Work vs Play. How do you deal?


I’ve learned almost every life lesson the hard way. The “hard way” usual means you don’t listen to what anyone tells you and therefore you experience life’s pains first hand. I do admit when I am wrong and today I’ll make a minor confession. Basically, I thought if I took a full time job I would make music just as easily and with the same fluency and frequency. So yeah I was pretty much wrong.

However, it’s not actually time management that’s the issue. It’s more that well, I love my new day job! It seems after almost 40 years on this planet the left (analytical) side of my brain grew as large as my right brain (creative side). Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been freaking out waiting to get dirty with Ableton Live 8 but I’m finding organizing my audits also tantalizing. My official job title is “Field Energy Auditor”. I enter commercial buildings in a certain section of Manhattan that ConEd is having problems delivering power to. I help stores and buildings reduce their current demand by recommending various conservation (lighting retrofits, new HVAC systems, etc..) and generation (solar, geo-thermal, hydro, wind) methods. Often I meet with building managers and companies with more money than the entire music industry (just sitting in the top drawer of their desks!). You would be amazed how open they are to the green revolution. Then again, they save tons of money by implementing the plans we offer. Did you know an underwater turbine now sits in the east river and powers a Gristedes supermarket? Amazing.

I wanted to post this to put my feelings on the record. It should be interesting in a year or two to read this again (for me anyway). So to those of you who work full time how does your music making life fit in? Whenever you get the urge? Weekends only? What’s your stradgey? One thing I am sure of is I put 20+ years into the music business, learning the craft of song-writing and I am finally good at it… so expect many more albums to come. The best thing is I can afford more toys with keys and knobs on them! Here’s where I work: Energy Management Solutions

photo: They found my secret life as The Horrorist.

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Oliver Chesler

"Hello my name is Oliver and I'm going to tell you a story." I have been recording music since 1989 under the name The Horrorist. I have released over 60 singles and 4 full length albums. To hear my music please go to:

24 thoughts on “Work vs Play. How do you deal?”

  1. Coincidentally, the latest issue of FutureMusic had Funkagenda saying that if you can’t be a “weekend musician” to survive in the music industry. I’m not a professional musician, but I sort of agree with him. Having a full-time job, and juggling with music creation means serious discipline. Unlike a full-time musician, I can’t just turn on my DAW whenever I have a spark of inspiration. Rather I would have to jot it down somewhere and hope that I still remember it after I got home.

    So for now, I’ll just live by this quote that I read somewhere, that there are only two things that a music producer do: make music and sacrifices.

  2. I play live gigs, run 2 labels, an event and do radio on top of working a 9-5 as a business analyst in Melbourne and wouldn’t swap it for the world.

    There’s been times when I’ve worked part time night/ evening jobs to focus on music and i just found I became lazy. I’ve always written music best when I’m under time restraints or especially when I shouldn’t be writing at all.

    Internet @ work helps me organise a lot of the administrative stuff during my lunch breaks (read: when i should be working) but when It come to writing music I find that I really plan out how I’m going to work (almost subconsciously) and when I do finally get a chance to get into the studio I’m heaps more productive in a 4 hour session than I would have been in an entire week when I wasn’t working full time.

    Being time poor does suck some time, especially if you ask my Midi Widow but as the saying goes… if you want something done: ask a busy person

  3. you also have the problem of not feeling awake enough during the week – I’m often too tired when I get back – and I need to be hyper-awake to feel creative/enthusiastic – plus I think when you’re tired your ears ‘die’ a lot quicker when your listening to stuff

    I bought that FM this morning – I’ll read it tonight

  4. Thankfully until today i was able to live decently as professional musician and right now,i would never change it for any job in the world.
    Not having the strenght or the time make music,would make me sick i think.
    It’s the best way i have to express myself and relation myself with the world.
    I honestly couldn’t imagine my life without it and for me it’s one of the few things which does make life looking like a simple “path in the grey”.

  5. One thing I forgot to mention in my post is how I found many musicians that only made music suffered a bit from “boring life” syndrome. I really think they key to good tunes is being out in the world doing things. Now if you’re a teen to thirty something you’re probably drunk and having your heart broken enough that inspiration is easy. But if you figured out life and found some peace of mind if you only stay in the studio what do you draw your ideas from? The past will only last so long right? In the first month of my job I’ve met more people than in the past year of my life. Not only that I’m having quite a bit of unexpected conversations. An example: I went down into a building manager’s office (super high rise) and it turned out to be a shrine to the NY Yankees… BUT the lights were also dim and Lite FM was blasting (a light music radio station). It was incredible weird and creepy and there’s little doubt someone that morning will making it into Ableton somehow. I know a month isn’t long enough to know much but I am optimistic.

  6. Hey Oliver,

    the good thing when you work in the IT Business is, you just take Ableton 8 with your notebook to work ;) And if you are good at your job – there is plenty of time to do some tunes and work on trax that i couldnt finish earlier. At least this works like a charm for me ;)

    Cheers to NY

  7. I think is a matter of personality,when it’s about inspiration.
    For example,if i would spend too much time out in the world,with people which does have nothing to do with me,i wouldn’t have any inspiration for music.
    I don’t have special things to share with them and they don’t have with me and in both of the case,i accept it wihout any problem.
    I say that because i tried and that was the result all the time.

    For me then,the inspiration comes from my closest friends (people i have the pleasure to call in that way,are just a small number) since they can understand me.And the things i love in life.

