music career

What’s Next? How to Grow Your Career in Music

Knowing how to grow your career in music is a goal for any music professional. You might be a musician wondering how to increase their audience or a guitar player that wants to launch a tour.

Or, you’re a Promoter, Artist Development Professional, or Record Label Owner. You could hold any number of roles in the music industry and most likely you’re asking yourself, “What’s next?”

I’ve noticed in the hundreds of music industry professionals I’ve come to know is a continual desire to grow. Whether it’s your audience or your network, music industry professionals of all types look for what’s next.

Musicians and music industry professionals have their own separate — but sometimes similar — paths to grow their career. With my over forty years of experience as a player and in music education administration, I’ve discovered the path for any single person is unique. Still, these lessons are shared by every successful start-up musician working for a fruitful career in music.

Elements of Success for Musicians and Performers:

  1. Practicing and playing
  2. Expanding your audience
  3. Musician marketing
  4. Things you shouldn’t do

Elements of Success for Music Industry Professionals:

  1. Internships
  2. Entrepreneurship
  3. “Do It All” mindset
  4. Personality over skills

How to Grow Your Career as a Musician

For Players, Performers, and Recording Artists

Practice and Playing

The joys of music for players start with what they make with their instrument of choice.

Daily practice is crucial for any musician, first and foremost. Increasing dexterity is not only for whirling past a dozen notes in a bar without stopping. Dexterity is what you use to play anything, no matter how difficult or easy it is. With better dexterity, your playing always improves.

Once you have a good practice regimen, play out as much as possible. Expose yourself to new audiences whenever possible, and increase the chances of finding someone, anyone, who can help with your career.

Keep an eye out for Talent Scouts, Artist Development Professionals, and musicians who play gigs where you hope to play.

Connecting with someone who is passionate about music marketing might launch the next step of your career. Or, contact an experienced music marketer and ask them questions. Sometimes just for the price of a cup of coffee, you can gain valuable insights for marketing your own music.

Expanding Your Audience Locally, Regionally, and Nationally

If you’re in a band, you deal with people. If you’re a solo player who makes records, you also deal with people.

Simply meeting and getting to know more music industry professionals — Producers, other players, or business people — is the lifeblood of moving forward in your career. From new connections, you can secure more gigs and other potential opportunities like:

  • Media – Landing interviews with local Radio Hosts, and having people write about your music will spread your art to the world. You can also produce video demonstrations of your playing or announcements for a new release. Many musicians use YouTube to promote their music in video[1], effective for capturing attention on social media.
  • Festivals – Festivals with popular headliners provide you new listeners. These are also wonderful opportunities — perhaps obviously — to meet and network with new musicians. Whether Lollapalooza or smaller gatherings like the 4XFar Music Festival, chances for great exposure and networking are everywhere.
  • Music Awards – Not only Talent Scouts attend award ceremonies. The entire spectrum of music industry professionals, along with loads of musicians, attend these events.

Marketing as a Musician

You may be a good player, but not a great marketer. Connecting with someone who is passionate about music marketing might launch the next step of your career.

Or, contact an experienced music marketer and ask them questions. Sometimes just for the price of a cup of coffee, you can gain valuable insights for marketing your own music.

Over coffee, you’ll learn that musicians have turned social media into a new venue. Examples of content you can create for social media include:

  • Exploring Behind-the-Scenes – Post videos from the studio, or photos from performances and appearances.
  • Music Videos – Since the days of MTV actually playing music, the music video still reigns. One reality of music marketing today is that video drives awareness more than any other medium[2], so the value of this format shouldn’t be underestimated.
  • Release and Event Announcements – If you’re releasing a new song or playing a gig, social media is where you make it known to your fans, old and new.

If you know the ins-and-outs of social media then you have a powerful tool at your disposal to grow your audience. If you are not social media savvy, then find someone who can help you with social media marketing — it’s where musicians of today are getting noticed most.

What Not To Do to Grow Your Career as a Musician

As with pretty much all things in life, there are definitely certain things you should never do.

Here’s that list for musicians:

Be Unreliable – Missing performances or rehearsals gets noticed in the music industry. Also, if you’re working with a music business professional, be on time — word gets around if someone is hard to work with.

Can’t Deliver – If you’re a performer or Recording Artist, you have a job to do. Practice, and continually inspire yourself to deliver every time.

