Scared you won’t ever figure out what you want to do with your life? Somehow, even when it feels like things are falling apart, life has a strange way of making opportunities appear.
This story is an excellent example of that. It originally appeared on Quora and has been edited slightly.
My 18-year-old has no idea what he wants to do for his life’s work. He is a guitarist and wants to be in the music industry. How do I convince him to pursue a secure future?
Forty-seven years ago I was your son.
I had been playing guitar since I was 8-years-old and practiced every day for hours. In school, I was in jazz band, jazz improv, and we even had an electronic music course way back then. At one point, I had eight music classes in high school and was going to UCSC on weekends to take a film scoring class for college credit.
When I turned 18 I told my Dad I was moving to Hollywood after graduation. He kind of smiled and said, “Great, I’ll drive you down there and help you get set up.”
Once I was there I did nothing but look for great musicians to hang out with. I joined a series of bands playing on sunset strip and then joined a sort of heavy metal top-40 band that constantly toured the Southwest, Hawaii, and Alaska. I played five sets a night, six nights a week, and learned new songs during the day in the club.
I was making no money at all but was having a frickin’ blast and traveling somewhere new every week. I lived in Hawaii for two years and Alaska for one year. I was on the road for about six years. No home or mailing address. Just a big blue ford Econoline van.
Me, back then…
The road got tiring after a while so I headed back to Hollywood and met some cool people who asked me to join their songwriting team. We started writing feature songs for the Disney channel and then did the music and sound design for some big ad campaigns. I did a lot of sound design and editing and even ended up being a music supervisor for some children’s cartoons.
Then the Internet was invented.
My friend Lee Curreri (the actor on the TV show Fame) showed me something called a website that he made to promote himself, which was accessed via a 14k dial-up modem.
I was hooked instantly and started teaching myself how to make websites. I started buying domain names that had to do with music. I built some really popular sites that got a ton of traffic.
Then a light bulb went off and I thought, “I wonder if I can sell all of these leftover demos to people who need music for their projects?”
I put my first disk of production music together and advertised it on my website and they immediately started selling!
All of a sudden I had a business. I bought more books to learn how to run a business and then set up a corporation, Partners In Rhyme Inc (the name of our songwriting crew).
I started talking to my musician friends who had closets full of music gathering dust and I presented them with contracts where I would license their music for them and give them 50% percent of the sync fee.
Long story longer, the business was a huge success, and still is.
Now I live in a nice place on the beach in Barcelona and at this point, because I learned how to automate all of the processes of the business, I work for a total of about 30 minutes most days.
With the rest of my time I play the guitar.
Here are a few of the websites I created that sell production music:
We represent 250 composers worldwide and I feel pretty good that I can make it a little easier for musicians to earn a living doing what they love.
Everyone is different of course, but just think about my story when you feel like telling your son to give up the guitar and get a secure 9-to-5.
– Mark Lewis, CEO at Musicloops.com and American living in Barcelona
PS: The words you used to describe your son are pretty revealing about how you might actually feel. You didn’t say, “he wants to be a guitarist”, or “he plays the guitar”, or anything like that. You said, “he is a guitarist.” That’s pretty cool coming from a worried Mom 😉
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