There are few things more uncertain than the economics of being in a band. I spent much of that uncertainty playing drums in White Rabbits. We made appearances on Letterman (three times), Conan, Fallon, and Kimmel (twice). We opened for Muse at Wembley Stadium (yeah that place), toured the world, drank lots of beer, and made several albums. Yet despite all of the glamor that one assumes comes with this territory; the reality is that it doesn’t always keep the lights on. Sure, it pays in ways that are far richer than dollars and cents, but at the end of the day it’s still a real job (and one without health insurance). It took me a good five years before I realized that not only did I have the means to produce my own semi-stable source of income, but that I could do it right from inside of our van.

Musicians should learn to code.

Between tours one summer, a friend of mine mentioned that Threadless was looking for an entry-level developer—basically someone to handle their HTML email campaign. Having spent a fair amount of time installing Wordpress for friends and bands, I was familiar enough with HTML, CSS, and PHP that I figured I’d give it a shot. Turns out that I was enough of a cultural fit that they decided to overlook my lack of actual, real-world experience as a developer, and best of all: I could telecommute.

I soon found myself hacking on templates provided by a design team. Most days I would tether my phone’s internet connection to my laptop, log on to a VPN, and code while the band was barreling down the highway on a six-hour drive to the next show (not recommended if you get car sick. The connection was also extremely unstable since we were in and out of networks on a minute-to-minute basis). Somehow I not only got my work in on time, but I found that I really enjoyed coding.

Over the next couple of years I taught myself more and more code. I combed Stack Overflow, Hacker News, A List Apart, and any other place I could sponge up information on the latest practices and technology. I was using GitHub and getting more fluent in Python and Javascript, all the while playing shows and flying around the world. The night the band appeared on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon, I debugged some code during rehearsal, played a song on national television, and issued a pull request from the Green Room. Many times on the road I would splurge and buy a nice meal, a gift to myself after subsisting for years off of a rider of chips, salsa and beer. Music was becoming fun again, and I wasn’t worried about how the band was going to make its next dollar or how we were going to keep the lights on in our practice space in Brooklyn. It was incredibly freeing to be able to simply play music for music’s sake.

Musicians should learn to code. I don’t mean to imply that this will work for everyone, but it’s not as great of a leap as you may think. Any band that spends a fair amount of time touring knows that there is not much more to do than look at your phone, read emails, surf the web, listen to music, and maybe watch a movie on your laptop. Touring can be a lonely and counterproductive activity. The information, tutorials, and support community are just a URL away. Best of all you can work from your home office: the road.