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Odd Jobs #1: The Other Professions of Musicians

It’s no secret that it’s difficult to earn a living in the music industry. Unless your rock band is Imagine Dragons or you’ve written the next chart-topping pop song for the hippest EDM DJ on the block, you’re going to face a tough time bringing the dough back home. It’s not a new phenomenon; it has been like that for at least a decade or so. Musicians and label honchos alike have devised various solutions to stay afloat amidst dying business models. Previously we’ve talked about how indie labels like Stones Throw and Sargent House have been very resourceful and innovative in selling their music, with a huge importance placed on their talent.

There are many artists, even some well-recognised, that still have to rely on day jobs for financial security (or just varied interests). There are those who contribute to the industry in different areas; from being record producers, sound engineers, illustrators. But there were some who were waiting for their big break and had to buy some time by working the jobs you’d least expect them to. We’ve compiled a list of musicians who know a thing or two about working hard. 

Tom Araya - Respiratory Therapist

While many metal musicians have been known to take up various odd part-time stints to finance their heavy ambitions, Slayer frontman Tom Araya used his education to work as a respiratory therapist in his local hospital. The job, while demanding and difficult, was important for him to fund the face-melting Slayer debut album Show No Mercy. The rest is history.

Dave Vanian - Gravedigger

Probably the morbid inspiration for his band The Damned’s goth-rock reinvention in the 80s, Dave Vanian worked as a gravedigger in the early 70s before forming the iconic punk group. Fun fact: his job inspired him to change his surname to Vanian, a play on the word “transylvanian”.

Adele - Record Store Employee

This one is a little different from the rest. Glamorous soul-pop singer Adele, fresh off her Grammy wins following her first album ’19’, quietly walked away from the spotlight into the back room of a Rough Trade outlet cataloguing new CDs. Doing the job as something “for myself”, she used the opportunity to stay ahead by keeping tabs on the newest acts on the scene.

Action Bronson - Chef

Growing up in a family of cooks, rap artist Action Bronson had his mom who was a baker and his dad who owned a restaurant to go to for culinary inspiration. He was all set to pursue the chef life when his rap career started to fall into place. According to him: "I worked on the line, I've been an executive chef, I've worked for the Mets, I've worked for various steakhouses, vegetarian restaurants, a lot of Middle Eastern stuff. I've worked my fair share of a lot of different things. I've worked at festivals and street fairs, you know? I've been through it all."

Jack White - Furniture Upholsterer

Besides guitar, and building his own guitars, as a teenager Jack White worked at a bunch of upholstery shops, and even ended having his own upholstery shop ‘Third Man Upholstery’ where he worked on furniture and even sculptures. Sadly, his non business-mindedness got in the way of his business and he went to work on other creative endeavours, like music.