“You get paid HOW much an hour? I wish I could have your job.”
Well, it’s not as simple as that. A lot of musicians will charge between $50-200 an hour but that’s only for 1-3 hours of work and some musicians only have one show a week. If you work those numbers into a standard job (40 hr/week), the most lucrative gig ($600) will only yield you $15 an hour and the least lucrative ($150) will yield you $3.75 an hour!
People also don’t consider many of the other aspects of being musician factoring into playing a show. We constantly are carting our gear from place to place, spending money on that gear to make sure the show sounds good, creating social media posts to hype our shows and increase our online presence, and emailing, always emailing.
These circumstances behoove musicians to take multiple shows, especially during the busy part of the week (Thursday-Sunday) and sometimes two in one day! I just played a double show this past Thursday and it required me to wake up at 7 am, drive down to San Antonio, play a show from 11-1, then load up my gear, drive back to Austin, and play a show from 4-7. It was a grueling day but I survived and these are my tips to you for how to survive. (This advice is mainly geared towards singers, I apologize to the other musicians who are driving around to play shows)
Podcasts are your best friend
The drives to and from gigs can be tedious and may tempt you to put on the radio or your own personal jams. I would actually refrain from doing this (other than 1-2 songs to help warm up your voice) in order to save your voice for the show. Download some podcasts (Radiolab, Freakonomics, This American Life, The Gist, and the Skeptics Guide to the Universe are some of my personal favorites) or some audiobooks to help stimulate your mind and shut your keester as you drive from your shows.
Bring your own snacks
One of the things I usually forget to do when playing shows is eating healthy. There are so many options driving back from shows like fastfood, gas stations, etc. and you will justify these selections because you’re hungry as a hypoglycemic hippo. Pack your own healthy snacks to help alleviate some of the hunger on the drive so you can enjoy a nice celebratory meal after your double or triple header.
You will be tired, you will be hot, you will be playing THAT song one more time but just remember the alternative. You could be sedentary, in a cubicle, answering phones, talking about the third season of whatever show is on Netflix right now. You have chosen a life in the arts and that is a joy that cannot be rivaled. Smile big, plug in, and sing like the last show never happened.