7 Steps To Level Up Your Music CareerFeb 09, 2023
1. DON’T BE SHY
Talking about oneself can seem uncomfortable for some – especially if you’re the introverted type or if you don’t want others to think of you as a bragger. But over the years I’ve learned that if you don’t talk about what you’re doing, then nobody will. There’s a fine line between confidence and arrogance – and an easy way to make sure you don’t come off as a braggadocios a**hole is to make your story about the person you’re speaking to. Flip the narrative!
EXAMPLE: “My focus is composing. I make music that’s an eclectic hybrid of traditional Latin and modern, rhythmic, guitar soundscapes. I’d love to see if your music would make a good fit for a collaboration. Can you tell me more about what you do?” (to learn more about me, and what I've done, check out this video – Who is Nomad?)
2. ASK AND YOU SHALL RECEIVE
The only way to manifest success is to make your intentions known. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you need. As long as you are reasonable and respectful, even the highest-level artists and music professionals are willing to help you out!
EXAMPLE: Before I had over 150 guests on The Career Musician Podcast, I had 0. Gotta start somewhere, right? It’s difficult to build a quality show from scratch. But I took advantage of the amazing jobs I was getting, and developed the courage to ask for what I needed. What I needed was just a few high-ticket guests to level up my podcast game. When I worked on the movie “Ferdinand,” I took it upon myself to ask award-winning composer John Powell for an interview. I wanted the world to hear how he achieved his monumental success and he was surprisingly happy to do it! You can hear about his journey on Episode 5 of The Career Musician Podcast. Had I not had the courage to ask, the interview would have never happened! The takeaway here is to create opportunities for yourself that would otherwise not exist.”
3. CULTIVATE RELATIONSHIPS FOR THE LONG HAUL
Have you ever exchanged numbers with someone at an event and sent them a text only to get ghosted? Yeah, me too! That is NOT the way to build a strong network. It’s important to develop long-term relationships with your network because it builds a foundation of trust – and trust develops into opportunities over time.
EXAMPLE: I got called to compose music for a video game from someone I hadn’t spoken to in over 8 years! But, through our initial friendship, the level of trust had been established and he remembered that I compose music so he asked and I gladly accepted!
4. MANAGE YOUR EXPECTATIONS, SHOOT FOR THE STARS
It’s no secret. As musicians we’d all love to be famous and have everyone singing our songs! Well, a good portion of us anyway. To get noticed and be heard is one of the main reasons we pursue it so vigorously. While setting our sights on the highest of aspirations, it’s also imperative to understand that things take time and may not always work out exactly how we imagined.
EXAMPLE: I moved to Los Angeles in 2005 to pursue composing and playing in film and TV music. I quickly was able to land a few big movie score session gigs: Mr. & Mrs. Smith, Happy Feet 1 & 2, Men In Black 3, etc… But then, I was offered the seat of Music Director for Babyface, arguably the biggest songwriter of the 90’s! How could I say no? So I had to pump the breaks on film and TV, and follow this new venture of live music directing. Was that exactly what I had planned for my career? Not really. But I used the opportunity to rise in the industry and open so many more doors for myself.
5. LOOK WHERE OTHERS MIGHT NOT
Let’s face it, you’re not the only music artist seeking fame, fortune, and longevity. The line to success is definitely a crowded one. But where is everyone headed? Instead of standing in the same overcrowded line as everyone else, consider alternative, shorter lines that might not be as crowded. The trick is to start small, then grow.
EXAMPLE: As a boutique film and TV composer, I frequent smaller, more niche, and exclusive events that most other composers would never think to attend. That’s because I have my ear to the ground, constantly seeking networking opportunities within my field. There are plenty of organizations that are also seeking members who are legitimately working in the entertainment industry. Start looking for those hidden but much “shorter lines” to jump in and start networking!
6. ACT AS IF YOU'RE ALREADY WINNING
Be the artist that you've always dreamed of being. There’s an age old saying, “dress for the job you want, not the job you have.” Another way to think of this is act as if you’ve already achieved the success that you’re striving for, and operate as the “big dogs” do. – Careful! – This doesn’t mean to be fake and lie about your status. This simply means you must conduct yourself on the level at which you want to be perceived.
EXAMPLE: If you’re seeking the notoriety of a GRAMMY or any other type of award to leverage your career opportunities, then do everything you can to get involved with the people who run these organizations. (check out EP. 99 of TCM podcast with President of The Grammys, Harvey Mason Jr.) Become a voting member. If you already know some voting members, ask them for help. Join online communities, and Facebook Groups to start talking with anyone and everyone who’s involved in that space. Remember though, that fine line between confidence and arrogance is always easy to cross. So although you’re projecting yourself into this space of ownership and achievement by “acting as if,” be sure to exercise humility and kindness in all that you do and say!
7. KNOW YOUR WHY
Why are you relentlessly pursuing a career in music? Why are you so passionate about your music? Why do you feel compelled to share it with the world? Why are you aiming for that award? These are the million-dollar questions. Write your answers down, and revisit them on a regular basis to ensure that you’re on the right path toward your music career goals.
EXAMPLE: It’s okay to work multiple jobs outside of music to fund your music career goals. They say “money doesn’t buy happiness, but it pays for the pursuit.” You’re going to want the piece-of-mind of not having looming bills and debt while you rise in this industry. What a burden it is to be struggling to pay bills, while you are also trying to focus on your creative process. Once you start getting more gigs, sessions, and other streams of income with your music, then you can make a lateral career shift. Be smart about your financial choices as well as your reputation. Once you’ve established yourself as a reliable, responsible career musician, the sky's the limit of what you can accomplish!
I know first-hand just how hard it is to have a successful and sustainable career in music as I’ve been doing so for the past 30+ years. Take my experience and RUN WITH IT! Seriously, I share this knowledge with you purely for your benefit. The Career Musician is here to get you on the fast track to music success. And don’t just take it from me! Take it from industry movers and shakers like Leslie Odom Jr, John Powell, Nicole Row, Adam Blackstone, and over 150 more interviews on The Career Musician Podcast. Let their expertise guide you to your career goals!
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