“I was fired for requesting time off to go on tour”: the challenges faced by musicians who have a second job.


The inaugural Musicians’ Census revealed that nearly 50% of musicians in the UK make less than £14,000 annually from their music. While some like Ed Sheeran and Adele are fortunate enough to earn millions, the majority must supplement their income with a second job or side gig. We interviewed three accomplished musicians about the challenges and truths of juggling a music career and a “parallel life.”

“I will be returning to the office tomorrow, which has surprised my fans.”

Matt Baty is the vocalist for the stoner metal band Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs from Newcastle. He also works as a music publishing sync manager.

After completing my studies, I relocated to Manchester with the sole goal of creating a musical group. We secured a contract with a record label, put out an album, and embarked on tours, all while balancing day jobs. It can be easy to question if we are making mistakes, but then we come to understand that without a major hit song and widespread exposure, this is the norm.

During my job interviews, mentioning my involvement in a band immediately ended my chances. Employers assume that you will be absent. In certain cases, when I requested time off for touring, I was let go. It became clear that most jobs are not suitable for maintaining a successful music career.

After returning to Newcastle, I found that the only way to make Pigs successful was to work in the music industry with understanding individuals. I am currently employed by Wipe Out, a music publisher located in the north-east. My responsibilities include searching for potential placements of songs in TV, film, and games, as well as other licensing opportunities for artists. During tours, I bring my laptop and continue working while on the road. The band’s achievements have greatly aided in my outreach efforts; individuals I’ve been trying to connect with for years have reached out to me. While performing in LA, I had the opportunity to meet and network with people in the US industry that would have been otherwise inaccessible without the band’s success.

Our main focus was never on earning a large amount of money and the other members of the band also have other jobs. With four albums under our belt, we have reached a stage where our earnings from performances are quite substantial, but these opportunities are limited in a year.

When I communicate with younger musicians nowadays, I make an effort to temper their expectations. During my youth, I was an avid reader of Kerrang! magazine and would see all these bands and think to myself, “I want to be like them and earn a living from it.” However, my reality has turned out to be a different path, but every time we perform, I am transported back to my 18-year-old self and can’t help but imagine how thrilled he would be watching me now.


One of my pupils saw me on the show ‘Strictly’ with the band Simple Minds.

The Anchoress, also known as Catherine Anne Davies, is a popular artist on 6Music. She has performed at Glastonbury and has been on tour with Simple Minds. In addition to her music career, she teaches courses on English literature and songwriting.
Everyone I know in music does something else. There should be no shame in it because it’s become normal. Even when I was touring the world’s arenas in Simple Minds from 2014 to 2018, the musicians all had other jobs because we weren’t touring for 12 months a year, so you need something else to live on.

I’m certain that many of us long to be artists in the same way that people were in past times, when the music industry’s economics were vastly different. Nicky Wire of the Manic Street Preachers shared that he has never held a job outside of delivering newspapers. It makes me ponder if Simple Minds would have composed “New Gold Dream” had they all been employed. Sadly, the industry is now largely controlled by individuals from privileged financial backgrounds.

I am not without funds, but without a job, I would not be able to create music. I come from a working-class upbringing and attended a public school, but received a scholarship for university and was later granted funding to pursue a master’s degree. My first EP was composed in my student dormitory, and I purchased my first keyboard from Argos with my student loan. In 2016, while completing my PhD and teaching English as a second language, I also recorded “Confessions of a Romance Novelist.”

I am currently teaching once a week on two separate master’s programs, one in literature and one in songwriting. My contract allows for a flexible schedule, as it is based on zero-hours. The program has been accommodating and appreciative of my other commitments, such as performing with Manic Street Preachers at Glastonbury. During the performance, I was wearing a £30 suit from Asos and my makeup was smudging. Nowadays, most of my teaching is done online. However, it is important not to take advantage of this flexibility as there will always be younger individuals vying for the same job, much like in the music industry.

I recently independently released my latest album, Versions, and earned a higher profit from pre-orders compared to when I released two albums through record labels. However, I now have a young child at home, which adds to my financial responsibilities. After shows, I make sure to go home in order to spend time with my child in the mornings. It can be challenging to transition from the rush of performing live to being a parent or working. I try to maintain some separation between the two, although one of my students once saw me on Strictly Come Dancing with Simple Minds. I jokingly responded, “Oh yes, that’s my other life.”

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“I discovered that we were endorsing the Foo Fighters while working at the supermarket.”

Joe Williams, the lead singer and guitarist for the emerging Welsh rock band Himalayas, recently collaborated with a member of the band AC/DC. However, he has not quit his job at the supermarket.

During our time in school, our main goal was to create a band and pursue it as a full-time career. However, due to various circumstances, we all started working at the age of 16 and have held different jobs throughout the six years that our band has been together. Personally, I have worked in the service industry and am currently employed at a supermarket. Our bassist, Louis Heaps, has likely worked at every coffee shop in Cardiff. It’s always a unique experience when we ask for time off to go on tour, as people are curious about our band’s name. Thankfully, we have received a lot of support from those around us. Our jobs may not be secure, but I was fortunate enough to be granted unpaid leave to record our second album, which was amazing. Although there is some apprehension about returning to work after a four-week tour in Europe, having a job allows me to continue pursuing my passion.

Himalayas secured a global record contract in 2022, and at that time we had surpassed 40 million streams, which has now increased to 60 million. This brought in a monthly income of approximately £300-£400 over five years, allowing us to purchase a van and equipment, perform at South by Southwest in Texas, and reach new heights in our career. Our manager shared our album with AC/DC frontman Brian Johnson, who he is quite close with. Brian gave us glowing feedback and even provided us with some lyrics, which we turned into a song. Our latest single, VOV, is a collaboration with the lead singer of AC/DC – a surreal experience that we could hardly believe until it was officially announced.

During my shift at the supermarket, I received news that we will be opening for Foo Fighters at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff next June. This will be our largest show yet, with an audience of 75,000 people. Although we still have second jobs, we can see a potential future where music will be our sole focus. Our employers are aware that this has always been our goal, but our jobs have helped sustain the band. Now, we are finally achieving some of the incredible things we used to only dream of.

The latest albums from The Anchoress, Versions, Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs’ Land of Sleeper, and Himalayas’ From Hell to Here are now available. Himalayas will also be releasing their single VOV in the upcoming year.

Source: theguardian.com

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