I recently heard that our daughter’s former violin teacher had been approached by a parent with an unusual request. The child in question was an exceptional player; regionals concert master, first stand at all-states, and a really nice kid to boot. The parents requested a meeting with the teacher, along with their daughter, who wanted to be a music major. The purpose of the meeting: the parents wanted the teacher to explain why NOT be a music major, but go into tech or science stuff instead. Eventually she agreed to be a music minor. She’s smart enough to pull it off, so that’s not the issue.
Another friend of ours has a daughter who got her masters in harp performance, with huge student loans to boot. She’s now in medical coding.
So is playing music, or at least trying to play professionally a career dead-end? Not so fast.
It’s my contention, that someone who tries to make a go of touring professionally, even with a small band, that fails after a couple of years has earned the equivalent of two MBA’s. Maybe a doctorate. Possibly post-doc. One acquaintance of mine ran a hedge fund, and he stopped hiring MBA’s, as in his words, they thought they knew it all, deserved it all, but were clueless as to how life and business actually worked. I laid out my theory to him, and he actually hired a failed musician, and that kid turned into a valued employee. I’ve no idea what the success rate would be in a huge sample, but the rational is obvious to anyone who actually runs a business.
Here’s what they have that others don’t.
1: They understand dedication and hard work. You don’t get good enough with an instrument to go on the road unless you’re dedicated enough to practice. A lot. Driven by learning and discovering. There’s a hunger to work harder. Without the hunger and desire to work, a musician will never get good enough to even dream of hitting the road. They know how to put in the hours, and they’re not thinking about hitting the country club.
2: Excellent communication skills. Being a performer and a communicator go hand-in-hand. You’re not getting gigs in the first place unless you can communicate. You can’t last in a group environment, a band, unless you can communicate. You have to be easy to get along with, to be personable, if you’re going to get anywhere, even a gig at a local open mic. You are used to selling every day, every opportunity.
3: You look for opportunities instead of waiting for them to come to you. No one ever got a gig sitting on a couch or behind a computer. There’s passive communication and active communication, and musicians are active communicators.
4: They know marketing. Traditional, social media, whatever. They’re on the cutting edge of reaching potential fans. It’s second nature to them. Developing word-of-mouth campaigns, effective use of Instagram, Twitter or Facebook, it’s in their blood.
5: Product development. Try producing a cd. From the performance, the engineering, the actual mastering, mass production, graphic arts, product placement. Bringing a product to market usually involves huge teams in a normal corporation. They do it themselves.
6: Accounting. They have the same bills to pay as anyone, but in addition, they have the cost of instruments, maintenance on those, travel, food, etc. Even the simplest one week tour can involve airplane arrangements, hotels, rental cars, and other smaller items. They’re fearless when getting business, and know how to make sure each tour is as profitable as possible. They truly understand the cost of doing business, as those costs come right out of their own pockets.
7: They’re fearless, and fearlessly creative. They’re used to meeting new people every day. They’re used to make these people their friends every day. They love travel, that means they’re successful. They love to work. They’re slaves to creativity. The very nature of a musician is that they need to constantly think outside the box, come up with new ways of looking at things. There are only 12 tones to use for a musician, and most of the good combinations have been in use for hundreds of years. The only way to get business is to make them all seem fresh, something lost on most corporations and their tired product lines.
Hire a musician today!