Don’t Do It For The Money, Do It For The Love Of Music.

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Don’t Do It For The Money, Do It For The Love Of Music.

Here’s a little something I started thinking about a few days ago after reading a discussion on a friend’s Facebook wall. It’s something I’ve thought about often before in relation to my career or lack thereof. The discussion on Facebook centered around the fact that my friend basically wants two things. Firstly, he wants to make a living playing his music. Secondly, he wants to move the world like Jimi Hendrix or Van Halen did. That’s the way I understood his post at least. He got quite a few responses, people wishing him well, hoping he’d keep at it, all that kind of thing. He also got a few responses saying he shouldn’t do it for the money, but that he should do it for the love of music. This is the response I’m going to talk about a bit today.

“Don’t do it for the money, do it for the love of music”. That’s something I’ve heard said to me a couple of times, and I’ve heard people saying it to other people hundreds of times. It’s a pretty common thing to hear. In a way there’s nothing wrong with it. Most of us became musicians because we felt some kind of need to play. We love playing. It really is as simple as that. I would still play even if no one listened to my music. It’s more than something I do. It’s a part of me in a way that is different from other stuff I might do, especially stuff I do for a living. I’m a teacher, but it’s not nearly as big a part of me as being a musician. I could stop teaching and I’d be fine. I couldn’t stop playing and just be fine. I’d probably go nuts. So saying to someone to do it for the love of music is, in a way, fine. In a way it’s just stating the obvious. But in a way it also misses a very fundamental point.

We need to eat. We need a home. We need all kinds of stuff to survive. Basically we need an income. We need an income while we also need to make music. The problem is that if we can’t make a living making music, we need to be doing something else. We need a job. I have a job. I’ve managed to cut down the hours to a minimum for survival, but it still takes a lot of time. This is all time that I could spend making music, practicing music, or doing something else relating to music. In my case I also do promotion and almost everything else on my own, which means I really don’t have many hours per week to spend on the actual music. On top of that many of us have families, and these families like seeing us musicians occasionally. Kids need to see their musician fathers/mothers every once in a while. It’s good for them. There isn’t much chance of that if the musician goes straight from work to practice, and from there maybe to a studio somewhere to record or mix something. Or maybe the musician needs to do something else (like promotion). On top of that you have gigs. All of this takes time. If you want to outsource some of this stuff, it takes money, which in turn means you have to make a bigger income from something. The equation becomes more difficult. So what happens as a result of all this? The answer probably varies, but for me it means I cut corners when I can. The quality of my playing suffers because I almost never practice unless I have to. I learn next to no new stuff. I even barely listen to music unless I have to. I think that’s true of many of us. If it isn’t then something else suffers. In my case I’ve made the choice that my kids shouldn’t suffer (by not seeing their father) because I need to play guitar, but I have a really hard time making money from playing (before you say it, yes I could make a living playing, but that would be playing something I don’t want to, and that’s a road I’ve already explored).

Personally I have an inner battle going on with myself that I somehow can’t help. Keeping all the above in mind I every once in a while sink into a really gloomy mood because I feel torn about what I should do. Should I just quit? Life would be so much simpler. Should I just quit my job? And just to clarify, I do really like my job, just not as much as music. How the f*ck do I make this music thing work, so that I can do it full time? It always ends with me mostly going on as before, and then I get nice comments from people, and I feel infinitely better, or maybe someone buys a few albums, or something else good happens. But the inner battle is something that lies under all this and surfaces every once in a while, and being told (or even thinking it) to do it for the love of music doesn’t help at all. That’s the stuff that got me in this mess in the first place. The comment, “do it for the love of music” misses this whole problem entirely, and that upsets me. It’s not because I want to get rich doing this. It’s because I want to have the time to make this stuff full time. And time is money. So I need to make a living doing this to be able to do it the way I want to do it.

Sorry if this was a bit of a rant. I didn’t mean to come off all negative about the whole thing. In general I view my own situation in a quite positive way. Not all the time though. That’s why I wrote this.

Hope you enjoyed the post, and I hope you enjoyed the videos.

Feel free to give your thoughts on the subject below.

41 Comments

  • BARBARA says:

    ok thanks Barbara.

  • Francisco Farias says:

    Totally agree! Truer words could not have been spoken Elmo! It’s an ongoing battle, and you just have to keep fighting. I feel for you because it also happens to me (very similar situation). Solution? There’s no solution really, unless you get some kind of a record deal, or who knows what, assuming touring with a big name artist is out of the question due to family issues.

    Good luck!

  • dominic jones says:

    well written elmo,i am not a musician but can understand all you’ve said,i am a music lover tried play many times in my life I am 57yrs old,but to have a gift to play to me is amazing,sorry cant offer anymore as I not on your level at all.wish you well and keep it goin for the love of music.really like your playing.

    • elmojk says:

      Thanks Dominic! Glad I could articulate it well enough.
      And don’t worry about not being able to offer more. A nice comment is plenty 🙂

  • Joe Indie says:

    Japan, we need to form an amazing team, save up enough to survive 1 year in Japan. I think it’s the only way to make a living doing music.

