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Being an “Artist” is Tough

Submitted by Jon M. on March 26, 2010 – 4:36 pmComments

Courtesy of the NY Public Library

By Jon Mossberg of www.jonblogberg.com.

It’s hard to write about being a musician without coming off as a douche-bag. So that you don’t think I’m an absolute tool, I want to preface this post by saying a few things.

1) I’m not trying to sound cool.

Okay, I guess it’s only one thing I wanted to say.  If you knew me, you’d know that I’m not cool enough to pull of the “sensitive artist” routine – the kind of guy who needs to make art because his soul yearns for completion. I’m also not a struggling artist. I don’t struggle. In fact, I’m a bit of a corporate drone, with my 9-5 job and my Excel spreadsheets and my TPS reports.

I’m writing about being a musician in New York because it’s a big part of who I am, and because I hope it’s interesting to other people too. I play in what I consider to be a pretty kick-ass rock band. We’ve got two albums out, and we’re working on another right now. I know I’m not unique – in fact, that’s one of the things I wanted to write about. There’s too many of us in this town. The Village, the Lower East Side – you can’t spit in Williamsburg without hitting an indie rocker – New York is overrun. And it’s a big problem. There are enough bands here that the approximately one gajillion bars in town can book four bands a night, pack ‘em in, and treat them really badly.

The average set is 45 minutes long (sometimes it takes me longer than this just to find parking) and the average pay is…drum roll…NOTHING! You’re lucky if you get a free drink from the bar. I remember loading in to a club on a night when I was playing in three out of the four bands. The guy at the front asked me which band I was in, and when I told him, the first thing he said to me was “you only get one drink ticket.” Thanks, Door Guy.

Add to that little indignity the fact that, with about 4 gajillion bands playing each night, it’s hard to stand out or drum up much of a following. My fan base consists mostly of my best friends. I love ‘em, and I love it that they come out, but they must be getting sick of me by now. What I wouldn’t give to have fans I don’t know!

I don’t mean to sound like I’m complaining (well, I do a little). I don’t think that playing music makes me glamorous or better than anyone else. I’ve got no rock star illusions, and I’m certainly not in it for the money. Sometimes I guess I just feel underappreciated. So why do I put up with it? The truth is, I love making music - the idea of creating and creating joy - and I love doing it in the capital of the world. But most importantly, I do it because if I didn’t play music, I honestly wouldn’t know what else to do.

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  • Anywhere else but New York you'd get paid. The rat race pays nothing and is absurdly expensive.
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