Really Being in a Band…Why Would Anyone Do This To Themselves?

Really Being in a Band…Why Would Anyone Do This To Themselves?  
by: Andrea Jasek
(Thank you Glenn Cannon of Windowpane for the topic idea).  
As I sat around wondering what to write about for my first (of many) blogs, a buddy of mine suggested that the topic be about what it’s really like being in a band. More specifically, what it feels like being “over-worked, underpaid, sleep deprived, and financially ruined,” and the coping techniques that I have for these very real issues.  
I think there is a stereotype of “being in a band.” You just play some shows and get drunk. Or something along those lines. That’s what I’ve been told, anyway.  
I’m not one to open up and write about my feelings in a public blog. But lately I’ve started to feel differently. I have more and more people that are close to me and strangers alike asking for advice on the perils of being in a band. And it’s not because I know it all. Obviously.  
Marshall High School. I loved that Bon Jovi shirt. 
I began playing in bands when I was 14. My first show was at a Starbucks in West Seattle with my band “Leverage.” We had three songs that were each about 12 minutes long. We sucked. Terribly. But man, all we lived for was that band, and that’s what brings me here today and a friend of mine hoped that we were hired through somewhere similar to so we could make some extra money  
Over-worked and Underpaid  
I’m a workaholic. In my opinion, it’s a great trait. However,  I have some ex-boyfriends, friends, and family members that would greatly disagree.  
The amount of work that goes into making a band function may be incomprehensible to those who have never done it. It’s hard. It pisses you off and eats at your soul. But I do it because the feeling that I get from being onstage with  group of people that I  love while playing music that we have worked really hard on, is ABSOLUTELY AMAZING.  
Even workaholics get over-worked.  

Yep. Those are braces! 2004.
I have a 9-5 job as a criminal defense paralegal. I made the choice to put myself through school in order have a job that can support me being in a band and let me tour when need be. It is not cheap being in a band. We have to pay for  musical gear, fixing that gear, tour van maintenance, CD’s, merchandise, gas, recording time, mastering, instrument lessons, music videos, traveling, promotion, rent, student loans, bills, and sometimes…food. It’s very important to have enough dough to pay for things to keep your sanity, as well. For me it’s skating at Southgate Roller Rink.  
A wise friend of mine by the name of Clyde Holly (R.I.P.) once told me that “you have to do what you have to do now so you can do what you want to do later.” Ain’t that the truth? 
Everyday after work and on the weekends, I play guitar…whether it’s at band practice, personal practice, at a guitar lesson, writing songs, playing a show, or recording. A lot of times, a number of these things happen simultaneously.  
When I’m not making my guitar gently weep, I’m doing something else that is band-related. For me personally, a lot of my band activities include promoting and attending events, social media work, reviewing the bands’ contracts, making The Adarna’s webisodes, and networking. All of these things have to be taken care of constantly. The amount of time put into the band on a normal weekday usually lasts from 6pm to 12:30am. 
Then there’s the work of keeping everyone in the band happy and not at each others’ throats or on hit lists. Luckily for me, my band dudes are the coolest guys I could ever ask to be in a band with. Sure we have our issues, but every band does. I mean, shit, they have the issue of being in a band with a girl! Lucky them!   
Part musician, part white-collar worker, part psychiatrist, part socialite, part marketer, part pauper…that’s me. The list goes on.   
It’s exhausting. Relationships suffer. “Free time” is a thing of the past. Friends are disappointed because they feel I am selfish. My boss doesn’t like that my mind is always elsewhere. I am all-consumed in what I do, and it’s physically, mentally, and emotionally draining. Over-worked, underpaid. And you know what? I wouldn’t change a thing. 
Liquor Box, 2001.
Sleep Deprivation 
I used to think it was so cliché when a particular teacher in high school would have serious talks with me about the lack of sleep I was getting. “Whatever dude, I’m in a band.” That was always my stubborn, (and as I now understand), naïve, response. During my senior year of high school I was playing 2-3 shows per week. That was a lot considering our practice schedule…and our “going out” schedule. I was out every night, and in school (almost) every day. It was very tiring. Even for an 18 year old.  
I can’t stress enough how important sleep is in this business. I also can’t stress enough how easy it is to become sleep-deprived. There is so much to do, all the time. But, the bottom line is that if you’re sleep-deprived and burned out, I assure you that your music will suffer. You’ll sound, look, and feel like shit, and no one wants that. Make time for rest.  
Financial Ruin 
There is a reason a lot of musicians fall into the category of broke-ass pauper. I don’t think that it HAS to happen , but I understand why it does.  
We need money to go into band expenses. Again, this IS NOT CHEAP. We also need a flexible schedule to play shows, tour, etc. We also need a job where we can do our job after being up all night and not get fired on the second day of work. We are demanding.  
Flexible job + big bucks + being in a band = unrealistic.  
Not in all cases of course. There’s always the exception, but I think it’s fair to say that this situation happens more often than not.  
Being in a band that is more than a “just-for-fun” project takes a lot of constant financial investment. But hey, that’s okay, let’s make some money off of this CD!  
You can’t sell that CD until you pay to have it pressed. But before you can get it pressed, you have to pay the producer (if you choose to have one), pay for recording the songs, mixing the songs, mastering the songs, copyrighting the songs, artwork for the CD (if you don’t do the art yourself), etc. It adds up quick.  
And how are you going to sell these CD’s at your show if there are only five people in the crowd (three of which are your friends)? You aren’t going to. That’s why you pay for posters, fliers, and attending events in order to get people to your shows. 
This is just the very basic, very dumbed-down, tip of the iceberg.  
Coping Techniques 
We know that coping techniques are different for everyone. As I mentioned earlier, I keep my sanity by roller skating once a week for a few hours. As dumb as that sounds, it does wonders. I have a group of friends that I hang out with who completely understand everything about my situation, and all we do is have a good time. No band talk, no telling me that I am a horrible friend for not being more available, nothing. Just straight up skating at Hip-Hop night.  
Skating is how I take my mind OFF of things. When there are situations to be dealt with where I have to have my mind ON, it’s a little bit different.  
We all have moments of doubt. We are human. When I have my moments of realizing that I could be making a shit ton of money NOW by giving up music and focusing on my 9-5 (or any other doubtful thought), I just take a step back.  
Bass! 1999
Stepping back to gain perspective can be hard. Especially when you are already exhausted and overwhelmed. My most promising coping technique is to just light up a kiwi-flavored hookah, put on some Depeche Mode, and do some serious thinking and planning. There will always be bumps in the road for all of us. Let them be bumps, not the end of the things you love and work so hard for.  
But it’s true, I could be making a shit ton of money…if I wanted to give up the only things that makes sense to me in life: music and my band. After a kiwi-flavored hookah and some Depeche Mode, I’ve decided that’s not going to happen today. 

0 thoughts on “Really Being in a Band…Why Would Anyone Do This To Themselves?

  1. Andrea, I'm a lawyer in a Seattle band that's been playing since I was 15 (more than 15 years ago). I just wanted to post how much I agree with all this (though frankly, I picked a job that is too involved, and my participation in promotion for the band suffers because of it. I am lucky that my band guys are so awesome. (I'm also the only woman in my three piece). Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

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