Have you ever heard that question as you’re setting up for a gig, or in polite conversation with a neighbor?
Or how about this one – “So, what else do you do?”
These are often followed by a bit of backtracking:
“Or, you know, I mean, you must have another job too?”
For those of us who perform full-time, we’ve gotten quite used to these questions.
And, of course, it’s an entirely well-meaning bit of conversation, often started by someone who doesn’t know a whole lot of professional entertainers or musicians.
They’re really just trying to be friendly, making a bit of small talk with someone they assume they’ll have little else in common with.
And because what they’re really thinking is “you couldn’t possibly make a living doing this, right?” – but they’ve stopped themselves because it sounds too blunt – what comes out instead is “so, is this all you do?”
Unfortunately (for them), they quickly realize “is this all you do?” sounds an awful lot like “you don’t do anything more important or consequential than this?”
Then the backtracking begins.
The Answer is “Yes!”
I take great delight in telling people that “yes,” this is my full-time job, and I support my family of four doing it.
“You’re very lucky.”
Those are some of the typical responses.
Taking It A Step Further
Working in schools as a visiting artist as much as I do, I get the “is this all you do?” question pretty frequently, but I’ve noticed that my answer seems to take on extra gravity in deep, late winter.
This seems to be the time every year – somewhere around February/March – when overworked, underappreciated teachers start wondering (briefly, for most) what else they could be doing with their lives.
The carefree, “doing what you love for a living” lifestyle starts looking awfully appealing to worn out educators, and they really want to know how it all works.
So, we talk about the logistics.
The conversation doesn’t usually last long.
Once I start to describe how I buy my own healthcare, have no pension or 401k plans from my employer, spend more time on marketing and administrative stuff – and driving – than I do actually “doing what I love,” the reality starts to set in.
(See the article 7 Things I Wish I Knew When I Became a Full-Time Musician.)
It’s A Dream Come True
It’s just not ALL dreamy…
Don’t get me wrong. I wouldn’t trade my life as an independent performing artist for anything in the world.
I’m my own boss, I design my own shows, make my own hours much of the time, set my own rates, and lots more.
But I also deal with all the computer malfunctions, booking arrangements, insurance, accounting, travel logistics, correspondence, advertising, marketing, PR, taxes, retirement plans, and everything else related to running my own business.
So, Yes, This is All We Do!
But we also do it all, don’t we?
Let me know how you do it in the Comments section below.
For more, see Julie Balzer’s article On Being a Full-Time Artist
And Carolyn Edlund’s How Being a Full-Time Artist Will Change Your Life
About The Blog
Since leaving a white-collar marketing job in 1992, Dave Ruch has been educating and entertaining full-time in schools, historical societies and museums, folk music and concert venues, libraries, and online via distance learning programs.
Along the way, he’s learned a great deal about supporting a family of four as a musician.
The Educate and Entertain blog provides articles, tips, encouragements, and how-to’s for regional performers (in any region) interested in making a great full-time living in the arts.