It's All About the Hang
Published July 29, 2014
Years ago, frustrated with where I was at in my music career, I met with another musician in Boston where I was living at the time, and asked for some guidance. He was a drummer with a weekly gig at my favorite venue in the area, played with a cool band, and seemed to be a busy and accomplished professional musician. We sat down and talked for a while, I explained to him where I was at, and asked him a bunch of questions about how I could get to the next level. Two pieces of advice stick with me from this conversation. One, I have to be my own manager. Somehow, I don't know how I got this into my head, I thought I needed to find a manager to start getting the gigs I believed I should be getting. The reality is, with enough hustle and networking, I could make this happen for myself. It was eye opening and empowering for me.
The second thing he said that I think about constantly is that it's "all about the hang." In other words, who are these people I'm hanging out with? Are they cool people? Do I enjoy their company?
At first, I didn't completely get it. Sure, of course I'd like to hang out with cool people I get along with; what does that have to do with being a professional musician?
As time went on, it became clear that this concept was worthy of consideration. Being a professional freelance musician isn't like other jobs in very fundamental ways - there's no stable 5 day work week. No 401K, pension, health insurance, or paid time off. No company parties or free lunches on Fridays. And apparently this is just scratching the surface! Check out this article on Forbes.com about The Most Popular Employee Perks Of 2014.
So considering all that, why would any musician want to play music with people who aren't to one's liking? Lots of people work at jobs where they have issues with their boss, or they don't get along with some co-workers, or don't like the corporate environment, or even don't like the actual job itself, but at least they have a steady paycheck and some employee perks. That makes it a lot easier to tolerate.
There's also the issue of working together to create something. Music is spiritual - it's hard to be inspired to collaborate with other musicians if you don't enjoy their company.
It's no secret that being a professional musician is a labor of love and financial compensation can be tough. Why bother with people you're not simpatico with? There's definitely something to be said for playing with the best musicians you can, who challenge you and push you to keep developing musically. But if that virtuoso you're playing with is an asshole, it can take the joy out of it, which is ultimately the most important aspect.