Hot in Press / July 2017 | Thump-Vice: Six Artists Tell You How to Quit Your Corporate Job and Pursue Music

July 15, 2017
Source: Thump-Vice
Six Artists Tell You How to Quit Your Corporate Job and Pursue Music

TOKiMONSTA, Anthony Parasole, and more offer their tips on leaving a nine to five for the dancefloor.

Every bedroom DJ or producer dreams of quitting their day job and making it big. For most, it’s no more than a fantasy, something they joke about with friends after a long day at the office. But some manage to pull it off, often juggling corporate lives with playing gigs on the side, before finally making a clean break from the nine-to-five grind.

THUMP spoke with six artists, label owners, and party promoters from Los Angeles to London, who explained how they turned passions into a career. Their experiences and advice—about leaving the financial security of a full-time job and separating work from play—offer valuable lessons for anyone considering making the jump.


Anthony Parasole

Hometown: New York City, US 

Photo by Erez Avissar

Formerly an emergency responder for a New York City energy company, today the producer runs the labels The Corner and Deconstruct Music ( with Levon Vincent), and is a Berghain regular.

THUMP: Tell me about your life and your job before you quit to focus on music.

I used to work for Con Edison, which supplies, distributes and maintains all the energy resources for New York City. I worked in the gas department as an emergency responder to gas leaks and emergency calls. Because it’s a 24/7 job, it had the benefit of flexible hours—I juggled it with touring, writing music, running a label, and throwing events. In my final few years there, it was becoming more and more demanding on my time. We lost manpower and had some serious disasters like Hurricane Sandy and building collapses. So when the scale flipped more to my work career than my music, I made a conscious effort to start transitioning out of my full-time job and into music.

What series of events led you to pursue music full time, and how did you pull it off?
My label, The Corner, had already landed on RA’s year-end list as one of the best of the year, so while I was still at ConEdison I decided to move booking agencies to a more techno-focussed agency. I lined up a few releases for the label, and put all my free time into studio work, completing a few of my own EPs and remixes to carry me well past the transition. I had planned on leaving my job in July 2014, but in March that year, as I was landing from a European weekend tour, a building exploded in Harlem due to a gas leak. The next day I went to work and they had implemented a mandatory 16-hour shift, six days a week. That afternoon I handed in my paperwork after almost ten years of service. I couldn’t risk losing my scheduled bookings. So even though I wasn’t fully ready it had to happen—it was the right choice at the right moment!

What was the hardest part of making the switch?
The hardest part was definitely lining up all the right things to make the transition smoothly. Booking agencies, being ready as a DJ, productions, running the label smoothly, healthcare, and making sure my bills were paid so I didn’t make any crazy artistic decisions based on finances alone.

What advice would you give to anyone considering the same move? 
Any aspiring DJ or producer looking to make the move from day job to full-time musician needs to think it through. Make sure the ball is rolling in forward motion and make sure there is momentum and enough money coming in before you leave your day job.

tINI

Hometown: Munich, Germany

Photo by Julia Soler

Before throwing tINI and the Gang parties worldwide, Sonja-Bettina Günther was a producer for the Disney Channel in Munich. 

Tell me about your life and your job before you quit to focus on music. I never actually planned to become a DJ—we just had turntables at home because my brother and his friends were really into the scratching scene. After school I got an apprenticeship working in TV. I learnt camera, lighting, audio, editing, production, and direction, basically everything you needed to know for digital production in TV and film. Then I got a job at the Disney Channel in Munich and was there for four years. We had our own series and I was the main montage editing person, so I was editing video during the week and then playing gigs at the weekend.

What series of events led you to pursue music full-time, and how did you pull it off? I didn’t want to take the risk of depending solely on my DJ gigs, because I wanted to be able to be selective about where I played. I could only do that with a job on the side. Once I realised it made more sense to focus on music, I stretched it out to make sure I had security. I realised I had found my total passion and that I could make money doing what brings me joy—but I waited until I saw there was consistent interest in booking me. After the first summer of the tINI and the Gang series, I got so many requests coming in that I felt like I could do it. I quit the full-time job around 2007, but I carried on freelancing for a year or so after that.

What advice would you give to anyone considering the same move? It’s really important as a creative artist to have the freedom to say no. If you transition too early and you’re depending on gigs for every penny, you can end up whoring yourself out, and playing places you don’t want to. Wait until you are 100% sure, and you’ve saved up enough that you can turn stuff down. Go the safe way, so you can actually sleep at night, and even if you get three gigs cancelled in a row you can still buy your favourite yoghurt.

Atish

Hometown: Chicago, US

Photo courtesy of artist

Atish Mehta used to be a software engineer for Facebook, and now he DJs, produces, and co-runs record label Manjumasi.

Tell me about your life and your job before you quit to focus on music.
I majored in computer science and was always a big computer nerd. Music was just a hobby. I did some IT consulting for a couple of years, and then I joined a web-based personal finance startup doing software engineering, before making the jump to Facebook. I stayed at Facebook for five years, mostly working on the Messenger iPhone app.­­

What was the hardest part of making the switch?
Convincing my parents. In fact, I’m not sure I ever actually did. They grew up in India, and my dad worked his ass for a scholarship to get to the US so he could make a better life for his kids. His son goes to college, gets a degree and a respectable job, and throws it all away to enter a world of chaos and uncertainty. They were never convinced this was the right thing to do, it was more like “let’s just let our son get this out of his system and then come back to software.” That was kind of how I sold it to them, but I don’t think I’ll go back.

