For many aspiring musicians, a full-time music career is a dream. It takes a high-level work ethic and the right approach, but anyone can make a career in music. If you want to learn how to start putting your musical career in motion, read on.
What does a career in music look like?
When most people think about working in the music industry, they imagine being a performer. Yes, these musicians are a large and highly visible part of the industry, but they’re hardly the only ones. Music careers are as varied as anything. The reality is that most musicians will experience multiple roles in the industry. Below is a sample of the wide-ranging jobs in today’s music industry.
Am I too old to start my career in music?
Bill Withers was in his early 30’s before he quit his day job. Willie Nelson didn’t crack the Billboard Hot 100 until he was 40. Sheryl Crow started as a teacher, backup singer, and jungle writer and didn’t achieve her fame until her 30’s.
Age isn’t the issue. Artists spend years honing their craft and building their brand before they “make it.” You have to commit the time, energy, and resources into making your goals come to fruition. Earlier in your career, you may be able to take on more opportunities and risk, but that shouldn’t deter you if you’re starting a little later.
Understanding your ability to handle risk is a personal decision, one that only you can make. Your career isn’t likely to take off right away, but take all the right steps and you’ll find that opportunities snowball over time.
Planning your career
Now it’s time to sit down and figure out exactly what you want to do next. To stay organized, we’d suggest building a business plan (find more about that here). There’s more than one way to write a business plan, so figure out what area(s) you’re interested in and start there.
“Winging it” isn’t going to work 99.9% of the time. In order to make your musical dreams a reality, you’ve got to approach it as any business-minded entrepreneur would.
What are your goals?
It’s important to have a mix of goals – think short, medium, and long term – and realize that not all goals are created equal. Setting the right mix of goals will serve you better, both professionally and mentally. If you need some help figuring out your goals, read this great article on goal-setting here.
Determine your skills and abilities
An honest assessment of your current strengths and weaknesses is necessary and useful. Record your practice sessions, talk to trusted mentors and peers, and truly listen to all the information that you’re receiving. It may surprise you!
Do you have a skill or set of skills that makes you unique? Having a diversified skill set can also be beneficial. The more skills you have at your disposal, the more opportunities may come your way. How do you stand out from the crowd?
Perfect your craft
Find the time to take lessons, practice, and continue to grow in everything that you do. Remember, there’s someone else who wants the same thing you do. Don’t let this discourage you — use it as motivation!
You are who you surround yourself with. This doesn’t mean that you can’t find success in smaller areas, but the reality is that you want to maximize your chances. For that, consider living somewhere with a thriving arts community.
Build a network
If you’re moving, write down each city that you’re considering and list the connections you have in each. If you’re staying put, do the same thing (but for your location). These are people you know, people that are recommended to you, and people you want to meet. The more connections you make, the better chance you’ll have of getting leads and finding work.
Once you figure out where you want to live, start reaching out. Introduce yourself, send materials and ask to meet with them. Nothing says “I’m serious,” like a quality, face-to-face interaction. Before you’ve even moved, you can start building your personal connections, artistic connections, and even line up jobs or potential students.
Does your city have a musician’s union or other type of musical community? Get involved ASAP.
Plan your finances
There are tons of great resources online about how to handle your money. Take a few courses, watch some videos, and figure out exactly how you need to approach your finances. A music career isn’t always a lucrative profession, so it’s important to understand how to get the most out of the money you have.
If you’re moving to a new city and don’t plan on working a full time day job, I’d suggest having at least six months of savings that you can comfortably live on as you get settled into your new place. Be smart with your money so that you can spend time focusing on your craft.
Develop a portfolio
Put together your online portfolio and other relevant materials (professional, promotional, and otherwise).
Create social media accounts and a website that showcase your portfolio. You may not find opportunity right away, so set up these platforms and check them regularly. It’s smart to have videos, audio recordings, writing examples, resume, CV and any other materials that potential employers would be interested in.
Develop content and a brand
Create regular content and build your brand.
We live in an era of content, and many employers want to see what you bring to the table. This will help give you an advantage over someone else who chooses to remain in online obscurity…
Spending each day working on something you love is a privilege, but getting to the point of having a full time job in the music industry can take a lot of hard work. This blog should be just one of the many resources you use to start planning your career.
Working alongside a trusted mentor or teacher is another key to making sure that you’re being honest and making the right decisions. Ensemble Music Schools’ faculty and staff are uniquely trained to help make you jumpstart your career in the music industry. Reach out today to begin your musical journey!
Author: Nick Bolchoz
Nick has worked with Ensemble Music Schools since 2020 and serves as the organization’s social media ‘guru’ while assisting in digital marketing and content creation. He also teaches at one of their schools in Orland Park, IL, The Music Connection.
An in-demand Percussionist and Drummer, Nick earned his M.M. in Percussion Performance from The University of North Texas and his B.M. from The University of Kentucky. Currently living outside of Chicago, IL, Nick stays busy teaching, touring and recording. You can catch him on the road with Chicago Blues Hall of Fame Guitarist, Michael Charles. You can read more about him and watch him play on www.nickbmusic.com.