The Business of Music

How To Make A Living As A Musician

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It can be tricky, and often it may not be what you thought it would be. The real cool part is you get to do what you love. As Mark Twain said, “find a job you enjoy doing, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”


Always be at your best

I do have a degree in music, but have only been asked for those credentials one time when applying for a job at University of Santo Tomas. The music industry boils down to word of mouth and who you know. As the cliché goes, “It’s not what you know, but who you know.” With that said, showing up dressed appropriately, on time, prepared, with the right equipment for the job is sure to maximize your odds of getting called again. I know of musicians who have been late for rehearsals only to never get called again. Not because they aren’t talented, but because they are unprofessional. I often say “I would rather work with someone reliable and professional instead of someone who is unprofessional but more talented.”


Be willing to go beyond your comfort zone

The music business has many different avenues for you to make a living. A performer is one that most students eye as the ‘goal’. That’s a great goal and go for it, but don’t close the door on other opportunities as they come up. Teaching is a great way to supplement your income while still doing what you love. You never really know something until you try to teach it. As you step into teaching, you will quickly realize it’s a lot like performing. One happy student and parent will talk and lead to another. Word of mouth will be key to building your teaching business. Programming, sequencing or arranging are other avenues that you may be able to move into. You never know, you may really like it and be great at it. If nothing else, it beats getting up at 5AM, fighting the traffic to work at a desk all day.


Market yourself

The world is at your fingertips. It can be uncomfortable to get out there and say “drum teacher accepting students” or trying to mention what you are doing without coming across as cocky. In the end, try to be who you are and realize that you and what you do are your product and you are the only one who will make others aware of how you can help them. Get on social media sites, start a Youtube channel (you can check out my channel here), or write a blog. Whatever you choose is better than spending your afternoon in front of the TV vegging out. One thing leads to another and before you know it, you will have people following you and contacting you.


Invest in yourself

This is one that can be overlooked in the attempt to make it. You aren’t looking to make a living as a musician for the next 5-10 years, but hopefully a lifetime. One mistake that musicians make is allowing themselves to get too busy or distracted by things and not allow for practice and time to learn and grow. There are some talented kids out there.  This video of Tsung Tsung is one great example.  As someone involved in college universities, I can say that students coming in are talented and hungry. You don’t want to end up as an ‘outdated’ musician 10 years from now so keep on listening, learning, developing and practicing. You don’t have to be the best, just be the best that you can be and do the best that you can do.

These 4 keys can help you regardless of where you may be on the musical journey.  Being a lifelong musician is something that you can do.

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