Music

Balancing Act: Meet 4 Local Musicians With 'Day Jobs'

In these trying times, it pays to be practical.
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When was the last time you attended a concert or a live music gig? By now the memory blurs. Livestreams are all well and good, but nothing beats the experience of watching a favorite band or artist play live, in the flesh. 

But if we’re missing the live music experience, imagine what the artists themselves are going through. Besides not getting to enjoy the experience of playing before adoring fans, some of them have lost their primary source of livelihood after the lockdown was imposed and mass gatherings prohibited. It’s a tough time to be in, especially when you’re in the music business.

Which is why choosing to do something else outside of music to put food on the table has become all the more practical, even essential, for our favorite artists and musicians. The notion of sticking to music and relying on passion to carry one through life is outdated and more than a little restricting and unsustainable, especially when the traditional model of pursuing music as a career has been upended by a colossal shift in how music itself is distributed and consumed.

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We spoke to four local musicians who have more traditional or so-called “day jobs” to ask how they’re balancing their music with the necessities and demands of everyday life.

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1| Isabelle Romualdez, 26

Band: Fools and Foes

Current occupation: Content marketing executive

Photo by Isabelle Romualdez Instagram.

Fools and Foes is the result of a spontaneous get-together between band members Isabelle Romualdez, Gabba Santiago and Miguel Querubin in 2014. “I met my co-vocalist Migs in our drummer Gabba's house for a small get-together, and we got there before Gabba got there,” Romualdez says. “We didn't know each other so we were forced to get acquainted. 

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“After that, I heard from someone he was pretty good at writing music. At the time I was so inspired by seeing and hearing Daughter live for the first time in Laneway just a few months ago that it made me want to start writing sad music. So I asked Migs to start a band with me, and the obvious drummer of choice was Gabba. We sounded so thin as a three-piece band, so that's when we decided to add Ralph (Gonzalez) in the band."

The band released their one and only album, also called Fools and Foes, in 2019, which we named one of the year's best

Right now, though, Romualdez is based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia doing content marketing for an ecommerce startup. She started working for the company in October and joined them full-time in February. This was one of the reasons why the band decided to go on an indefinite hiatus from making music and playing together. 

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Where did you study and what was your course? What did you imagine yourself doing after school? 

I studied at De La Salle University and took up AB Development Studies. I imagined myself doing communications work after graduating because I never really liked my course. Lo and behold, that is what I'm doing now. I've always fantasized about playing music when I was younger like in middle school and high school. I'm glad I got to live the dream for a while.  

How did you manage your time being in a band and doing your (day) job? What other reasons led to the band deciding to take a break?

Before, I'd managed to be in a full-time communications job and in a band pretty well. I think I may even have prioritized my band more (sorry, previous employers), but that doesn't mean I was underperforming in any way with my day job. It's just all about time management and planning your week ahead, making detailed schedules, and sacrificing sleep or your social life (missing friend's birthdays, moving family dinners, etc.).

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However, when I hit the age of 23 (I started working at 20), I started realizing that I should prioritize my day job more. At the time, I was working in a lenient boutique advertising agency and then moved to a global PR company to take my career more seriously. The work I was in required me to travel a lot so the band had to take a step back, and at this time, my other bandmates started prioritizing adulting as well.

Even though we lost a bit of our momentum, I still think we produced a pretty good full-length album. Right now, we had to decide to be on hiatus as Gabba left to fully prioritize other things, and while I had to move to Kuala Lumpur. Migs, Ralph, and I intended to still continue the band and go in a different direction. It's still going to be on; it's just on pause now because of my move to Kuala Lumpur. When I visit the Philippines, I'd love to have a songwriting session for sure. We'd love to have at least one more EP in this lifetime. 

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Isabelle Romualdez (second from right) poses with colleagues at her company's headquarters in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Photo by Isabelle Romualdez.

