Why I Have a Job: the musician who knows how to read/add

People who major in music sometimes make money.

Name: Abby

Major: Music/ English

What I do all day: I spend about five or so hours a day singing, playing guitar, rehearsing with my band, writing songs, and working on a project for my ArtistShare songwriting feature. At night, I perform at venues around NYC like BB King Blues Club, The Bitter End, The Living Room, and Iridium. I’ve also been spending a lot of time lately at SHOF (Songwriters Hall of Fame) where I’ve been taking an advanced songwriting workshop with hit songwriter Peter Bliss. This month I’ll also be traveling a lot, recording some tracks with a producer based in Boston and showcasing at the Millennium Music Conference in Harrisburg, PA. Nonmusical activities include freelance writing, running, tutoring, and making out with my dog Phoebe. 

What I would rather be doing all day: Exactly this! I’m really thankful that my parents are so supportive of my songwriting career. I might go back to school at some point to get my MFA or PhD but I’ve been dreaming of music since I was a little girl so I’m just going to wait and see where this all leads …

Where I found this job: “It found me” … just kidding, that expression always makes me want to puke in my mouth a little bit. I’ve been singing since the womb and started voice lessons with a blues/gospel singer when I was about eight. I used to be really resentful that my folks weren’t stage parents but I’m really glad they didn’t push me at such a young age for two reasons: 1) I had a childhood, and 2) I now know how to read/add. It also takes time to develop your artistic voice so I’m not sure how successful I would have been back then anyway.

Why they hired me as opposed to hundreds of other overqualified Ivy league grads: Though it would be really easy to answer this facetiously, I’ve decided to take the high road and interpret “they” as the people who pay or hopefully will pay me: namely, club owners and music publishers/licensing companies. I would like to say hire is based on “talent” but a lot of times it’s not … it’s really about how many people you’re able to draw to shows or in the latter case, how much money they think they’ll be able to make off your song. My corporate party gigs are usually based off experience though.Best part about being employed: I’m doing exactly what I love and/or will hopefully avoid a midlife crisis. Ironically, I’ve found it a lot easier to pursue music than I have writing; it’s very easy to ignore/delete emails but in the music world I can go to the physical venue and have face-to-face interactions with club owners. I’ve also had the chance to meet with various publishers and music industry execs through my participation in SHOF and other songwriting organizations so it’s made the music world seem a little easier to access.

Worst part about being employed: When I tell people — particularly those of the Ivy ilk — that I’m pursuing music they look at me as if I’ve said “I’m becoming a unicorn trainer!” If you want to become a doctor, you go to med school, a lawyer — law school … but in music, there isn’t a certain path or amount of time and I think “success” itself is often fleeting and hard to quantify. There are a lot of rejections and false promises in this industry so it’s difficult to discern who to trust. Also, a lot of the connections/successes you make aren’t necessarily immediate nor tangible so a lot of musicians end up really depressed or jaded.

Heartfelt advice to your jobless friends who may have been freeloading off of you for months: Hah, because I’m just rolling in dough right?! While I’m not making the big bucks (yet! … I’m hoping a licensing/publishing deal will help in that dept!), I’m rich in spirit hah! In all seriousness though, I think it’s important to hold on to your passion and stay positive … a good song is a good song no matter what time it is so just keep honing your craft and enjoy the journey!

If you would like to be featured in the weekly Why I Have a Job column or know someone who would, holla.

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One thought on “Why I Have a Job: the musician who knows how to read/add

  1. I met Mark Schneider this past summer, and he’s an honest, open person. We may have different political perspectives, but we can definitely agree on these points you quote above. Thanks so much for posting about this issue.

    -Cryn Johannsen, Creator of Education Matters/Student Loan Debt Advocate

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