A Drummer's Life

mortem

New member
Heya people!
I have this huge question that has been bugging my mind for a long time now. I'm currently studying an engineering major on Information Technology... the thing is, I'm not really happy here, or anywhere else, except for where the music is. So I'm trying to make up my mind - drop this bullshit major and dedicate my life to music (with a conservatory training, of course)... or stay in school and consider music as a hobby, just like now. Or finishing my major and then get conservatory training afterwards.

So, I have a couple of questions for the pro's... how hard was your decision on dedicating your life to music? and, how hard is life for a drummer nowadays?

Cheers!
 

Gaddabout

New member
I've gone back and forth, so I think I might have some special insight on this.

Here's something they never tell you in music school: Playing music for a living is work. It's also lonely, boring, isolating, and sometimes downright aggravating. There is an equal distribution of idiots in the music business, just like the corporate world. You have to work with people you don't like, even more so than in the corporate world, because you're a self-employed independent contractor.

It's a job, man. Just like any other, except if you're successful you're a little more prone to show up for your 20th high school reunion.

There is something satisfying to being a local working pro. I'm talking about the guy who plays in a corporate band, does session work during the day, hustles to bar gig every other weekend. It means you're home to participate in a family thing, still make decent wages, and you probably know a few cool people who make life interesting. But it's work. Don't let anyone fool you. And after a decade of playing the 7:30 p.m. to 2 a.m. work shift, you either start drinking or you find another hobby to keep your mind from imploding. I know LOTS of pro musicians who loathe talking shop when they're away from it. Why? Because it's work, man, and it's stressful.

If you're really good, you land the cattle call gig for X label national tour and you play for all kinds of hip artists. OK, sometimes they're hip, and sometimes they're really lame. But they pay you $1,200 to $5,000 a show (depending on the artist) plus $150 to $300 per diem for food and stuff. Those are the good gigs, but they're not just paying you to play five hours a night. They're paying you to uproot yourself and live out of a box for six months. You sleep on a bus with lots of other people, eliminate all but the most meager privacy (there's still a door on the bus bathroom), and you can pretty much erase the notion of a grown-up relationship with a significant other back home. If you can remember where back home is.

You come "home" from the long tour expecting to make up for lost time with significant other, friends and family, only to find they don't have as much free time to spend with you as you do with them. So you spend your free time buying gear you'll never use until the next call to leave comes along. Or you end up on newsgroups like alt.musicians.percussion, gossiping about other musicians, and pretending like you care what Joe Blow part-timer has to say about the music biz. You become a little bitter.

OK, so I'm not painting a pretty picture. Short of running into the next Sting who's got 30 big hits in his songbook and an undying loyalty to you as his drummer, it's the contractor's life for you. You not only need drumming skills, you need business skills and the ability to adapt to extreme life changes.

It can be a good life. Don't get me wrong. You make tons of money on the tours, come home in 10 years and maybe cash in on your tour contacts to start a recording career -- either in one of the major music markets or a digital studio you build in your home town of choice. Good money, work in your underwear. Great stuff.

But don't be fooled. It's not a charmed life, and the business only rewards people who work hard. There are plenty of extraordinarily talented people who aren't working because they didn't show up, they didn't come prepared, their brain wasn't screwed on right at the moment that career defining mover and shaker was in the room waiting on them to perform.

I think you'll find you'll have your career, which can be as satisfying as you're willing to earn what you want to do, but you'll be looking for something else to do when you're not drumming. You'll actually look for other hobbies and interests to keep from getting sucked into drumming 24/7.

Good luck. Weigh your options. Get your degree in something sensible and then follow your heart. Trust me. You'll thank me someday, even if it's silently to yourself.
 

Rockaflodge

New member
Thats the truth to a T! its no stop once you start. the last band I was in had lables looking at us, we traveled all over on very little money, were broke all the time, we all lost our girl friends and did not even get signed. So YEAY its a very hard life stlye but I would not trade it for the world. Its the only way I can see me doing something worth wild with my life. But by no means is it easy and you do have to treat it like a job to be good at it.
 

