A friend of mine, Kate Sikora, is singer-songwriter from Tokyo/New Jersey. She’s, what I would consider, a professional musician. She has several albums out under a few labels, plays shows to adoring fans, and has that rock star swagger.
The problem: those things don’t bring home the vegan bacon. Rehearsing, recording, and putting on shows costs, and more often than not, more than whatever one would make on ticket sales and merchandise. As a musician in Tokyo, you’re often not even given free drinks at shows (*GASP*). Somebody buy Kate a drink. She sings on ads, writes jingles, and teaches some people to make ends meet. Which doesn’t sound so bad, actually.
Another friend of mine, Ayumu Haitani, has pretty much given up music altogether. This was a guy that took an eight piece band, 4 Bonjour’s Parties, on a hugely successful tour of East Coast Australia. His music is loved by many, but he decided to pursue his other passions to have a somewhat decent standard of living; running his cafe, MuuMuu Coffee, and playing kendama… Think about that: kendama makes more money than music in Tokyo.
Living in a gosh-darn-it-Tokyo or well-how-about-that-London isn’t cheap, even for your regular cup-of-Joe, so one has to make money in other ways to keep making music. But of course when you decide to compliment the art with the income, they can somewhat get in the way of each other. What happens if you’re asked to do a three week tour playing at libraries in Germany? I certainly have a day job, as do the other members of Blind Atlas, but I wonder what it would take for all of us to quit them. At what point were the artists I revere able to give up their day jobs? Are some successful musicians still doing them? Are some countries better than others for paid music work?