if you couldn’t gather it from that, i am dating — rather, in a relationship with — a musician. as such, i have a few thoughts, quibbles, feelings, and meanderings about the topic. a quick google search on dating musicians reveals a helter skelter of articles ranging from op ed postings to eHow and wikiHow articles (really?). the common thread? almost all of them say this: ZOMG don’t do it u will regret it!!!*!&#(!
i’ll be honest. upon seeing the unbridled negativity in the articles out there, my first thoughts were rather akin to “well, shit.” then i thought a little more about my own relationship, as well as the relationships of my friends who are also dating musicians and my mom, who did in fact date and marry my dad, who is a musician.
basically, i think musicians in general have a bad reputation and some bad press, and that is not fair. i’m very positive on musicians — i know a ton of them and i don’t know any who fit the negative stereotypes the way they’re portrayed.
i’ve been with my boyfriend for about seven months now. when i met him two years ago, he wasn’t involved in a band, though he of course was still a musician. i suspect that a lot of the anti-musician rigmarole out there on the internet may be mostly in regards to the following formula (a generalization): girl see boy on stage with guitar, girl swoon, flirting, dating, then it implodes. i could be wrong, but looking at that formula, if that is how most of these articles got started, it doesn’t really surprise me that the relationships don’t work out. infatuation with someone based on a stage performance is not the same as getting to know someone. it’d be like falling in love with say, hugh grant in notting hill. the character is awesome, sweet, etc.; the actor himself is a completely different person. i’ve met many musicians who are gung-ho crazy on stage, but stand-offish and quiet when you actually talk to them. on stage, they’re performing…the whole point is to put on a show.
now onto the nitty gritty. the articles i read accuse musicians of being many things — not the least of these adjectives were the following: backstabbing, overjealous, cheating, poor, dirty, and flaky. none of that is particularly flattering. what got me thinking was how these adjectives were applied to the entire group, as if just by knowing someone was in a band automatically made it okay to assume that they fit these stereotypes. that’s not particularly fair — it’s not considered okay to stereotype or profile people based on ethnicity, so why is it okay to do it by profession?
one of the articles went as far as to say that if you date a musician, you’ll end up lonely, cheated on, and broke. they talk about “perks” as if that’s the reason you should date someone — based on what you can get from their job. all that confuses me.
don’t get me wrong — there are definitely obstacles and challenges that come with dating someone in the music business. i’ll be candid. i’m a night owl, and i think that helps. my boyfriend works evenings, and he is pretty much on a nocturnal schedule. that’s pretty normal for a lot of the musicians i know — i don’t know many early birds in the business. in the articles i read, they talked about that, specifically that shows aren’t always on weekends, and that they will often go till 1 or later including packing up gear and everything. and if you’re in a relationship with someone in a band, you’ll probably go to the shows. which isn’t always easy if you work a day job (like i do). the articles also complained that weekend shows take up date nights.
another big complaint was that musicians don’t have money. money has never been super important to me, but i guess it really matters to others. here’s what i think about the whole money thing. musicians do what they do because it’s their passion. it’s what they love. it also happens to be an incredibly expensive past time. and that’s where most of their money goes — into guitars, basses (suddenly that plural looks weird as shit), drums, amps, cabs, wiring, lights, effects, pedals, merchandise — all of that costs a lot of money. we’re talking thousands of dollars of equipment in one band. and the upkeep can be pricey too–something goes wonky on your amp, and you might be out a couple hundo just to fix it. if you do not have wealthy parents willing to drop a couple grand on you, you’re goin it alone. i’m guessing that’s where this stereotype came from (and it IS a stereotype). all the money stuff is a combination of factors. first, equipment is expensive. second, touring is expensive. think gas, food, van rental (or purchase), fliers, all that stuff. third, making a record is hella expensive. studio time is often $500-$1500 per day. not to mention mixing, sequencing, mastering, packaging, pressing, album artwork, etc. and as i’ve learned secondhand (my boyo’s the first) this week, just when you think you’ve paid for it, you have to pay more. fourth, if you want to pursue a music career, you will have to tour. a lot. think weeks, if not months, per year. and if you will have to tour, you have to have a job that will allow you to do so. which is why many musicians either teach music (independently or with a company) and/or work jobs with flexible hours, and lemme tell you, those jobs don’t pay that much. fifth, if you are serious about music, you have to practice. preferably somewhere that will allow you to do so without adding the cost of noise violations to your spreadsheet of expenses. for a lot of bands, this means renting a space where they can go practice.
the articles i read made it seem like a crime — accused musicians of being perpetual moochers. but i think of it this way — doctors and lawyers spend years and thousands of dollars to start making any money. even when doctors begin interning they are still pretty broke most of the time, and they don’t get shit for that. so why do musicians? personally, i don’t care about fancy dinners or getting showered with presents or anything, so i don’t really understand why people make such a big deal about saying musicians are poor.
i’m going to stop going into the points of the articles for now and talk about the more personal side of things. being a musician is a full time job — to understand that, i had to really think about what my number one passion in life is. what it is that if i don’t do, i will regret forever. for me, that’s writing. to achieve any of those kinds of dreams, it takes an immense amount of work. i think for a lot of people who date musicians, sometimes it feels like they have to compete with all of the music hours. one of the big complaints i read was that these people writing in or responding said that they “were never first priority” in the lives of the musicians they dated — that they felt like they always lost out to everything in regards to music, whether it was practice or shows or what. and for me reading that, it was pretty scary. it’s a topic to think about, to discuss. no one wants to feel like they don’t matter, and no one likes to feel like they’ll be cast aside the second something “comes up.” so i can understand that feeling.
i spent a lot of yesterday thinking about that. i know a lot of women who date musicians — and we have a lot in common. yeah, the guys do keep late hours. they often practice late, shows are late, studio time runs late. bands have to tour, and that means the significant others are gone for days or weeks at a time. and i started to think and ask myself if that meant that we are less of a priority, if all the shows and practices mean that we are not as important. the answer i came up with took a lot of thought. and it’s not entirely satisfying.
the answer really is…it depends on who you’re dating. i think all the people who wrote in to those articles, commented for them, etc. had been burned bad. and that sucks. if your relationship began because of that formula i mentioned above, and if it’s not a serious relationship, then i can see how the hours and the touring would be a big dealbreaker. but in many (if not most) of the relationships around me, including my own, i feel like it’s not as simple as that. i don’t think that the guys i know would classify everything in their lives into one category and force it all to compete against one another. when one of those guys is in a serious relationship with someone, i don’t think that girlfriend and music occupy the same weight class. and i came up with a distinction of why. music is what they choose to do with their lives; we are who they choose to spend their lives with.
i’m still sort of flabbergasted that all of those articles out there exist. how-to’s, etc. the bottom line for me is that you can’t simply group all musicians into the stereotypes out there. and it is beyond me why people would just hunt a certain profession to date someone in it, though i know people do. in my opinion, if you’re serious about dating and not just looking for a fling, you ought to get to know whoever it is you want to date. as a person. not as a performer. and at the end of the day, i know that i’m not a competitor against music for my boyfriend’s affection any more than his family would be. good relationships are based on trust and communication — and if you’re basing it simply on how hot mr. dude looks with a guitar, don’t be surprised when it doesn’t work out.
so yeah. there are tough things. but it’s not fair to classify all people in one profession as lazy, drugged out, cheating bums. and all the problems i read about in those articles could be prevented with some common sense and the simple act of looking beyond the guitar at the person wearing it.
there are plenty of good musicians out there. and no, you can’t have mine.