Gaddabout

New member
Rockaflodge":2xpq9075 said:
Thats the truth to a T! its no stop once you start. the last band I was in had lables looking at us, we traveled all over on very little money, were broke all the time, we all lost our girl friends and did not even get signed. So YEAY its a very hard life stlye but I would not trade it for the world. Its the only way I can see me doing something worth wild with my life. But by no means is it easy and you do have to treat it like a job to be good at it.
That is the third option which I didn't mention because I think it's MUCH MUCH harder life. If I'm a college graduate with a music conservatory seal of approval, I'm not joining a band. I might, however, audition for a national touring act with guaranteed paying gigs and real label backing. BIG DIFFERENCE. I would refuse to live life out of a van, but that appeals to some people. Bravo to them and to you for really getting down and dirty for what you love to do.
 

Rick Buchanan

New member
I have been playing music.. i can consider professionally (cuz i got paid) for over 35 + years of my life.... So, be prepared to starve.... but love your craft, and be prepared to starve and practice as much as you can.. and go hear as much music as you can.. ALL styles.. not that you are into blues, or oldies, or jazz etc.... it's all about the music.... seeing what others are doing.. and what is hot and what is not. Once you find your niche, don't let anyone talk you out of it.... it is what you DO. Find other players who enjoy the same style and go for it,,, but remember.... it doesn't hurt to have a day job bro'

Drums are not campfire sing-a-long intsruments, but in Africa.. and other nations they ARE
 

writheindecay

New member
heres something i wrote a while back:


I want to live on a tour bus for 6 months at a time. I want to play shows in different towns, different states, with different bands to different crowds. I want people to tell us we are the worst band on the bill, I want one person to tell me we are their favorite band. I'd kill for just one person to think we are so good and actually cool enough to sign their copy of our cd. I want to eat ramen noodles one month while on tour, and the next be able to afford eating out every night. I want our tour bus to get a flat in the middle of nowhere and us get behind schedule because we had to fix it. I want to inspire one person, just one person, to want to play an instrument and start their own band. I want to fuck up countless times in the studio, and finally nail that one part. I want to see the world from different stages in different places. I want to open for great bands, I want to play shows with great and not so great bands. I want to give our cd to that one kid in the crowd who can't afford one, but shows up to every show. I want to throw shirts in the crowd and hopefully they wont have a chance to hit the ground. I dont want a million dollars or a huge house, the experience is priceless.


you only live once.

ill wear a business suit and play out twice a month when im 40, give me 20 years on the road.
 

Dale

New member
mortem":1a99khye said:
Heya people!
I have this huge question that has been bugging my mind for a long time now. I'm currently studying an engineering major on Information Technology... the thing is, I'm not really happy here, or anywhere else, except for where the music is. So I'm trying to make up my mind - drop this bullshit major and dedicate my life to music (with a conservatory training, of course)... or stay in school and consider music as a hobby, just like now. Or finishing my major and then get conservatory training afterwards.

So, I have a couple of questions for the pro's... how hard was your decision on dedicating your life to music? and, how hard is life for a drummer nowadays?

Cheers!
My first advice is that you stay in school, suck it up and get your degree.

My second is that you need to know that there are no guarantees. Especially in the entertainment industry. This is a cut throat business and there are many many corpses littering the battlefield of shattered dreams.

Consider how many millions play drums. Of these millions, how many do you know?

What Gaddabout says is correct. There are many good and bad sides to this. A musician's life isn't necessarily a rock star's life. We have to play shitty gigs just to pay the bills. Teach 5 year old uncontrollable kids to make $30.00. Play the same tired old standards that people refuse to disown. Go out on the road and travel in small vans with people who are just a pain in the arse. Like the guitarist who drinks like a fish during the gig and then spends the rest of the next day on the road farting like a chimney stack. By the time you finally pull into the town, provided the van hasn't broken down, you can barely walk. Then you load in the gear at about 4 or 5 pm after 6 to 8 hours on the road. Set everything up, do the sound check and then wait.

So you waited. There wasn't much to do in the interim. Perhaps there was a good place to eat, or it's another fattening hamburger. You go back to the club and pant while the cigarette smoke attacks your lungs and turns your white drumkit a poor shade of yellow.

The gig ends about 2 am and then cart your expensive gear either out to the van or somewhere to lock it away until the morning when it's back out onto the road and the guitarist's farts all over again.

You finally get back from the X amounts of months you've been away from home only to find your wife is sleeping with someone else, who was there, or has run off and spent all your money buying shoes.

But this is only one of many examples. There are other ways to go about it. You could become a guy who plays the local corporate sector. Those top 40 or lounge acts. But don't expect to get rich. You might be able to teach locally to offset the income.

