Balancing Career & Family with a Musical Life

March 24, 2011{ 12 Comments }

Music & Life: The Great Balancing Act

For some, music IS life. Then there are the rest of us, for whom music is a great passion, perhaps the greatest passion, but one that must be balanced with other passions, responsibilities, and necessities. And I’m not just talking about folks who’ve chosen to focus on career and family alongside their interest in music. Life has a way of shaking things up for everyone in both good and bad ways, regardless of their individual intentions and determination. Even the most die-hard, ambitious musician might have to make some sudden changes in their music-making habits if confronted with a sick parent, an injury, natural disaster, or other sad surprise.

If something does divert you from your pinpointed trajectory (towards musical stardom, of course), I hope it is something positive instead, like falling in love, having success in another realm that competes with your music time, or being abducted by benevolent aliens who want to show you the beauty of the universe and the meaning of it all.

What are your priorities?

Where do you make the sacrifices? In your musical life? Or in the rest of your life? For every person, the “true” path is different. And if you’re anything like me, the “true” path keeps evolving the further we walk along it. The past keeps eating the bread-crumb trail we’ve left behind and the future keeps shifting the ground beneath our feet. I guess that is life!

What is your balancing act?

I’d love to hear the story of your sacrifices, your ambitions, your priorities, how you think about budgeting time, how you determine what is MOST important to you, and how you swirl it all up into one 24-hour day in the life of YOU. Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

-Chris R. at CD Baby

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  • hi Chris –

    Great to read the thoughts of someone who lives in a similar way to me. I always worried that my kids take some of the passion away from my musical pursuits, but surprisingly enough, it's quite the opposite.

    They do make it way tougher to pull off anything more than a 1-hour trip up to my studio, but my inspiration and desire to get the musical thoughts out of my brain has never been at a higher level. And my songwriting has matured considerably since having kids.

    I write about the balance you refer to in my albums' liner notes, and sometimes on my blog, because I always hope someone will read it and be influenced the same way I was. It's good to talk about it, even if it's not typical or 'cool' to be a hipster musician that's a Daddy too.

    Many thanks. Joe Eglash

  • My Name is Macc, i have been writing music and performing my whole day i decided to have a family, and it changed i wrote music, going out to perform at night, and even in promotion and marketing.first off trying to gather your thoughts to write a song during an inspirational thought is almost impossible. when you have kids jumping all over you, and want to spend time with you, and all you hear is Daddy, Daddy , i had to wait tell the baby started kindergarten to get back into my writing in the morning while they are at school.The Internet and You tube became my shows. because for one it's Hard to go out and perform when your wife hasn't seen you. your kids want the security of you being home, and you basically have to sacrifice your night life for your family.when you are a starving artist like myself, you have to sell your music to the public with out also taking food off the table. that means finding free ways to promote your music or cheep ways like flyer's and business cards. i have even stopped pressing up physical copies of my Cd's because of the cost, some times it's hard you have birthdays, anniversaries, just basic things the house needs and to pull out 900 bucks to spend on Cd's and everyone uses there ipods it just don't make sense. so it's been a long journey of sacrifices!

  • k8

    Music is the only thing I've ever wanted to do.. I've always been insanely passionate about it and I spent my whole childhood knowing it was what I was meant to do in life.. When I grew up, I quickly learned that there were bills to pay. It only took a few gigs of not getting paid (whether it was bc the club manager didn't feel like it, or the weather, or the club closed, etc.) for me to figure that not being sure of the money I was making stressed me out. I noticed how much it was wearing on me when I realized during a gig one night that I was more concerned with "are there enough people here to make the club happy?" than I was with playing and feeling the music. I knew that wasn't my style at all.

    So, I guess I was raised with a little too much responsibility in me… Throw in some anxiety, and you find yourself working a day job to pay the bills just for the piece of mind (or is it peace of mind?)in knowing there is steady money coming. Working it this way, for me, took away a lot of that stress and made me love the music again. When I play a show now, I let go, feel the music, and don't sweat the other stuff anymore. I'm working on my second CD now and don't have to worry about where the money to record will come from. And I don't feel like any less of an artist because of it.

    • Justin

      Hello fellow parent musicians. I’m a full time musician Dad. I have a new album coming out soon, which I’m very excited about. The time has come to get very serious and hire a publicist and and release this album the right way.

      Lately I feel like I have gotten too busy. Sometimes I play 5 nights a week, sometimes with 2 gigs in a day. These are mostly local bar, and party gigs. By the time I’m done a typical I’m worn out to the point where I have to sit around for a day or two to get back to normal. My wife is very supportive of my musical career until recently when the prospects of actually doing a national tour came up. I’m the breadwinner however she does run her own part time Pilates business. Along with both of us working for ourselves she also insists on us homeschooling our 3 kids, who are 3, 7, and 8. There’s no way we can fully commit to either of our careers if we are with our children everyday homeschooling them. Believe me I would love to continue homeschooling them but I’m worried that neither of us are going to make any big moves in our careers if it continues. My kids are a priority too and I even feel like they could be doing more schoolwork but they aren’t because I’m busy promoting and she’s teaching Pilates in the mornings.

