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How To Stay Afloat As A Career Musician
Are you considering a career in music?
First things first
I study at a music conservatory and aspire to be a composer. I have, you might be interested to know, a background in English literature, having done my post graduation in the subject. I have worked as a copywriter and copy editor in the past. Music has always been something I have loved. I am now living my dream, although it often does not feel that way because of the challenges I face as a young musician.
A young lad with big dreams of a long and fruitful musical career
Hard work is king, but success takes time
This is a cardinal fact you must acknowledge if you want to make it in the music world. Patience is a must. You are likely to lose loads of money before you begin earning even a little bit.
Struggling in the doldrums can have astonishing results in the long run!
If you lack passion, you are wasting your time
Self explanatory, right?
At the end of the day, it's all about passion!
Remember the learning never stops
The journey of a musician does not have a destination. The learning must always continue. If you ever begin to think that you have become the kind of musician you always wanted to be, you are kidding yourself. Be open to learning on the go. This holds true not only for beginner-level musicians, but also for the experienced ones (or the ones who think they are experienced).
Be aware of the basics of theory before you start
While it is true that music theory is more-often-than-not extremely boring, consider it a necessary evil. No matter how good you are in practical terms, you will plateau out after a while if you don't know at least basic theory, And by the way, the practical application of theoretical concepts is as much fun as theory by itself is boring!
Oh boy, theory!
Build a brand image
Think about how you would like to be known. Work toward projecting that image. It will take time for people to recognize you the way you want, so begin this process early in your career.
Develop a thick skin to criticism
When it rains, it pours. You can be sure of the fact that the sailing will almost never be smooth. Learn to take criticism in your stride. Learn to gulp it and grow from the experience.
Being arrogant will pull the curtains down on your career. Also, it is a very unclassy way to be. It won't hurt to exhibit some humility.
What you will need as a career musician
A thick skin
Ability to stand up for yourself
Awareness of your limitations
Awareness of your strengths
Knowledge of music theory
Don't dwell on past highlights
Keep moving... Remember that the battle to stay relevant is all too real. You cannot afford to sit back and relax. There is always new talent entering the playing field. If you slacken the pace, the going could get seriously tough before you even realize it.
Network with other musicians
No man is an island, and no musician can afford to build a career without guidance and support from others in the field.
Network with just about anyone
Musicians, like people, are social beings, so socialize. You may be an introvert like the author of this article, but it surely doesn't hurt to wear a smile on your face. You never know where your next big deal could come from. It could be from the plain-looking guy who is actually a talent scout.
Socializing like a Chimpanzee will help take you places!
Maintain an online portfolio
The last thing you want when you meet someone who can take your career forward is to struggle to find files of your previous work. Nowadays, having an online portfolio is not an option but a must. There are many sites that you can host your music on for free. Use them. When asked for samples of your work, all you will need to do is to send web links.
Be aware of your limitations
It helps to know what you are capable of. Let's face the fact. Not every musician can do everything that his peers do.
Value your capabilities
While acknowledging your limitations is a healthy habit, always keep your strong points in mind and work on them. Project them to others.
Confidence is the name of the game!
Take Calculated Risks
Consider taking calculated risks from time to time. These risks should not be large ones though. If you manage to pull things off, your career could end up going to the next level.
Be aware of the latest trends
While it is true that you may have a signature style, assess if it is something that people will enjoy. Modify your style if you must. Watch and hear the work of other artists, especially the pathbreakers.
Study the other people in the industry
Examine aspects of other artists that make them popular with the masses. If possible, apply the learning to yourself.
The others in your field are not always your competitors. You could even join forces with them and achieve staggering results. Be selective in who you work with though, or you could get your career in a soup.
Avoid needless controversy
As if the industry weren't difficult enough already, the last thing you want is controversy to slow your career.
Keep a tab on stress
Stress can mess with your musical passion and creativity in a big way and make your efforts less productive.Stress builds up over time, often silently. Watch out for it and deal with it at the earliest. Take time off if required.
Take at least a part of the payment before a performance / project
Music, like any other field, has its share of cheats and scamsters. Get confirmation of your participation in an event, show, or project in writing or over mail and get at least half the payment upfront. You do not do all the hard work you do just to be cheated at the end of it all.
Keep in mind that there are no failures, only lessons
You are bound to experience failure from time to time, but make sure that you keep up with your efforts. The truth of the matter is that success is often not a progressive thing. You can have a musically satisfying experience all of a sudden, despite having failed consistently in the recent past.
Make sure you learn from your failures. Every failure you will experience in the industry will strengthen you and make you more aware of ground realities.