NewMusicBox published a great article today by Ellen McSweeney about the twenty-something perspective on the financial realities of pursuing a career in music. I highly recommend reading the entire thing.
Of course it has always been difficult to be a musician, but today's economic situation really compounds the problem. McSweeney touches on many of the important facets of the issue, but I also think it's true that the whole economic picture is bigger and more complex than what we find in our field of music.
For example, these days most "day jobs" that pay anything that you can live on demand prerequisite training, experience, and/or degrees in a specific field, which makes having a financial Plan B much more difficult (for all people, not just musicians) and a career path all the more risky. I could be wrong, but I get the sense that this is a noticeable change from how things were for my parents' generation (those who were seeking jobs in the late 70s/early 80s).
These days, a college degree is practically a requirement for even some of the lowest-paying jobs, which pushes more and more people toward higher education, debt, and, for those who are lucky enough to have understanding parents, a prolonged period of minor to significant financial dependence. We have yet to see the ramifications of this current situation on life decisions (marriage, babies, etc.), financial mobility, living arrangements (being able to afford a house, for example), health and longevity (paying back debts might trump health care, for example), and saving for retirement.
All of these are heavy topics, but definitely worth consideration. I don't want the takeaway message of this to be to avoid a career in music, especially as I have friends from high school and college who are non-musicians who struggle with the same predicament. The economic reality for our generation is a pervasive problem that is affecting a wide number of fields, particularly the arts and humanities, education, and social services, to name a few. It can be a disheartening reflection of what our society values, but if things keep getting pushed in this direction it is my hope that our society will, in turn, push for more change.
Posted by Natalie