      Lately I have been thinking about not doing this full time anymore. I’m 33 and I just don’t know if I’m too old and have too many responsibilities to be a full time musician anymore.

      Any feedback would be great.

      • Too old? Absolutely not. Too busy? Maybe. That’s a tough thing for someone else to assess about your work, family, etc. But where things get adjusted,… whether you gig less, send your kids to public school, or whatever else, that’s the tough part to negotiate. I wish you luck in the great balancing act!


  • Balancing my two worlds, music and family, is something I struggle with on a day-to-day basis. On one hand, you have my role as an artist. Compelled to create, to perform, and satisfy certain career ambitions ( and let's face it, my own ego).

    On the other hand, my role as a father and a family man. I don't want to be absent in my children's lives. I want to be there for birthdays, Easter, Christmas. I want to walk them to school, go camping, go to the park,etc.

    So, I try the best that I can to do both.

    I am a full-time musician, and when the kids were first born , I took a break to stay at home. After a couple of years, I started to tour again, gradually, and have been increasing my number of dates ever since. I now perform an average of 150 dates per year, but only about 60-70 of those are touring dates. So I am home quite a bit. I probably see my kids more in a year than someone working a straight job.

    But there is no getting around it, I am away for chunks of time, and it is hard on the kids, and my wife, but it has become expected, and it gets easier incrementally for them each time. For me, I miss them terribly when I am on the road, so I just try to focus on the work.

    When we first had the children, I contemplated giving up music, but I wondered what kind of example it would set for them, if I gave up on my dreams so easily.

    And to be honest, having children has helped me a great deal with my music as a business . I can't go on tour and lose money on every show, or pay to play. I have to sell a certain amount of merch. I have to come home with a profit. Because it is not just me I am doing it for. That kind of pressure can really motivate you.

  • Tom

    Hey Chris, nice bit.

    For me, when we had our daughter it became the priority on our life. Still is, but like you said, it is also a balancing act, with balance being the key word here. I think for me I am now on more of a routine thing: wife goes to work early, I help get daughter ready for school, by like 9:00am i'm doing music related things on the computer, then some song writing, practicing instruments, some phone call follow-ups, lunch(a few times a week with my wife)a few more hours of things that include work only site, some marketing stuff and by then it like 3:00 or so and time to get kid from school(obv a stay at home dad).

    So I usually get about 5/6 hours a day during the week to budget my time. I am also able to do some things in the late afternoon evening but it is oftentimes a lot harder to focus on things and give them your needed 100% of focus. I also work a little bit in the evening when I can without it affecting our family life too much. But for the most part in the evenings I try and devote it to doing stuff with the family. I cook dinner a lot and give my wife a break a bit cause she works full time and I am a freelance musician in addition to my band.

    Also I might add, that we have found that having one of the of us around during the day really works out well for us. I am around at the school to help out a bit, take my kid to school etc and there during the day. Highly recommend it if you can.

    The time does fly by though I must say when you have lots going on with your music an dour family life as well

  • I like Lil Macc Loco's idea about treating the internet and youtube as your shows. In fact, look at the success rate of YouTubers that upload weekly videos. (Primarily comedians… but, imagine doing a similar thing with music: a "show" or song each week. A great way to build your fanbase and yet allow people to scroll back through your old performances. Good stuff)


    Adam Victor Lattimore

  • Really useful post. One thing worth doing is a daily list and working out the specific time you can spend on your career in music. We published a list of daily/weekly/monthly things you need to do to help manage your time:

    Hope its useful.

    • Chris R. at CD Baby

      Nice. Thanks for sharing. That list will be very helpful for some musicians who are juggling too many things.

  • Alex Holmes

    wow thanks guys especially tom savage this is exactly how i'm feeling now in ways. I have a girlfriend so not wife yet as i'm only 20 but i really think i wanna marry her someday.

    Thing is we've just started thinking about how we're gonna have any stability if i'm going to pursue music. I'm in the early stages but it's still a worry i'm hoping to go to uni soon to study music and form a band but i do also think i want a family with my girlfriend eventually.

    She doesn't like the idea of me being away if we have kids and us not seeing each other either, and i don't wanna be one of those dads that hardely see's their kids. At the same time she doesn't want me to give up on my dream because of her.

    Musics the only thing i can think of doing but i also want to be with her…so i'm stuck. But after reading what Tom Savage says i think if we want to be together enough then we should be able to get through it…also my dad gave up on music because of his parents so i do feel strongly about following through with my dream and setting that example to my kids…even if there are some hard times.

  • Amen to that. In fact, many folks with “day jobs” have an easier time paying for the recording and promotion stuff they need to reach the next level in their music life.