic 3,000 visa card (for which I bought a 2,500 set of Maple Customs B)).
Now unless your drumming for some big time artist, or contracted to make good money in a lucrative playing or recording situation, I believe you would be better of in the long run, pursuing a pleasant enough day job career for income and benefit stability and just keep drumming as your side hustle or professional (dare I say) hobby.
Remember this is an art form.
The last thing I'll add, is talent isn't everything boys. I play with some amazing (North Texas graduate) players but damn, most of them seem like they need real jobs.
The last guy I played with, an amazing player, played with Maynard Ferguson....he was 30 something years old, had to hurry back to Dallas because he lives in his parents basement and borrows his mom's car .

Just my experience, take it for what it's worth.
 
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Buffalo_drummer

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This is the situation that pretty much every full-time musician I know has, including my brother who does it for a living. And I hate to say it, but those that don't and have no healthcare, I usually wind up playing benefits to help them with their bills.
 

TheBeachBoy

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Trying to monetize your passion will make you regret it, then hate it
Or the contrast is "Do what you love and you'll never work a day in your life." That's where I'm at. I love my schedule. I watch my son all day during the week when my wife's at work and play my gigs at night and the weekends. I work maybe 20-30 hours a week making more than I did when I worked 40, at a job I hated. We live within our means and it's comfortable. I wouldn't trade this for anything. It's not for everyone and it could dry up at any time but so could any job.
 

Drumprof

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I work maybe 20-30 hours a week making more than I did when I worked 40, at a job I hated.
Good for you brother but it is worth noting, if you hated your job, then that's a bit of a different story for sure.
Several of my fellow musicians like what they do in addition to music. That is so important.
Not just hating anything that's not music, but finding and having a career you like outside of music that's a solid foundation and your music is a great supplement.
If you hate your job like you did, I say get out and don't wast another day in it because you probably won't last long term anyway. Life's too short and money doesn't buy happiness but be careful because gigs, students, bands, do have a shelf-life.
 
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