What Do You Do When You’re NOT Performing?

Sometimes when I’m home on a weekday, I’ll bump into my neighbors on the street, or at the store.

They’ll often say things like “oh…got the day off today, huh?”

This makes perfect sense. I’m a musician and performer. If I’m not out on the road somewhere, I must have the day off.

If only they knew!

I decided a long time ago that if I was going to do music full time, it was going to take every ounce of organization and energy I could muster.

In short, I’d really need to treat it like a business.

If you’re serious about doing what you love and making a good living at it, you’ll want to think along those lines too.

Treat Your Career in the Arts Like a Business

What this means for me is that any weekday (Monday-Friday) when I’m not out doing performances, I’m plugging away in my office, building my little arts enterprise pretty much from 8am-5:30pm or so.

If I have a performance in the middle of the day, I’ll work before and after, for a total of 8-10 hours.

How much could there possibly be to do?

Your neighbors might not believe it!

For starters, there’s:

IMPORTANT NOTE: we haven’t touched the artistic side of things yet, nor the part where we need to keep our instruments and other tools of the trade in good working order!

How Much Office Time Will You Need?

During some slower seasons, I’ve spent close to a full week at a time, or more, at my desk.

(Just one of the reasons why we need to set our rates accordingly.)

And you know what?

There’s always a HUGE list of things still undone at the end of that week.

The GlamorousLife of the . . .

If you’re pursuing better and more meaningful performances, the work never ends.

And that’s a good thing.

There is always more that we can be doing to build our opportunities and our business.

I have to say that after 25 years as a full-time musician, this approach still really works for me.

So, what are you doing today?

I’d love to hear your thoughts in the Comments section below.

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About The Blog

The Largest Online Gathering of K-5 Classrooms for Connected Educator MonthSince 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.

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33 Responses to What Do You Do When You’re NOT Performing?

  1. Want to take a moment to thank you for your information and advice. I am a Female Vocalist (not married or related to any of the performers in the band). For 20+yr, I have struggled to keep a band together, For one reason or another (jealous wives, etc.) For these reason’s, I am attempting a show on my on. It is a Country Western theme with venue Assisted Living Facilities. Your site has given me inspiration and insight.
    Thanks Again
    Tonya, Wagon Wheel Symphony

  2. Hello Dave, I hope you are well and getting even better! This is such a valuable thing you’ve done here! I’m now 59, but going on 14 like many musicians. Very excited to see this creative approach to getting out there and impacting lives with music, entertainment, (info-tainment) and a solid path for connecting, teaching, and helping others! I’m inspired by you sir!

    I am one of those “self-taught” songwriters that can play decent guitar, and sing well, but often have no clue what key I’m in, don’t read music etc.., but I do play every day, and write songs often, and I get some help with arrangements when I record.

    I moved to Nashville, then to LA to be in the music industry, but couldn’t stay in it once I was married and had a baby on the way as the pay was far too low for a family man.

    I have been working as a sales and marketing guy for the past twenty some years, even ran my own firm for 17 years, ended it in 2012 after a divorce. I have been working on this type of idea and wondering ever sense if it is possible now that I’m much older to recreate a path to earn a nice living getting back to the writing and playing music as my dream is still alive and haunting me until I do it! So, I’m never giving up!

    I also heard about keynote concerts, where singer/songwriters like me/or us, will get booked to speak at sales meetings and seminars often as guest speakers who get an hour slot, they basically tell or share three stories aligned with the theme, and perform, or write and perform three relevant songs as well! (Three relevant songs, three relevant stories/lessons, and paid $300 – $3000)

    Having been to so many corporate kick-off meetings for sales and marketing teams, I see a potential here which seems a lot like what you are doing with schools and others! These corporate sales events have amazing budgets, and will bring back the talented folks who can entertain, and or inspire the team every time!

