“If your concept of success is restricted to being an international soloist or performing with a major symphony or opera company, then you’re probably headed for difficulties in life.”
–The Musician’s Way, p. 300
There are ample opportunities for musicians who fill diverse roles in today’s music scene.
Problem is, vast numbers of young musicians singlemindedly strive toward careers that are unlikely to exist for them.
As an illustration, consider these words written to a music advice column:
“I am a violinist with a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree from a major American conservatory. I have won top prizes in some competitions and have always expected that I would be able to attract management and enjoy a solo career. As of late, I have begun to have my doubts about that . . . I have been told that I stand a reasonable chance of winning a concertmaster position with a good level orchestra. I did serve as concertmaster in my conservatory orchestra but I am not sure that experience would suffice to qualify me for a professional concertmaster position.”
–Letter to the “Ask Edna” blog on MusicalAmerica.com (Oct. 2013)
That poor violinist. The chances of attracting management and having a solo career are astronomical, yet the musician “always expected” to be a successful soloist.
Then, with the soloist fantasy fading, the musician replaces it with a new one – becoming a concertmaster, claiming that someone said there was a “reasonable chance” of that happening. Really? Few violinists win section jobs in full-time orchestras; almost none attain concertmaster status.
The violinist points to degrees earned and unnamed competition prizes won, implying that those accomplishments ensure success. They don’t.
Tens of thousands of musicians earn degrees; hundreds win competitions each year. Managers and presenters seldom care about degrees and contests. Neither do audiences. Besides, only the most elite competitions propel music careers and then not for long, unless musicians do what really matters.
Real Music Careers
What really matters? Having a compelling artistic voice, being an artist who connects with people, excelling at your craft.
Elizabeth Sobol, former Managing Director at IMG calls it “the goose-bump factor.” And that factor ignites music careers in performance, teaching, composition, production, and everything else.
I’m not saying that young musicians shouldn’t dream, but that they should dream in the real world. “Dreaming large is fine,” I wrote in The Musician’s Way, “but putting all of your eggs in one career basket isn’t a smart bet for either your livelihood or your happiness.”
Here, then, are 7 strategies that help aspiring musicians get real about building their careers. Links point to other articles on this blog. [Update: Also see my article, “3 High-Demand Career Tracks for Musicians.”]
7 Career-Building Strategies for Musicians
- Forge an artistic vision that’s specific, realistic, and altruistic.
- Discover ways that you can create value in society through your music.
- Differentiate yourself from others in your genre.
- Plan for long-term sustainability.
- Identify ways to gain competitive advantages.
- Tap multiple income streams.
- Grow a professional network.
See The Musician’s Way for guidelines to establish your musical and professional foundations.
© 2013 Gerald Klickstein
Photo © Stokkete, licensed from Shutterstock.com