Today’s post is by Meggan Farish on performing jazz in a local band, which is an enjoyable hobby for her as well as an income stream. She has great advice about keeping organized with your side job and how to get started as a local musician.
Name: Meggan Farish
Institution: Duke University
As a graduate student, I supplement my income by performing with jazz bands. I started in 2010, while living in Columbia, SC. Columbia has a thriving jazz scene, and I began “sitting in” with various musicians. In time, I built a following and put together my own band. When I moved to Durham for graduate school, I met a saxophonist in need of a lead singer and began performing with his quintet.
I have been playing with the same musicians for years, and since our repertoire has not changed drastically and we do not spend a great deal of time rehearsing, playing music takes up very little of my life (maybe two Fridays per month). The gigs in SC are generally more time consuming since I have to travel, but I would likely visit home that often regardless and am at a place in my graduate career where I can work from just about anywhere.
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My advice to anyone thinking of making music a side job is to be prepared for the vicissitudes of performing in a local band. Promotional shows do not always pay, and regular gigs can get nixed with little to no warning. I recently lost a gig I had for several years because the restaurant needed to make cutbacks. It is a nice way to supplement my income, but I do not rely on it to pay my bills. Networking, having good YouTube videos (preferably at least one polished studio recording), and maintaining a presence in social media to promote your skills are all key to being a successful local artist. Additionally, it is critical to keep track of scheduled performances and to show up prepared and on time. Forgetting a gig or being late will quickly kill a career in music. Also, keep accurate records of your income and set aside a percentage to cover your state and federal income taxes. Typically, you will receive a 1099 at year-end from the establishments where you or your band perform.
While it is doubtful that music will advance my career as a historian, I believe it has made my years of rigorous graduate study far more enjoyable. If anything, it has allowed me a much-needed break from my studies and provided an avenue to meet new people.
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