So you made it through music school and you’re ready to start your career. Ambition and hope is at an all time high and then you remember in 6 months your student loan payments begin. Panic, frustration and fear set in... Wait. Let’s not go down that rabbit hole because it doesn’t do anyone any good and a positive mindset will carry you through the hard times.
This post will cover 5 ways to kickstart your music career. But first, you have to make a very important decision.
A.) Want to make a career and business out of music?
B.) Earn income elsewhere and keep the music pure?
Your decision might change over the course of your life and that’s okay. There is no right or wrong decision because life is a learning process. As long as you stay aware and continue reevaluating your decisions you can adjust accordingly.
For the eager beavers who immediately picked option A without a second guess, let’s get into it.
In the music business, you are expected to perform, record or teach at a high level. We are going to discuss the materials that can set you apart right from the get go.
Imagine a booking agent, venue or client wants to potentially hire you for a gig and they ask for your email address. What do you think happens when they see “[email protected]” as your email address? (Sorry not sorry to whoever owns that address... if it even exists.) This first impression might deter them and ruin your chance to show them all of your music degrees and how amazing you are at music. Get my point?
Check your email regularly and respond quickly. I can’t tell you how many people reply to me saying “HOLY COW you responded so fast, you are the most professional musician I have ever spoken to!” I’m not kidding. The reason for this reaction is many musicians don’t even respond. This is a simple and easy way to stand out of the crowd.
Finally, utilize a signature. Even if it’s just your name. I recommend inserting your name, phone number, email, website and a few titles (i.e. composer, private lesson instructor, contractor, etc.) at the very least. You can also create a “super signature” that includes a brief call-to-action and a link to your newest CD, giveaway, blog post or video.
Another way to make a lasting impression is your amazing face. If you're on a budget, there are plenty of creatives who will take decent photos to get you going, but plan to hire a professional ASAP, because photos can make or break your future. Dress professionally in a nice looking location (avoid those enticing dumpsters) and take a variety of photos with/without your instrument and don’t forget to smile, remember music is fun!
This is your chance to tell your potential client, fan or mom who you are, why you’re a musician, your experience, what you are currently working on, etc. Again if you’re on a budget write your own biography or ask a friend, but plan to hire a professional when possible. Look at your influences' biographies and find out what information they are sharing with the world.
Do not use false information to beef up your bio. Unfortunately there are musicians who claim they climbed Mt. Everest when it simply isn’t true. Sure you might fool someone, but in the long term dishonesty will put you flat on your back.
Consider having a short and long bio for various uses. One sentence taglines are great too. Industry professionals love biographies. Promoters, for example, can (and will) copy and paste your bio into their blog, magazine or social media and you essentially did their job for them! Remember to continually update your bio for this very reason.
If you’re fresh out of music school you might have a recital video or recording project that needs mastering. We all have to start somewhere. Use what you have and make a plan to create more work to showcase your art. I’ve seen musician websites with no music on them...
I urge you to share your art no matter the circumstances. Perfection is impossible and quite frankly the world doesn’t relate to perfect. Your fans, clients and audience want to see you grow as artists so if you never show them your work until you’re 50, then they will watch someone else develop instead. People love to say “I knew them when...” so start somewhere then go make more art. Imagine if Beethoven never shared his first public work? The path to prolificacy ceases if you don’t start.
Websites sound daunting, but in this day and age there are a plethora of services to create websites without hiring a developer. Your website serves as a digital presskit and business card.
Many musicians use these formats for their domain:
This is where you host the essential materials we discussed previously including photos, biography, discography, videos, testimonials, portfolio, contact form, store, etc.
There are ways to optimize SEO (Search Engine Optimization) to improve the search relevance of your website. For example, if you search for “Jazz Trumpet Dallas” on Google, Freddie Jones is at the top of the search and guess who is going to get noticed, hired or contacted first regardless of music ability or degrees? That’s right Freddie Jones, who is a fantastic trumpeter and plays the National Anthem at every Dallas Cowboys home game.
Websites are vital for all musicians including sidemen/women. This is your opportunity to showcase your skills, experience and value.
If you’re just starting out, make a simple website and improve it over time. If I could show you my first website you would laugh in my face! Done is better than perfect.
These are 5 simple ways to show professionalism and self-worth.
What materials are you working on right now?
What are some other ways to kickstart your career?
Thanks for listening and keep thriving!
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