17 indie artists talked to Vulture about the odd jobs they take when music isn’t paying the bills.
“I don’t really understand how any musician can afford to stay in one place,” indie veteran singer-songwriter Cass McCombs told me during an interview for Vulture earlier this year. “We don’t make enough money to afford an apartment. I know pretty much half of the musicians in existence have a side job of some sort.” One of the most common misconceptions in the social media age — a time in which you can log on and see your favorite indie musicians partnering with brands, playing festivals, and posting selfies on tour as if they were on some endless vacation — is that the foot soldiers in the industry itself are awash in capital.
The truth is that most indie artists — from some of the nebulously defined genre’s biggest stars to its buzz-making heat seekers — rely on multiple sources of income outside of their music career to pay the bills and put food on the table: “Wavves Is a Landlord Now and Everyone Is Freaking Out,” a headline read on Exclaim earlier this year after the pop-punk act’s front man Nathan Williams posted an Instagram listing advertising vacant rented space on a property he owned. But why was everyone freaking out, other than in reaction to a commonly mistaken set of expectations regarding indie musicians’ financial statuses?
Indeed, when I brought up Williams’s property-owning non-troversy to artists I spoke to for this general survey — which covers what said artists do for a living to sustain their own musical careers, as well as the financial realities that come with making music in 2019 — they expressed not indignation, but a sense of admiration that someone in their field could even own property. (Almost none of them owned property themselves.) What follows are 17 testimonials from working indie and indie-adjacent musicians about what they do when they’re not making music, how they perceive their financial future in the industry, and how much money they make — or, much more often, lose — in the process.
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