Self employed.

What does it take to be a musician? Many things. And some of those things are mysterious, like what skills you need on the instrument, or which person you need to know to succeed. But some can be answered in a more mundane way by saying that being a musician requires a lot of the skills a self employed person has.

I’ll give you a few “for instance” but be aware that the list is nowhere near complete.

First off, you need a good understanding on how to balance a budget. The ins and outs of your income and expenses are essential. Work on your mathematical skills, specifically the four operations. You may get close to zero in your account, but never go under. You want to keep away the demons of the credit card debts and some such.

You’ll also need a good personality. By that I mean someone not too shy that can state firmly but gently what they want and how they want it. As a musician, you’re going to be jerked around from time to time, just like in any other business. Set up some rules that you won’t negotiate with. Make sure those rules are fair and that you’re able to explain them to anybody in simple terms.

You’ll want a car. Yes. That means managing a loan and an object that is not your precious instrument. The goal of the car is to be reliable, just like a fridge. You buy it to transport things and never break down. Keep up the maintenance and get good tires. You’ll be thankful when you’re in a snowstorm and you’re the only one that will be getting home.

Protect your business and your family. That one can get nasty because you get competitors or people envious of your success that’ll stop at nothing to make you fail. Always act like you want a five star review as soon as you’re in a business environment. Chances are, if you got nothing to hide, it’ll give your enemies a harder time to bring you down. That motto has kept me afloat and clean for 40 years.

I could go on and on about making sure you get some vacation, to not get burnt out, to keep a healthy eating habit, to chose a partner carefully, etc… But, basically, the secret to staying a pro musician for a long time is the same as staying healthy for a long time: watch what you’re doing, be fairly disciplined and don’t forget it’s supposed to be fun.

(I put a picture of Bruce Springsteen because the guy doesn’t drink or do drugs, has been with his wife forever and rocks harder than anybody else although he’s close to being 75 years old. He should be a model to us all.)