Rock doc

Dear Pud,

I’m a sophomore in college studying computer engineering. My passion is music, but I wanted to be financially secure. Plus, I’m sort of good at math and physics.

But now I wish I hadn’t put so much stock in my fear of being poor, because I absolutely can’t live without music. I wish I could drop out right now and form a band and play bass, but my conservative judgement says otherwise.

What do you think?

19 years old
St. Louis, Missouri


Unfortunately, you don’t have what it takes to succeed as a professional musician. Or rather, you have TOO MUCH.

With very few exceptions*, ask any professional musician what they’d be doing if they weren’t doing music. The typical answer? “I dunno… working at a gas station? Maybe fast food. I have no idea.”

Having a successful career as a professional rock musician is about as likely as hitting the lottery. And when you have math and physics to fall back on, you’ll likely fall back on them. It’s just so much easier.

Rock on,

*notable exception includes the singer of The Offspring, who was a Ph.D. candidate in molecular biology when his band made it big. also his old drummer, who’s a gynecologic oncologist. may they bring you inspiration.

5 Responses to “Rock doc”

  1. 1 Binil February 21, 2007 at 11:51 pm

    These two artists, I hope, would also provide inspiration:
    1) Brian May, the guitarist of Queen, almost had a doctorate in astronomy.
    2) Tom Scholz, the guitarist of Boston, had an MIT Masters Degree

    Rock On,

  2. 2 devin tomaney March 5, 2007 at 11:20 pm

    Charles Thompson was majoring in anthropology at the University of Massachusetts until he decided to drop out and start a band.

  3. 3 nate moser March 15, 2007 at 7:57 pm

    The Angry Somoans were never as famous or rich as Queen or Boston, but Gregg Turner had a pretty good run as a punk rocker before becoming a math professor.

    Not that math profs are that rich either.

  4. 4 mrflip March 31, 2007 at 9:02 pm

    Greg Graffin of Bad Religion has a PhD in evolutionary paleontology from Cornell University (from my time there I suspect the third stanza in No Direction is about Ivy Leaguers). Graffin’s label has done OK too. Not a rocker, but Mike Judge (Office Space, Beavis & Butthead, KotH) was a physics major and programmer before his cartooning took off.

    If music is your passion and computers are your talent, find a way to fuse them. There’s still no good solution to the digital music distribution problem — it’s easier to link to a given video online than a given song, which is crazy, and youtube seems closer to achieving compromise with the various stakeholders than iTunes is to being cheap and universal. Digital music production has become democratized but there is more to be done in combining and synthesizing the various tools. There’s literally no limit to what you can do if you find a good problem and have a unique combination of talents (say music, physics and computers).

    With that said: most universities will admit a 45 year old ex-rocker who wants to come back for a degree. I’ve taught older students and they are uniformly focused and have extra perspective from their life experiences. However, the number of 45-year old breakthrough rockstars is almost nil, and you’ll NEVER in your life find it easier (no house, no family, no bills) to drop it all and travel around in a rock band than you do right now. If making music is your passion, you’d better follow that dream now: you’ll always be good at math.

    And you can always learn theoretical physics on the back of a tour bus.

  5. 5 boco April 15, 2007 at 9:19 pm

    Brian May the lead guitarist for Queen left his education in Astronomy to go play with the band, and later earned his PhD. in Astronomy. He just co-authored a book about the universe that is a really good read, with lot’s of pictures, and is definitely a good starting point for understanding the universe and how insignificant we all are.

    Unfortunately it’s only available in England, check it at Bang! The Complete History of the Universe

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