“Why don’t you get a proper job, luv?”

I don’t know how many times I’ve been asked this question. If you’re an artist or a musician, the question might sound very familiar. And this year, during the pandemic, a lot of you might have heard it (again).

People who tell us that we shouldn’t complain about lost income or poor support by the health and welfare system of our country, but get a proper job instead of making music or art, sometimes even mean well. They really do. But I guess they don’t realise that a comment like “don’t complain, go and get/do a proper job” is neither helpful nor fair. It is offensive, encroaching and impolite. Those same people often talk with verve about their favourite movie or actress or band. Where do they think this art work comes from?

Besides, what is a “proper job” anyway? I know that people who work in medical professions want (and deserve!) a lot more recognition (including more money) than they’re getting right now. Same goes for teachers and many other professions. But this doesn’t mean that artists or musicians or actors or writers can be disposed of or should just do their art in their spare time, after hours. And it doesn’t mean that one is more important than the other. I don’t want artists being played off against nurses, or truck drivers against musicians.

The question what kind of jobs we need and how these jobs should be paid is an interesting one. It should be led with an open mind and not by prejudice.

I’m far away from having a solution and I wish I could do more to support my colleagues who don’t work in two or more fields like I do, but who somehow have to get through all this and continue being a full-time artist. I’ve found a good way of life for me, being a part-time musician and also running a business, but this isn’t paradise either (at least not all the time) and might not be the right way for others.

However, if it helps… this “get a proper job, luv” isn’t always directed at musicians and artists. When I was working as a teacher, when I was working in early years education, when I was working as a consultant in a company that was going bust, there have always been “helpful” people who suggested that I should get a “proper job”. Sometimes I tell them that I have a licence for HGVs and a valid driver card and this shuts them up for a second.

If you’re a musician or an artist struggling with your situation: you’re not alone. What I can say is: try to muddle through, somehow, don’t lose hope. And if you do have to take another job in the meantime, don’t despair. It is possible to go back into art/music after a break. I won’t say it’s easy, but it is possible. I did it, and I hope you’ll be as confident!

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