one red tulip standing out amid a field of yellow tulipsThere are different programs for different places.”
–André-Michel Schub, pianist
The Musician’s Way, p. 208

If you aspire to a career as an independent musician, then one of the best moves you can make is to differentiate yourself from other artists in your genre.

Otherwise, you risk becoming run-of-the-mill, which isn’t a formula either for personal or professional success.

Here are 7 quick tips for shaping a distinctive musical identity.

7 Tips to Shape a Distinctive Musical Identity

1. Forge an Artistic Vision

Our musical voices are most attractive to listeners when they express our personalities and values.

If you haven’t articulated an authentic artistic vision, I invite you to do so using the exercise in my post, Artistic Vision.

2. Collect Programming Ideas

Along with our music being personally authentic, we also need to present it in compelling ways.

So don’t wait to start devising concepts for performance programs. Open a file, and regularly sketch ideas.

3. Track Developments in the Music Industry

Stay abreast of the work of diverse artists and organizations; also note evolutions in arts ecosystems.

In that way, you can participate in the leading edge of change.

4. Explore Unconventional Collaborations

We can further differentiate ourselves through collaborations that stretch our musicianship and expand our audiences.

Performers, for instance, can not only partner with composers to develop fresh repertoire but also team up with designers, filmmakers, community leaders, and others to envision new types of performance products.

5. Tap Current & Emerging Technologies

Innovations in technology and the Web offer us unprecedented opportunities to share our work and connect with audiences.The Musician's Way book cover

Some examples are posted on the Music Careers page at

6. Be a Student of Creativity

Differentiation requires creative thinking, and lots of it. Problem is, many music schools are better at churning out graduates who resemble each other than supporting distinctiveness.

In fact, I’ve found that most students are unaware of techniques to both fuel creativity and also manage the rigors of living a creative life. As a result, many endure avoidable episodes of creative stagnation.

If you’d like to expand your facility with the creative process, check out the resources on the Creativity Page at

7. Think Like an Entrepreneur

Although creative thinking is essential to differentiation, when we merge it with entrepreneurial reasoning, our inspirations are more likely to take on commercially viable forms. The objective is to flesh out our artistic ideas in ways that aren’t just personally meaningful but also draw people to our work.

We stay true to ourselves, yet we also strategize to produce art that ignites enthusiasm and brings value to the music marketplace.

Then, we get to do what we love and earn good livings at the same time.

Related posts
Artistic Vision
Career Strategies that Drive Creativity
Let’s Get Relevant
Programs that Pop
What Makes an Entrepreneurial Musician?

© 2011 Gerald Klickstein
Photo © Yco, licensed from