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Don’t Call It a Hobby

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“What if you went to business school and pursued music as a hobby on the side?”

Hobby on the side?! If only my parents didn’t say “hobby on the side” while trying to talk me out of music school ten years ago they might’ve stood a chance at getting me to entertain the idea.

The thought of drumming — my passion, my sanity — being demoted to hobby was completely out of the question. I was set on studying music and too unmotivated to care about pursuing anything else.

In high school I was a straight-C student. As in, see a bird outside during class and wonder why this Motorola flip phone has no camera. Or let my english teacher see this note from the band director because it’s not really skipping class if I’m being summoned to the band room … “No, Ms. Holleran, I didn’t change the date.”

The only honor roll I ever made was a joint. Consistently, hundreds of times.

College was also going to help me open that hot new music lessons studio in New York.

Or release an app and start a blog. Close enough.

Six Figure Degrees of Separation

That’s all just a long preface to posing the question: What actually separates a hobby from a profession? Is it proficiency? Monetization? Bachelor’s degree?

What if you found ten million dollars inside a kick drum on Craigslist, does everything you do suddenly become a hobby?

[She just made me watch another episode of Sex and the City, I apologize for these Carrie cadences.]

I don’t consider The Pro Audio Files to be a hobby, more of a lifelong endeavor. An educational archive with a heartbeat. I’m also very much trying to make a living doing something I love: being addicted to caffeine while facilitating a platform to amplify and share the knowledge of some incredibly talented musicans, producers and audio engineers.

Then again, if I’m writing this, does that make writing a hobby? Possibly. Or just something I get inspired to do a few times a year with a glass bottle of wine and a vape pen after she explains that she’s starting to date someone and needs to know what we’re actually doing here. (See final paragraph about finding inspiration in anything. Does anxiety count? What about commitment issues?)

Ok Fine It’s a Hobby, So What?

At some point in college I did a 180 and became completely content with music being “just a hobby.” No pressure to monetize. Simply an enjoyable creative outlet.

I played drums for most of my life and made beats for awhile too, but after releasing Quiztones and getting a small taste of financial relief (at least for a 22 year old living in Minnesota), I started feeling like monetizing any form of art is actually a pretty awkward pursuit.

Putting a price tag on the expression and output of the soul?? Is there a Labor of Love Day sale for that?


Did You Get My Facebook Invite?

Some of the most talented musicians I know aren’t particularly savvy at representing themselves as a business or marketing their music as a product. They just want to create, and that’s perfectly fine. But it makes me sad that they may or may not ever find the right manager/promoter/publisher who’s able to give them the exposure and compensation they deserve. Assuming that’s what they want.

That Thing You Do

We’re all going through life just winging it. Segmenting our hobbies from our professions, keeping the ego satiated with digestible slices of the pie of “I” … “I do this,” “This is my thing.”

But I challenge you to question that. Do you really know what “your thing” is? Your thing might actually just be your thing thus far. Confession: I have no idea what my thing is right now.

Making a comfortable living can be tricky. Maybe that’s why it’s easy to get stuck in certain skills that we get paid for. It’s easy to stay in a ‘keep doing this, keep the wheels turning’ loop when money is coming in and the propellor of consumption isn’t slowing down (buy a house, buy a car, buy a computer).

But who am I kidding, I’m a millennial who’s afraid to own anything. My point is that sometimes it’s easy to justify a 9-to-5 you hate when it’s financially supporting a hobby you love.

As much as I enjoy and appreciate the solo roller coaster hustle and everything we’re building at The Pro Audio Files, I still sometimes struggle to comfortably make rent on my luxury hobbit house in the most expensive hippie village ever. But seriously, have you grabbed a copy of Quiztones or one of our mixing tutorials yet?

The Distinction is Cloudy

Lately I have just as much fun posting photos on Instagram as I did posting beats on SoundCloud six years ago.

Photography and audio are pretty different outlets, but a similar joy nonetheless. They actually have a lot in common creatively. Might be worth an article. I don’t really know what to make of my urge to iPhotograph rooftops and mountains with puffy clouds, but when you’re tickled, sometimes leaning into it feels better than trying to get away.

The Box is Actually a Flat Piece of Cardboard

I’m currently working on an article titled “You’re Not an Audio Engineer, You’re a Creative Human” but until then, I encourage you to challenge yourself on the beliefs of “what you are” as well as your sense of professional self and what “your thing” is.

Question why you’d consider one skill to be a hobby and another to be a profession.

Are you giving your hobby the credit, attention and love it deserves? Do labels even matter or do humans simply find comfort in keeping their sense of self organized?

If you’re an audio engineer and your hobby is playing guitar, try relabeling and reframing that in your mind. Playing an instrument is actually an extremely valuable adjacent and supplemental skill to being an audio engineer. Do you also have a ton of patience? You’re now a music producer. Very cool.

All adjacent skills can take your primary skill(s) to the next level. Art is art and inspiration can be found in anything. Stay receptive.

Dan Comerchero

I'm Dan, Founder of The Pro Audio Files and Quiztones ear training apps. Connect with me on Instagram here.