On Dating and Music

So my friend Ace Livingston brought up an interesting topic on Facebook: dating a musician. Pros and cons.

For one, I don’t date. Just getting that out of the way. However, over the years, I’ve become a part-sounding board part-shrink to my friends in the industry, so I got to see everything without being an active participant. Considering I have been in the music industry for about 7 years now, give or take, in the respective positions of observer, graphic designer, and photographer,  I’m highly leery of dating people who are, one way or another, my clients, or friends of my clients. As the old and semi-crass saying goes, “Don’t shit where you eat”.

Regardless of whether or not there’s anyone whom I wouldn’t mind going out with, I also lack the time, the patience, and the opportunity for such a thing. Simply put, I have a life already. Should I decide to go forward with it, though, it is a strictly an at-your-own-risk endeavor.

That’s effectively the best way to put it: when you are dating a musician, you are doing so completely at your own risk.

I’ve always been a fan of the saying look before you leap, and a better variant of the saying is know the person you’re getting involved with. Personalities don’t change. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it one more time, with feeling: no one will change for anyone just because they’re in a relationship or in bed with that person. Tigers don’t change their stripes, and this is doubly true of relationships. Get to know the musician in your life as a person first. This will give you a solid idea of who they are, and based on that, will give you a solid idea of what to expect should you date them. Get to know them independent of your feelings: love will, without fail, make fools of people well before ever giving them their due.

So now, the pros and cons of dating someone in the music industry. This applies across the board, but for the purposes of the narrative, I will use the scenario of girl dating a male musician.

The Pros

The music. If you love and thrive on music, you will never be left wanting for it if you’re dating someone who makes it for a living.

The travel. Your guy will be touring. A lot. If you’re in the position to go with him, I encourage this strongly. You will see the world and it will be pretty spectacular. If you love to travel, you’re all the better for it.

– Perspective. Generally, if someone is in the business of making people feel something through music, trust me, they will make you feel something as well, and open your eyes to a very different way of looking at/thinking about/feeling things. Most of the musicians I met are some of the most insightful and intelligent people I’ve ever seen, and I am only glad for it. You will be a different person and you will take what you learn through the remainder of your life.

Business. Musicians rely on their wits to make their living. This is a very people-oriented industry and you are only as successful as your networking. Dating a musician is a crash course in Networking 101, and if you are trying to step out on your own in the working world, and you will learn, thanks to your significant other, exactly how to talk to people successfully. You will build a network unlike anything in the world. And if you aren’t comfortable around people, this is one of the best teaching environments for it.

I say this a hundred times on a day: I’m a hermit. I don’t like crowds. I love my alone time, and I love my privacy. But working in the music business, I have to talk to people regardless of whether or not I like it, and believe me, I would’ve never been so comfortable holding court in a crowd if I didn’t work in this industry. This is something I’m glad for: I would not know how to network if not for the music world.

Adventure. Spontaneity is something key to any relationship, but if you’re with a musician, the travel and the adventuring only adds to it. You won’t look at, “Hey, let’s go somewhere” the same way again.

Well, it sounds awesome, doesn’t it? Yes, it does. But this, like any other dating environment requires work, and it requires a lot more work than people may bargain for. Dating a musician has some serious pitfalls, and most of these root from the fact that the musician is, very much, a public figure.

The Cons

Never enough time. This is something that I find to be a boon of even being friends with my musician clients. There is never enough time. Have a conversation? Take them out for a drink? Take them somewhere fun? Oh good grief, don’t make me laugh. I’ve been trying to take one of my best friends to the NY Transit Museum for years. I can tell you exactly how many times that happened: zip. It’s something that will likely never happen due to his schedule and mine, and that is something that I had to learn to accept. If you have a musician boyfriend, trust me when I say that you will encounter this sooner than later. The early-am wakeup calls to catch a flight right after a gig going past midnight are par for the course. Broken plans because a gig comes up are too. Can’t have a conversation because the guy you want to talk to is about to load in for a gig? Yep. Been there, done that. This is something that you have absolutely no choice but to accept. I can’t say this enough. You either roll with the punches or get out of the ring.

Business. Like all people businesses, there will be a lot of situations that aren’t pleasant to deal with. Get used to dealing with them. You’ll be the mediator, the peacemaker, the sounding board, etc. as the situation demands it. And know that the business will likely always come first. Again, this is something you’d have to get used to.

– Other people. This is a YMMV (your mileage may vary) situation, but I have yet to encounter anyone who didn’t have an encounter with a wannabe groupie at least, or didn’t have groupies flock to them – and this is male and female musicians. This is an unfortunate par-for-the-course in the industry. There will be other people. There will be groupies. And this is a standard with nearly anyone who is a public person and a byproduct of our celebrity-worship culture.

There are three real ways to deal with the situation if you’re dating a musician: 1. Trust that he will say no and be secure enough in your relationship to trust in that, 2. Accept that he will do someone else while on the road, make sure he uses protection, and be secure enough in your relationship to allow that, or 3. don’t date him altogether. There’s zero room for insecurity. If you’re even the slightest bit not okay with the guy in your life being surrounded by strange women after each gig, don’t date him. If, however, you are secure in your relationship and you know your guy well, whether it’s option 1 or option 2 that arises when he’s touring, then the both of you – yes, both – make sure to actually work on the relationship. No relationship is without effort, and this is no exception.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen my musician friends besieged by women, and equally how many female musicians I’ve seen who had been eyed as though they’re steaks. Hell, I’ve been eyed like that and I’m just the photog. And I’ve been equally accused of being a groupie, falsely. Mind you this: if you’re female, under a certain age, and look good, the assumption that you’re dating someone on stage or sleeping with someone on stage is par for the course.  I have no illusions about how I’m perceived.

That, frankly, pisses me off, because of the four or so years I’ve been working as a graphic designer/photographer, most of that time has been spent in a quest to be taken seriously, and some days, it seems that I still fight that uphill battle. It still pisses me off, but it’s par for the course.

Scrutiny by association. See above about insecurity. If you’re dating a musician and you’re touring with him, expect to become as much of a public figure as he is. You will be eyeballed and judged. You will have people pass their opinions on you and your relationship. You and your relationship will be under a microscope. If you value privacy, a VERY good way to start is to make sure that you and the guy you’re with both acknowledge that Time Alone will be a necessity.

No, dating musicians is no walk in the park. Hell, being friends with musicians is something that takes an inordinate amount of work. I will say this, though: to me, it is worth it. However, I know why: this is home for me, and I wouldn’t trade the life that I built for the world. I love my friends like my own family and refer to them as such. The music is beyond words. To me, it is worth it for that reason.

But if you think that it’s easy – good grief, no. Never was, and never will be. But I soldier on – again, because I love what I do and love my friends.

But dating? Hell no. That shit’s for the birds.

K.G.

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