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Topic: Career tips for young musicians

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  1. #1

    Career tips for young musicians

    Hey, guys.

    Since we have a diverse crowd here, I thought I'd bounce this off you. The Atlanta chapter of the Recording Acadamy has put out a call for local members interested in a mentoring program for the Atlanta area schools, basically an opportunity for us to give a little back to the community and make a difference in the lives of younger musicians. A lot of people helped me when I was younger. I'm enthusiastic about passing it on.

    I've been writing books and speaking for years on the "soft skills" side of careers, a constant across industries. People generally know the technical side of what they do as it's the thing they enjoy (musicians playing instrument, programmers writing code, accountants crunching numbers...). However, many people fail to get where they want with their careers because they don't consider the "people" side of career success. This is especially true for musicians, who seem to think that the music is all that matters, and yet wonder why they're always broke.

    My age preference will be high school and college students, as they're old enough to start thinking about getting gigs, making a living, etc. I want to teach them some of the basic marketing, business, and political skills that are so critical to eating on a regular basis, and yet so few working musicians master. So, here's the topics I'm currently considering. Based on your own experience, successes or difficulties in the music business, what other topics of this nature do you think would be valuable for these guys? I want them to hit the streets with an unfair advantage!
    • Passing the audition (getting in the band)
    • Marketing and promotion 101
    • Coping with internal politics
    • The power of building relationships
    • Conducting yourself as a pro
    I've worked with a lot of folks over the years who were incredibly talented (much more than I) as artists and yet tofu for brains at managing their careers. They could have made a great living with their art and enjoyed much acclaim, but continually shot themselves in the foot because they didn't bother to learn these skills. If I can help the next generation of musicians be better prepared for the harsh realities of the business so that they can succeed, even if I only touch a few lives, it would be a wonderful experience.

    What topics am I missing here? What things like this did you learn the hard way that I should include? I've been writing about these things for so long I've lost perspective on what's obvious and what's not.

    If you were in high school / college and one of the old dogs dropped in to show you how the game works, what else would you want to know?
    Christopher Duncan
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Author of
    Unite the Tribes and The Career Programmer
    www.PracticalUSA.com


  2. #2
    Senior Member Styxx's Avatar
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    Thumbs up Re: Career tips for young musicians

    Wow, I would say you have a lot of ground to cover here. As a teacher I would begin by telling them to always have a positive attitude in everything the do.
    Hmmmmm, a brain twister eh Duncan?
    Styxx

  3. #3

    Re: Career tips for young musicians

    Quote Originally Posted by Danielle
    What "genre" of music are we talking about here?
    Actually, I'm not talking about the music itself, but rather how to conduct yourself professionally in the world of music. Auditions frequently don't hire the best player, they add the best player who also fits into the vibe of the group and seems dependable & easy to work with. Getting good gigs is often much more about good networking skills than how great a guitar solo you can play. If you run a recording studio and don't address marketing and promotion, you end up with no clients.

    No matter what aspect of music we build a career in, it's these "soft skills" that most artistic creatures ignore. Consequently, those with less creative talent but better people skills often get the gigs. If you want to make a living in this screwy biz, you have to learn more than just your scales, or the business will chew you up and spit you out. That's where I want to help these guys, so they don't have to learn it the hard way.
    Christopher Duncan
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Author of
    Unite the Tribes and The Career Programmer
    www.PracticalUSA.com


  4. #4

    Re: Career tips for young musicians

    Quote Originally Posted by Danielle
    Oh I see your meaning I should rephrase that then to what type of "career"! Teaching, studio runner, session player for hire ect ect and how to succeed in such things I was confused.
    All of the above, and then some!
    Christopher Duncan
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Author of
    Unite the Tribes and The Career Programmer
    www.PracticalUSA.com


  5. #5

    Re: Career tips for young musicians

    You probably wouldn't be suprised to learn that it's exactly the same for people looking to get into the film or television industry (myself included). Problem here in New Zealand is we've got a LOT of people wanting to get in, and very few places for them to get into. You either have to have amazing luck, great "soft skills," or the determination to write something amazing, have the ability to convince a producer that it's amazing, and get them to help get the funding....which would be amazing. (I'm after the latter).

    Film funding here isn't too bad...especially for short films. The government has some good arts funding schemes, and a bit of that goes to new film makers. The less you want, the easier it is to get...better the script the more money you can get. I've seen enough badly written short films that could have been made for lessto know I'm in with a pretty good shot of getting descent funding.

    But as to regular income...having the soft skills is exactly the same. In my case it was bad timing, or leaving something too late by a few days...I may have just missed out on a lot of extra work - I've got all the skills, to the point I'd say I'm one of the best all rounders you'd find for my price-range. It seems everyone wants me as a freelancer! It would be OK if there was more work... lol

    Anyway, it is very similar to what you're on about. And high school is a very good time to teach it. IMHO I think high school spends so much time teaching kids facts, that not enough time finding out what they want to do when they leave...and that isn't necessarily what a lot of teenagers think it is. They need a whole course on "what are you doing for the rest of your life." It's true though - most people leave school thinking "well I want to be in the blabla industry." They then go to university (because you HAVE to got there if you want to get a job these days), get their degree in blabla studies, then realise that they don't want to do that for the rest of their lives, hold their degree in one hand and a lighter in the other. They then spend the next couple of years figuring out what they want to do...what they SHOULD have been doing at high school.

    As you can see, this is a subject close to my heart - I mean how does a 12 or 13 year old heading into high school, who is planning on what subjects to take for the rest of their school career, really know who they are going to be. Granted, some do...but that is only some.

    Stepping down from the soap box
    Last edited by Matt R.; 11-16-2004 at 04:15 PM. Reason: I missed a few words

  6. #6
    Senior Member Styxx's Avatar
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    Re: Career tips for young musicians

    The more I thought about this the more I said to myself. Self, I said! Things have changed so much since you were wet behind the ears. What could you possible tell them that could be useful in today’s musical market? It came down to one statement, "play the game, everybody plays the game."
    Styxx

  7. #7

    Re: Career tips for young musicians

    Hopefully I'll win the lottery, so I won't have to work when I get out of college . . . Actually, I'm majoring in Computer Engineering, so unless some kind of miraculous event happens in my life, I'll probably continue composing as just a hobbyist . . .
    Sean Patrick Hannifin
    My MP3s | My Melody Generator | my album
    "serious music" ... as if the rest of us are just kidding

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