Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Why You DON'T Want to be a Musician

This is Tim's day today (I say today because for him it was one day, although for most of humanity it spanned more than one day, since it is 36 hours long):

Tim got up at noon Tuesday (sounds bad, but he didn't get home from his gig until about 2:00 am, and then we had to do family home evening and he still had to wrap up Monday's day at work before he got to go to bed at about 4:00 am).

Tim then spent a couple of hours answering phone calls and emails, lining up a gig leading the music/teaching harmony singing at a religious revival and a live audition for one of the big three talent agencies in town.

Then he surprised himself by napping for 3 hours. (This was a good thing, as you'll see later).

Then up he got and did business emails and phone calls (he gets a couple hundred real emails a day that have to be dealt with). He also "worked". This entails:

He also spent time searching online for gigs (places like craigslist get tons of posts for shows that need performers, especially in performing towns), working on press materials (he has to take a bunch of stuff with him to his auditions), listening to recently-recorded projects to evaluate his own work, contacting known gig-generators (like State fairs, City and State Performing Arts Tours and rosters, etc), writing songs, recording snippets of ideas, working out the 'sets' for his six active vocal groups as well as for himself (it takes a lot of experience and skill to figure out what a group should sing and what order the songs should be....frequently Tim will wander in to the kitchen and say, "I need a cover song that has a repetitive bass and percussion line that is in a major key, is kinda bouncy and poppy, and is really familiar to people from the get-go--like Billy Jean but not Billy Jean" and I always have to answer, "For what group?" And he always laughs and says, "Oh, for ____ " (me looping, me tracked, Wonder Voice, or whatever). And I list off a half dozen songs and he starts writing furiously in his little notebook that he carries everywhere--usually writing down NOTHING that I said, but bunches of stuff it made him think of. And then sometimes he just wanders away, but usually he says, "Thanks" and sprints off to start recording or making lists of songs again.). He also spends a good deal of time watching YouTube. Sounds lazy, but it's actually research. He studies other songs that he likes to see what they did, he listens to recordings he likes to hear what they did, he compares his songs to classics and pop hits to improve his songwriting and performance and recording skills, he analyzes the videos to see what's hot and what gets passed along, he let's Benji sit on his lap and watch cat videos while he composes songs. He writes songs. He refines songs. He edits. He records audio. He strings audio together. He writes articles for He writes and produces the "A Cappella Originals Podcast". He edits video for and participates in all the CASA board meetings and activities and debates and discussions. He comments on people's blogs to maintain his web presence. He checks and updates his myspace pages and facebook pages (he has one for every group plus one for himself). He prepares sheet music for printing and prints "books" (stacks of sheet music for groups to rehearse for). He plans the music for church, since that's his calling in our ward right now. He prepares and prints press materials for six groups plus himself. He tests new equipment, sometimes for himself and sometimes for reviews and sometimes to help developers improve their products. He keeps up on the prices of equipment online so he knows what things should cost. He maintains multiple web sites, most of which include stores. He ships merchandise. He pays singers and sound guys. He schedules tours, contracts singers, follows up on arrangements, buys flights, makes sure there are hotels and cars available in every city they go to, talks to sound guys, loads and unloads trailers full of sound equipment (which he also has to be able to set up, run, take down, and maintain since most sound guys at public venues are competent with bands but completely unknowledgeable about sound for all-vocal enterprises--it's a different beast--so Tim has to know which frequencies to drop and which to "punch" on each mic his singers use, how to "eq" the whole setup, how to adjust sound on the fly, how to make the soloists pop out, how to make it clear and big but not Loud, how to train musicians on equipment including microphone use--they usually don't know--and how to talk to sound guys without offending them or they do a worse job!). He has to contact and follow up with all the business cards he gets handed (and he gets a lot--from free haircuts to show offers to collaboration offers to sound guys to other performers). He has to go to lunch with people all the time to network. He has to make videos for demos and for viral marketing. He has to research and keep up with advances in music technology--especially looping technology--so that he can stay at the top of his game. Did I mention that he writes, records, edits, produces music, too? Oh, and he has to rehearse his solo act and test new material for that (looping isn't easy, you know). And he has to rehearse all six groups (after he's produced the rehearsal materials--sheet music and rehearsal tracks--by himself with no help). Sometimes he gets to sing. Sometimes he teaches voice lessons, coaches groups, and helps people prepare for their own auditions. Sometimes he reviews other people's work or websites or press materials. He also maintains multi-media materials for his conference presentations that he gives several times a year. And he helps other people put together a cappella conferences. He sometimes sings as a sub in other groups or gigs with his own. And he spends some time every day looking for a "real job" because we all like the idea of steady income. And he spends some time each day helping Benji, who likes to play in his office.