    I’ve read and researched very much about music business.

  • Mark says:

    “If you love your job, then you will never work a day in your life”, or something like that. Like you said, you have to eat, pay bills, etc… so if you CAN utilize your abilities as a musician, athlete, artist, whatever, and be able to make money from doing the thing you are most passionate about, then go for it. I agree 100% with everything you said.

  • Heather J Zettlemoyer says:

    Great article! You made excellent points throughout. I want to buy some more Elmo!

    • elmojk says:

      Thank you Heather! Glad you liked it, and thought the points were good.
      I guess you know where to find some more 🙂

  • Letícia says:

    Hi Elmo. You’re right in everything you said. No musician, no matter how much love he feels for his art, can work for free. There are people who do not understand that.

  • Floyd Rose says:

    I Share your Passion. I’m only a serious Music Hobbyist, creating my own Vibe! Looping is Self Rewarding, but doesn’t pay the bills. I’m not chasing or thinking about Money. I just play for the Love of It. Love your loops my friend, there kinda simular to Mine. Pure Improvisation.!!!

  • Floyd Rose says:

    In Answer to your dilemma. Follow your Heart !! And be Proud You Have a Gift. Let it Shine.!! Money is just a Bonus.

    • elmojk says:

      Money is not just a bonus, if a lack of it keeps me from doing this thing that I try to do.
      Money is what frees up the time to do this. That’s the problem.
      I’m dead serious with my music, which means I often work 12 hours/day many days a week, which in turn screws up family life.
      For some people music can be a hobby. For me it doesn’t feel like an alternative, which means doing it 100% or not at all. Kind of stuck in a sort of limbo now. Hate to have the kids suffer because I’m like this.

  • You’re absolutely right Elmo it’s all about the music and the fans you’re definitely an awesome guitarist as far as I care I’m going to try to at least one of your albums next month ROCK ON BROTHER GOD BLESS YOU AND YOUR FAMILY

    • elmojk says:

      Sorry for taking a while to get back to you.
      Thank you very much for the kind words. I really appreciate it 🙂
      Cheers,

      Elmo

  • JT says:

    You sound much like my twenty two year old self, I’m 48 now. I made a choice not to play music for a living because I wanted a family, a home and stability. I lived and breathed music, played in multiple bands, dealt with all of the lies and bullshit from club owners, promoters and record labels, all for the dream. I worked so hard 24/7, yet barely made enough money for strings and tubes. It was the 80’s, record companies still invested in an artist, but it was a dirty, rotten business.

    Times are different now, technology gives us the reach across continents, opportunities that didn’t exist in my day and a musician can record a real album without a record deal. One thing hasn’t changed- dedication, you’re either in or out, there is no half way. You can’t serve two masters.

    Joe Bonamassa is a prime example, he took complete control of every aspect of his career and hasn’t looked back. I chose a different field to make my primary living and played purely for the love of music. I didn’t have to play shitty Pop Music five nights a week to pay rent. I played what I wanted, when I wanted. Today there are more and many ways to make music and not sacrifice your soul, but you still need to make the choice, you’re in or out full time. I made the right choice for me. I still play constantly, I never stopped. I never will. No regrets!

    • elmojk says:

      Good to hear you didn’t stop, and that you have no regrets.
      I have no plans to stop either, although I do get moments when I wonder if it’s all worth it.
      Oh, and sorry for taking so long to respond.
      Cheers,

      Elmo

  • DAVID J BRANDENBURG says:

    dude i love it music is freedom god gave us gift to play music so we must do it i work a full time job and i still play my guitar its my getaway thank you for sharing you rock

  • Tim says:

    Your awsome elmo keep bringing us your beart your exspression.

  • Terry Harris says:

    Yea, I’ve heard “do it for the love of music” and I’ve been doing that for at least 40yrs. club owners love it when you do it for the love of music and not them paying you ,sorry I can do it for love at home ! they don’t appreciate what it takes to have a show ,practice ,equipment ,transportation ,You need more then you guys sound great ,how about paying great? I love music but I can’t pay to play

    • elmojk says:

      Absolutely 100% what I think.

    • jason jados says:

      I lived in Hollywood where I went to G.I.T. Everywhere was a “Pay to Play” gig unless you traveled to the valley and did it “For the love of music”. For free after just spending $30,000 in students loans to live there and eat Ramen and eggs every days. I totally understand the rant from Elmo and 100% agree with both of you. Even as an adjunct music professor at a local community college, they paid me about $1,000 per semester. That was OK, but the travel in the winter sucked big time (Michigan) and so did transporting equipment. Only to have students not make it because of the weather. I frustrating industry indeed.

  • Chris says:

    Tell the kid who puts mayonnaise on the Whoppers to do it for the love of mayo, not the money. If you ask me what I am, I say “auto parts store manager,” but I think musician. I play strictly as a hobby, and have never made a dime from it. When I’m at work, I’m afraid to admit I’m not managing for the love of auto parts. It’s a hundred thousand percent for the money 🙂

  • Sean Robert Dignan says:

    Elmo ,

    I feel your pain, life’s realitys really can get in the way of the dream some times and life really is one big compromise.

