I gather sleep like natives gather morsels of food: in small but much-needed increments. You see, my band, The Paper Jets, is unfortunately not my main piece as far as income goes (yet). No, no, I work in management for a publicly traded Fortune 500 global conglomerate. I am a number. I am a robot. I am Jack’s raging bile duct… until I leave work, change in the car, and make my way either to practice, the studio, or a show.
Some articles may tell you that Corporate America will shut you down and steal your soul. That’s only true if you allow it. It takes a particular style of juggling and time-management to pull this off correctly, and it’s not for the mentally disorganized. You will have bosses breathing down your neck. You will have deadlines to meet and performance index charts to submit before you’re off for the next two weeks to go out on tour. My advice: Prepare accordingly and finish your work, even if you have to stay late. Sleep in the van.
But why would I want to do that, Brian? Why not just work somewhere that I could leave whenever I want and not have to care? Well, there are a few reasons. Working a “real” job gives you a level of responsibility and accountability that many musicians don’t otherwise experience but could prove valuable. It teaches you to own your projects, gives you resources to learn leadership skills, and empowers you to take charge of a failing situation even if said failure wasn’t your fault. All of this can be applied to music. Own your recording projects, take charge of your sessions, lead your band, and when things aren’t going well, stop blaming others and figure out what you personally can do to make things better.
I’ve known many a musician who claims that “luck just isn’t on my side” as they stumble from one poisonous project to the next. My sympathy for people like that is shorter than a Minutemen song. When a company starts to falter, they take a good long look inside their operation at what’s going wrong and even sometimes – as the recently deposed CEO of Groupon can attest to – directly admit that they didn’t do the best job. Luck is not handed out at random; it rewards those who work hard and own their failures.
Having business savvy and some insight into the inner workings of a large company can actually prove beneficial to the upstart musician. Because if you play in a band and you’re in it to win it, then you need to realize the one thing that The Beatles, Jay Z, Taylor Swift, Macklemore, Kanye West, Modest Mouse, Vampire Weekend, The Replacements, Pearl Jam, The Roots, Black Sabbath, The B-52s, and Barbara Streisand all have in common: they’re all businesses! And if your band defies the odds and becomes one of the select few self-sustaining enough to become your primary source of income, all that knowledge starts to look pretty valuable. Congratulations, you’ve made it, you’ve essentially moved from administration into front-line sales. But if for some reason this whole music thing doesn’t work out, at least now you’ve got something to fall back on.
Brian Erickson is the lead vocalist and guitarist of Princeton, New Jersey’s fast-rising trio The Paper Jets. Armed with a unique blend of alternative rock and powerpop, they have been favorably compared to the likes of Ben Folds and Cheap Trick while maintaining a sound that is entirely their own.
The band’s latest EP, titled Almost Nine, will be released on May 26 and earlier today we were honored to premiere the opening track, “Elizabeth Distressed,” which you can listen to here.