Chris Long - Musician & Business Owner
What do you do?
I'm a musician/pianist and a partner in a (very) small business. I play gigs, teach, compose, write with other musicians/artists and play in a couple of bands with original music. I play in some cover bands and I’m also studying psychology.
Can you tell me a little bit about yourself? What are 3-5 things you love to do on your days off or 3-5 quirky things about you?
I love to exercise, read in a cafe for a couple of hours, cook or hang with a friend. I am often jumping back and forth between studying in my bedroom to playing music in my living room.
Is this your whole income or do you have other side hustles?
Teaching music is basically my side hustle at the moment, which I love so long as I don’t do too much. My website/composing is also a bit of a side hustle when I have time for it. I really want to write music for video games!
How did you find your job or creative practice? What are 3-4 events or realisations that led you into your job/arts practice?
I knew I wanted to be a musician from about the age of 12. I fell in love with exploring music and the creative process. I began improvising and learning music theory at a young age because it fascinated me much more than any school work or sports. I found music to be liberating because it could be as challenging as I made it - this excited me because I had always found school to be unfulfilling. I loved the adrenaline rush of performing, the creative process and spending time with other people who were as passionate about music as I was.
Can you describe a working day for you?
They are all quite different. I do have some routine on a couple of days each week when I teach.
If you don't work regular 9-5 hours, what are your hours and how does this impact your lifestyle?
My hours are always changing except for about 10 hrs of teaching work per week which is broken up over Monday-Wednesday. This allows me to be available for gigs later in the week and on weekends. It also means I am not worn out on the days when I would usually have gigs and that I have the financial stability to prioritise creative projects over 'money' gigs, or to just say NO to gigs when I feel like it. This is something I never used to do if I was available. I spend some time managing a small business, but I have recently made efforts to streamline the process by investing in some accounting software. This is great for flexibility of my working hours and for freeing up my time to be creative, have personal time, rest time etc.
What are the perks of your job?
Flexibility, travel, working with creative people, being my own boss (a lot of the time), playing music for a living, working with kids, having one of my passions as my work, making people happy when I perform
What are some of the challenges you encounter?
haha. Flexibility, travel, working with creative people, being my own boss (a lot of the time), playing music for a living, working with kids, having one of my passions as my work. Financial stability (not the amount of income, but having a steady amount), prejudice from people who believe it is 'not a real job'. Clashing commitments. My expectations of myself are also quite high and varied so it is hard to balance different desires: to be creatively successful, healthy, spend time with friends and family, and financially successful.
What are 3 of the pitfalls you often see artists making?
Not having a balanced life. Believing that a creative lifestyle or the image of an 'artist' is not compatible with the goals of a healthy and mature adult. Lacking resilience by placing all of their eggs in one basket and having no diversity in their work or creative pursuits. It's obviously possible to be totally committed to one project, but it needs to be a calculated risk. I think this leap is often taken prematurely and without deliberate thought or planning.
For all the creative artists in our community, what are 5 tips you can give them that you've learned through your career?
Take some time to decide what you want to achieve creatively, personally and financially. Consider how you can achieve these goals and plan a way to achieve them, remembering that you can adjust at any time, but that it's important to make deliberate decisions and work towards the things that you value across all facets of your life. Balance!
What advice would you give to someone who says they're feeling overwhelmed trying to self-manage their creative career and that they want to find a simpler way to do business?
Ask for help. Figure out where those feelings are coming from and make changes to better represent what you want to achieve. If there are superfluous work-related things that you're doing or things that aren't making you happy, stop doing them or minimise them.
Why do you work in the arts?
I find it fulfilling and interesting.
How do you balance business and creativity in your life?
I try to be clear about what I want to achieve and have set myself up with enough routine and flexibility in my work that I can prioritise certain gigs or work when I need to.
What do you think it means to live a creative life?
It means you are generally inspired and committed to doing creative work, however that manifests itself.
Any last advice?
Be open minded and kind in the way that you define your self worth. As a creative individual it can be difficult to feel like you are working hard enough across all facets of your life.