After he'd done that stuff for a couple of hours, he went met with the bishop and then played basketball for a couple of hours. This exercise is necessary to keep his ADD brain functioning. He exercises every day if possible (and takes his pills three times a day to keep his mind turned on and able to finish things). Yesterday, when he got home, he exercised with the kids some, showered, and then took Daniel out on a date just the two of them to buy pepperoni so I could make pizza for dinner. (While they were gone, I heard FIVE gunshots not far away, so I worried about their safety--and ours--while they were out and was hugely relieved to see them back in one piece).

Then, back to the office to work more (see above lengthy list) while I made dinner. This time, he worked with the baby on his lap for an hour, until the baby started trying to nurse on his bicep, when baby came in and Tim took over pizza-making. And ate some. Finally.

Then he cleaned the house. Partly because it needed it, and partly because he was having a rehearsal in his office in the morning, and the office had kind of evolved into a giant clean laundry pile. So he cleaned his office, the bathroom, the hall, and some of the kitchen. He also called everyone to family prayer and led the kids in a "5-minute cleanup" of the living room. He helped me get the kids all into bed and then spent some one-on-one time with Daniel--this time working together, practicing reading (because Dan just started learning) and then eating popsicles together (sometimes he spends time working with Daniel on gymnastics or acrobatics, which they are learning together), who needed it, and also made sure that he had a viable conversation with each of Caleb and Anda since he hadn't yet played with them. (Sometimes he has them come help him with projects, test new equipment, or just record themselves singing or telling stories for fun. He often works with Caleb on making movies, since Caleb likes that, and he loves to sing with Anda. And he always asks them what they're learning in school or reading. Once a week he takes all of them to the library).

Normally, at this point, his brain is fried and he watches a TV show on Hulu that he likes for a little break (shows I've seen him watch more than once: Lost, Heroes, Chuck (I watch this with him), Psych (ditto), Lie to Me, Life, Battlestar Galactica, Terminator, and documentaries-- especially on history and pop culture). Most days he gives his brain a rest by reading the news and keeping up on sports.

This night/day/time he knew he was giving a group a brand-new "book" at 10:00 am, so he had to get that ready. At this point, I went to bed. It was, after all, 5:30 am.

Tim never got the luxury of coming to bed. Instead, he worked straight through until his 9: or 10:00 rehearsal.

He rehearsed Wonder Voice (since they have a showcase coming up on Aug 12).

Then he drove up to St George (3 1/2 hours away) and rehearsed a guy up there on moosebutter music to prepare for an August 6 gig. While he drives, he reviews the music he's recorded in the last little while to evaluate it. He rehearses and learns his own parts on new songs. He also always keeps his iPod in the car with him so he can record new song and show ideas into it. We have no radio in the car (they always seem to go out right after we buy the cars, and we never bother to get them fixed because having no radio makes driving time highly productive for creative people instead a complete waste of time), and Tim says he gets TONS done while he's driving.

So he rehearsed with the new moosebutt-er for a couple of hours.

Then he called me to check in. (Can you believe were still on ONE day for him?)

Then he headed out to get some food and go to perform at an open mic night in St. George. (Open mic nights are one of the keys to networking and "being seen" for a musician. If you want to get into the music world, go perform at ALL the open mic nights until you find the one or two where you fit, and then network like crazy.).

He had considered coming home after (getting here at midnight), but he said when he called that he's getting pretty tired by now, so I encouraged him to sleep there and drive home in the morning.

Nonetheless, he walked into the house at 11:00 pm. He unpacked, set up his office for tomorrow, and had a shower before falling into bed at 12:30 am.

So there you have it. One day for Tim. 36 1/2 hours with one 3-4 hour nap near the beginning to keep him going.

Now, granted, these mega-days only have 3-4 times a month. Most of his days are about 18 hours long. All are equally full.

And he sometimes wonders why he gets so tired!

Oh, yeah. And how much did he get paid for this long long long exhausting day?



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