It has been a year now since I was hired at the Disney company to be a member of the Disneyland Band. The day I found out that I was given that position, I made the decision to quit my day job and commit to being a musician. At the time, I only knew that it required a month of rehearsals, spending at least 5 days a week learning the repertoire and choreography, and wouldn't be able to keep my day job at the same time. Up until that day, I had been splitting my time between Noches con Platanito, gigging and my day job. And that's what I want to talk about.
Often, I hear musicians talk about "regular" day jobs like they would about a serious illness. If I admitted I had one, I would often get a response like, "oh man, I'm so sorry" or "wow, how are you able to deal with that?". It would make me feel like they viewed me as less of an artist, because I wasn't willing to suffer hunger & homelessness for my art. Don't get me wrong, the day job was in no way glamorous or artistically fulfilling, but I knew that I didn't have the luxury of disregarding my financial obligations simply because I wanted to be an "artist". I had student loans to pay! Rent!
In reality, having financial stability was the thing that allowed me to become a full time musician. I was able to take risks on lower paying gigs that had potential to lead to higher paying ones or take seemingly dead-end auditions because I knew that I had a second source of cash flow coming in. And not only cash flow, I had insurance and a retirement plan.
Things like insurance and retirement plans are often overlooked by musicians as "things I will never be able to afford", but they are so important to a person's future. Life has taught me it doesn't wait until you have the money to send you challenges. Since I was willing to endure monotonous tasks and swallow my pride by catering to my "superiors" at my old day job, I was given health coverage (which included an unexpected surgery) and a 5% matching 401K.
While I wasn't able to keep my insurance after I quit, I was able to take my 401K. That's a huge bonus! Today, I am splitting my time between Disney, Noches con Platanito and gigs. A real, bonafide, self-sustaining full time musician!
I'm not saying that if you are a musician you shouldn't be pursuing your passion, but I am saying that a little bit of humility can benefit you greatly and may even help you achieve your dream.