    Anything else outside that was never able to inspire me in the same way and it will never.
    But as i said,i’m just talking about myself and my way.:)

  8. this is a tough question i am constantly wondering if i am out of my mind trying to do 45-50 hour a week job and dj, run a tv show, start a record label and such. But when I make it down to Winter Music Conference or Detroit for DEMF, it all comes back to me my inspiration is sparked and I am jamming to go. Actually i do consider this site and Oliver a wealth of inspiration as well. Some of the things I’ve seen posted here have really got me excited that technology might just save the day!

  9. I teach more than full time, and have taught myself how to dj and produce (sort of) in my spare time, but I often wish I had more time. Ultimately, though, without my work I would not have the money to buy the stuff I need to make it happen. Fortunately for Oliver he already knows what he is doing, a huge plus. Many artists have been essentially unemployed leeches like Henry Miller, but many have also been hard working day jobbers, who quit their day job when they make it big. If you want it bad enough, you will make time.

    1. That’s true… I suspect it would be much harder to try and be a successful musician later in life after working full time for years. Before my new job I had enough day time to learn how to make music (the skill side of things anyway ;) … and that stuff is like riding a bicycle, you mostly don’t forget it.

  10. Hey Oliver and everyone else,

    First time poster but long time reader. It’s one of my joys when I get to read post like this as well as other topics that you have posted. Too many websites talk about technique instead of inspiration.

    I go to school full time and work part time. I guess you can say I have a decent amount of time to make music but sometimes I get fed up after 5 minutes of staring at my laptop. And it seems like every time inspiration strikes, my laptop is nowhere in sight.

    Anyways what you were talking about working and meeting people to gain inspiration for music reminded me of an old samurai adage, to be a good painter, you must try and be a good poet. To be a great martial artist, you must strive to be a great lover. It’s not verbatim but I think you get the gist.

  11. here’s a recnt quote i fell in love with… interpret it as you will :)

    “You have to be grateful everyday that you have this opportunity – Cause you have been given a very rare gift to be allowed to succeed…”

    go big homie!

  12. I work at Ableton which is tricky — I want to use Live 8 for making music, but have to balance myself and make sure I’m not in an Ableton headspace 100% of the time, or it can feel like work never stops. I also have the problem where I’ll know about the cool new features and want nothing but to work in the Live, but actually spend most of my time in Entourage :/
    Finding a balance with my fiance and cooking and enjoying life is important to me too. I’m finding a lot of music time from 10-1am currently, but have to be vigilant or it doesn’t happen.

    1. Hi Jesse… as you can tell by the blog I’m a superfan of your company. I’m trying to get to the NYC Ableton User Group… if your ever at one and you notice me… say hello!

  13. Making music on top of a day job is hard but very possible I think. Everything takes just so much time.
    I find that I get most of my ideas when commuting and working. Until recently, most of these went to waste because I could not remember them when I had a chance to make music. Then I started to write down everything that came into my mind at the moment it came. Now every evening, I sit down and re-write those ideas in a note book which I use as a great source of inspiration. So for me, making music is not constrained to the time I actually sit at my computer and I try to use anything that happen while I’m at work.
    On the other end, getting things done and tracks finished is another matter and requires time and dedication. So mostly a couple of hours every evening during the week and part of the weekend nights.
    Finally, I would say that the most frustrating thing is to have to stop making music when you should go to bed because of work the day after and that’s precisely the time when you’re in a creative mood and things start flowing freely.

  14. Oliver

    Great story – and it sounds like a interesting job, making money helping people save money by doing things more efficiently.

    Sounds like they are cool with your secret life, too.

    Looking forward to hearing more about this side of your life!

  15. I’ve tried to make both my job and my life about music. I did music 24/7 for 5 years and spent too long making my 4th record and had to take a day job. I managed to turn that into a used/vintage gear shop with my studio around the back. I can record bands and work on my own stuff so I now have a good balance. Interaction with other musos, money and time to work on my stuff. Now if I could make the day longer and eliminate sleep it’d be perfect.

  16. Hi everyone,

    Thanks for all the different perspectives.

    Im in teaching having nothing else to do with my music degree -I enjoy it but it is a compromise to do what I want. This works well I think for many musicians because of all the holiday breaks. Depends on the stressfulness of the school. But currently I work 3 days a week and in a couple of bands. Im also learning the piano as a serious student 20-30 hrs a week, because I believe I need to learn more.
    I’ve always struggled with practice as a musician and being a composer or creator of music. Balancing these two is difficult especially considering that it’s not really worth practicing unless you do it every day. Composition can be similar. I remember one of the writers for motown talking about how he never takes a break from writing for too long.
    Currently practicing in the morning and day are best and composition at night. This works well until I realize I have no time for anything else in my life! Life balance is hard!

    Any others here who are trying to a similar sort of thing?


    1. Chris, i did in a similar way when i was teen and i was studying at Conservatory.
      Finding a balance on those days was not easy,because in the morning i was at High School,then in the afternoon i had lessons in conservatory four days at week (piano and composition).
      Besides i was also a classical concertist and that required me enough time to pratice at home and with orchestras,which really took a lot of my time.

      I agree with you when it’s better compose at night: indeed i work in my studio after 18.00
      I don’t agree completely when you say it’s better pratice piano in the morning.
      Definitely it’s good for your mind,not so much for hand and arms muscles and tendons,which are at fully power only in the afternoon.

      At least that’s my experience and what many other professional concertists on those days used to do.

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