Saying “It’s Not Me” – Especially for people just starting their music career, the industry is so competitive that you can’t afford to hold yourself back and limit your opportunities.

New performance opportunities, marketing yourself, and the chance to try new things all make growing a career in music enjoyable and fulfilling. Approach this musical path of yours with an open mind, and you will be rewarded.

When you bring something new to the table, potential new artist clients and employers want to be a part of your journey. Anybody can hire a task-master — finding an innovator in the industry is far more valuable for record labels and recording artists.

How to Grow Your Music Business Career

For Artist Development Professionals, Promoters, and Music Media Producers

Music business professionals of all types have many ways to grow their careers in music.

Whether just going into college, or already knee-deep in your path, the best ways music business professionals further their careers are internships, an entrepreneurial spirit, a “can-do” attitude, and a positive personality.

Think Like an Entrepreneur

Entrepreneurs are people who solve problems. Sometimes it’s with existing resources, and other times new tools are developed. Either way, they create solutions.

No matter your role in the music industry, treat your career like an entrepreneurial experiment. Develop new ways to discover talent, market your current roster, and explore better opportunities for artists. Find ways to cut costs, or identify investment opportunities in emerging performers and genres.

When you bring something new to the table, potential new artist clients and employers want to be a part of your journey. Anybody can hire a task-master — finding an innovator in the industry is far more valuable for record labels and recording artists.

Internships and Pro Bono Work

Launching a career in the music business is easier with experience. If you have no work experience — or want to change directions — take on an internship.

Internships are opportunities to explore your passion first-hand. Learning how to effectively market an artist or produce an album through experience is the best way to grow, and build the foundations of a fulfilling career later in life.

Or, develop your own work pro bono or “for free”. For instance, if writing about music is your passion, there are literally hundreds of music publications waiting for Writers who want to build their portfolio.

In fact, MetaCritic has a list of music publications around the world hundreds of entries long — find the link at the bottom of this article[3]. Whatever you do in the music business, there is a need you can fulfill with your own personal projects — whether for yourself or someone else. Here, with a great portfolio, your work is on display to attract your next breakthrough.

“Do-It-All” Attitude

Being open-minded with your career is an advantage in the music industry.

In terms of hireability, someone bringing multiple skills to the table is a more valuable investment for record labels and publishing companies. So, in your path to growing your career ask yourself what you don’t know how to do.

Some things that all music industry professionals should know how to do include:

  • Social Media – This is a necessary skill for any music professional. Do your research and have the ability to produce social media for your company or artists you’re working with.
  • Writing – We live in a world dominated by email and text messaging. Knowing how to write clearly and concisely impacts every aspect of communications for the better.
  • Instruments – If you’re in the business but don’t play anything, perhaps make some time to pick up an instrument. It could help you get closer to your passion in the music business.

Also, many Producers and Engineers play instruments. Being able to understand and relate to musicians in the studio helps you work better together with players, and to use your insights for a more quality production.

Personality Over Skills

Double-bassist Bob Sinicrope, in my article 5 Experts: How to Launch a Career in Music[4], says that the power of being likable, reliable, and engaging made all the difference in his decades-long career.

“You may not have the greatest talent, but someone might want to have you in [their] band, or associate with you in some other way because you’re reliable and a good person to be around. Those are things a lot of students don’t realize.”

This approach led Sinicrope to working with the Boston Pops, Billy Eckstine, and former President Bill Clinton. Bringing positive energy to the room attracts good fortune for your professional music career.

Lessons for All Music Industry Professionals

If you’ve gotten this far, you should have read some things any music industry professional can take note of to grow their career.

First is knowing how to deliver. Deliver through practice, performance, and perseverance.

Second is explore. Try new things, keep things fresh, and never stop learning.

Third is being kind. This means being good to those you work with, play with, and want to learn from. With all this in mind, I believe anyone can achieve success.

Steve from Inside Music Schools wishing you to play well, work well, and be well.

References

  1. Rivera, Corinne. “7 Easy Ways to Promote Your Music Video.” Promolta. Retrieved 8 November 2019.
  2. Dopson, Elise (14 March 2019). “Videos vs. Images: Which Drives More Engagement in Facebook Ads?” DataBox. Retrieved 8 November 2019.
  3. “Music Publications Listing.” MetaCritic. Retrieved 8 November 2019.
  4. Lipman, Steve. “5 Experts: How to Launch a Career in Music.” Inside Music Schools. Retrieved 8 November 2019.

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