    So with out winning the lottery or robbing a bank you dont have many options left. You have got some though. The internet must offer you the best route to your professional musician dream i think. Keep teaching ( school or guitar ? ) or get a job with a music store doing demos of equiptment , guitars and amp or so.

    I see some really good people doing this , but also some awful ones too. Anyway this may just put you in an environment where you can combine getting paid to work with practicing your art.Only thing is you may need to relocate to a different area to find a suitable employer likea store or a manufacturer.

    All I can say is if you want it enough you will make it happen , but you will have to make happen. You will also need the total support of your partner and Kids. Never easy , but it can happen for you if you want.

    Good luck.

    • elmojk says:

      Thanks Sean,
      Yeah. It sure ain’t easy 😀
      Well, I’ll just keep going and hope for the best.
      Thanks again.
      Cheers,

      Elmo

  • Janie says:

    Dear Elmo
    I can identify with your dilemma. 3 years ago I was involved in a very serious accident, which nearly completely destroyed my right leg. I was at high risk having surgery but managed to survive. The problem was that I could not walk afterwards & physiotherapy didn’t work too well for me.I taught myself to walk over an entire year, often feeling that I was sliding downwards, instead of making progress. One day I decided to take a course to become a professional Stylist. I know it’s not as exciting as music but I dreamed of maybe one day styling RnR Bands. My choices were, do I carry on and stay the same, or go for it, to possibly do something that I long to do ? To cut to the chase, I passed the course and received a Diploma, which my family said was a waste of money, as I could not achieve this due to my disabilities.Six months on from qualifying I now have regular clients and a portfolio underway and interest is growing all the time, by word of mouth from happy clients and associations. I guess what I am trying to say is that you are a gifted and extremely talented musician & deserve the recognition to match your talents. Don’t give up on it !I followed my heart, coming out of the comfort zone, into unknown territory but I am really glad that I did. My late father always told me not to fear an untrodden path.If you have the support of your family, then follow your heart & keep to your love of music.
    Don’t give up ! What you seek may well be just around the corner !

    • elmojk says:

      Thanks for the support Janie!
      It’s a lovely story, and I’m really happy things are working out for you.
      Hope for even better things for you 🙂
      Cheers,

      Elmo

  • James W Mason says:

    maybe I was real lucky … I had a gift for lyrics and think I am among the best lyricists of 20th century rock music … it was a gift and I gave away everything I wrote anonymously … but it was not time consuming .Such a gift that I probably wrote songs faster than the time it took to sing them . Only had to do it once. Didn’t take hours of learning either because I learned to read & write at school and had English classes ….. I was able to write entirely for the love of it. It is different to performing , all I needed was a pen and a piece of paper.My frustration is wanting to be known for what I wrote and other people are ….. c’est la vie

  • Angelique Smith says:

    Hi Elmo. I feel your frustration. Perhaps you can try doing your current day job part-time and then do more promotion for your music after that. Get yourself involved in a music label and see what happens from there. This will only really be possible if you have another source of income, let’s say from your wife or a family member living with you. This will be to assist during that period where you cross over from full-time to part-time. Eventually when the music “job” takes over and makes enough money you can quit the day job. Then the family “issue” comes forth again which you mentioned, where the needs of your family comes into play. Your roles of husband and father is very important, as the love for your family comes above all else. Then again your wife might be very supporting of everything you do, and your child/children might be old enough to understand what you are trying to take on (the life of a musician) so in the end it all depends on your personal circumstances. Wishing you well in whatever you decide. Only you will know what will work for you 🙂

  • Excellent work, great game. Very similar to Steve Vai. Light and elegant manner of execution!

  • John says:

    Elmo~ I know it’s tough, but don’t give up! You’re a lot more further ahead and talented than a lot of people. I’ve really enjoyed your music so far and am looking forward to another album. Music is in your heart…and it shows! However, I know having a family and juggling a music career is tough…but just be the best husband/father you can be first…and the rest will fall into place. It just takes time! You’ve done an outstanding job so far!
    Many more blessings to you!

    • elmojk says:

      Thank you very much John!
      I try to take it easy, and not stress about it too much.
      Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.
      Thanks for the encouragement.
      Cheers,

      Elmo

  • Thank you, Elmo, I can so relate. In my case, it is writing a book, although I play guitar, too. Just to record one song can take all day and that is a weekend day you don’t see your wife. When you have wife, and full time job, and, like me, health conditions that limit your time with too much sleep needed, it is very frustrating. For now, I just play for enjoyment, and may have to settle for just jamming down on a webcam for my Face book friends. And like you say, just getting one great, inspiring comment for a recording, or a writing can make my day!

    • elmojk says:

      Thank you Scott (and sorry for taking so long to respond)!
      I know exactly what you mean, yeah.
      Take care.
      Cheers,

      Elmo

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