Why Musicians Quit Part II: Strain on Personal Relationships

© 2010 Vinny Ribas

There is no question that have a career as a full time entertainer can put a strain on any and all personal relationships. The keys to resolving this are planning, trust, understanding and compromise.  Here are some examples of the challenges and possible ways to deal with them:

  •  Being away from home. One person in a relationship being away from home can cause an enormous strain on that relationship. The good news is that it can be dealt with effectively. Many people travel for their jobs for months at a time. It is important that both parties agree to the arrangement up front. It is also imperative to communicate on a daily basis by phone, or preferably webcam (e.g. Skype). Email just isn’t as warm, comforting and reassuring as a voice or face. It is also important that when you are together again, you set ample time to spend alone or with your significant other and with the whole family, without the distractions of your work. This will reinforce the relationship and build the trust on both sides to make being on the road work.
  • Financial impact. There is no question that a musician’s income is often flexible. There are good times, and there are dry spells. It can be very seasonal, and it is very dependent on the economy. To overcome this, it is important to do 2 things:
    • Budget your money, putting some money aside from the good weeks or months to cover the gaps when business is slower. In other word, put yourself on a fixed salary.
    • Create multiple streams of income, especially those that are not dependent on your presence to generate income. One example might be to record a teaching CD, DVD or audio download, or an e-book, and sell it over the Internet. Another might be to license your music to film, TV and commercials.
  • Temptation. Musicians often get showered with attention from audiences/fans (especially those of the opposite sex), the press, other musicians etc. This can result in multiple challenges, the least of which are spousal jealousy and personal temptation. This is where communication, trust and self-restraint play big roles. Constantly communicate with and reassure your family about how important they are and how much you love them. Make it your own unbreakable rule to come straight home after gigs, both at home and on the road. Put up pictures of your family around your hotel room. If they will wait up, call them after each gig and spend quality time with them. Don’t make it a ‘rushed, ‘checking in because I said I would’ type of call.
  • Road life/road fatigue. It takes a certain kind of person to withstand life on the road. If you’re in a band, you are with the same people every day, 24/7, so it’s important that everyone gets along. Even still, it’s easy to get on each other’s nerves. You’re may also be also living out of cheap hotels, your bus or your van. You may be traveling through parts of the country where you can’t get cell phone or Internet reception. You may have to travel long distances in short amounts of time between gigs. You may lose total track of what day it is, what time it is and where you are. Other than the shows themselves, it can be very boring and draining. It can be rough f you’re doing radio interviews at 6 AM after getting off from your previous gig at 2 AM, and driving all day to your next gig. And these are just for starters. Your attitude towards your ‘job’ and your other band members can also affect your relationships at home. It doesn’t help to call home and only complain about how miserable you are. If road life is taking that much toll on you, and thus on your family and friends, refocus your energies in a way that lets you stay home. Find fulfilling work as a local session player or in a successful local band. Maybe you can just travel weekends and then come home the rest of the week.
  • Excessive stress or pressure. Many musicians get pressures from others regarding their careers, and thus put pressure on themselves. There is no question that there is instability in the music business, especially when launching or growing a new act. Thus, you may feel pressure from your spouse, from other band members or even from friends to get the band going and making money yesterday. You may get pressure to make more money, take more days off, spend less time on the road etc. The keys to dealing with these kinds of pressures are to really think about all possible scenarios before you even start to do anything that will effect your relationships, and put plans and contingency plans in place. As long as there is a viable backup plan in place, the pressures won’t be so great.
  •  Loneliness. It may seem strange to think of a musician’s life as a lonely one, especially when you are traveling with a group of people and you’re surrounded with a new group of fans, press etc. every night. But the truth is that fans and press are literally ‘here today, gone tomorrow’ acquaintances. Some musicians know that it is hard to have a long distance relationship, and so they don’t even try. Others have tried but it didn’t work out. The result can be a lonely, un-rooted life. If you have to be on the road, The ideal scenario would be to find someone who can travel with you.

The truth is that strong relationships are far too important and hard to come by to let your work as a musician destroy them. That is why you need solid, realistic plans, you have to communicate often so you foster trust and understanding, and you need to compromise when it is clear that the challenges are causing undue strain on your relationships.


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.