    Your website is very helpful! Between the ideas you share of the Assisted Living facilities, the schools, and the meeting planners for the corporate space, I’m very inspired to test the waters, and get my life back into music full-time where I belong.

    Particularly now that the kids are grown, off to college, and I’m still very healthy and eager to serve and perform if I can find a way to show up, and really impact the audience with useful and helpful ideas, songs and lesson they will value!

    I have a few original tunes up at www “dot” fearlessmusicproductions “dot” com for anyone who might care to listen.

    Dave, I’m sure you know this, but I must say it… You are helping real folks like me with real goals to do really helpful work for themselves and for their audiences! Thanks, from the heart of a guy who is still searching for a better path that fits who I am! This is feeling good, more to follow…

    I’m looking forward to your next posts!

    Warmest Regards,

    Scott Taylor

  3. Yep. Even though my siblings both have careers off the beaten path – one owns a store and one is a yoga teacher – they don’t understand just how hard I work (and have to work) to keep all the wheels turning, literally and figuratively. This question of “What do you do all day?” comes up with them and fans too who think that a career in music much be easy.
    Spoiler alert, it’s not. 😂

  4. Just today, I responded to 4 gig requests (new ones) and followed up to 3 from last week which seemed like a good fit. Since it is first day of school in our area, 2 students moms called to cancel their kids’ lessons (grr). I took a phone call from my lawyer about a family matter, and tried to stay attuned to the phone for her reply, while arranging “76 Trombones” and “Bali Hai” for string quartet, which were requested for an October birthday party gig. I still have about 10 more songs to arrange for that gig (none of them in print for strings). At about 8pm, I plan to make some more jam after picking more raspberries from my garden, pour a glass of wine, and see what’s on Netflix. Tomorrow I will undoubtedly have a few more gig requests/followups, and with luck, all my students will decide to attend their lessons since the First Day of school will be over with =)

  5. I have not performed from 1997 ( I was 16 years) 2001 (20 years) when I was in High School in the City of Dar es Salaam and after that I have not performed since I joined Financial Institute for Higher Education in Insurance and Risk Management in 2004, until now, but before I found my Job as an Underwriter I was at Home preparing my albums for 3 years and I had an Interview with an Insurance Company and Passed now I’m working as an Underwriter, I Did my studio works on weekends and my Album was finished on September 2015 and I left my producers with it for mixing and mastering.my songs are Great for Live performances every time when I think I have that chance I go crazy I can’t wait for it.

  6. What do I do when not performing? Here are my top five activities.

    5) Worry, and scheme about getting really big bookings
    4) Reply to and send out emails confirming or asking about bookings.
    3) Walk, read, swim, practice yoga, dance watch classic films, socialize, and day-dream.
    2) Work on my book and other ways to have my art earn passive income.
    1) Consult with Dave’s blog on bookings!

  7. Hi Dave, I really like your newsletters and posts! They look great and the content is excellent and very helpful.
    To answer your question, I perform three times a week for a senior programme and once a week for a piano bar as a singing pianist, In addition, I do private events and teach a lot of private lessons, mostly piano but some singing and sometimes both. This summer I also musical directed and accompanied a kids’ theatre workshop.
    So clearly a lot of the time I am NOT doing those things, but I am in some way, usually preparing for them. Either I’m building my musical skills, practicing on my own, or with another musician, but a lot of my time is spent maintaining the work I already have, scheduling lessons, keeping in touch with the clients/students, and preparing stuff for them and running around etc… When there’s “free time” I’m trawling Craigslist and other similar sites for work or looking at my promo materials. Recreational activities include swimming and spending time with friends/family and my significant other, and looking after myself. Love to read books (mostly fiction and magazine articles) but that often feels like an indulgence. Have some other creative projects which I’d like to get off the ground, but sadly?….those seem to come last in the priority or not at all!
    Hope this is not too wordy an answer and that it’s relevant to your question.
    Many thanks,

    • Hi Alexandra – thanks for checking in here, and for the nice comments about the blog. Sounds like you’re as busy as I am!

