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Working full time as a musician

'Although there is the constant responsibility of maintaining a constant stream of work (and income), the satisfaction you get when things are going well is priceless.'

Jonty Smith, musician

Top tips

  • Get out there and meet people, make connections and let people know you're keen to work hard doing what you love 
  • Be open to opportunities
  • Don't forget to maintain a work-life balance, even when you're busy
  • Confidently negotiate payment and value your time and skills

The business owner

Music has played a significant and important role in Jonty Smith's life from a very young age.

From playing trombone as a little kid in bands and orchestras he now runs his own business as a freelance musician. His main source of work is as a performer, and Jonty is now getting paid to do what he loves. Turning music into a business was a result of wanting to achieve bigger and better things from his music. 

Working full time as a freelance musician

Freelancing allows Jonty to choose the music he plays, the people he plays with and the venue. Working for yourself allows you to structure your days and take on as much work that suits you.

'As well as performing, my job also includes organising and arranging myself and other musicians in order to fulfil the requirements of gigs. At this point in time, music is a full time occupation for me'.

'At times, it can seem like it isn't very "full time" as such. It is a continuing endeavour to find more gigs and more work. It can be difficult at times, as people continually expect more from you for less money (or certainly for no extra!).'

Finding work/life balance in an industry that never sleeps

As for all small businesses, maintaining a work/life balance is a challenge, and it becomes trickier to manage your time the busier your schedule gets.

'The music industry isn't an industry which stops. It keeps going 365 days a year, every year'.

For Jonty, planning days off and holidays sometimes needs to be done weeks or months in advance because of the unique nature of the industry. He does, however, stress the importance of making sure you do have that time off with family and friends to help keep that balance.

Benefits of being your own boss

'You are your own boss, you can pretty much choose your own work times and all money earned goes straight into your pocket. Although there is the constant responsibility of maintaining a constant stream of work (and income), the satisfaction you get when things are going well is priceless'.

Good advice for others, market yourself

The challenges a musician can face can be both personal and business related. All small businesses go through challenges and for Jonty, 'One of the main challenges that I think musicians face is getting a good, fair deal that everyone is happy with. Money plays a big factor. I've found that musicians will generally want to get the highest possible price for what they do, while the venue operators/customers want the best value for their money'.

Another challenge particularly pertinent with musicians is facing the constant search for gigs.

'A key part of succeeding is marketing yourself well and this plays a very important part in the music industry as your reputation as a musician can make all the difference between getting a gig and staying at home,' he says. 'Forming good relationships with people, especially those who run music venues or books bands, is vital, as it is a good way of staying connected.'

The result

Jonty has made an effort to meet people and make connections, 'You might not get a call straight away, but it will happen.'