What jobs musicians with niche success have in civil life?

Hi, I am trying to pursue a fairly demanding career (I will (hopefully) get my masters degree in psychology this year). I also would like to reach some degree of success in the not too far future being a semi-professional musician. I don’t have a high aspiration, but it would be nice to become a relatively known name in underground/niche circles with occasional gigs.

Is that even possible? Music production is also in itself a demanding endevaour (gear isn’t exactly cheap either), and I often wonder if I want too much out of life. So I am curious, how others do it? And what do they/you do as a living?

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Depends what you consider underground/niche. Becoming known on your local scene is absolutely doable but making money is another ballgame. What do you consider a semi professional musician?


Not sure what your ambitions are. But back 30 odd years ago I made a couple of records, toured, put some other less successful projects together but with an ambition they should become more than that. Then ran out of cash/found life gets more expensive as you get older and needed to take a “proper” job to make ends meet. And at that point all my headsounds completely disappeared. It was like a switch being turned off overnight. It just went. It turned out I just didn’t have the headspace/time/listless energy anymore to create alongside what became a demanding career. Only now, as I get WAY older, as work gets less demanding and kids grow up, that space to create has opened up again. Albeit now solely for the purpose of amusing myself, not entertaining others. I know some may manage a career and a serious music career, but for me it was clearly one or the other.


I’ve had a fair amount of success, but a lot of it came out of a time when I was devoting several hours every day to listening to SoundCloud and making music.

I’ve released on a few labels and been distributed by rubadub, but that certainly didn’t equal financial success for me. For the past two years I’ve had my own business as a carpenter/handyman. I have had financial success in that, but again, I’ve devoted several hours every day to learning it.

So as long as you don’t view music as a live fast die young pursuit, and are ok to slowly build up skills, you can get to where you are successful in multiple areas, but it might take you 10 years. Persistence.

Also, I have 3 kids. It is definitely hard to juggle everything. I try to get up before everyone and spend an hour or so making music. Then I get my time and my kids aren’t mad at me for being shut away in my cave.


Play in a band with a record deal and a small indie following, enough to tour abroad regularly and sell out of vinyl pressings. Just making it clear that the band is kinda self sustainable but will never be feasible to get any money from. I work as a librarian in a small library, have a fair amount of holiday time every year and can get days off without pay when I need to. Apart from my flexible work, the secret is no kids. Can spend enough money on gear as I need to and spend my free time and holidays doing music.


For sure, it’s possible. Personally, I tend to think it’s possible to juggle two things out of the following three: a full-time job, a hobby you take very seriously (professional without getting paid like a pro) and having a family. I’ve followed the underground music scene in Finland for 20+ years and it often comes down to choosing two out of three. If music doesn’t pay all the bills, that is.

The jobs can be almost anything, I think. I think it comes down to having enough flexibility in terms of working hours, holidays, income and the sort. I know many people who’ve been borderline pro musicians as university students, some who work as construction workers and some who have an academic career. If you have the desire and will to succeed, you can combine whatever job with a semi-professional music career.

Having said that, I think you’re not alone with dreams like that. Who wouldn’t like to have a full-time job and a successful music career on the side? Makes it sound too easy, methinks. Takes a lot of hard work but also pure luck to establish yourself even as a relatively known artist.


Oh yeah, having a day job and a “successful” career in music on the side basically means you’ll be working two jobs, only one of which you get paid for. It’s a lot of work, even for musicians on the lowest ladder, by which I mean musicians with enough of a following that they’re not just known locally, have a record deal and / or play regular tours. I spend around 10-20 hours a week making music or practising on my own, and then all the shows and band practise and studio time on top. Personally I could not fit kids or a more demanding career into the equation.


Thanks so much for the answers so far!
Yes, to clarify: Making real money is a non-goal, there are certainly easier ways to make money and I also fear that making it for the money would kill the joy of it. If anything, music is a money-sink, especially as I love hw.