  8. I have always treated the practice as a business and this year since i have less than 100 performances I have taken some time to learn some new marketing skills. I have started two marketing campaigns–one to Masons and one to Red hats. A new website design always takes far more time than i anticipate and a new program takes me about 40-90 hours to develop. Billings take me a log time also. IN addition to billing directly form Quickbooks, the performances have to be entered into my Outlook calendar and my website calendar, all of which seems to take forever to do. Sadly for me, the performing aspect takes up maybe 10% of my time and the marketing, billing, organizing, following up and everything else takes up the rest of my time. This is the first year I will not have 100 performance. In 2014 I did 180, and in 2015 I did 140.
    So far this year, I have only had maybe 98 performances. I can attribute that directly to my lack of marketing activities this year. I started the year not wanting to get on the telephone and but for the marketing course I’m taking, I haven’t done much marketing this year. Next year will be different!

    • Exact same here Rochelle in terms of the percentage of time I spend performing (low) vs. doing the “business” of performing (high) and driving (also high!). In a sense, the performance is the fun part and the rest is what we get paid for.

  9. Practicing, teaching, practicing, playing music, writing books, practicing, martial arts, eating, sleeping, practicing, thinking about music, practicing.

  10. At the beginning of my career, about 60 years ago, getting started consumed my every waking hour.
    After marriage and kids, only 10-12 hours a day.
    Next came agents and management to lift the personal burden and it went to 4-8 hours a day.
    As you noted, these times were outside of performance times. Now I’m semi retired so the business
    end has dropped to 2 to 3 hours/day. You didn’t mention personal practice. As I’ve gotten older (77),
    guitar and vocal practice looms large just to maintain skills and muscles. Otherwise it goes quick.

  11. I used to Perform 6 nights a week at various clubs, restaurants, hotels etc. Those days are gone since, dj’s, rap, etc.
    I was able to put both of my kids through college. I could not do that at today’s college costs.
    I worked as a music arranger for a well known music publisher, and have over 200 music books and numerous Band arrangements published by them. I have taught middle school band, high school band and computer science, and college jazz music courses. I was a conductor, arranger, and performer in the Navy Band for 6 years. I have a Masters degree in Music.
    So with those kind of credits you’d think I wouldn’t have much trouble finding work. WRONG!
    I am studying your ideas about entertaining and teaching. I”m trying to put together a program(s). I am studying your ideas. If I can get this together, I will have you to thank for a renewed life as a musician. Thank you for both the knowledge and the inspiration.

    • Hi Jack – it’s great to hear from you. I’m glad the articles have been helpful to you – you’re welcome to them, and my plan is to keep cranking them out once a week for the rest of 2016, at least..

      I’m also considering putting a course of some kind together to help people do this, as I’ve heard from a bunch of musicians and performers interested in doing educational performances. Lots of questions out there. Let me know if that’s something you’d be interested in and I can keep in touch on it..

      • Dave,

        My wife (Pianist,Accompanist) and I are very much interested in doing educational performances here in the South Florida area. Since we both have quite a few years experience as teachers (middle school, high school, college) We are attempting to put together some programs.

        Some of these range from: Electronic music, Jazz history, Jazz improvising, Blues lyric composition, Musical theory (High School)

        I play brass and woodwinds, and we are working on a program of demonstrating the various instruments to young (pre- Band) students.

        We would welcome any ideas that you might have about subjects for 40 minute programs in schools at all levels.

        Jack Marek

        • Jack – in my experience, musical subjects will have limited appeal in today’s climate of testing and standards. It’s when you use music to teach something ELSE that the possibilities really expand. If you haven’t seen it already, I’d recommend spending some time with this article – How to Get Gigs in Schools.

          • Dave:
            Thanks for the advice about teaching something other than MUSIC.
            I could sure use any suggestions about teaching, and incorporating Music performance as a teaching Tool.

