photo of 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.

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, community leaders, and others to envision new types of performance products.

5. Tap Current Technologies
Innovations in technology and the Web offer us unprecedented opportunities to share our work and connect with audiences.

Examples of many of the best of these 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 schools are better at churning out graduates who resemble each other than supporting distinctiveness.

In fact, I’ve found that students typically are unaware of how little they know about what it takes to manage the rigors of living a creative life.

If you’d like to expand your facility with the creative process, check out my articles in the Creative Process category.

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 point 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 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

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