Do you think there will ever come a time that you would choose to pursue music full time path and leave the so-called "real job?" What would be your ideal scenario when it comes to playing music? 

I kind of play it safe. I don't think I would ever do music full-time unless it provides financial security. Doing music is amazing, but not a lot of people can make it, meaning, not a lot of people can make money out of it. At least not enough money to sustain themselves. 

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This is why full-time musicians are inspiring. They are talented and ambitious enough to make a living out of it. I don't think I'm capable of that at the moment, but who knows? Maybe down the road?

I love my "real job" as well. It's something I am also passionate about and interested in. I'm pretty content with just doing music on the side. I do miss playing live somtimes though.

Give us an idea of what life is like for you now right now during the lockdown. What's keeping you busy?

I am still working full-time at home. Since ecommerce is still being used right now, our company is still pretty busy. In terms of music, I still sing a lot. I watch a lot of YouTube videos on songwriting and harmonies. I avidly listen to music almost every day. I talk to my friends a lot about some music stuff, like how a certain song is written, or how amazing the key change is in this song, etc. etc. I also recently released a song on Soundcloud (co-written with The Ringmaster).

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Music will always be part of me even though I'm taking a break from it. I do hope one day I can get back at it in one way or another. That said, I'm still pretty happy with where I am with work and life though. I love my job. 

2| Geoffrey Macadaeg, 34

Band: Autotelic

Current occupation: Digital marketing specialist

Photo by Janine Bagares.
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Geoffrey “Gep” Macadaeg has been playing with Autotelic since its inception in 2012. The founders—Neil Tin, Josh Villena, Timothy “Pabs” Vargas, and Macadaeg—all knew each other’s previous bands but got together one day at the Taco Bell in Gateway to discuss what they wanted to achieve with the new group. Kai Honasan and EJ Edralin joined Autotelic later on.

“It was during our first rehearsal when I knew that we were really onto something,” Macadaeg says. “We already completed our first single ("Misteryoso") right there.”

The band is one of the busiest and most high-profile in the current local gig scene, but Macadaeg has worked steadily in other fields since graduating from college. He was an assistant at a marketing agency, a copywriter for a public relations agency, and a marketing and operations manager for a local music store.

“I also co-founded an online music startup with my brother around that time,” he adds.

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Macadaeg worked for an Australian marketing agency for a few years before joining the Japanese market research agency where he works now.

“The main reason why I secured a job even before graduation is due to my family’s financial status,” he says. “I remember my parents losing their jobs around that time, so I needed to be self-sufficient. My brother and I left our home and became financially independent right after college. Part of my plan is to get a law or business degree while working, but I didn't pursue them yet. I’m still considering these options until now.”

Where did you study and what was your course? What did you imagine yourself doing after school? 

My ambition as a kid was to become a doctor or a lawyer, so I took a BS Psychology course since it’s a track for a medical and legal degree. However, when I took a summer job as a copywriter in an ad agency, I realized that a career in marketing and advertising is more interesting for me. When I got back from my summer job, I switched to an AB Psychology course to get more advertising and marketing electives and focused on studying marketing psychology.

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How do you manage your time being in a band and doing your day job?  

Balancing a day job and a music career requires a lot of compromises right from the start. It’s important to first consider the kind of day job that you’d like to have. Back when I started working, I figured out that some jobs can get in the way of a possible music career. For example, working in an advertising or PR agency requires dedication and more overtime work than other jobs. Back then, I wasn’t playing in a bigger or more serious band, so I prioritized my day job.

When I worked in a PR agency, a friend of mine asked me to session for his band, which was already big in the music industry back then. I did not take his offer since the first few session dates were already provincial gigs on weekdays. I was focused on completing my upcoming projects, and I thought that taking a lot of leaves will affect my company standing. I didn't realize back then that the band was already looking for a permanent replacement drummer, and I just missed an early chance carving a path in playing music. That is still one of my biggest regrets up to this day. After that, I told myself that if ever there was another opportunity to pursue a music career, I should take it, since I really love playing music and there’s always a chance to get back to a regular day job.

