Issue 20 featured artist and our resident advice expert, Elliot Liebman, thinks you should get a job.

Well, kind of.

Elliot’s experience as a touring musician brought him everything he ever dreamed of–except financial stability. In this issue, Elliot shares his venture into the world of 9 to 5 and how it’s actually helped him be a better musician.

Photo credit: Joey Cruz

“This starving is starting to make it harder to make art.”

I wrote these words shortly after my first big tour. I had been on tour before, but nothing like this. There were towering projections of smiley faces, big stages, and one fan who had our lyrics tattooed on her arm. The Instagram highlights were epic, until I lost my phone in a New York subway. By the time I got home, I was physically and emotionally exhausted; and even after cashing the biggest check I’d ever seen from a band, I was in debt.

We’ve all grown up with the mythos of the starving artist. It’s a source of comfort when things are tough, to remember Basquiat sleeping in the park, or Green Day, crashing in a mattress factory. Meanwhile, here I am, trying to sleep in the van while a homeless guy urinates on a tree less than a foot away. I must be on the right track, right? What about having a panic attack under a semi after breaking a string and playing an entire song of air guitar? Still part of the plan? It was getting harder to believe that.

Changing careers can be a brutal and difficult process, but I believe artists are uniquely qualified for the task. Nothing prepares you for intense personal rejection like being an artist. We are always reinventing ourselves and learning to navigate a world that doesn’t understand our worth. Our experience prepares us for the worst. If anyone can do it, we can.

We don’t have to live like Basquiat to bring great art into this world.

After two more years studying and struggling and getting taken advantage of, I have landed a truly cushy job. My work is fully remote. I have paid vacation and a 401k, and I actually spend less time working than I used to. My synthesizer collection is growing, and I’ve hired my best friend to produce my next album. I always saw getting a job as synonymous with giving up, but I’m not giving up! Making music is the whole point! Who’s going to pay for studio time? Instruments? Travel? I am. And I could never do it on gig money alone. It takes time and resources to develop a sound, to refine a creative process, to build an audience. And all the while, I’m still going to need to eat.

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