I get a lot of emails from young people wondering how to have a very difficult discussion with their parents - the dreaded, "I want to become a full-time musician" discussion. Sure, some parents are totally cool with it, but other parents, well, they had something more along the lines of "college-grad school-job security" in mind. So, you may feel like your parents just don't get it if they give you a hard time about your musical aspirations - and let's be honest, in many cases, they DON'T, simply because they haven't had much exposure to the music industry - but they're not really trying to be mean to you and destroy your dreams (at least, they're probably not). Going to them prepared to have a PRODUCTIVE conversation can have you avoid a big, dramatic scene. Here are some tips for telling your parents about your music business goals:
On The Subject of Music Business Goals - Have Them
"I want to be a musician" is a little vague. There are a lots of different ways to be a musicians - which one do you want to be? Do you want to lead a band and tour the world? Do you want to be a session musician? Do you want to make a living playing a rotating schedule of local bar gigs? No one is saying that you have to absolutely decide where your music career will eventually take your right now, but being able to vocalize your specific music business goals to your parents will show them that you've given this some thought and are actually serious.
Consider a College Compromise
Your parents want college. You want to focus on music without the distraction of classes. Who's right? Well, now, no one can say that you actually really need to go to college to become a musician. You just don't. But, there are certainly benefits to attending college - and not just the whole "you need an education to fall back on" routine (although listen to me now - that matters). Colleges are veritable hotbeds of music activity. There are radio stations and shows and clubs and music classes and musicians and lots, lots more. College isn't wasted time. It can actually be a chance to hone your skills and maybe even build up a local music following.
Here's the compromise part. If your parents are passionate about your college education, and you're equally passionate about your music, do both. Agree with your parents that you'll go to school (AND GO TO CLASSES and do well), and that you'll get to pursue your music career at the same time. If your big break conflicts with your psych final, you get to take the big break - assuming it really IS a big break. You agree to do well on that psych final if your big break is still yet to come in. That's fair, right?
Be Ready to Talk Finances
It's not as easy to make money in the music industry as you think. Honestly, your parents are right about that. You CAN make a living in the music industry, but chances are that you're going to need a plan to support yourself while you're getting to the point of making a living from your music. Just is what is that plan going to be? Your parents don't want to think that that plan involves sleeping on their couch, payment of an adult allowance, or bailing out of credit card debt. You probably don't know exactly how much money you'll be making as you embark on your music career or what exactly all if your expenses will be, but do you best to make a plan that shows your parents that you've thought about it. Be ready to answer questions about your income, planned living situation, and more. Again, maybe it's not the final solution you end up with, but the idea that you're approaching this reasonably communicates that you're serious.
For bonus points, do some research about the music industry and how musicians actually make money on their recordings and live performances. There's a good chance your parents don't know, and it won't exactly inspire confidence if you don't know, either.
Show Them Your Passion
Sometimes, it's hard to show your parents how passionate you are about your music, especially if they're not thrilled about your aspirations. Show them anyway. Let them know exactly how much this means to you. It may not make them stop worrying about you, but it may just make them a little more supportive.
If you need a little extra help talking to them, you can point them to Top Five Questions Parents Have About the Music Industry for more information.