18 Real Life Expectations AS a Working Musician

So you want to be a working musician?

Unless you are a statused musician to a stable employer such as a local Theme Park, Broadway show, symphony, school, studio or anything like these that have actual W-2s, benefits, etc., you can expect the following as a freelance musician (in no particular order):

1.  Unstable income.  We have feast or famine seasons in the entertainment world.  Saving and budgeting are essential to survival.

2.  Inconsistent schedule.  We work most weekends and holidays.  Gigs happen any time during a 24-hour period, and you have to be as well rested as possible between gigs.  A regular sleep schedule does not exist for the working musician.

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Instrument Snobs

As a professional violinist with many different symphony orchestras throughout the years, I have learned that your value as a musician is not solely based on your performance, but rather how expensive is your instrument.  One would think that the pettiness of the cost of any item fades after high school where they are more concerned about what name brands you wear on your clothing.  The truth is, it only accelerates and magnifies as you get into the professional world.  Usually, other musicians don’t care what brand of clothing you wear, but they certainly want to know what kind of strings you use, the maker of your instrument, who does your luthier work, what brand is your bow, how old is your instrument, etc.  I have been judged based on the TOOLS I use for my job.  That’s what an instrument is:  a tool.  I have seen symphony personnel managers and music directors dismiss musicians based only on the instrument that they can afford/use.  Teachers tell their students and parents to spend more and more money on instruments, going vastly into debt that will likely carry for 30+ years.  And yet, these same musicians are vying for those “coveted” symphony jobs that don’t even pay enough to make the instrument payment each month, let alone give them money to pay for the essentials of life (housing, transportation, food.)

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