One thing is for sure. If you want to work you will need to cover many styles. It's a joke reading all these stupid posts by kids who think they can play heavy metal until they're seventy five. Not only will today's styles be a thing of the past and virtually forgotten by the masses in 20 years, it does your image no good to be toothless and wrinkled, balding and trying to play music that is no longer relevant to you. And nobody wants to see it. It's a different thing if your manager sucks the right cock and gets you that deal that will carry you through life playing the Monsters of rock tour, but this happens to very few.

You need to be able to cover R&B, jazz, pop, funk, Latin and bossa and any other damned thing you can think of.

I don't want to turn you off, playing music is better than digging a ditch. But so is getting that degree. You need a fall back option. You may never use it. And good luck to you. But it's there if all else doesn't work out.

So much about being a musician or an actor relies on luck. There's plenty of unheard of drummers who are great. I know a few.
 

torkid47

New member
If you love punk you will most likeky know the words to....

Screaching Weasel's : "Somethings Wrong".

another night another town another gig
another day of f.r. asking what the frig?
another stupid girl another fucked up little world
now i'm out of cigarettes
another 15 hour drive through nowhere land
another 27 bucks into the band
another stupid world another fucked up little girl
i've been up all night again,
there must be something wrong with us
 

mortem

New member
thanks to everyone who posted here when I needed some real advice... I decided to stay in school, finish my major and then who knows, maybe go to a conservatory! Hahah I hope I won't be too old by then :p
 

chachaman02

New member
I'm in high school and i know exactly what you're taking about. half the time in class, I used to think about flying on double bass at a million miles per hour. I think that you should keep drumming as your main goal, but have something to fall back on, in case drumming doesn't work out. that's what i'm gonna do.
 

bamBam

New member
read the first post by "Gaddabout ".......
Everyone i know has somewhat different experiences in this industry. but at some level, you'll find all, to be true on his post. He points out some very useful info.

for anyone that has dreams of being a pro, and thinks they'll be throwin TV's out the hotel window and drinkn a 5th of whiskey for breakfast, with no real responsibilities ..........think again.
 

Gaddabout

New member
Just to clarify again, if you go to a decent conservatory, get with a private instructor to learn some serious skills, and meet some decent musicians in that kind of environment, you probably won't have to tour the countryside in the van. The contacts alone you make at Berkelee, for example, is what ends up paying for your tuition. Those are the guys that will be doing the hiring and firing for the big tours and good rock/pop/country gigs. You get in with them and you should have a source of income when you hit the ground.

My point was just to drive home the need to have something to fall back on. I jumped back into the industry full time, leaving a cushy 12-year career in print media in the process. About two months after my corporate health care was canceled, my young wife discovered she had a badly ruptured disc in her L4/L5. Major surgery and three years of therapy later, she's probably worse off than she was before surgery. I was not able to sustain a music career, and we desperately needed health care. I had to crawl into the family real estate biz to make ends meet.

Just something to keep in mind before you jump into the unknown.
 

Mikkey

New member
I would definitely say FINISH SCHOOL. Remember, you can always fall back on a good degree if the music thing doesn't work out. Think of it as an insurance policy. The economics of the music biz are pretty weird and at times awful. The econ of the bix is also changing (with the internet, the cheapness of home recording, more labels...etc.) Good luck.
 

chachaman02

New member
Don't get me wrong. If you stick to something long enough you can easily make it come true. I'm just saying in case you give up the dream of drumming or even while pursuing the dream, you should have another skill that you could do as a job.
 
heyy im a freshman in high school and im like in the same situation kinda, my parents want me to go to college and watnot but im in a band and i love music and i want to pursuit this. my cousin got lucky. he is in senses fail. he got rele lucky and i want something like that to me.
 

drummer619

New member
a drummers life, what i've learned from my experience is; it's very time consuming, tiring, hard to juggle relationships (I.E. Friends, loved ones) if you're looking for the spotlight all the time then drums are not the instrument of choice, look forward to being soaked in sweat and having a wet ass after shows, it's very physical and hard on the wrists, I love the drums though and couldn't imagine playing any other role in a band. but i still have my days when i don't want to touch them, and just need to take a day off. hope it helps you out. :D
 

Cretin1

New member
Pain in the ass-crack though it may be, I'd like to think the same thing about playing drums for a career as I do about pro athletes...It's getting paid to PLAY. There's a darkside to every job...for that matter, there's a darkside to everyTHING. Flip a coin, dude. Best two out of three has it.
 
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