One of my mentors told me, "You will always have a coffee shop job, in the music industry."
He meant that the music industry is fickle, unstable, and ever changing. It means that he can have a platinum record for the fifth time one year and the next year only have a handful of decent albums. His "coffee shop job" was working on certain things within the industry that were not making records but at least it was something in the field of music. This "coffee shop job" allowed him to continue to grow his studio and invest into his craft so he could once again give 110% to his next artist.
Over the last five years at various times, I have converted cassette tapes into a digital format. This is my "coffee shop job". I am grateful for my "coffee shop job".
There is a mysterious, romanticized view of someone being "full-time" in the music industry. It's often a badge of honor or pride. In Nashville, if you "only" do music, people look at you like your a unicorn - a rarity. Often people look down on artists, producers, engineers, and songwriters if they have to work a part time job on top of doing music.
I hate this with a passion.
There is zero shame in working to provide for yourself or family.
There IS shame in pretending that you have a career in music, but you make zero money off of it.
It's really hard to make a lasting career in the music industry. It's easy to make it last a year or two, but to continually be someone that is desired for twenty or thirty years is extremely difficult. Anyone that you meet that's a veteran in the music industry is someone who has worked, sacrificed, and hit rock bottom probably multiple times. These people are amazing. They are full of wisdom and knowledge and should be given lots of respect.
You have to be willing to do things you may not want to do.
I've had conversations with people in town and there's always a few who just don't get it. They want to only be making "hit records". They think if they could just get a "cut" or work with so and so that their career would be eternally set.
This is not how it works. I know people with hit songs who wait on me at restaurants. I know people with Grammy's who now sell houses on the side. There is zero shame in any of this. It's honorable to work. It's honorable to continue to dive back into a industry that is dark, shady, and often full of empty promises and paychecks for the love of "art".
Those that survive in this industry know they have no other option but to continue on.
There is no plan B. It's a calling, a beckoning.
I have been on my musical journey for eight years now. Up until the last few years it was very much working multiple "coffee shop jobs" in order to keep going, keep investing, keep sacrificing in order to do the things I am wired to do, the things that give me life. I have zero issues with getting a job if things get tight.
I've learned that there is never a "made it" moment in the music industry. You complete one project and you hope someone else wants to work with you next week. This industry requires you to continually prove yourself. It requires you to take full responsibility for your success. No one else is responsible for paying your bills or getting you work.
Over time, hopefully you build up some sort of client list, relationships that make it a little more predictable, but the industry is a lot like waves in the ocean. Sometimes you get lots of waves and sometimes it's still as glass. Zero activity. I have learned to prepare for these times of stillness by trying to save extra in the year to hopefully cover if I ever go through a slow time. I also have the "coffee shop job" that keeps me afloat.
There are always exceptions. There are people who are always "busy" it seems like. Even within that, I haven't met anyone in the industry for ten or more years that doesn't have a story of pretty much hitting rock bottom and then either deciding to figure it out or toss in the towel.
That same mentor from above told me I would have a career in the industry as long as I never gave up. He told me that if I would just keep working and building relationships, being honest and never burning a bridge, that by default I would become "the guy" strictly because I outlasted 95% of people who would never be willing to get a "coffee shop job".
That was five years ago, and so far, he was right.