Life as a Part-Time Musician: Q&A with Hugh Webber (aka ZephyrHillMusic)

January 2020

Hugh (aka ZephyrHillMusic) is a songwriter and lyricist. As well as collaborating with artists, he is active online and in his local community, supporting songwriters and running songwriting challenges. He's on the blog to talk about how he balances music with his day job. 


What do you do for a living? Are you passionate about this work, or is it primarily a way to provide for yourself and your family? 

I work full-time in an engineering company, but I've always seen this as working to live. My passions and interests have always been outside this daily stuff. The good thing about it, is that it pays for my music related activities, however saying that I spend a lot less on demos than I used to, just because I've made friends who are willing to collaborate and share their resources for free. 


Tell us about your music. Do you make money on the side from music? 

I've recently got into writing Country Music, and I have to say I love it. There is a real demand for good strong story telling lyrics, and I enjoy writing those. I've been very fortunate to make friends and now write with a local country artist (Becky Lawrence) -- we have a lot of songs in the pipeline for 2020! Here is her Spotify page.


I've made a very small amount of money from music so far. I have sold a couple of instrumental tracks to a local advertising company (that came from me literally turning up at their doorstep and asking.) I've made most of my income so far from lyric writing using the SoundBetter platform, although this has been very patchy. Here is a link to my profile.

I've also more recently made some income from PRS because some of my songs have been played either by myself at open mics and songwriter nights, or by the local artist I am working with. Nowhere near enough to quit the day job!

Hugh with Gtr.jpg


How do you balance your day job and your music? How do you keep up with social media, marketing, and creating new music with limited time? 

Badly! Music unfortunately has to fit in around working and home life, which means evenings and weekends. Evenings are not always ideal as you have less energy then to be creative after being in the office all day. That said I think it's entirely possible to spend no more than one hour a day on social media stuff and make a good impact. It's a little different for me because I am reaching out to singers and artists, rather than promoting my own music.


It’s been my experience in the past and that of people I know that it can be tough to manage hobbies when work is physically and/or mentally tiring. How do you motivate yourself to keep on track with your music when you’re exhausted from your day job?

Picking up from the last question -- this is definitely a problem. I try to plan my weeks so that I do not try to do too much all in one week. Generally I have one songwriting activity per week, be that a collaboration on a Friday afternoon, a studio day perhaps once a month, or just working on lyrical ideas on my own. More recently I've been writing a songwriter blog too.


What is your best time management tip? 

Plan your weeks, and have a to-do list. It really helps you be focused on what needs to be done. Also having a clear idea of what you want to achieve in the future and a rough strategy of how to do it. This really helps you make better decisions about which projects to pursue or not.


Have you chosen not to pursue music full-time, or is this something you aspire towards? Why? 

When I was younger I considered it, but I didn't because I was concerned at the time if I made a hobby into a career, I might end up hating it. Although not being able to work in the music industry full-time is not ideal.


Can you see yourself doing music full-time in the future? 

Not right now. If I did it would be something along the Film and TV Sync route, but I would need to spend a large amount of time getting very good at producing music quickly to a high standard. If I'm honest I prefer the songwriter side and I'm happy to let others do the music production work.


Do you feel there are advantages to doing music on the side that full-time musicians might not experience? What would you miss if you were to go full-time? 

I can see the advantage of having a more stable income, and being freer to choose what I like to do musically, rather than what I might have to do to bring money in. Perhaps it actually allows me to be more creative?! I think there is a lot of stress with being a full-time artist -- getting gigs, promoting, recording, etc. It's a hard road to go it alone, so I really encourage anyone doing that to reach out to supporters and share the load.


A huge thank you to Hugh for taking the time to join us on the blog. Learn more about Hugh's music on his website and/or follow him on Twitter.

Articles from the 'Life as a Full-Time Musician' series:

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