  12. Finally getting down to reading your blog today Dave and I’m really enjoying it! So many similarities to the life I’m living here in Minnesota — with baby number two on the way!

    Today started with a web design binge. Fighting with a WordPress theme for a couple hours. Then it was on to biting the bullet and getting my 1099s for 2015 together while listening to CDs of material I used to do with a friend several years ago that we’re going to revisit for a show in a few weeks. Then lunch and some time reading your blog!

    Up next is more 1099s and then, hopefully, some more work on my Kickstarter pitch for my upcoming crowdfunding campaign. Then an hour-long tin whistle lesson and off to pick up my 2 year old from daycare. Then I’m daddy for the rest of the day.

    It feels like such a jumble sometimes (all the time)! But, like you, I feel lucky every day that I get away with doing this stuff for a living. As jumbled as it is, and as far from artistic expression as it is sometimes, it’s always the type of work where you know exactly why you’re doing each thing you do. I appreciate being in control of what I work on and having the freedom to dream up new projects and see them through.

    Thanks for the blog Dave!

    • Hey Brian – always good to hear from you, and to compare notes on our respective journeys. A jumble indeed! Thanks for the feedback,

  13. Very interesting reading, Dave, I found you by “accident” last week on Facebook and I’m very intrigued by your blogs. They contain a lot of fresh ideas for me as I do something similar to you in a different way. I perform as musical characters in nursing homes in my area, I have two characters now and I’m developing a third that is due out in March. I’m interested to explore marketing my characters to the venues you perform in. Also if you aren’t performing in nursing homes you should look into it, you could develop another revenue source that would fit perfectly with what you already do. Look forward to exchanging ideas soon.

    • Hi Luke – thanks for the comments. I’m happy the articles have been useful to you. As always, let me know if there’s something specific you’d like to see addressed in a future article. I’m posting a new one every Monday.

  14. Brilliant as usual, and concise as ever! My biggest challenge is not feeling guilty when I do step away from my (standing) desk and go for a walk outside, or play with my kid, which thankfully, I do a lot! But I’m always trying to more productive and focused with the time I actually do spend “working”, so I can spend less time on it, and more time playing!

  15. Dave, I have been enjoying your, what do we call them?, blogs, essays. – and read each of them through.

  16. Today, no bookings take me out into the world, but I perform at my desk. Grant you, I wrote and posted a brief tribute to David Bowie on my facebook page. Naturally, I perused the Zuckerberg time sucker vortex. A couple of people got thanked “liking’ my page. A few minutes went by worrying confusion over how to highlight a friends post showing a big photo of me in holiday garb at the Westchester County Airport. Gave up facebook after a half hour.

    My wife and I have a “Go Fund Me” campaign to wrap up. I scoured through several spreadsheets and google docs to locate mailing addresses to find the half dozen people to whom we owe my book “Legends and Lore of Sleepy Hollow and the Hudson Valley.”

    Next on to emails. I generated three confirming invoices and sent three thank emails for recent bookings.

    Turned to a “quick look at Jonathan’s program” – an e-flier noting all eight of my programs. Struggling to spark interest, show what I do and prove my work with students exceeds the common core standards all on one page. Fretted about how many times have I rewritten my programs during my twenty-five plus career years! Showered, made a breakfast smoothie. Now off the bank with a big check for a long run of my solo show “A Christmas Carol.” The run ended three weeks ago, but the bills piled in. This afternoon my creditors will be satisfied, and I shall have enough left over for a bottle of wine.

    I’ll go for a swim at the gym, come back and dabble about on next book on the lore of these stories Hudson Highlands. Dinner and dishes, then an email check. Using chains set by Doctor Discipline, I’ll return to my (not so) Quick Program Summary. Late tonight I review the finger fables I’ll tell to kindergartners. Count on me day-dreaming in between every activity noted, during them too!

    Thanks again

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