Man Needs To Practise, But Actually His Career Is A Pointless Extravagance Society Doesn’t Want

John Man, young musician and earnest believer in hope, courage, and beauty, says that he really has to do some practice tonight. He knows that he has that big performance coming up and he hasn’t quite nailed that really difficult part yet, so there’s a lot of work to do. But…come to think of it, society seems to have no time for musicians or artists or anyone not working a normal job, so maybe he shouldn’t even bother?

“I used to think this was my passion, and it was up to me to persevere through every obstacle,” he said. “But then I realised that one of those obstacles was apparently the entire world.”

Though he has spent years cultivating his craft and training at an elite level, Man is keenly aware that for most people, that doesn’t matter. “He should just get a job, like me,” said Joe, an employee. “I mean, I hate my job, but sometimes you have to spend your whole life doing things you hate.”

“I actually love my job,” said Jenny, a young doctor working in the public health system, “but it is becoming very difficult to do it. We literally save lives every day and yet everything is slowly getting worse and worse for us. I wish Man all the best, but sometimes I find it hard to care about his little concerts.”

Man says that he empathises with the plight of both Joe and Jenny, and he wishes that a charismatic figure like Robin Williams in the film Dead Poets Society had given them a rousing speech about the value of the arts when they were teenagers, just like he did for Man, through a television. “Life is about more than just law, finance, and throwing your new desk set off a bridge.” said Man. “Isn’t it?”

Bob Guy, concert promoter and Twitter chump, agrees. “That’s exactly the sort of thing we like our musicians to believe,” he said. “There’s nothing worse than a musician who has some awareness of how the world functions or what they could be getting out of it. Instead of just performing brilliantly, they start to have all these ideas about getting paid or being treated decently. It’s a nightmare.”

Man says that despite everything, he still feels like the arts are a worthwhile endeavour that should be preserved and cultivated by as many people as possible, hopefully leading to a vibrant culture in which everyone can learn something about their shared humanity from everyone else.

A nearby banker overheard these comments. “When I don’t understand what people are talking about, I just tune them out, and I go back to making extraordinary amounts of money. I love doing that.”

20 thoughts on “Man Needs To Practise, But Actually His Career Is A Pointless Extravagance Society Doesn’t Want

  • October 31, 2016 at 2:45 pm

    (Started my masters this semester) Right as I am getting over my doubts of why I’m doing this, you throw this at me… damn.

    • November 2, 2016 at 3:18 pm

      Because they used a picture of a violinist for this article, I happened to look up the world’s wealthiest violinist to date, who happens to be worth $50 Million. Hope this helps 🙂

  • November 1, 2016 at 8:55 am

    Is the word “practise” in the title the U.K. spelling of the word? It’s “practice” here in the U.S.

    • November 1, 2016 at 8:56 am

      In the UK, practise is the verb, practice is the noun. Like advise and advice.

      • November 2, 2016 at 5:23 pm

        Is practise pronounced with a z or s, as in the advice / advise pair?

      • November 2, 2016 at 8:45 pm

        I’m pretty sure it’s the same in North America(at least in Canada), but most people have forgotten how to write correctly now so they mix everything.

  • November 1, 2016 at 10:43 am

    The sequence in the film ‘Hilary and Jackie’ where she puts her cello out on the balcony says it all about the life of a professional musician.

    • November 1, 2016 at 10:59 am

      Indeed! I hadn’t thought about that film for a while. Some questionable “truths” in that film, but that was certainly a dramatically powerful scene.

  • November 1, 2016 at 3:07 pm

    Excellent musicians can, with practice, deepen their own learning by teaching others themselves. Youngsters – and definitely today’s parents – can sort out with the help of the internet, books and recordings,what – and how to teach younger youngsters.These are important lessons taught by one of the very greatest teachers, Sarah Ann Glover of Norwich, 200 years ago. Result – a very large percentage of the citizens of Norwich became audiences who knew what was what and loved music. Which makes it all worthwhile, doesn’t it?
    Performance – after all, is surely more than just its veneer.)

  • November 1, 2016 at 8:39 pm


  • November 1, 2016 at 10:42 pm

    If John had really been cultivating his craft and training at a high level, he would have spent at least a large part of life doing things he hated. Those 10,000 hours to greatness demand regular engagement with stress, self-doubt and despair.

