Don't Give Up Your Day Job
11 Oct 2017
Don’t Give Up Your Day Job is a podcast series developed by Bobby Kennedy and Danny McCrum, providing an insight into the careers of creative professionals.
Rachel LaFond is a pianist and composer from Seattle, who recently moved to New Zealand. Rachel’s mother was a piano teacher so her relationship with the piano started when she was very young. When she was a teenager she studied music in Austria before returning to the US. Several years ago Rachel and her husband gave up their day jobs (that’s right folks!!) to travel the world. Their travels brought them to New Zealand where Rachel was suddenly inspired and compelled to write. They liked the place so much they moved here, and in no time Rachel wrote, recorded and released her first album. The rest is… well a podcast episode!
Before you worry about fans and tours and recording for commercial release, focus on perfecting your art, your craft, your instrument. That's what all this is built on, after all - especially if you want to have a lasting, life-long career in your art.
So what does that mean?
Unfortunately it’s nothing so simple as Malcolm Gladwell’s “10,000 hours will make you an outlier” rule, though you should certainly be prepared for a lengthy investment of time and energy. It takes a lot of dedication to hone your music-making skill, and that’s great preparation for what creating and maintaining a career in the music industry is like. You must have curiosity, engagement, and above all, persistence. For instance, if you can play the piano with passion and excitement every day for ten years, you’ll do fine with a career in music. This is not the kind of career you can “leave at the office” or “just work on a few days a week”. That said, do expect that there will be ups and downs - we’re all human, after all! This is where having a teacher and mentor can really help. They can help you sort through your feelings and help you determine if a dip is just temporary or means something bigger.
I have learned the importance of persistence and patience to have a career in the music industry. I’m a big dreamer, so sometimes I’ll think that various milestones will either feel really big or will have a certain effect on my career. I’ve discovered that a successful career includes hundreds, if not thousands, of these types of milestones, and pinning too many heavy expectations on any one of them will just cause me to stall out when I’m disappointed by a less-than-dreamlike result. Slow-and-steady has never been my strength as a person, but I’ve had to learn to embrace it to keep myself happy and consistent.
Looking back even further, I’d say another thing I’ve learned this: what is right for you is not always going to be what everyone else says is right for you. Back in my high school/uni days, I fumbled my way through training in classical piano performance, feeling such passion and excitement and drive, but unable to back it up with appropriate consistent practice at home. So my results were always disappointing to myself and to my teachers, and especially in uni unfavorable comparison was the norm. It was draining and grinding, a weekly emotional roller coaster (I can only imagine how my teachers felt). It wasn’t until much later, when I left music altogether to travel and had no expectation of returning to a career as a musician, that I discovered my calling as a writer of music.
Every time someone tells me my music has brought them to tears, gave them goosebumps, helped them get through a tough time, or inspired them to be creative - I’m just flooded with a feeling of goodness, with the feeling that THIS is what I am here for. At the end of the day though, if I’m struggling with something, feeling overwhelmed, or wondering if my music is good enough, if *I’M* good enough, my partner David is always there for me with an encouraging word. He always seems to know exactly what I need to hear to remind me of who I am and why I’m doing this. I can’t overstate the importance of having a strong, close support system. Creating art as a profession is not an easy life to pursue, and having people who love you, know you, and know your journey is essential for success.
I highly suggest checking out Ari Herstand’s book “How to Make it in the New Music Business”. I have no connection to him, it’s just an excellent resource for someone either considering or trying to figure out a career in the music industry.