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Planning in advance is also key in balancing a day job and a music career. I always ask my company and band management for the work and band schedules in advance so that I can consider when to take company leaves, adjust my working hours, or get a session drummer instead. That way, I won’t risk losing any of the two.

Finally, hard work and discipline are essential in balancing a day job, a music career, family, and other pursuits. I have faltered many times in keeping everything steady, and I still do, but I always try to get back up, focus, and give my best, since I’ve always wanted this path.

Gep Macadaeg works full time for a Japanese market research agency

Photo by Karen Dela Fuente.
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Do you think there will ever come a time that you would choose to pursue music full time path and leave the so-called "real job?" What would be your ideal scenario when it comes to playing music? 

In the Philippines, starting a full-time music career is very difficult unless you’re already rich or have extensive experience and a good reputation in session work. I don’t come from a well-off family and I don’t have a music degree or session work experience to boast of, so I don’t think I can pursue a full-time career in music yet. I just can't afford at this point to become a full-time musician, especially now that I have a family of my own. 

In my opinion, playing in a band that plays original songs won't provide a steady, long-term income, unless your song becomes iconic and you earn from royalties, especially when you’re the songwriter. Being a middle-class musician in the Philippines still requires having a steady source of income. My ideal scenario is to have a successful business, earn from my investments, and become my own boss so I can have more time playing in the band and pursuing my other passions and hobbies. 

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Give us an idea of what life is like for you now right now during the lockdown. What's keeping you busy?

I still have my day job, but we shifted to a work from home setup, so I’m able to spend more time taking care of our five-month-old son. I don’t have enough space to set up a drum set at home, but I still practice rudiments through my drum pad and pillows, and I still keep on listening to new music to stay inspired. 

3| Billie Dela Paz, 28

Band: Oh, Flamingo! and Imelda

Current occupation: Art director 

Photo by Nicky Aureo.
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Billie Dela Paz plays for two of the most exciting bands in the country today. She formed Oh, Flamingo! with Howard Luistro and Pappu De Leon back in college at UP Diliman in 2013. (Drummer Pat Sarabia replaced Fries Bersales in 2017). The band won Wanderband, the pre-event “battle of the bands”-type competition for the Wanderland Music Festival in 2015, which led to their debut in the country’s biggest indie music festival the next year. The band has released two EPs and is signed under Sony Music Philippines.

Dela Paz is also a member of rock band Imelda. I wasn’t originally in (the band), though I knew them way back in high school and I became a fan when they released their self-titled EP. In 2015, I was surprised they asked me to jam with them, and eventually they asked me to join them full time. Imelda gave me the opportunity to explore playing bass for a much heavier genre.”

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Today Dela Paz works as an art director for a branding agency and has been an agency creative for almost six years. 

“When I was a fresh grad, Oh, Flamingo! was actually in a really good place,” she says. “We played shows multiple times a week. But this was also the time when there were only a few prods, shows weren’t as populated, music streaming sites were just starting to boom, and giving out talent fees to indie bands wasn’t a norm. At that time, having a corporate job while continuing to pursue a music career was the safest route to take.”

Where did you study and what was your course? What did you imagine yourself doing after school? 

BA Broadcast Communication, UP Diliman. I actually had no idea what I was going to do after college because I didn’t really want to do anything related to broadcasting at all. In fact, I tried shifting out to Fine Arts multiple times, but they rejected my applications. Haha! 

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How do you manage your time being in a band and doing your (daytime) job?  

My time management system took years to craft, and is still imperfect to this day. But I’ve always treated my music and corporate careers with the same importance. Since day 1, my bandmates and I committed to treating the band as a career, so we all had to make big decisions along the way to accommodate its demands.