    • November 2, 2016 at 5:02 am

      I have gone through tens of thousands of hours of practice. Both John and I do not hate practice. We embrace it as a stepping stone to what we love. A lot of professionals such as my self relish the opportunity to practice and continually improve.

  • November 2, 2016 at 4:38 pm

    After 40 yrs in the music biz, world tours, concert dates, jazz festivals. It is a awful time to try and “. Make it ” in this biz.
    If you like starving, sleeping on strangers couches, cold coffee, drugs that impair , and a ” smattering if infifference” after your big hit, yeah it’s all uphill from there.
    It used to be 5% of musicians ” made it”, now it’s about 1% who can actually make a living. It’s equal now with being an actor.

  • November 2, 2016 at 8:49 pm

    I have several friends in the arts world, though only a few have made it big (you’d recognize their names if I told you), the rest do local theatre in the evening while working day jobs they aren’t passionate about, or teach theatre at the high school and university level. The ones who didn’t make it get incensed whenever they see anything that appears to be disparaging an arts degree, or what they see as artists not being treated as well as they “are worth” (ie, semiprofessional local theatre groups paying young starting actors in “experience” instead of money. I have to bite my tongue, because often they come across as pretentious and self-important. The fact is, professionally you are worth exactly what you can get paid for. In the US there are hundreds of thousands, maybe even millions of aspiring actors and starving actors working tables at restaurants to make ends meet, because acting is fun, it’s play-pretend. We have way more aspiring actors than there are decent paying jobs for those actors, we just don’t need anywhere near that many actors, its simple supply and demand. On the other hand, people with engineering degrees make the biggest starting salaries coming out of university because there is a real need for smart people with the technical skills to solve technical problems, design structures, machines, and processes. So sorry artists, but you need to get over yourselves, we will always have more than enough art because its fun and will always draw more people than ever needed. Therefore, pouting that you are “too good” for a low-paying or experience-paying job is simply childish. If you were really too good for that job, you wouldn’t even worry about that job, because you’d already have a job in the arts that is paying you what you think you are worth.

    • December 26, 2016 at 5:27 pm

      As a violin teacher, I’m sorry but I have to agree with you at least in part. I do not think any music teacher can with good conscience encourage a student, no matter how talented, to pursue a career in music (unless in teaching) in today’s world. Art is a passion, a hobby which you can certainly take to a very high degree but we should not think that just because we want to be musicians and we work hard that it means we should be able to earn a living at it. We can be passionate about stamp collecting (or even sex), but we don’t have to become pros to enjoy it or be good at it. Most orchestra players I know are overworked, not well paid and unhappy- and they had to be world class musicians to just get into a decent orchestra. As one principle viola player in a well known orchestra said to me a few days ago, “It’s a s…t job!” If our students are talented at music, they probably have talents for other things as well and should be encouraged to explore them. I have known many fine musicians who have day jobs that they even like because they were smart enough to cultivate their other abilities -and the study of a musical instrument certainly facilitated this. Then they have fun with music playing what they like with whom they like on their own time. The conservatories are not trying to fill available jobs in music but are churning out lots of fine young artists most of whom will have no career other than having to unwillingly (and alas sometimes badly) teach to survive. Sorry for what many consider to be cynicism, but I see it as realistic. Believe me, I’m not happy about what I have said here, but I am speaking from experience.

  • November 3, 2016 at 8:15 am

    Amazing piece about How musicians are treated especially in the Good Old U S of A…
    It seems like the USA is the country of “if it sucks it’s gotta be good”
    For example:
    Can I get me some lady Gaga??

    Gaga gag me with a spoon

    The American Dream at its finest!!

    • December 26, 2016 at 4:59 pm

      Why are you writing anonymously? Have the courage to put your name to what you write.

      • December 26, 2016 at 5:01 pm

        I tend to think satire is funnier if it is written without a name.
        But, it’s not hard to find or who I am! If anyone writes to me on twitter I am happy to tell them. After all, for the first year I didn’t even have a Throwcase twitter account- I tweeted them all from my personal account

  • February 9, 2017 at 1:02 pm

    This is too real ;___;

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