Musicians, Don’t Quit Your Day Job

Dear Musicians,

There is this strange belief in our field, both from outsiders and within, that if we have a “day job”, we are somehow less of a professional musician.


Today, I want to tell you why this is so wrong.



For this post, I’m defining “day job” as any sort of work from outside of your field that provides steady income. So for example, if you are a musician and also work as a barista, a receptionist, or a waitress, that job would be your day job.


The most common argument in favor of this weird belief about day jobs is that many other professions don’t require a “day job”. Lawyers are lawyers, doctors are doctors, accountants are accountants, and so on. While this is true, it doesn’t account for the fact that there are plenty of careers outside of the arts that can also require a second job. Teachers come to mind first. Since teachers are generally underpaid in this country, they often have second jobs or summer jobs to supplement their income (think Tina Fey in Mean Girls). Plus, just about all entrepreneurs have day jobs as they start up their businesses.


However, I want to bring in an example that will hit a little closer to home. Many musicians hope to be hired by a symphony, an opera company, or something of the like at some point. And I think it’s pretty safe to say that while these groups can experience their own financial hardships, their status as a professional musical company is usually not brought into question.


Still most, if not all, of these groups supplement their income with ventures outside of music.


I’m going to use opera houses as the primary example, but you can also find this information for many performance companies, ensembles, or venues.


If you do a quick Google search for “[X Opera Company’s] annual income report”, you can find income information for numerous opera companies (usually A or B houses). For example, I decided to look up Michigan Opera Theater’s annual income report for this post, and found one for 2014. After scrolling through, I got to the good stuff.

MOT Operating Income

This is the operating income for the Michigan Opera Theater in 2014. In other words, this is the money they made from the services they provided. I want you to take special note of the parts highlighted in red. These spots are pointing out how much money MOT made from parking and renting their facilities (and don’t forget those concessions!). Basically, this is outlining how much money an opera company makes from things that may have nothing to do with opera, or even the arts.


Lots of opera companies do this by the way. If you now Google, “opera houses rental spaces” (or something of the sort), lots of options come up. Keep in mind too, this is all before their donations, which seem to make up the majority of income for most opera houses from my basic research. That’s a post for another time though.


What I want to say to you now is this: if the companies you work for (or want to work for) make a large part of their income from operations that often have nothing to do with the performances they put on, why can’t you do that too? They still provide amazing musical services to the world and aren’t viewed as a lesser musical company. Why should you be viewed as less of a musical performer?
I am a great #musician, and my day job doesn't change that! Click To Tweet


I would be shocked if anyone said they got into music for the money, but it does take money to run any business. So if you, as a musician, need supplemental income from a day job to run your business, then hats off to you for using your assets in the same way the companies who hire you do. In other words, don’t quit your day job.


What are your thoughts on having a day job? How do you use your assets to supplement your musical career? What kind of balance do you strike between your performance work and your supplemental income? Let us know!

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