As a musician and music educator, we often have young musicians asking us what they should do to pursue a career in music. Being a musician is definitely an exciting and rewarding career, but the path towards it can often be unclear. What do you have to do before you are a musician? Sing three Taylor Swift songs without stopping? Play the intro to ‘Smoke on the Water’ on your guitar? People are excited about pursuing careers in music, and have many varied interests, but aren’t completely clear on the path ahead of them. If you want to be a doctor or a lawyer or an engineer, your path to your dream career is clear – get the right degree, do internships, work hard, and you’ll be fine.
To be a musician, these are the top ten things to keep in mind:
- Work hard EVERYDAY – It might look like a lot of great bands started in their (parents’) basements, which is a great place to hang around and do nothing, but you’d better believe they practiced a lot. It helps to have a log and track your progress. Can you put in at least 100 hours a month? 200?
- Face rejection – No artist in the history of the universe has created music that everybody can love. Some people will not like what you do. It’s ok.
- No skills go to waste – Learn as much as you can about as many things as you can. Mongolian Throat Singing? Listen to it! Kabuki? Experience it! Build an interdisciplinary skill set so you know about many things in your field.
- Be you – It’s great to have idols and people who you admire and want to be like. However, make sure you find your own artistic voice. Be the best you, not a wannabe someone else.
- Master your voice or instrument – This doesn’t need any explanation. If you sing and play multiple instruments, even better!
- Understand music production – It’s critical to have at least a basic understanding of how music is made and produced. You should know how to create the sound you want.
- Songwriting – Have a foundation in composing and songwriting. Even if that’s not your main focus, it’ll help you create your own voice and style.
- Social media is important – As a musician, use social media to connect with you audience and tell your story. Understand how different platforms work and what kind of content you need to create from them.
- Understand how the music business works – From copyrights to publishing to contracts, there’s a lot to unpack. Know the business and know your rights!
- Make friends – A career in music is a team sport!