Life of a Musician After An Expensive College Degree

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I mean true musicians. The type of musicians who have tons of talent, loads of promise, a refusal to do anything else and no cash. I’m going to let you in on the worst kept secret of a generation: having a bachelor’s degree in ‘Music Anything’ doesn’t exactly secure you a spot on the Forbes list… or the waiting list at Applebee’s… or Santa’s ‘nice’ list. With said Bachelor’s degree, I have been given golden opportunities in valet parking, washing dishes, handing out flyers and selling weird tickets for things to tourists that I’m not sure actually exists.

All for the love of the ‘downbeat’, the need to pay rent and the ability to free up enough time for rehearsals, auditions and jam sessions. And in this town you better love that downbeat in that same eerie way that some of my friends love that Candy Crush game app because it sure as hell doesn’t love you. Being a musician is, and always has been, a tough lifestyle. However, this is not a ‘how hard things are here in New York City’ type of posting. In some capacity it’s hard for everyone. Musicians just happen to have the type of hard that involves figuring out how to eat food on a daily basis but everyone has their struggles.

Of course there are upsides. If you’re in the right place at the right time chances are you’ll get a gig or two and you’ll get paid. Also sometimes Duane Reade prints me out coupons for things I kind of, maybe, might, sort of one day need, like 50% off of my next purchase of Nair after the first two bottles (clearly something no grown man should be without).

The truth of the matter is, no matter what crazy expensive city you live in (but perhaps New York City especially – there I said it) you went to college without a full ride, acquired some knowledge of being a musician and then accumulated a ton of debt. So what does that mean? You still want to travel the world and perform don’t you? You still want to showcase your talent and make money doing it, right? Why should we have to just settle for a job that simply pays the bills and gives no satisfaction to an instrument or profession we’ve been working towards, most likely, since we learned to walk?

Settle you should NOT my treble clef loving friends! Even when they tell you that an intergalactic black hole shows more promise of leading somewhere before your chosen line of work does.

Take it from me. Remember that movie “2012” where the world ends with dramatic implosions of the entire planet left and right? That’s what it looks like when someone reads my credit report. I don’t let it stop me. Sometimes you have to find a way and other times you have to make a way.
Now I’m no Suze Orman, so I can’t tell you shit about getting your financial life together, but I can tell you that a constant announcement of how broke you are towards both Sallie Mae and your non-musician/non-broke friends can keep you out of a lot of trouble. Payments plans and extension plans are fully acceptable to loan companies and they’re pretty cool about it. And when your friends say they want to go out one night, just do what everyone does and casually remind them that you have exactly $11 in your bank account right now, and it has to last you another 10 days. If only we could pay our bills in character.

Prioritizing is absolutely essential along with not being resentful towards higher education in general. Chances are as a former music major you’ve obtained some totally valuable trait you don’t even realize you have; mine for example is writing. I was hoping I could add adult entertainment to that mix as well, but to no avail. Find yours!

We all know the only thing worse than trying to find that balance of a ‘survival job’ and getting gigs is trying to keep that balance of said ‘survival job’ vs. said gigs and there’s a constant ebb and flow to consider. Until you do hit the big time – and if you’re like me that’s what you’re looking for – the best thing to do is keep it small. Cheap payments on your student loans, cheap vodka, cheap rent (all things considered) and the realization that it’s okay to be cheap. I mean you did just spend like tens of thousands of dollars to tell people you know how to play an instrument/sing/dance/act. Maybe cutting back wouldn’t be such a bad thing. Yes your Facebook friends who studied finance, or nursing, are probably buying houses or getting married or whatever, and that’s because their lives are nowhere near as interesting as yours. That’s why they have to solicit so many ‘likes’. So remember to never compare yourself to those people. Facebook can make anyone seem interesting.

The truth of the matter is college does not equate to what it did for other people with other majors. The sooner we realize that, the better off we’ll be. Our lives are different. The post-college atmosphere is just the first place we really realize it. Sometimes a great way to get your shit together is by not having a lot of shit.

Photo Credit: blog.discmakers.com

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About the author

Freddie Cosmo - Associate Debtitor

Freddie Cosmo is a recording artist from Philadelphia, PA. living in New York City by way of Miami. He spent all his money on undergrad music school and feels as though he owes all musicians (and the universe for that matter) the most accurate information on how to be broke without giving up on their dreams. He would like to shamelessly invite you to check out his music at www.soundcloud.com/freddie-cosmo.
  • http://www.thebrokeandbeautifullife.com Stefanie

    This is my life as an actress. Big money for a BFA from NYU doesn’t equate to getting work, good income, etc. Trained artists may have one of the most lopsided investment to return ratios out there.

  • Anon

    Wow. How did you get a degree without learning any basic English composition?This is pretty much the most poorly written piece I have ever read.