Stay Mello, Vol. 1 - Full-Time Musician Talk

As some of you may know, I recently began a new stage of life as a full-time musician, leaving my job and relying on my musical endeavors to earn my way. Even before I began, I knew that I would want to record my experiences in some way in order to help others who might try to do this, and to help myself if I fail or falter. So, here is the first entry in the series, "Stay Mello".

It has been a month since I left my job, my last day there being June 5, 2015. Since then, I have done three very important things:

  • Managed my spending
  • Maximized my opportunities
  • Reassured my people

Managing spending is a simple one to explain. I'm saving money anywhere I can! I used to go out for coffee multiple times a week; now I designate one coffee shop day, because it is helpful to work away from home sometimes. I have planned a very simple rotating pattern of cheap, easy meals. I try to never drive, or drive much less. I give myself $30 of spending money a week, not including gas or my phone bill, which have separate monthly allocations. I calculated the minimum amount of money I'd need per month to survive, and then calculated the ideal amount, as well. Keeping this amount in my head at all times helps me know exactly when I've hit my goal each month, and with that comes great relief, and an ability to shift my priorities a bit towards more long-term work, rather than stuff to help me GET PAID NOW. I have also stowed away some money in an IRA in order to work towards the future while I have money to do so. Investing/saving is extremely advisable when possible.

Maximizing opportunities is making sure that my fans, friends and other business contacts have as many ways to pay me for things they want as possible. I opened up my services offered to include everything I could possibly do, created a Patreon with multiple new ways for people to support me, including what is essentially a subscription service to me, and I am currently producing merch so that I can make every live show worth it and make some cash on the side of the stage. The greatest advantage to me as a full-time musician is that I am already engaged in a long-term contract project making music for a video game (Read Only Memories) and have another one coming up; these are the BIG opportunities that may be the only things keeping me afloat some months, and they are very important. Try to find a big project for yourself, whether it's working on an album with someone as a session musician or collaborator, or scoring a series of commissions from the same client. Maximizing opportunity is about opening more lanes of possible revenue and getting paid more often as a result. If you have no work, good! You have time to look for it.

Reassuring my people involves talking to the people in my life closest to me--close friends, family, significant other--about what I am about to do with my life and what it means, what I have planned and why I think I can succeed. Nothing is more important than having a support network, especially with something as risky as this. If you are very open with the people who are going to be that network, they will understand your situation better if things go bad, and hopefully be ready to go to bat for you. Alternatively, if you leave the people who love you out of what you're doing, you are endangering their trust in you and perhaps even making them feel of less value by showing them they aren't a factor in this big decision. If someone very important to you criticizes your decision, it can be very hard, but try to make them understand as best they can, and do your business. If you have people who are directly depending on you, like a family, it may be a wise idea to stick with your secure job and do music on the side as efficiently as you can--pursuing music is not worth endangering others' well-being! I realize I am very fortunate in being a young single person without these barriers, at least.

That will be it for my first post, and I'm looking forward to the next one I write, in which we'll all see how I'm getting along. If you feel particularly inclined, there are some donation options at the bottom of the site. Thanks for reading!

Photography by Joshua Edmonds