How to Tell Your Parents That You Want to Be a Musician

Father and son sitting together
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I get a lot of emails from young people asking for advice on how to have the dreaded "I want to become a full-time musician" discussion with their parents. Some parents are cool with it, but other parents, well, they may have in mind other plans for you—more along the lines of "college-grad school-job security."

How to Prepare

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 may not get it, simply because they haven't had much exposure to the music industry. But they're not 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 help you avoid a big, dramatic scene.

Here are some tips for telling your parents about your music business goals.

Have Real Music Business Goals

"I want to be a musician" is a little vague. There are lots of different types of 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? You don't have to decide right now where your music career will eventually take you, but you need to be able to talk about your specific music business goals with your parents to show them that you've given this some serious thought.

Consider a College Compromise

Your parents probably want you to focus on your education and go to college. You want to focus on music without the distraction of classes. Who's right? No one can say that you must go to college to become a musician because you don't. However, there are big benefits to attending college, even beyond "having an education to fall back on" (but listen to me now—that matters). Colleges are hotbeds of music activity. There are radio stations, shows, clubs, music classes, musicians and lots, lots more. College isn't wasted time; it can 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 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 may think. Honestly, your parents are right about that. You can make a living in the music industry, but the chances are that you're going to need a plan to support yourself while you're struggling to make a living from your music. What is that plan going to be?

Your parents don't want to think that that plan involves sleeping on their couch, paying you an adult allowance, or bailing you 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 all of your expenses will be, but do your 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 reassures them that you're serious.

For bonus points, do some research about the music industry and how musicians make money on their recordings and live performances. There's a good chance your parents don't know how this works, and it won't 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 make them a little more supportive.