How do musicians make it in NYC?

21 Jan

We see them everywhere: Coming out of dark bars in the wee hours, putting up flyers in the East Village, busking on subway platforms. But how do they really do it? Today we’re talking to real-life New York City musician Thomas Bryan Eaton about finally quitting his day job, the best gigs and what aspiring musicians in the city need to be doing.

((( Listen while you read: When You’re Dancing )))

What was your first memorable show in NYC? Playing at the old Galapagos Art Space. That was probably nine years ago.

Thomas Bryan Eaton plays Zebulon on 2/18.

How should someone looking to book gigs in NYC get going? Don’t get discouraged; just get out there and do it.  You’re going to play shitty gigs in shitty places for no money, but that’s half the fun. There are so many different scenes here; even a ‘smaller scene’ like the old time/bluegrass scene is incredibly diverse and has many pockets.  Go out to the jams, go to other people’s gigs, get to know who plays the kind of music you play. That’s a great way to start getting gigs, and maybe meet your new band!

Have you written any songs about New York? “When the Sun Goes Down” might be the closest.  I think it stemmed from the constant battle between my love and hate for the city — that and the feeling like you should leave something to keep things fresh.

Are you single? Who’s asking? New York City can be a very complicated place for relationships of all varieties.

Where can we see you live? Follow him on Facebook for show dates.

Did you find it harder or easier to break into the NYC music scene than you imagined? I sometimes have felt like it’s incredibly hard, and I’m in the wrong place doing the wrong thing. Other times I felt it’s the exact opposite, and things were just lining up.

Do you keep a day job? I just quit my day job! Which is great.  Though I am still teaching [music] for a large portion of my income, normally I don’t count that as a day job.

How many hours on average do you sleep a night? Average might be about five hours. I do love naps though!

Tell us about a gig you’ll never forget. It was a random Sunday last fall at a bar in my neighborhood. A good crowd came out, and it just happened to be one of those gigs where it really feels that the whole audience is right there with you. That’s one of the reasons I love music so much; it connects people.  This gig, the whole room felt electric! I don’t even think the band, or I, played exceptionally well, it’s just sometimes that je ne sais quoi is there. It’s pretty much what I live for.

What’s the best advice you’ve gotten from another musician? Shortly before I moved here, I was talking with my friend Seth Olinsky from Akron/Family about his move to NYC, and my impending move. He said he thought NYC is not meant for everyone, and within a year or so, people either sink or swim.  It gave me more of an idea of the pace of New York, and helped me get ready for it.


One Response to “How do musicians make it in NYC?”


  1. Tweets that mention How do musicians make it in NYC? | NewNewYorkers -- - 01/21

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Sarah Protzman, Sarah Protzman. Sarah Protzman said: NEW POST! What's it like to be a full-time musician in New York City? A conversation with Thomas Bryan Eaton, man… […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: