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How To Stay Afloat As A Career Musician

Updated on August 5, 2016
rohanfelix profile image

Rohan quit a job as a copy editor to become a musician. He finds the going tough but has no intention of giving up just yet.

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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

I love playing the piano. I love it so much that I've quit a promising career as a copy editor to be able to do it.
I love playing the piano. I love it so much that I've quit a promising career as a copy editor to be able to do it.

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!

Make sure you put in enough and more hard work. It will cost you a lot, but will be rewarding sooner than you realize.
Make sure you put in enough and more hard work. It will cost you a lot, but will be rewarding sooner than you realize. | Source

If you lack passion, you are wasting your time

Self explanatory, right?

At the end of the day, it's all about passion!

Only passion can sustain you in the field of music. It is passion that will spur you to hard work and the resultant amazing results.
Only passion can sustain you in the field of music. It is passion that will spur you to hard work and the resultant amazing results. | Source

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!

Learning theory may seem a hellish experience, but can really help you maintain yourself as a musician in the long run.
Learning theory may seem a hellish experience, but can really help you maintain yourself as a musician in the long run. | Source

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.

Be humble

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

Patience
A thick skin
Humility
Ability to stand up for yourself
Passion
Perseverence
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!

Watch what you speak though, or you could be hurting your cause.
Watch what you speak though, or you could be hurting your cause. | Source

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!

Know who you are, and back your capabilities!
Know who you are, and back your capabilities! | Source

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.

Collaborate

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.

Stress can destroy passion and erode resilience. Guard against it.
Stress can destroy passion and erode resilience. Guard against it. | Source

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.

Every fall is an opportunity to learn a precious lesson!

Make sure you persist in your efforts. Just because you fail over and over again does not mean you give up something you are passionate about. Have the right perspective. Look at the cup as being half full rather than half empty.
Make sure you persist in your efforts. Just because you fail over and over again does not mean you give up something you are passionate about. Have the right perspective. Look at the cup as being half full rather than half empty. | Source

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    • rohanfelix profile image
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      Rohan Rinaldo Felix 11 months ago from Chennai, India

      I'm happy to know this article has benefitted you, teaches12345. I hope you do very well in your new career. God bless!

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 11 months ago

      Your advice can be applied to almost any career in general. Excellent tips and ones to live by! I needed to year your encouragement today as I am pursuing a new career path. Thank you and God bless.

    • rohanfelix profile image
      Author

      Rohan Rinaldo Felix 11 months ago from Chennai, India

      Thank you very much, FlourishAnyway! Really happy to receive feedback from you!

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 11 months ago from USA

      You're back! Im so happy that you have found an outlet for your creativity. These are excellent tips that could easily transfer to many careers. Best of luck in all you do ...

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