One of the most fashionable subjects for music-orientated articles and industry panels these days is Sustainability. Specifically “How to create/maintain a sustainable career in music”.
There’s loads of advice out there: from what sync agencies and collections societies to sign up with, to contract templates, to copyright tips, to what grants to apply for and how to fill out the relevant forms… the list goes on. But that stuff is all about finding the money. Sustainability is different. Sustainability is not about monetizing everything, it’s about standing back and assessing the entire operation. I would argue that to achieve real sustainability in the creative sector, you need five things (in addition to the desirable material/skills):
- a good network
- morale that tends towards up rather than down
- a steady income (even if it’s very small)
- robust health
They may not all come at once but there certainly needs to be a workable rotation. By “steady income” I mean one that has a relatively predictable pattern (my income, for example, is dreadful in December/January but fairly decent in April/May – so I know when I must tighten my belt and when I can indulge in the odd ice cream). The network consists of your peers both inside and outside of artistic circles (“support” would be another word for it). I include “options” at the end because sometimes doing what you love as a job can lead to hating what you love – if you don’t have something else in your life then you can run the risk of painting yourself into a pretty grim existential corner.