There’s one thing that always makes me chuckle when I meet someone new. It’s the moment they ask me what I do for work. In our society everyone is judged by what we “do”. People who work a 9-5 are almost more respected then someone who creates their own business and has free time to do whatever he or she pleases. The constant grind of the handcuffing 9-5 schedule adds value to peoples jobs. So, whenever I’m asked what my line of work is, I always begin with a slight pause…and then say with a smile; I’m a musician. Now, the first thing that goes through someones head after hearing their new friends line of work, is money. I always pause when I’m asked this questions because I’m anticipating the look of sympathy and a little judgement I am about to receive. Now, I’m not rich…yet…but I am definitely better off then the stereotypical image of a musician most people immediately gravitate towards. So, this post is going to tell you the 6 most important things that have allowed me the pleasure of not eating left over Chinese food out of a trash can.
#1. Be Professional and Presentable
I’m blessed to have a mom who constantly drilled this into my head every single day, even when I wasn’t playing piano. “Brenden! You can’t go to school wearing jeans with holes in them! People will think you’re homeless!” Little did my sweet mom know this could be the best business advice anyone’s ever told me. I’m going to be honest with all the musicians reading this because I care and I’m trying to help. When you dress, act, and speak like an unprofessional musician…people will treat you exactly like that! How do you think musicians get this stereo type all the time? Because the majority of musicians are usually regurgitating some garbage line like “It’s only about the music man” . Now, would you rather not eat for a day to save money, or simply clean up your act so you can be more successful and get more gigs?
#2 Be Early To Everything.
Another characteristic that came from my mother. I heavily consider this factor when hiring side people for gigs. If you are early, it reflects a lot more upon yourself then simply being able to show up on time. It means, you’re organized, prepared, responsible, can plan ahead, thoughtful, value other peoples time and your own, and want to do well in your profession, and care about the music you’re being hired for. Bet you never thought about being on time like that before have you. All of this will lead to you being hired for more gigs or being referred. If I’ve hired you, and you are a late to a gig or rehearsal, 99% of the time I will never even consider you as a potential side person again. Be early to everything!
#3 Have A Decent Looking Website
Now again, my website isn’t perfect…yet…but it’s a heck of a lot better than 90% of the musicians out there, most of them who don’t even have one. Online marketing for musicians is a must in order to connect with people, get gigs, share your performances, allow people to hear and see you play. You must be able to quickly be in response with anyone who may even consider hiring you. You must make it easy for them to make their decision. If you have a sloppy, quickly thrown together website with a couple of tracks…most likely….you’re not going to get the gig. Put together a clean, informative website and you will be seen as a professional and get more gigs.
#4 Have A Positive Attitude, Even If You’re Not Getting Paid
Musicians who have a great attitude and are eager to learn are always more fun to play with then a musician who proclaims he knows everything. Always bring a smile and positive attitude to a rehearsal or gig. Don’t overstep your boundaries when you’re working with musicians for the first time. Ask the leader if you can help in anyway. Ask if they want you to comp differently, or if they were okay with a certain style you were playing. Ask for criticism. When you show that you’re hungry to learn, get better, with a smile on your face, tons of opportunities will magically start showing up on your doorstep. If you haven’t gotten gigs in a while…you may want to re read this paragraph and do some self reflection.
#5 Have A Business Card And Always Follow Up
Always, always, always have a business card on you whenever you leave the house. If someone asks you for a card and you don’t have one you should kick yourself. Every contact should be thought of as an opportunity that branches out to other opportunities like a web. Referrals and word of mouth will be your number one gig source. If you neglect to give one person you’re card, you’re potentially shutting down hundreds of future opportunities.
Try and get their contact info as well. Most of the time people will lose your card, forget about you, or just be too lazy to ever reach out again. If you can get their information you can follow up with a professional email that says you are thankful for meeting them and if they are in need of music or lessons to contact you. Now they have an email that they can refer back to. Follow up is the name of the game.
I know this seems obvious but the better you are the more money you are going to make as a musician. You should never stop practicing. Always be listening and learning and playing as much as possible. This will help you make progress much quicker. People will always notice who is getting better and who is staying stagnant. I see a lot of good musicians become content with the level that they’re at. Never settle. Always strive to get better! Remember, for all the times that you make an excuse not to practice, there is someone who is shedding that very moment in hopes to get your gig!
Now go get more gigs!!
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