Let there be no mistake, the ability to play an instrument at a masterful level does not equate to having a stable career. It is upon our arrival at this statement that we are able to recognize the necessary steps we must take moving forward as ‘Career Musicians’. It’s not only about your playing ability but an all encompassing package of how well you communicate, get along with others, hold up under pressure, be consistent, and how well you can adapt to difficult situations in a musical context or otherwise. It is foolish to rely on your musical abilities and think that’s enough. Be sure to treat all aspects of your career with the same amount of sacrifice and discipline it took to get your playing skills to the level they are now, and then some! In other words- keep pushing, learning, and looking for new areas in which to grow. Music itself is arguably one of the most influential mediums known to mankind! It’s ability to break through language and cultural boundaries is almost unparalleled. With the current climate of the music business as a whole, it’s becoming more and more evident that musicians must be more than just musical artists, but rather multi-faceted business entities unto themselves. Having this base knowledge, let’s make a small list of tasks that a musician encounters on a regular basis and point out a few possible methods of how to handle them.
Answering phone calls, emails, and texts for job inquiries or follow-ups on invoicing requires the ability to diplomatically handle different types of personalities, while being able to multitask on a regular basis. The ability to exchange pleasantries, identify the requirements of the task at hand, while concisely keeping track of all pertinent peripherals, demonstrates that you command a certain amount of respect and your rates are justified for these reasons in addition to your fantastic musical abilities. If you are being hired, it is your job to know what the gig entails, what tools are required, when and where the gig is taking place- and most importantly confirming all of these important details. The lesson here is… don’t wait to communicate, get it done as soon as you can within the proper communication platforms. For instance, phone calls are great for new relationships as a way to cultivate the connection, emails are good for detailed lists and other information pertaining to the gig(s), while texts are more informal and should be used for blurbs of confirmation or inquiries on the day of the gig. (ex: “I’m here at the loading dock, should I start to unload, or wait for you?”)
As a musician you are a private contractor. Therefore, if you are being paid for it, you need to provide an invoice along with the necessary document attachments. (W-9, I-9, Passport Scan, etc.) In addition never assume the other party has received it. Always ask for confirmation of receipt so you can rest easy knowing you’re payment paper work will be processed. And remember, invoices should always be sent via email and contain all of your corresponding information such as: phone, address, email, Musicians Union ID#, corporate info and PRO affiliate (if applicable) and so on.
Branding & Marketing
We are in the information / technology age, which we all know has exponentially compounded the need for efficient branding. However, shameless self promotion via various social media platforms has overloaded the industry in which the supply far exceeds the demand. This equates to market saturation, which requires the ability to once again, find a way to stand out from the crowd. All of which require basic computer and mobile tech skills that to some, can be overbearing or even just down right annoying. Sometimes it’s best to outsource this department, but even if you do, you must still be engaged on a somewhat daily basis to show a true connection with the fans.
If your aspirations include becoming a producer, composer, or music director, then the ability to manage others is imperative. Of course the balance of ruling with an iron fist versus guiding the troops along with sheer diplomacy can be a challenging task. It is not enough to simply make the hiring calls and then let the ship steer itself. As the person in charge you must take control of the entire situation and manage all variables such as time constraints, scheduling, budgets, and all other resources accordingly. In others words, be a good leader not a lazy one, and as the old adage says, always lead by example. In closing, these examples illustrate the fact that the modern day career musician must be well rounded and knowledgeable in many areas. I hope this information has been informative and given you some food for thought on your own pursuit of becoming a most successful ‘Career Musician’!