Everyone knows the music business is tough, and with so much conflicting career advice out there, it's enough to make your head spin! There are, of course, the time-tested words of wisdom that apply no matter which path you embark on, but here are three surprising music career tips that you didn't know you needed.
1. Realize you're an entrepreneur
Most musicians I've come across in my lifetime like to think of themselves as artists. What they don't realize is that as an artist, you actually have to become more of an entrepreneur than anything else if you really want to make it in the music business. You are your business, your music is your product, and you assume all of the risk involved in bringing your talent to the world in the hopes of seeing some sort of significant financial return.
Though the art of music is wonderful, it in itself is not enough to bring you success on its own. It takes years of honing your craft, learning the business, networking, developing your sound, and getting yourself in the right place at the right time with the hope that your path will intersect with someone else's that can help you bring those dreams of yours to life! But it is of utmost importance that musicians respect their art enough to educate themselves in the business side of things or risk being taken advantage of along the way. You must know your worth and treat your music like the business it is in order to give yourself the best chance at success. Because, let's face it, if you don't understand the value of what you do enough to know how to protect it and leverage it for personal gain, then someone else undoubtedly will.
2. Invest in yourself, even when money is tight
We've all been there: the broke musician with the amazing dreams of a life where paying the bills isn't a burden and life is lavish from doing what we love. In those moments where the budget is tight, it's hard to wrap your head around the concept of saving and investing. But there's nothing more important than remembering to invest in yourself! The same way other professionals participate in continued education to constantly keep their skills sharp and techniques developing, musicians must do the same. Whether that means you set aside a small amount of money each month to put toward private lesson instruction, new band photos, web development, or better-quality gear and equipment, you must continue to work on improving yourself to increase your artistic equity and position yourself for success.
3. Don't play it safe
Let's face it, we didn't choose the most "secure" career path, but that doesn't mean that we don't tread safely in a lot of our professional decisions. It's easy to take the route that's the least amount of work, closest to home, or with things that are familiar, but those choices don't help us grow. We must have the courage to bet on our ideas, take calculated risks, and act! As they say, "Nothing easy is worth having." No one notable ever got to where they are without a significant amount of risk involved. But all successful people in the biz have thoroughly evaluated their risks, considering all possible outcomes before making the big catalyst decision that changed the trajectory of their life. Time is of the essence, and it's extremely important to make big moves and seize opportunities when they present themselves. No major life-changing choice comes without fear, but every missed opportunity is guaranteed to come with regret. To sum up this point: you've got to risk it to get the biscuit, people!
For more career-changing tips, check out these articles:
- 3 Pieces of Music Career Advice You Should Never Follow
- How to Balance Your Day Job With Your Music Career
- 6 Qualities That All Successful Musicians Have
- 5 Ways to Become More Disciplined About Your Music Career
- 3 Reasons Why Comparisons Hurt Your Music Career and How to Stop
Christine Occhino is the founder and artistic director of The Pop Music Academy and has experience working at Columbia Records/Sony Music Entertainment, in addition to working as a performing artist for over a decade. She has a bachelor's degree in music business & management with a concentration in entrepreneurship and vocal performance from Berklee College of Music, where she was a vocal scholarship recipient and former editor-in-chief of The Berklee Groove.