The Starving Musician: Part 1

Thinking Outside Of The Box

Part of being a musician is marketing... however, very few college music programs include business, marketing or communication courses.  How are musicians, who are only trained to play music and take auditions, expected to have a career outside of playing in an orchestra?  Hopefully some of the tips and tricks that I share will resonate with you and give you a look into what life as a musician can look like.  

Networking.  Most of what we do in our profession is networking.  If we are not going out and winning auditions (nice work if you are!) or if we are in the audition process, then we need to create an income stream by ourselves.  There are a number of ways in which you can network in the music world.  It is important to network with your peers and colleagues, connect with musicians and ensembles in the community as well as reaching out to those who are in positions that you would like to obtain in the future.  There is no reason that you can't have a fantastic relationship with a musician who already has the job or does what you want to do.  These connections will greatly benefit you in the future.  

Ask For What You Want.  If you want to make a career out of being a musician, you have surely been told how difficult that can be.  Kudos to you, you did it anyway.  The majority of the musicians that I know with Masters and Doctorates are working non-musical part times jobs, or heaven forbid... working retail.  Is this what you went to school for?  NO!  Let's figure out a way for you to make a living working in the profession that you chose and are passionate about.  This is where asking for what you want comes in.  Typically, when looking for a job you research where jobs are available, schedule an interview, take the interview, sell the company and manager on why they should give you the job and then (hopefully) you are offered the job.  This process is not logistically different from what you would do to gain a music job... it just requires a bit more creativity and flexibility.  Often times the reason musicians are not successful is in fact their own faults (gasp!).  When "in the real world" people typically begin as an intern or paper pusher and work their way up to CEO.  Why should a musician assume that their career is any different.  If no one knows who you are you are not going to get gigs and you will not gain any students.  Often times the "I have a Doctorate Degree" attitude is what is actually hindering your success.  More often then not when you give of your time without an expectation of return, is when the best scenarios happen.  Here are some ideas of what you might do:

  • Give a FREE masterclass at all local middle school and high schools
  • Reach out to music stores in your area about teaching lessons through their location
  • Put a poster up in local music stores about your studio
  • Reach out to local coffee shops, restaurants, winery's, bars, hospitals, etc...
  • Make friends with band directors (people are more likely to help you if they like you)
  • Form a fantastic ensemble with like minded individuals in a similar situation as you

If you are just starting out or have recently moved to a new town, it is unrealistic to think that you will immediately be welcomed into the community without any effort what so ever.  Be willing to give a bit before you receive a return on investment.  Be creative.  Creativity pays off in the end.