being a 24 year old free-lance musician is tough. At any age I’m sure it’s difficult, but especially when you’re just starting out and expecting the world.
It’s tough, it’s lonely, it’s boring and you get very complacent and angry. But you can’t really do any other job, anything else would seem like a waste of your talents, but more importantly, your time.
I have nothing happening next month.
During the lusty month of May I have no bookings… and it’s May.. and I’m a harpist, and it’s wedding season. I know that when we get into May I will get bookings and work will come (it’s the same as every month) but I’ve been doing this dance for almost 4 years now and I’m still not used to it.
Back when I was first starting out it was fine, I was playing it by ear, I had just let uni and busking on the street seemed way better than getting a minimum wage job in a coffee shop somewhere. It still is, and I would hate to have to do any kind of non-musical job, I don’t think I would survive. When I first left uni I got my residency, I had a little bit of stability and at the very least, I had work every weekend. Now I’m lucky if I have a Saturday gig. Sure, even when I don’t have a gig I only have to busk 3 days to meet my targets, but it’s the infrequency and the insecurity that I wish someone had told me about when I was starting out.
The one thing I wish someone had said to me was:
‘You will have to pay your rent with money you don’t yet have’
You don’t have that money yet. It’s not like an office job where you’ll get X amount of money every month, you will struggle and you will do really well and that’s fine! That’s the job! I just wish someone had said, ‘At some point you will panic about everything and just need to lay down on the floor on your office just because you feel too overwhelmed with your chosen career path’. I hope that if you are a young musician starting out and looking for tips you realise this is reality. unless you luck into a great gig or regular work, your life will be this.
I missed a gig.
I only realised it today, but last Friday I missed playing an event. or did I? I could argue that firstly, they only sent 2 emails, one of which was enquiring, the follow up telling me about a change of venue. And secondly, that they never actually confirmed payment, or even sent a ‘Great see you there’ email to reply.
So, it was a retirement event for a lecturer at Cardiff met uni, held at Cardiff university. Now, usually with booking through a university or a college, they take an invoice so they can pay me. This woman didn’t do that, or confirm that the quote I sent her was what she was willing to pay.
So the initial email was sent on the 6th, to which I replied to that day. She then replied on the 11th to tell me the date change. It was clear and there was a question in it, to confirm that times. I then replied but for some reason I didn’t put it in the diary… and so I didn’t remember it was happening and I didn’t do it!
This is the first time that this has ever happened… and I just panicked. What if I’ve done this with other events and not realised? what if I’ve missed loads of events that I’ve just completely forgotten about?!?! This is my constant waking nightmare that I have to live with. I already have horrible anxiety when driving to events, ‘What if I’ve got the wrong venue/date/time/my car runs out of gas/my tyres burst and I’m late and I don’t get paid and I have to refund these people and they write a bad yelp review and I never work again?!?!?!?!’ So, naturally this sent me well over the edge when I realised that I’d completely missed this without so much of a thought. And therefore, I did what any rational adult would do and got underneath my upright piano, got in the fetal position and started crying about how writing things in my dairy and going to gigs is literally most of what my job is and how if I’ve managed to fail at this then I’ve obviously failed at my job and should give up and get a boring office job with the same repetitive hours so I couldn’t screw that up.
No, it’s fine. You’re ok. One of the main reasons I completely forgot about this event is because I had a wedding on Sunday with a little bit of a nervous bride who phoned me practically every three days before the wedding. So I naturally must have been distracted from checking this email, maybe calling her office and confirming the booking.
4 emails is usually what it takes to confirm a booking, at the very minimum. If it’s someone I’ve worked for before then it’s only 2 ‘Can you do this date, time?’ ‘Yes, I’ll see you there’, that’s when I’ve worked at the venue and there isn’t any issue with the system of payment. So, there is a number of reasons why I missed this one. We’re human, we make mistakes, the point is not to beat yourself up about it, take a deep breath and try to make sure that you do better in the future. and exhale.
Next month, ‘You have to make your own work’