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This is a hypothetical question directed at those of you out there who do or did make a living primarily as a performer, whether as a leader, sideman, studio musician, or anything like that. I'm just wondering if any of you made the choice early on to take gigs in a kind of genre/band/environment that wouldn't have been your *first choice*, and then had it take off to the point where you felt like it would be a risk pursuing your preferred style of music. For example a hardcore jazzer who started taking pop/rock gigs as a sideman and then was very successful at that to the point where they no longer felt they could *make it* in the jazz scene (insert whatever genres you want). Does that kind of thing happen often? Is it a problem or are you just happy to be making money playing music? Do you have time for your own stuff on the side? I'm just trying to get a feel for what people's experiences have been, since not everyone has a career where they totally call the shots about what kind of music they play.

A related question - at what point in your career do you turn down gigs simply because you don't like the kind of music you are asked to play (or is there even such a point)?

hope this makes sense haha[rolleyes]
 

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I gave up pursuing a career as a jazz musician when I discovered two things. First that I couldn't play fast enough and second that there is hardly a career in it anyway. I was happy to make a living playing music when I was young, but it didn't take long to realise I was happiest playing and learning about blues and rock & roll, though I found I could learn something, and enjoy that learning, from more or less any style of music bar none.

So it wasn't just a question of being happy making money playing music, it was a question of enjoying and learning about all forms of music.

A related question - at what point in your career do you turn down gigs simply because you don't like the kind of music you are asked to play
At one stage I became able to turn down gigs, but it was not usually based on a genre, it would more likely be based on not enjoying working with the particular people on a gig, be they players or management.
 

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A related question - at what point in your career do you turn down gigs simply because you don't like the kind of music you are asked to play (or is there even such a point)?
I'm not sure what I do musically qualifies as a 'career' although over the past few years, the little money I make at it has become a considerable part of my income (which is simply to say I'm a long ways from being rich). With that caveat, there was never a point at which I accepted gigs where I would have to play the kind of music I don't like. That was never on the radar for me.

I only play the music I like. Just yet another reason, among many, that I'll never be rich!
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
I'm not sure what I do musically qualifies as a 'career' although over the past few years, the little money I make at it has become a considerable part of my income (which is simply to say I'm a long ways from being rich). With that caveat, there was never a point at which I accepted gigs where I would have to play the kind of music I don't like. That was never on the radar for me.

I only play the music I like. Just yet another reason, among many, that I'll never be rich!
Haha, yeah there's always that way to go about it.
 

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I was a jazz studies major in college and mostly made money playing weddings etc. I played jazz clubs and festivals whenever possible but found it very difficult to make any money doing that. I love playing so it was fine.

I personally never believed in turning down gigs. I guess I was never good enough to be able to turn gigs down but never wanted a reputation of someone they turned down gigs.

Eventually, I got tired of all the late nights while trying to raise a family and of working my butt off to make no money so I started my own business. Now I can play when I want, take only the gigs I want, and don’t worry what my reputation is as far as someone that turns down gigs because I don’t rely on the work to make a living. I actually enjoy playing so much more now because there’s no pressure. That’s just be though.
 

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Pete made this point earlier. There’s a certain speed required with regards to dexterity, articulation, and brain that just needs to be there. Some would call this talent but it’s less mystical for me. This can certainly be developed but at some point you quickly realize why ‘the greats’ are ‘the greats.’ By no means would I suggest giving up on a career in music but realize the competition is great and everyone is talented. Good luck.
 

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I drew the line at "Born to be Alive"!
A band had a record deal, and a country-wide tour booked, then their singer quit. Most of the songs I'd played before, so the audition process went really well, but they played a disco song and I just couldn't do it! I got the job, but turned it down.
Really, there was a lot more to it, I had a young family, and I didn't want to spend 9 months on the road with strangers, but "Born to be Alive" had a lot to do with it too, an indication that sooner or later we'd be butting heads over musical direction. The original songs for the "album" were already set, I'd have no choice but to sing what I was told as I was told, I'd have no say in it at all.
I was pretty much booked up anyway doing solo shows, although I soon picked up a drummer and harp player (I would have loved a sax player instead!).
I'd already been in a band playing 4 gigs a week for a long time, meaning that with practice, I was singing 5 days a week. It got to the point where it was a job, not a partying and having fun, you had to fake having a good time for the audience's sake, you were dictated to, told to behave etc, and I didn't want to do it again with strangers.
But really, the final straw was them not agreeing to drop the disco song from the set!
 

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I don't think you've paid your dues until you've played a lot of gigs performing music you don't like, with and for people you don't like in plces you'd rather not be......Builds character :) To make a good living in music performance is rare when compared to how many people try, are trying to do this very thing. Musical skills, people skills, business skills and a large dollop of luck...
 

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I’ve played with Hip Hop, Reggae, R&B, Funk, Rock & Roll, Jazz (smooth & straight ahead); he’ll I played a gig in the nineties with a grunge band. You wind up taking a lot of gigs if you want to make money. If you only want to play Jazz, you don’t generally make a lot of money; that’s more of a ‘for you’ thing. Not saying you can’t make money playing Jazz, just not enough alone. Even some of the great players supplemented income with things like teaching. Today’s player has to even go beyond and build a brand with it, at minimum in the local scene.
 

