A Week in the Life of a Working Musician

The busy and varied week of one musician

Written by
Shawn Leonhardt
Published on
June 6, 2023 at 10:47:12 AM PDT June 6, 2023 at 10:47:12 AM PDTth, June 6, 2023 at 10:47:12 AM PDT

By Shawn Leonhardt forGuitar Tricksand 30 Day Singer

If you want to make any kind of living as a working musician it will require a lot of dedication and time. In some cases you must put on multiple hats as a performer, producer, writer, teacher, and even music therapy is on the rise. It would even be a good idea to become proficient on an instrument, like a guitar. For many people music is harder than a regular brick and mortar job that has specific duties and skills. Here are some examples of what a week in the life of a working musician is like!

Musicians Come In Many Forms

Your week will of course depend on a couple simple factors in life, one major one being your income. If you have another job or source of income, you may be limited on what time you can put into music, but you will also be able to take on preferable jobs. For those of us that grind and live week to week, we will have to look for multiple outlets of regular and passive income. It is possible to make a living as a musician, and most take on many duties.

Often the cliché assumption of being a musician is working in a band with a label and touring. Of course this exists and is possible, but many find these days it doesn’t cover the expenses. If you are a young couch surfing partier with a love of ramen noodles, you may be able to get by, the rest of us need to find other sources of income besides playing weekend and summer gigs! Here are a few more jobs you can fit into your week.

Weekly Gigs for a Musician

  • Session Artist. If you live near a city and practice daily on an instrument you can search studios and online freelancing sites for other gigs.
  • Stock Audio Producer. This can be done from a home studio and with minimal gear, however it needs done in bulk to add those royalties up.
  • Voiceover Artist/Singer. Like a session artist if you have great pipes you can use a small home studio for freelancing gigs or advertise your services locally on social media
  • Songwriter. This is more specific song and jingle writing that is usually found through freelancing sites or directly approaching studios, marketing agencies, and businesses.
  • Teaching. Whether it is in person tutoring at a local music store or working for online writing and freelancing sites, there are always people who want to learn music.
  • Music Therapy. The use of music for healthcare is on the rise and worth looking into. Of course our performance in these scenarios is completely different than a regular show.

If you want to be an actual working full time musician you may have to do every job above!

Preparing and Performing

To do these jobs above you will have to remember that part of your week must be spent preparing and practicing. The musicians who succeed the most put a lot of effort into the final product so you must know the amount of hours you will take to get ready for and to finish a job. If you are good with a DAW you can churn out stock audio songs quickly depending on whether you are using automated instruments or live versions. Of course charge appropriately for the latter!

If you are doing lessons you also have to take a few days to prepare for the student(s) you have. You will see some great online guitar lessons here. No matter what you pick above there is a good portion of your week where you are not always paid and it will be up to you to make proper use of the “downtime”. Many musicians stop this life because it is hard to manage a good work ethic when there is no money now or other drive. There is little work life balance with music, the good news is that you are at least doing what you enjoy!

Production of Original Songs and Stock Audio

Whether you are making original songs and albums or writing music for a client from a freelancing website, you want to create a lot of good music. Produce songs for streaming, write jingles for companies, or make bumpers for film and TV, either way churn out the work. The websites for session work, songwriting, and other music projects are often changing so you must daily keep an eye on new sites and available jobs.

Your stock audio and streaming can help create any kind of small passive income, while your paid gigs can be for current income. When the work is available make sure to take advantage of it as there are slow times like summer and the holidays for composing. During the pandemic there was a lot of extra money going around so while performing live was hard, studio projects increased. Now that the pandemic is over, those times have changed. You must keep working to bring in potential money. All week long, be thinking of a song!

Teaching and Therapy

Teaching, tutoring, and therapy do not just involve in person events, they can be done with other methods such as educational guides, meditation music, or online classes. Even the great Mozart had trouble with finances and had to teach and tutor on the side. Part of your week should be dedicated to educating students through written articles or guitar lessons.

Again this can be done through finding gigs on freelancing sites or perhaps advertising to local students. If you do give lessons it is helpful to do them in groups as opposed to individuals. If you charge a little less and pick evening times you will have a better chance of finding students who are just looking for a hobby. Of course if you have higher educational and therapeutic skills you will want to charge more for specific lessons and help. 

Music Gear That Travels

Gigging around town, with all of the various jobs listed above and then some you’ll find yourself loading and unloading gear with serious regularity. One of the ways to make this easier is lighter music equipment. Have a look at the Mojotone Lite Series of cabinets to save your body some of the weight stress that comes with the life of a paid musician.

Get Paid

This is the most important part in the week of a working musician, and that is to get paid. If you are truly skilled in any of the jobs mentioned here, do not work for free or credit. This is one reason why there is so little music industry anymore, too many people work for exposure. An artist needs to be more realistic and act like any other job, you deserve to be compensated.

However what you get paid will vary just as your week will, there is no standard for stock audio, jingles, lessons, singing, or even performing. You need to make a judgment on the prep, practice, recording, performing, and be sure the amount justifies it. Sometimes to keep money rolling in you charge a little less, it’s not ideal, but if you want the reality of the life of a working musician, that is it!

Doing any kind of creative work for a living is rather insane if you don’t have other income, it takes a special drive to attempt the life of a working musician. There will be times when you even must take on non-music jobs, you will not be the first musician that has! Things can ebb and flow depending on the current environment, economy, and your skill as your life progresses.

Seven Days a Working Musician

A week in the life of a working musician is busy and varied, you never know what your hours may be and when or where the next gig or client will come from. Spend every day of your week taking some time to prepare, practice, or pound the pavement for more work. At the end of the week it will be the hardest you ever worked, and then you hope it’s enough to cover the bills. Regardless of the decade or century we are in, the week of a working musician is harried, luckily music can be relaxing!