News — April 5, 2013 at 3:00 pm

The Flipside: “Get a real job” – Kevin Foo


“Get a real job” – Do musicians need something to fall back on? – Part 2 with Kevin Foo, Producer

The career of a musician is a rocky one and there will always be moments of doubt. And in moments of doubt, there really can only be one answer to that disparaging question, “Why am I doing this?”, and that is, “Because I love what I do”. Of course it’s healthy to question your stance for reassurance in demanding situations – and you will get these, many of these. But when these moments happen all too often and begin to affect the world outside your music – relationships, financials, time, health – is it time to call it a day? Or do musicians need a fall back plan to supplement the ailing areas of their lives?

Producer, Kevin Foo, of Beep Studios in Singapore offers his opinion on whether musicians need to suffer for their art.

Kevin Foo

Kevin Foo

Kevin Foo
Producer, Beep Studios

I frequently still get the wary-eyed response of “So, what do you do for a day job?” whenever I tell people that I am a music producer.

There is a common misconception that being a musician is not a real job. However, having been involved in the music industry for the past decade, I would say that is truly a misconception. Many musicians I know have purely music or music-related careers. They might not be full-time, globe-trotting rock stars, but they make ends meet by doing regular pub/bar/hotel gigs, playing and singing at events, teaching and lecturing (in music and music-related subjects) or they session for recordings, produce music (from ad jingles, to theme songs, music for films, for websites) and review concerts.

However, you would realize that what I am sadly admitting to is that it is, in this current climate of the music industry here in Singapore and the region, very hard to be a full-time rock star, or pop diva or even a full time artist/band singing purely original material. People generally don’t pay to see gigs featuring artists that are not well known on the global or even regional stage. Recorded music is getting increasingly pirated and it is getting more and more difficult for an artist to monetise their wares or gather healthy revenue from playing shows, singing only their own original material.

So yes! Musicians do need something to fall back on. However, they might not need to stray too far from their dream! Teaching/mentoring/imparting at a music school or a music college will enlarge one’s networks and serve as a way for the musician to give back and impart their experience, knowledge and skills. Working in the other aspects of the music industry – from back-end production work, song writing, audio post production, live events management and audio recording – gives the musician something to fall back on without needing to deviate from their passion of music. However, the many others who struggle to find a paid gig should learn to look at their skill set and make that hard decision of getting a day job to continue fuelling their passion of music.

I do personally know musicians who have made the bold decision of choosing not to do anything else but to pursue their passion of writing, performing and marketing their own original music. I have a deep respect for them, for they are absolutely sold out to their cause, and many of them do deserve to be heard, and to be given the opportunity to do nothing but write, make, record and sell their music. But if the big break has eluded them for a little while, and scrapping the bottom of the barrel to make ends meet has begun to cause strained relationships, physical trauma and depravation, then seriously, shouldn’t they start considering the practical solution of finding a day job? Even if it means waiting tables for a minimum wage where they can do something to earn some money while retaining enough headspace to create their new tune or write that new lyric.

Well, I’m sure there will be many a true artist out there who will quote examples of bands that did not make it big in the beginning, but by sticking it out and persevering, they eventually hit the charts and won awards. And for those of you who are doing that, I sincerely wish you the best. But for now I’m just humbly grateful that I can produce music full-time for a living, it is a dream come true for me.



Beep Studios
Personal Website
Umami Records
The Loft Collective


Kevin Foo’s entry is part of a two-part perspective on the topic. Want to know where the opinion of full-time musician, Charles J Tan lies? View here.

Charles J Tan

Charles J Tan