What advice would you give to anyone considering the same move?
First, talk to as many people as you have access to who are already doing it and ask their opinion. Secondly, do everything you can to make sure you have a year or so’s runway in terms of savings, or enough sustainable income to do it. If you don’t, you’re going to have to make compromises, and if you do that, you’re going to start wondering what made you make the jump in the first place.

D’Julz

Hometown: Paris, France 

Photo by Vito Fernicola

Julien Veniel spent several years juggling his work in advertising with a burgeoning DJ career, and now runs his own label, Bass Culture , and has a residency at Rex Club Paris .

Tell me about your life and your job before you quit to focus on music
I started DJing while I was studying communication at university. I did an internship at an advertising agency in Paris and they kept me on, so I stopped school became a copywriter, whilst DJing at the weekends. I then moved to New York, where I did an internship at another company before I finally got a full-time copywriting job. I spent two years at D.D.B. and one year at Euro R.S.C.G. and it was great—I loved both jobs, and it was a chance to work with some really creative teams on big accounts like Volkswagen.

What series of events led you to pursue music full-time, and how did you pull it off?
At that time it was hard to get a steady job with a long contract, and at the same time my DJ career was taking off at the weekends. In advertising you can have really quiet weeks, but then you get a campaign and have to stay overnight or work weekends, so that put me in some tough situations when I had gigs.

My colleagues knew about it because my name was appearing in magazines, and I would always run off to buy records at lunch. But it wasn’t very cool when I had to ask my director to cover for me so I could catch a flight to a gig. There’s also a lot of politics in advertising. You have to compromise your creativity and often it’s not for the right reasons. That side of it I didn’t like. I wouldn’t have aged well in advertising—I wanted to express my art.

What advice would you give to anyone considering the same move?
Take the time to develop your skills. The reason I was able to take the time to learn to DJ was precisely because I had the other job to pay my rent. By the time I was good enough, I was able to leave that job. I’m really impressed by people who just leave everything and start from scratch but I would never do that. When I made the choice, I was ready.

TOKiMONSTA

Hometown: Los Angeles, US

Photo courtesy of the artist

Before putting out releases on labels like Brainfeeder and OWSLA, touring internationally, and starting her own imprint Young Art , Jennifer Lee worked in the video game industry.

Tell me about your life and your job before you quit to focus on music.
My first grown-up job was working at a video game publisher. I really enjoyed it there. I was still making music and performing here and there, but it was mostly a hobby. I started producing in college and didn’t really have an interest in DJing, more just creating. I started performing out once I realized there was a demand and then fell in love with the art of it.

What series of events led you to pursue music full-time, and how did you pull it off?
I actually got laid off from my job, which sucked. But it was great timing, as that was when I was getting more offers to tour and play shows in other places in the US and in other countries. I decided I’d give myself a year to try and do music full time and here I am!

What advice would you give to anyone considering the same move?
It’s a risk worth taking if you know this is your calling. Don’t have any expectations, just see where it takes you.

Enzo Siragusa

Hometown: Maidenhead, UK

Photo courtesy of artist

Siragusa worked in IT throughout his twenties, and now DJs, produces, and runs the FUSE London label and parties.

Tell me about your life and your job before you quit to focus on music.
I saw a career advisor when I was 15 and asked how to become a DJ. It was around 1992, the height of the rave scene, and I was just in love with it. The advisor said I should go to Henley College [in Oxfordshire, just west of London] and do business studies. So I did, and I sort of fell into the IT world and the whole dot com boom. By the time I was 21, I had bought a house and was driving a fast car. I enjoyed the money, but I found there was a big void in my life. I was spending every last penny on partying harder than ever before. And all the while I was buying records with this dream of DJing.

What series of events led you to pursue music full-time, and how did you pull it off?
At age 23 I went to Ibiza for the summer and got a residency playing sunsets. When I got back I had no money, so I fell back into IT and before I knew it four years had gone by. My DJ career wasn’t going anywhere, but my IT career was going from strength to strength. I saw a workplace psychologist and they told me I should move into events. They said, “The best thing your management can do is stick you in a room full of people and let you work your magic.” Immediately, I thought of myself in a nightclub!

What was the hardest part of making the switch? 
The toughest thing is the financial side. During my first summer in Ibiza, I splurged a load of money on my credit card, and then had to work to pay it off. Eventually I had to make some serious sacrifices, like going to live with relatives even though I was 30 years old.

What advice would you give to anyone considering the same move?
You need a plan to fund yourself. You still need to buy records, spend time in clubs, and invest in your career. Don’t just jack the job in straight away—maybe ask for a day off a week, and get to a position where you can stop. Just stopping dead is a real shock. Also, make a clear distinction between work and partying. That was a blurry line for me for a while and a few years can pass you by if you’re not disciplined.

 

WILL CAIGER-SMITH



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