About Kevin

Kevin is a Grammy nominated artist, podcaster, and indie musician advocate. He resides in Portland, OR where he is the Director of Marketing for CD Baby (cdbaby.com). Oh, yeah, he also plays guitar in Smalltown Poets.
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    Hobbyist or Pro – Which are you?

    Last week I saw this article(Click Here), where Katie Taylor states, “The core challenge we are facing right now(as artists) is the need to get people to see art as WORK that should be compensated.” She goes on to say that the general public views the arts as more of a hobby, and not as a serious profession that demands fair compensation. I would agree with her observations of the general public, but unfortunately, I think this an unwanted side effect of any career that has a hobbyist component. I honestly don’t think you’ll have much luck trying to change the opinions of the general public, as they just don’t understand what goes into being an artist at the professional level(Or even at the hobby level in many cases). I do, however, think it’s important that you don’t let the the opinions of the non-creative bunch shape how you pursue and view music at a professional level.

    Now that I’m in a brand new band starting from scratch(Shameless plug http://hellomorningband.com), I’ve been thinking a lot about what separates the hobbyist musician from that of a full fledge professional. Here are some of my observations.

    The Hobbyist Attitude – Believe it or not, many people who are making some income from their art with hopes of being a full time pro, are still operating under what I call a hobbyist attitude or mindset. They work at their craft when it’s convenient and fun, but don’t make the full commitment needed to get to the next level.

    It’s Work – To be a pro, you have to take everything that goes along with having a job and assign it to your art. That means doing things you don’t want to do. Music and your art go beyond your own creative expression, as now the point is to make a living. It is work. I’ve known countless talented artists that have faced this fact head on only to become extremely disillusioned and give up.

    The Stakes Are Much Higher – As you increase your profile as a musician or band, you become increasingly vulnerable. The audience applause and good press reviews are nice and all, but there is less room for error. People are watching with increased scrutiny, and they will call you out on a bad performance or bad album. Thick skin is not a typical trait of the artistic type, so many become fearful of exposing themselves to that kind of spotlight. Some people thrive with the increased pressure, but for many, it ruins the whole artistic experience.

    Don’t Think It’s Possible – I know many people where music is the center point of their lives, but when it comes down to it and are honest with themselves, they really don’t see playing at the professional level as a realistic possibility. Without a burning passion and determination, it will be next to impossible to make the leap to the professional level.

    • http://www.garnerband.com james


      I have to say you nailed this one on the head. I also play in a band called Garner and teach guitar students on the side. I know what its like to practice when you don’t want to, manage band finances, and go to see a show when you don’t feel like just so you can network. Many other bands I talk to and my guitar students seem to expect over night success. I just haven’t heard many stories like this, how was it for you with the Smalltown Poets?

    • BenM

      This is EXCELLENT. This also applies, I think, 100%, to the decision to become a music major.
      1. commitment
      2. Having to take the stuff you don’t want to do (learn to play piano for the profieciency exam, even in you are a composition major, etc)
      3. Higher stakes as this is now “the plan”
      4. Operating within it

    • http://arthurpope.com Arthur Pope

      Great post, Kevin.

      I would say that my attitude has been steadily progressing from that of a hobbyist to a professional, but what I find to be the most challenging is this:

      When I come home from a nine hour day job, and a 50 minute bus ride, I often feel like working a second job is not what I would like to be doing. Especially when it doesn’t yet pay.

      Yet, I know that if I ever hope to turn music into my full-time job, I have to start treating it as such now, or else I will never make a business out of it. Fortunately, I have many plans and strategies in the works that I have already made some headway on.

      I have found a helpful practice for me lately has been to simply make a list of everything that I can think of to do in order to further my career. I then break that list down into specific things that I can accomplish on any given evening. I make it a point to do at least one of these things every night (unless I have a date with my girlfriend ;) ). That way, I am taking clear steps toward my goals, without feeling so overwhelmed.

    • http://kevinbreuner.com KevinB

      You’re definitely on the right track! Honestly, I know it sucks having a day job, but it’s helping you to develop good habits(because you have to). Keep the to do list going and make good use of that bus ride!

    • http://kevinbreuner.com KevinB

      I don’t have enough space here in the comments to chronicle how the success of Smalltown Poets developed, but I will say, from the beginning, all of us had made the conscious decision to do everything in our power to make it happen. By that I mean that we all made the needed sacrifices and new it would be work. A lot of work. There was plenty of fun, but it felt like a job.

    • http://www.garnerband.com james

      I think the harder the work you put into something the more satisfying it feels when it comes – not to say I would complain if someone wants to hand me some success…

    • Pingback: On Becoming A Professional Artist « Dreamwood Walking