2. They love what they’re doing. To make it as a full-time musician, you have to eat, breath and sleep music each and every day. In order to do this, you have to truly love what you are doing and be extremely passionate about it. It’s not always going to be glamorous, and most often it’s going to be a lot of hard work. When you’re on tour for weeks at a time, driving long hours cramped in a van, sleeping on floors and barely making enough money to eat, you really need to love what you’re doing to get through those tough experiences and breakthrough to the other side when the money does start to come in.
3. It’s not about the money. Speaking of money, I don’t know a single full-time artist that is playing music simply for the money. They have a passion for writing/performing/recording music, and they take their art and their craft seriously. It’s all they know and it’s all they want to do. Money is secondary, and when it comes, it’s simply a by-product of the work they are putting in.
Don’t get me wrong, although it’s not about the money for these artists, they do have a business sense, which is extremely important. They know how to manage their finances and put a value to the work they are doing.
4. They have support. Being a DIY artist doesn’t mean you have to or should do it all on your own. Derek Sivers, the Founder of CD Baby, wrote a great blog post talking about this subject: http://sivers.org/diy. Essentially, Derek says that DIY shouldn’t mean Do-It-ALL-Yourself, but instead should mean Decide-It-Yourself. This is so true, and all the artists I know who are making a full-time living have some kind of support team in place, either a manager, agent, small label or assistant to help them with their career.
They didn’t necessarily start out with these people in place, but over time they developed a team to help them manage their careers. In some cases they are life partners, sometimes close friends, but more often it's a professional manager and/or agent who got on board once they reached a certain level in their career development.
5. They don’t give up. And last but not least, they simply don’t give up. I can’t tell you how many artists and bands I’ve known that after 1 or 2 albums they simply pack it in because they didn’t “make it”. This especially seems to happen after a few tours. Being on the road can be a difficult experience for most people, which goes back to having to really love what you’re doing to get through those moments.
The artists I know that are now making a living full-time from their music just stuck to it, through thick and thin. A gig falls through? They find another one. A band member quits? They replace them. They just keep going no matter what obstacles they have in front of them. This is all they know, and they don’t make any back-up plans."
This last point is very poignant. Most of the rest of the world always has a "plan B," but the full-time musician doesn't. He may fall into something else in the business and take advantage of the opportunity, but it's rarely intentional. Full-time musicians play. That's all they know, and all they want to know. If you don't like the sound of that and you want to make lots of money, then it's time to go to business school and be a banker.
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