I live a double life… I work for a global tech company by day, I’m a musician by night, and I’m a wife+mother 24/7 (but that’s a whole other post).
There is a certain amount of shame that comes with being a trained/professional musician and composer who works in the corporate world. Literally since I was old enough to understand what it means to “work the 9-5”, I was determined to never set foot into that world. I mean, I’ve got the massive student loans from a “private-world-class” music school to prove it.
But life happens (i.e. babies), priorities change (families financial stability > music), and so here I am. And you know what? After a few years of living this double life, I no longer have any shame about it. In fact, I’ve come to realize that my corporate job has helped me in more than one way with my music career.
These are the 6 ways my corporate job has helped my music career so far:
1. I’m better at goal setting and being strategic
I’ve always loved goal setting, but I now have a more holistic approach to it. I’ve learned to not just dream up anything and everything I want to do and write a huge to-do list. Now when I set my goals (every 90 days), I really think about what is important right NOW, what are things I need to cut OUT of my music career (either temporarily or permanently) to better focus on what really matters to me, and I set clear measurables and timelines that are neatly tucked between realistic and ambitious.
2. I’m better at being productive (read, busy ≠ productive)
I had a reasonable amount going on with my music pre-day-job, and if you had told me then that I’d be getting MORE stuff done while working 40+ hours a week (and raising two little kids), I’d think you were totally insane. But the truth is, while I was pretty good at finding work and decent at being organized, I didn’t really understand the importance of having systems in place to keep me on task, streamlined, and truly productive. I’ve given up on paper to-do lists, giant white boards and physical calendars or planners. It might have something to do with being a coder, but I’ve learned the value of cutting out any and all inefficiencies I find. Even when I think I’ve got a good system going for me, I try to re-evaluate and decipher if there is anything I can do to have a quicker turn around on my music tasks. If you are curious, I’m currently using Trello for project/business management and AirTable for anything database related (songs, venues, PR contacts, etc.)
3. I’m better at working with (difficult) clients
I went to school for Film Scoring, so pre-day-job I was primarily writing music for a variety of media. Honestly I didn’t really deal with bad clients, but then again I wasn’t getting paid much 😉
And I’ll admit that when a director asked me to redo a cue, or make changes that I didn’t agree with, I definitely did more than cringe. Now, if I want to be a starving musician, I can just write music for myself and leave it at that. But the fact is, if you want to make money being a creative, you need to put your ego aside and remember that you are creating something for someone else. I’ve definitely learned to better swallow my pride and respond in a pleasant and patient manner, while gently reminding and assuring the client that I’m going to deliver exactly what they want.
4. I have a new appreciation for the creativity that can (and should) go into the process of running a business.
It’s not just charts and numbers… its strategy and ideas. Experimenting when possible. Taking creative risks. Booking shows, thinking of merchandise, how to better market my music, how to find new clients… these things don’t need to be monotonous tasks. I’ve come to embrace and LOVE coming up with strategies and plans.
5. It’s taught me to be GENEROUS.
Surprising huh? I admit, I kind of hit the jackpot when it comes to huge corporations. The company I work for is a leader in giving back to the community (via product, money and time) and it’s given me a new frame of mind with what I want for my music business. I’m still exploring how I specifically want to tackle this, but during my last tour I put on a show in a town I had never before played, and gave 50% of the ticket sales to a local non-profit. This show was successful on every level, and it made me realize that if giving back is part of my “brand”, it not only gives me those warm fuzzies on the inside, but it also opens up alternative avenues to reach people I wouldn’t have otherwise reached, and create a deeper, more meaningful relationship with the town I’m playing in.
6. It’s given me FREEDOM in my music career.
In the very least, having this day job allows me to can figure out what I want to do in music, and how I want to do it without much financial pressure involved. Thank you, day job!
Listen, I’m not saying this is for everyone. I’m definitely not saying this is my long term plan… But if you have a day job AND do music, (or any kind of art), just know that you are not alone (obviously), and it’s really not that bad!
Embrace the present moment, and let it serve your creative side.