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Now that this thread has been revived and not having been able to gig through the past year due to the pandemic, followed by the fact that 2 (out of 4) of my band members have moved out of town, I've revised my thoughts on playing music that isn't my first choice. I've been offered a gig (outdoors, socially distanced, and the band members are all vaccinated) in May with a band that plays more rock than blues and a lot of original material. Normally, that wouldn't be my first, or even second, choice, but damn I want to play live music again with others so I'm doing it. And not for the small amount of money either...

We'll see how that works out in the long run; hopefully I can put my band back together with some new players, or at least get together with blues/jazz players again at some point.

I definitely agree that if you want a career in music, you have to be very flexible and willing to play a variety of styles. But I don't need a career anymore.
 

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many musicians are now considering a new career.

By the way, the composer is way more likely to be able to actually make a career out of music than a performer (on average) is.

Composing for advertising, TV and Radio programs returns a lot more and there is no shortage of people doing it (as in performing), some players are able to do both and this is a very good time to be flexible

I make 100% of my income from writing and playing (my own) music. Since the pandemic I have been composing more than playing, obviously.
 

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By the way, the composer is way more likely to be able to actually make a career out of music than a performer (on average) is.
Which is why I switched to composing. It coincided with finding out there was a bay on the way so it made sense to go the more lucrative path, especially as many of the diversions on the road were no longer so relevant, being in a steady relationship.

However I wouldn't advise it so much these days, getting your foot in the door is less easy, budgets are on the whole lower. Directors are getting less and less able to give a coherent brief (preferring to get lots of unpaid demos knowing there's a half decent chance one of them will work etc. etc. The nice part about it is the royalties don't stop necessarily when the work does.
 

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frankly speaking, I think, there are very few creative professions left, in the world, where making your way would be as “ easy” ( it is now downright almost impossible in some cases) as it was say until the ’70.

When in the ’80 I became a professional photographer after studying at a prestigious design and photography school in Milan, I became the assistant of a photographer who, even though not anymore as popular or well paid ( He had replaced David Bailey at Aquascutum advert photography!) as he was just a decade before, told me many times : “ if you only had started 10 years ago things would have been a lot easier for you”..., and they became very difficult from the ’90 onward. These days they are very difficult indeed. Lots of people doing ( photography and music) at cut prices, the jobs pay less that they did (in absolute terms not relative) in the ’80 and VERY few manage to make a living.

Jaques Seguela the famous advertising man from RSCG France, wrote a book called “ Don’t tell my mother in advertising she thinks I play piano in a brothel!”, well, I don’t know which was a dishonorable profession but , I can tell you that in most cases you won’t be able to make ends meet in MOST cases of Both.
 

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frankly speaking, I think, there are very few creative professions left, in the world, where making your way would be as " easy" ( it is now downright almost impossible in some cases) as it was say until the '70.

When in the '80 I became a professional photographer after studying at a prestigious design and photography school in Milan, I became the assistant of a photographer who, even though not anymore as popular or well paid ( He had replaced David Bailey at Aquascutum advert photography!) as he was just a decade before, told me many times : " if you only had started 10 years ago things would have been a lot easier for you"..., and they became very difficult from the '90 onward. These days they are very difficult indeed. Lots of people doing ( photography and music) at cut prices, the jobs pay less that they did (in absolute terms not relative) in the '80 and VERY few manage to make a living.

Jaques Seguela the famous advertising man from RSCG France, wrote a book called " Don't tell my mother in advertising she thinks I play piano in a brothel!", well, I don't know which was a dishonorable profession but , I can tell you that in most cases you won't be able to make ends meet in MOST cases of Both.
Yeah, working in photography and film is similar to music. In photography though, most can now own a nice camera. Many think that's all you need, that, and a watermark :) . Music is a little different as you can certainly buy a $10,000 sax but everyone will know when you blow in to it that you are really just a saxophone OWNER. Everyone with a camera thinks they are a photographer not just a camera OWNER.
 

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sometimes, when I see the bad pics people use to illustrate their saxophones for sale, I know the seller needs the money to buy a good camera, haveing said this, many people now film and take pictures with their telephone.

Some companies even advertise telephones being able to shoot professional quality pictures. A bit sad BUT...

A good photographer can use any camera, good photography is not in the intrinsic quality of the image but the aesthetic one.

When I was a teacher in the NL at a photo academy we were asking students to use ( long ago) a box camera and do an entire reportage with it.

Limitations and all, you can take great images with the simplest of the cameras.
 

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You can almost always tell the sax picture that were shot with a phone. They look okay until you zoom in. When you do zoom in there’s no detail.

They are better now but the older phone cams sucked.
 

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When this thread started, we were "still bouncing back" from the 2008 crash – and really, we never quite did. Then came COVID. Meanwhile, the wrecked recording industry never caught up to information technology. So this is an eternally challenging topic, and while I've been very fortunate in my music career, I wouldn't recommend it to most people. Some of the best artists I know make a living in other fields and create (often absolutely brilliant) music without fear of having to make it sustain them financially.

One weird upside of the last year, for me: I got to focus more on creative music than I had in a long time because of the absence of "money gigs." There were NO gigs, so I was forced to make ends meet in other ways (thankfully, remote recording and remote teaching through the college came through). Now that I'm vaccinated and gig offers are coming in, I'm finding myself being more picky, and ready to say no to good-paying gigs if I think they'll be a drag. It's been a positive examination of creative and professional values in a dark time.
 
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