Steve Witschel has been an online music writer for seven years.
When I first started playing music, and for the first half of my music career that followed, I generally just played in one band at a time. Back then, it was all about trying to "make it" in the music business with lofty dreams of becoming a rock star.
But then, at the turn of the millennium, the music climate changed dramatically, and I had to roll with it. So I started taking any gigs I could get in order to keep my chops up, stay relevant in the local music scene, and make some money. I found myself getting a variety of jobs in both cover and original bands and was successfully able to juggle up to three or four at a time.
Since then, I've maintained my freelance status. While I have become a member of several bands, I've still been able to balance a schedule with multiple outfits while keeping control over what I want to play and who I want to play with.
I've found that there are many perks to this lifestyle. Here are some that stand out.
1. I Get to Play Multiple Genres
I constantly have to learn new songs, and it's something that I've always found rewarding as a musician. Ever since I started playing, I've enjoyed the challenge of listening to a song and learning it note for note. There's a wonderful feeling of accomplishment any time I'm able to play a tune with a full live band for the first time and nail it. That feeling hasn't diminished since the first time I was able to perform over thirty years ago.
Working as a freelance player, I'm exposed to different styles of music that I may not have otherwise been introduced to or bands that I've never heard of, and it keeps me on my toes. I think that diversity improves my knowledge of music in general and helps me to continue to grow as a player.
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2. I Make My Own Schedule
While I do currently follow a regular weekly schedule, I've spent most of this time having the option of taking or passing on gigs. There is usually enough advance notice with any band about the upcoming calendar where I can pick and choose how often and with whom I want to play.
3. It Frees up My Time for Other Things
I work almost exclusively at night, which means my morning and afternoons are always open. I have lots of other creative passions which I like to nurture, including writing (obviously), photography, cooking, and more. As a freelance musician, I get to explore these other outlets and keep a healthy balance of activities that bring me joy and personal fulfillment.
4. I Get to Travel
I love to travel. In 2008, I was lucky enough to be hired to play with two different original artists and toured the entire United States twice. Driving around the country is something a lot of people never get to do, and I was able to enjoy the adventure and get paid for it.
I've since been on a few more tours, relocated from New Jersey to New Orleans, and continue to enjoy the beautiful sights that I would otherwise never get to see, visit cities and towns that I've never heard of, and play in venues that I would have never known existed. I also love staying in hotels!
5. I Never Have to Set an Alarm Clock
I've never been a morning person, and I've always felt that a shrill, repetitive sound to jolt me out of a comfy slumber is a terrible way to start the day. Back when I had "real" jobs, I was quite often late for work after hitting snooze on my alarm clock six or seven times.
Now when I'm done with work and home from the gig, I go to sleep when I'm tired and then wake up the next day naturally. If I'm still tired, I can go back to sleep, or I can take an afternoon nap before I have to leave to play. And even without an annoying, dissonant buzz tone to shock me out of dreamland, I've still never been late for a gig.
6. I Make New Contacts and Friends
Most of the work I've gotten has been through word of mouth. I've met and played with hundreds of musicians in the past decade and a half, and by doing a good job and being friendly, I've been able to consistently get gigs.
I love meeting new people and making new acquaintances and friends. I've found that I end up playing with someone I previously met in a different setting and get to foster relationships both professionally and personally. Most of my friends are musicians, and I meet new people regularly that both help me to grow as a player and enrich my life experience.