A lot has happened since my last update.
I’ve been to Paris and seen some amazing people who I met on new years eve. They were super accommodating and let me stay at their places. One of them even organised the whole weekend’s activities for me. I spent a lot of time lying on the grass with good food (let’s be honest it’s Paris, mostly baguette and butter) and good conversation. It’s made me really think about the sort of person you can choose to be. I didn’t know these people particularly well, beyond a few nights drinking around the new year. But they still gave me a bed and their time. I have some friends coming to Berlin in a few weeks, and I would like to pay it forward to really show them around. It makes people feel really good when you put time and effort into things like that.
I’ve also finished my composition portfolio, which is a big milestone for me. I’ve got 4 pieces to footage which you can see HERE. Next step is to hustle some freelance work, because to be honest. The $$$ is getting real tight. The goal here is to be in a position where I can support myself through original music. I want to work in a variety of fields within music. I enjoy performing, I enjoy education, I enjoy writing and producing. You hear a lot of people talk about the grind, doing it rough or having to stick it out. I guess this is that period for me. Only thing to do is watch my spending, keep my head down, work hard and meet as many people as I can that help me in this pursuit of a career.
Until next time.
I'm currently in Strasbourg which is a beautiful and very old city on the boarder between France and Germany.
It's clean and relaxed, it reminds me of Perth.
My first subjects in German class are done and I'll be downgrading to a part time school for my next subjects.
It's not too expensive, it's about €380 For 4 months of 2 nights a week. I was getting a little burned out towards the end if the last subject doing 5x20 hour classes per week. It's just too much.
So... I have a break now until March, I'll use that time to consolidate the information I've learned and try to make sure that I'm ready to begin freelancing in music here.
Freelancing is new to me. I've never really tied to push myself as a freelancer before, but I have a lot of friends that do it and it looks like a lifestyle I would like.
So I've set myself the goal of completing my composition portfolio by March. There isn't really a reason that I shouldn't achieve that. Then from there, the plan is to submit proposals on freelancing websites until I get a bite.
I'm feeling very positive about this while experience so far. I had someone mention to me that my blog made it seem like I was doing it rough here. I don't think that is the tone I was going for, but to be clear. I'm having a great time here.
P.S. I'm in Strasbourg to compete in a tournament for MTG. I bombed out at 3 wins and 3 losses, but I'm gonna have another crack tomorrow for the pro tour qualifier. Fingers crossed.
What does it mean to have a career in music? Does it count if you only play to 80 people in a room, in your home town every 3 months? Does it count if you don’t play live at all? Does it count if you work another job to support your music? Does it count if you don’t create original music and only play wedding gigs?
I think the more important question is: Who is counting?
I just started the lowest paying job of my adult life. Delivering salads to people in offices for minimum wage. I’m doing it about 20-25 hours a week, because if I do less, I won’t be able to stay in Berlin very long.
Currently my daily routine looks like this:
Wake up at 730, exercise and stretch. Practice piano for as long as I can before I have to go to work. I usually end up at work around 10:00-10:30am. Usually, I work until around 14:30, sometimes later though. Come home and write some music for as long as I can before I have to go to German class at 17:00. After German, I’ll get home around 9pm and either go to a rehearsal, work on some mixes from the stuff I’ve written, write more, or go out to a gig. I try to be in bed by 1130, but it doesn’t ever happen.
Somehow, I’ve managed to get myself in a position where I am spending a lot of time doing music. I am also making a total of $0.00 from music at the moment. But for the first time in my life, I am ok with that.
I had this realization today that I’m the happiest I’ve been in many years and I think it’s because of how much music I get to make. My job is low pressure, I don’t have to take it home with me. There is no drama in my life to distract me. And yes, I have days where I choose not to do music, or a friend will want to catch up and it ends up writing of the productivity for the day, but this is fine. I feel like this mindset has gotten me moving forwards in my career, purely from a skills point of view. And it feels good to be improving.
Maybe it’s because every second person I meet does music as a side hustle, or is on the same journey I’m on. Maybe it’s because the number of people I’ve met here that are pursuing their own idea of a career in music without really caring what anyone else thinks, is inspiring.
This city has an aura that encourages the individual. It doesn’t feel like NYC did, crushing you if you aren’t at the top. It doesn’t feel like Perth where if you aren’t considered a shit hot player or in a cool band, you don’t get anywhere. It doesn’t feel like Melbourne either. It let’s you define your own career. Something that can be taken back to the above mentioned cities after a lot of work. Some people work this out without having to go on a physical journey, they’ve managed to do this journey in their head or their local environment. But for me, I’m learning a lot about what my career in music is.
I’ve been in Berlin for just under a month now. It’s an amazing city and it makes me realize what a small town I come from. I’ve been to big cities before. NYC back in 2010/2011, Tokyo in 2008/2009, Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok in 2017, Ho Chi Minh earlier this year, but there is something about being on my own in a big foreign place that is different.
Perhaps it is the fact that I only know a handful of people, and they are all out of town for a few months. Perhaps its that I gave up my gigs in Melbourne and quit my jobs to come here. Perhaps its that I don’t know what I’m going to do for money and I have a very real financial time limit to set myself up. It seems like a crazy thing to do, but I felt like I needed to get out of Australia while I didn’t have anything tying me down. I’m 29. I have 6 months left before the working holiday visa isn’t available to me anymore. Now seemed like the right moment in my life to do it.
I’ve had a lot people asking me what my reasons were for coming here, so I guess I’ll explain my thought process.
18 months ago, a friend of mine was nearing the end of her honours degree in music and having a natural freak out about the life she was about to be thrown into once her study ended. She called me and we had a long chat about having a career in music. I told her about my experiences, the successes, mistakes and the lessons I’d learned so far. I ended up telling her that she should move overseas, away from the small town she lived in and pursue music full time. You’ve got to make it work, because nobody is going to do it for you. She was inspired and when I hung up the phone, so was I.
I realised that when I was 18, I had written out goals and that my 10 year goal was to move to a big city and try and make a living, playing original music. So I called a close friend of mine, from NYC and asked him what I needed to do to move there. He told me not to and to consider LA. I spent 6 months practicing hard, planning for LA and working out how to save enough money to make it work. Then one day I had a friend just mention in passing that there was a small group of Australians in Berlin that I knew. The idea took seed and 12 months of savings and practice later, here I am. Part of this move was that I wanted to diversify beyond being just a drummer. So when I meet people here, I tell them I’m a producer, drummer and synth player.
I made a checklist of the things I needed to do to make it possible for me to be here long term. Things like get an apartment, get on the correct visa pathway, find some work to support myself while I build my network. I’m currently in the process of sorting these out. I’ve got an apartment and a good job offer (but it doesn’t start until August, so I’ll have to wash dishes / slumlyfe until then). I’ve been to a bunch of gigs and met a tonne of the musicians here, I’m keen to start collaborating with them in the coming months.
I have joined a band playing Synth and am meeting someone who wants me to make beats for their hip hop project this weekend. It’s slow and scary, but it’s liberating and I guess I’ll have to continue trying to make it work.
I’m going to update this blog from time to time as a record of my journey. I’ll make note of stand out experiences and performances and what I’m up to with my music.
At present, I’ve bought a tonne of studio gear and have been writing beats every day. You can hear them here: soundcloud.com/leonardbarkermusic