Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Why most musical men don't become musicians.....

I'm sure there are LOTS of reasons most musically talented men don't become musicians. But one BIG one that I've noticed over the years is that there comes a point when most male musicians are asked to choose between the woman they love and the career they hope to have. And most of them choose the woman, quite frankly.

And I'm not saying that's a bad thing.  In fact, I think it's a good thing. People shouldn't plan to grow up to be musicians. Most people really aren't good enough, when it comes right down to it, and they can enjoy music as a hobby for the rest of their lives and be much much happier in a real job with some semblance of security and some semblance of normalcy.  (As much as people dream of being musicians, actors, rock stars, etc., what most of them really want is a NORMAL, predictable life. They really do.).

The question I had to ask was (naturally) WHY are women upset with musician-leaning boyfriends/husbands?

I can't tell you what each individual woman is thinking. But being on the inside of that question, I can tell you a number of things:

You don't see the man you love every day. Not only to make a living, but to be considered legit in the music world, you have to perform out of town sometimes. If you're serious as a musician, touring is part of the game. And if you're the woman (or man, I guess) left at home, you have to deal with loneliness (or at least aloneness). And since a lot of people get into relationships to avoid see the problem? (And really, is there anything wrong with wanting to be with the person you love every day? NO--that's a good thing!).

The pay isn't steady. Most women (even women with jobs) want a man who has a steady, predictable income with things like regular paychecks, withholding (instead of quarterly) taxes, and benefits. Those things are not part of being a musician almost ever. There is the rare case you get "hired" to be a musician, but most often it's just gigs when you can get them for whatever pay you can get. And benefits? What are those? Sometimes venues feed Tim or send him home with a stuffed animal--and we get free tickets to shows. Those are the kinds of benefits we get.

The less-than-regular pay isn't very high (especially compared to the expenses). People always look a musician on stage and say things like, "He just got paid $300 for a half-hour of work." But half an hour on stage is not the same as half an hour of work. There are hours and hour and hours of work that you don't get paid for. Plus most musicians have to divide whatever they earn by the number of people in the band, and they have to pay expenses out of that pay. If you're not in your home town, those expenses add up FAST and can eat your entire check, meaning you pretty much played for free. Plus that $300 for half an hour on stage doesn't come every day. Or sometimes even every week.

The hours are horrible. Musicians work when other people are off: nights, weekends, and holidays. (Because, really, who goes to a concert at 10:00 am on a Thursday?).  In addition to those "free times" being filled up, musicians work gazillions of "invisible" hours off stage: sound checking, travelling to and from gigs, recording, writing and editing songs, rehearsing and rehearsing and rehearsing more, costuming, doing publicity work (if they're lucky), making appearances at schools/bookstores/athletic events/anywhere people will let them appear. The hours are whenever--and a lot of whenevers if things are going well. Tim worked 120 hours last week, if that gives you an idea.  So the times you are culturally trained to expect to see your love, like when you get home from work and want to do something fun with him, he'll be just walking out the door to entertain other couples on dates. Even on your anniversary. And birthday. And Christmas.

If you want to have a family, you have to accept the reality that you will be a single parent some of the time. Most women (at least Mormon women) grow up dreaming about a family, with Daddy coming home at night every night, and....that's not the life of a musician's family. And if you're the kind of woman who gets scared when you're home alone--forget it.

There is a fine balance between committed and independent that is difficult to strike for a couple. When someone is constantly coming and going, one day you find yourself in a devoted, intense relationship, spending all your time with a person, and the next you have to entertain yourself all day--but without being a single person (so--no dating, no hanging out in mixed company....) because you are STILL in a devoted, intense relationship--that just happens to be long-distance at the moment, and this gets harder and harder the more your friends end up married and parents--you can't just go hang out with your girlfriends anymore because they kick you out when their husbands get home. You have to be able to be happy by yourself (or just with your kids) because you aren't out of the relationship, but you aren't with the person you love, either. So you have to have the ability to be committed and independent at the same time.

There is a definite TRUST issue. The story is that musicians (and their roadies) get on the bus/plane to hit the tour and the wedding rings come off. And they live like they're single until they get home. Women back at home worry about that. Not only is your man not coming home every night, he's spending his evenings with women watching and adoring him and thinking he's something he's not because they saw him on stage. That is an issue for a lot of women back at home. It's also an issue that performers are touchy-feely people. It's part of their culture to hug and kiss (on the cheek) a lot of different people. PLUS it's likely your man is travelling with and/or working closely with other women (performers, techs, venue staff, etc). You have to trust they are being true--and they have to trust that you, left alone with nobody watching YOU, are also being true.

Performers also don't have a reputation of staying married. Tim and I have talked a lot over the years about this: why it happens and what we can do to protect our marriage against the trend. Knowing that performers tend to be divorcing (and cheating) souls (Honestly, now, can you name even 10 couples in Hollywood that have been together for 25 years or more? Or that are still on their first marriage?), it's hard for women to want the men they love to jump into that world because, at least on the surface and from the outside, it really looks like you're dooming yourselves from the get-go.

Tim asked the other day (from the other side of the nation), "Did YOU know what you were getting into?" And the answer is NO--because when I married him, he was a seminary teacher, and I DID know what I was getting into with that!

So, in terms of happy, solid relationships that have some longevity and the chance to create a solid, stable family (especially if the woman wants to be a stay-at-home mom) with a steady income, I can see why women don't let their men chase their dreams and become a musician. ESPECIALLY since most people really aren't cut out for it, anyway (regardless of the amount of talent they have).

1 comment:

Becca B said...

I hear you. David's not a musician, but he's chasing his dreams right now too, and there certainly aint much financial security.