What’s making it work for me is managing everyone’s expectations. I have always been transparent with my employers about being in an active band and what that entails. At the same time, my band is also well aware of my work set up so we can adjust when necessary.

Beyond expectation management and finding the right balance, it’s also very important to find the right people to work with. People who understand that being in a musician is not just a hobby, but also a serious career.

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Billie Dela Paz has been working as an agency creative for almost 6 years

Photo by Kevinn Chan.

Do you think there will ever come a time that you would choose to pursue music full time path and leave the so-called "real job?" What would be your ideal scenario when it comes to playing music? 

I think we have to define “doing music full time” and “real job”

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Most people I’ve met in the industry who actively tour with their band still use their income from shows to invest in other income streams. They’re mostly business owners who own music labels, music studios, restaurants, retail establishments, etc. Full-time music performers are mostly session musicians for multiple touring bands, the orchestra, or marching bands; or they have a daily gig spot at various hotels, restaurants, or cruise ships. On the other hand, many people I’ve worked with in corporate also have side hustles. Some have online shops and bazaar stalls. 

I guess what I’m driving at is that it’s tricky to label which job is “real” and what constitutes as “full time” in this day and age. The way I see it is that a job is a job. At the end of the day, my colleagues—both in music and in corporate—are all just trying to make ends meet in any way possible. I’m glad that I’m able to do both music and corporate because I have constant growth in both industries.

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Give us an idea of what life is like for you now right now during the lockdown. What's keeping you busy?

I’m actually busier now, contrary to what most people assume. I still work 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. for my corporate job. For my bands, we have multiple online shows that take longer to prepare because we have to shoot, mix, and edit videos. We also have a whole lot of content creation now to adapt to the lack of physical live shows, especially because we need to market the new record we’ve just released. And for some reason, I also have way more house chores than before. Lol!

4| Redd Claudio, 24

Band: The Ransom Collective

Current occupation: Public relations professional

Photo by The Ransom Collective Instagram.
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As drummer of The Ransom Collective, Redd Claudio is part of one of the brightest spots in local music in recent memory. The band first made waves after winning the Wanderband competition and subsequently debuting at the Wanderland Music Festival in 2014. They’ve since released a full-length debut album called Traces, and performed at the Laneway Music Festival in Singapore in 2018.

Claudio started working in a PR agency in January 2020. Before that, he worked in government for a year, where he says he discovered an interest in communications and copywriting.

“On top of the added financial security, I took a daytime job because I wanted to hone my skills in a professional setting,” he says.

Where did you study and what was your course? What did you imagine yourself doing after school? 

I studied BA Psychology in UP Diliman. Originally, I imagined myself going into research, as this was a main focus of my course. 

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How do you manage your time being in a band and doing your (daytime) job?  

I try not to compromise on work-life balance, although there are times that either my daytime job or the band will require more of my attention. Generally though, I reserve weekdays for my daytime job, and weeknights/weekends for practices and gigs. 

Redd Claudio (bottom, with drumsticks) now works in public relations after a stint working in government

Photo by The Ransom Collective Instagram .
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Do you think there will ever come a time that you would choose to pursue music full time path and leave the so-called "real job?" What would be your ideal scenario when it comes to playing music? 

Personally, I've always found myself more inspired to play when I balance music with other endeavours. Every musician will have different formulas when it comes to how much of their career they choose to devote to music, but it's always worked best for me when I do it part-time. I consider both music and my daytime job “real jobs” so for now, my ideal scenario would be one where I can grow in both. 

Give us an idea of what life is like for you now right now during the lockdown. What's keeping you busy?

Currently, the whole office is on a work-from-home arrangement. Gigs are on pause, so I take a little time each day just to jam by myself. At the moment, the band is also trying adjust to the "new normal" by focusing on making social media content, taking online interviews, and songwriting by sending each other jams and ideas to build on.

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Paul John Caña
Associate Editor, Esquire Philippines
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