“secret is no kids” <- That may be true in my case, thanks for the reinforcement. Indeed, I am willing to sacrifice having a family/kids, as music seems to be a more important goal - I am lucky as current gf tends to agree. (A rare find in this regard, I tend to think)

So, making money out of music is not the goal, but for example being able to perform on an underground festival with some hundred people actually enjoying and feeling the music is a good measure of being successful in the sense I mean it.


This is basically where we are with the band, we can tour and get invited to play festivals where we always play at the smallest stage, hah. The other guys in the band have families, one even has a fairly demanding job as well but for them, it’s a real juggle but doable, just needs an understanding and sympathetic significant other to pull off.

Unless you get really lucky, it will take years to reach that point. Slowly building up a fan base and navigating the often really frustrating low level music business where everyone is trying to rip you off. If I were to give any advice, it’s two things:

  1. Pay a professional to design you a logo and your merch.
  2. Pay a professional to mix and master your stuff, at least until you learn how to do it well enough to sound pro.

Logo and graphics is not necessarily a big investment, but definitely one of the most overlooked ones. As sad as it is, image is what gets you more attention than your music. If your logo or aesthetics in general look cheap, most people will pass. Then if your music sounds amateurish, more people will pass. Doesn’t really matter how good the music is, really.


I dont know if there is an underground scene in the classic pre 2000 sense
you can start here
this board is full of talented and successful musicians , producers etc…and helpful


do you have a soundcloud account?

like to check it out.
thank you

happy new year

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Well in the before times the thing you did was hang out with other musicians and try to get your foot in the door booking gigs. I’m not sure what people do these days, start a youtube channel?

Observation tells me this has been done before. I even know some successful touring musicians with day jobs. When I worked in an art supplies store I got a pretty good look at who was still making painting for exhibitions into middle age and it was a 50/50 split of people with day jobs and people who married into money. Having a supportive partner (or loaded parents) in life can really impact how productive an artist can be once leaving college.

But that’s all anecdotal. Surely there must be some clinical psychological survey on Artist/Musicians with day jobs. Aren’t there?

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I’m 39 and my life developed itself so that I now make a living from a bunch of related, complementary activities: media artist, freelance academic lecturer, AV tech rental entrepreneur. Electronic sound and music is integral part of my art, but my techno music strand is separate from it, though crossovers happen. Of all my activities (techno) music production earns me the least income. I play payed techno gigs from time to time and working to get more (lets not mention corona hiatus here). Got a vinyl release on a label coming out of the pressing plant soon.


Also, most media/visual artists and contemporary composers in my vicinity have side-jobs. Teaching is an important one for many. Only a few that I know are living 100% from their art practice. This is in the Netherlands, which comparatively has very good art funding (though this has been receding heavily since the 2008 financial crisis).

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I grew up in Northamptonshire, which had one of the strongest metal scenes in the UK about 20 years ago.
So many awesome bands, like Gutworm, who released an EP and an album, played big US metal festivals and toured a lot in the UK. Yet every day I’d see their bassist walking past my shop in his suit and tie to go to his job at an accountancy firm.

I guess this has always been the reality for 99% of musical artists. Most of the time “real life” takes over and it does get more difficult to pursue a musical “career” while trying to hold down a job and support a family.

Twas always thus.


I am a writer and content producer. No one has any idea who I am as a musician, but I do make some money on my music. Commissioned work, not to mention I get producer jobs because of the cross discipline skills you get when you know a few things that blend into a mix all its own.

Music can be used in many ways depending on your line of work.

Even some big names in international Metal cannot live from their music. Some are names, that you find on the 2nd row of artis on really big festivals.


Maybe you can get an 80% Job, that is what i am dreaming about. With 100% Job, its very demanding in my opinion. 1 free day a week, would change a lot for me i think.


That’s honestly the worst place to be, as the expectations for bands that big are huge yet the payoff is about the same as for completely amateur bands. I would much rather be a lot less popular and have complete freedom and no stress regarding sales or show attendance.

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Just started reading this book:
“Can Music Make
You Sick?
Measuring the Price of
Musical Ambition”
The focus is on psychological aspect of being a musician, mental health, status and relations.