Avoiding The Challenges and Pitfalls Of Being A Road Musician


© 2009 Vinny Ribas

 Playing music for a living may sound like a glamorous life, and indeed it may be sometimes. But there are a lot of challenges and pitfalls inherent in this line of work, especially if you are playing bars and nightclubs. The list below is not designed to discourage you at all. It is simply to make you aware of what you should expect as you move your career forward.[private_pro]

  • The temptation to drink, or drink too much, can be overwhelming. Many fans like to show their appreciation for your music by buying you a drink. This can happen quickly, and more often than you can handle. I always made arrangements with the bartenders to give me a coke even though I ordered a rum and coke.
  • The temptation to do drugs may be too hard to dismiss. Many people will offer to ‘party’ with you during breaks or after the gig. Naturally, it’s best to say ‘no’ and be adamant about it.
  • The opportunities to cheat on your spouse or significant other will be many. Many people think it’s a status thing to hit on the band. If you’re single, this can be a wonderful life. If your not and your spouse or significant other is home waiting for you, giving in to this temptation could ruin your relationship beyond repair.
  • It’s lonely on the road. Being away from friends and family can be distressing. Be sure that you are mentally prepared for this.
  • You may have to keep unbelievably wacky hours. Your gig might end at 2 AM, and you need to be on a morning talk show at 7 AM. You may have interviews, rehearsals, songwriting sessions and the gig all in one day, and sometimes day after day. Be sure to manage your time and get adequate rest.
  • You may not eat healthy, especially if you eat at fast food restaurants. Be sure that you’re getting a proper diet, even if it means carrying a cooler, a hot plate and/or a microwave to prepare your own food.
  • You never feel ‘rooted’ because you’re sleeping in a different bed or a different town every night or every week. It’s good to have a place to return to that really is your ‘home’.
  • It’s hard to make long-term friendships. This is because you get to know people for a short time, and then you’re off to the next town. Stay in touch with those who you ‘connect with’ so that you have someone to visit when you return to that venue.
  • It’s expensive paying for motels, restaurant food, gas etc. Be sure that your income more than covers your expenses.
  •  You are with your fellow band members 24/7. That can become very nerve-wracking. Be sure to take time for yourself, and give the others their own space as well.
  • You need to perform even when you’re sick. In most situations you’re expected to just work through the pain or discomfort. This is especially true when you are in a town where there is no one who can fill in for you at the last minute.
  • Road fatigue can catch up to you quickly. Be sure to schedule shorter trips between gigs, and give yourself breaks in the schedule to regroup. Book some multi-night gigs. Fairs, cruises and casinos are examples of venues that will book you for extended periods.

Even with all of these conditions to be aware of, being on the road and playing for cheering audiences 4-6 nights a week can be an amazingly exhilarating experience! It just takes common sense, a good sense of judgment, business sense and a strong dose of dedication![/private_pro]

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About The Author

Vinny Ribas

Vinny Ribas is the founder and CEO of Indie Connect, an artist management, consulting and training company. The company also hosts networking and educational events and has published an app that connects people to the Nashville Music Industry. During his 40+ year career, Vinny has been a full time musician, artist manager, booking agent, songwriter, studio owner, producer and the Entertainment Director for the NV State Fair. He has also coached over 1000 artists and songwriters. He is a sought after speaker and has authored over 400 music industry articles. Vinny is also the CEO of Top 4M Entertainment, an independent film and television production company.