Listen Up!

Six Things You Should Avoid if You Want to Be a Serious Musician

Anyone who has ever had a demanding job knows that with it comes the sacrifice of time. Lawyers on the partner track a big law firms know they have little time for anything outside of the office. To be successful at anything requires a commitment of time and energy that often means many of life's simple pleasures collect dust while you work your fingers to the bone.

Being a serious musician means long nights writing, practicing, recording and playing. It often means extensive travel, sometimes for months at a time. It's a job that consumes a huge amount of your energy. In fact, if you are really, really serious about music, there are some things you should just not do. It's tough enough to make money playing music without the responsibilities of everyday life. That's why these are six things you should simply avoid if you want make a go at a career in music.

Most of us will never have to do these things (me included) because, let's be honest, most of us will never make it to the point where music will become so taxing that our normal lives will suffer, but the life of a transient musician, should you so choose it, leaves little room for anything else. As AC/DC once lamented, "It's a long way to the top if you wanna rock and roll."

Own a house.

A house is like an anchor that lashes you down to a single place both physically and financially. Unless you have a rich family who gives you a kick ass house and pays for the up-keep, don't do it.

Own pets.

I love my animals, but there are times when I wish I didn't have to find someone to care for them every time I left town for a day or two. The one exception would be if you had a dog that could go on the road with you, but unless you are traveling high on the hog, my guess is that it would be bad for you and your pet.

Be an addict.

This might be good advice in general and may even seem counterintuitive to concept of "sex, drugs and rock and roll," but nobody wants a junkie in the band. It makes you a terrible musician and makes everyone else want to hit you over the head with the bottle of Jack you are buried in half the time. Don't be like Bon Jovi and tell the days by the bottle that you drink. Just say no.

Have an inflexible day job.

In fact, having a day job, period, will cramp any musician's style. Trying to align your vacation time with touring and getting out of work events to do gigs is a huge pain in the ass. Your best bet -- if you have to have one -- is a job doing something creative that can be done remotely. God bless computers and 4G connections.

Get married or have a serious girlfriend/boyfriend.

We all want love in our lives, but the commitment that comes with a significant other means less time working on things like music. If you ever want to understand a quantum paradoxical version of this, watch the modern remake of Time Machine with Guy Pearce. That explains it better than we ever could, but suffice it to say, it is better for your band if you are single and better for your relationship if you aren't in a band.

Have kids.

Kids are amazing and they can fill a parent's life with wonder. But they also need to be fed and clothed and taken to school and...fed. Having a child is probably life's most important responsibility, so don't fuck it up by practicing eight hours a day and being at shows all night long. If you want to scar someone, get a tattoo, but don't make that little guy suffer.

KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Jeff Balke is a writer, editor, photographer, tech expert and native Houstonian. He has written for a wide range of publications and co-authored the official 50th anniversary book for the Houston Rockets.
Contact: Jeff Balke