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Topic: Thinking about a career in music - Need advice...

  1. #1

    Thinking about a career in music - Need advice...

    Hello my dear friends!

    My last year was filled with many changes, relevations, tragedies and catastrophies... During all these changes I discovered how much I enjoy creating music and how much less I enjoy anything else. This made me start thinking about making a living with my music. I've got talent, so much is for sure. But I have no idea about the rest.

    On the other hand I've been working for nearly 10 years on learning a different profession. I still can't shake off the nagging thought that I wasted nearly a 3rd of my life, going in the wrong direction.

    All these thoughts keep making me afraid. Actually very, very, scared. I feel quite lost and desperate. So I decided to get over my depressions start finding out what my fate is. Doing something feels better than sitting around and being mortified. Now why did I start this thread in the first place?!?

    I would love to get in contact with some other composers in Austria and talk with them. Is there any fellow GPo user, that would like to give me some insight in how "the business" works here in Europe or Austria? Or how their life goes?

    I also would like to hear what you all have to say to these problems of mine. How did you get into music? When did you decide to take the plunge and go for it? How did you find out THIS was the right way for you? Where did you find the advice and support you needed?

    All input is appreciated. I ask this question in this forum, because of all the people in the world I value your opinions, insight and experience as well as your friendlyness and kindness most. Please help me. This is driving me mad...
    Greetings from Vienna!
    My website: Above the staff.net

  2. #2

    Re: Thinking about a career in music - Need advice...

    Hey, Pete.

    For openers, you've got a lot of company in the life decisions you're considering. A great many artistic souls have had to weigh their desire to pursue their art against the need to eat on a regular basis, and it's rarely a simple situation. And a great many have succeeded in finding a way to pay the bills with their art, so there's hope!

    I've always lived in America, so I don't know anything at all about the realities of life in Europe. However, I can give you some advice that I believe to be truly universal, and it will go a long way towards helping you make a living with your music. These are high level points, of course, but with effort and exploration I'm sure you'll be able to pursue each of them.
    1. Realize that music is not just art. It's a business, and you must approach it as such. Failing (or refusing) to recognize this is the most critical mistake that unsuccessful musicians make.
    2. You must become adept at marketing and promoting yourself. Never expect anyone to do this for you. You're the only person you can count on. There are countless books, articles on the Internet, and discussion forums to help you in this area. Lots of people write good music. The paying gig goes to the guy who can sell himself. And of course, people have to know you exist before you can have the opportunity to sell yourself. Promotion. Marketing. These are your tools, just like a hammer for a carpenter.
    3. Make the study of human nature a high priority. When you understand how people will react, what motivates them, what they care about, and what they like in relationships, you've got a ton of ammunition for point #2.
    4. Master effective communications skills. People don't always know how to express what they mean. When you're able to draw it out and express it for them, you gain a reputation for being someone who's incredibly easy to work with, which is great for referrals and repeat business.
    5. Networking, networking, networking. Get out. Make friends in the industry. Make introductions and connections for other people to help them out. Go out of your way to do things for others expecting nothing in return but the joy of doing a good deed. Become known in your area as someone who's friendly, helpful and unselfish. Assuming you tend to all the other points, when these people hear about work, they'll instantly say, "Hey, I wonder if Pete has time to do this - he's a good guy."
    6. Most of all, remember this. Assuming that the basic level of talent is there, the musician who's a nice guy, honest, dependable and enjoyable to work with is the one who gets the gig. At the end of the day, it's all about people.
    Hopefully, all of this sounded incredibly obvious, and it's really nothing more than common sense. However, most musicians go into the world thinking that they shouldn't have to do anything but create music. It just doesn't work that way. If you get really, really serious about gaining skill in the areas I've pointed out, you're going to get work, and keep working.

    Maybe you work a day job at the same time as you're building your business up, but eventually you're going to be making enough to live on and can make the transition without worrying about it, because the money will already be there.

    You've got the talent, man. Get serious about being a professional, and you're on your way.

    So go for it!
    Christopher Duncan
    Author of
    Unite the Tribes and The Career Programmer

  3. #3

    Re: Thinking about a career in music - Need advice...

    That was very helpful for me as well, Christopher!
    As most of y'all know, I'm 15 and also looking foreward to a career in music, so all said on this thread will also benifit me and I'm sure MANY, many others!


  4. #4
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Oct 2003
    NW Illinois

    Re: Thinking about a career in music - Need advice...

    Don't forget that writing music for hire is a completely different animal than writing for the joy it gives you personally. It's possible to choose a different career path and retain your passion and joy for making music. It's also possible to choose music as a profession and lose that joy. Be careful what you ask for, 'cause you might get it.


  5. #5

    Re: Thinking about a career in music - Need advice...


    I'm a professional musicien (my principal position is trumpet player in an orchestra) and I also teach my instrument and have some commands for writing music.
    I live in France and I don't know how the "buisiness" is in Austria, but I think I could give you some advices if you want to make a living with your music.
    1) Get a cool job that makes you earn enough money to live (it seems an idiot advice, but I see so many musicien that doesn't earn enough, and get so desapointed that they quit their job)
    2) If you want to be a composer, meet a lot of the ones you like, and show them your work. Be carefull, the work you'll have to show must be perfect. I get my first command after a meeting with a band director; I show him a complete score for orchestra with a tape of this work. He as accepted to play my music after a rehersall and like it. I had a phone call the next week for a command.
    3) be patient, and accept any remark about your work (even you don't agree
    4) Work, work and work. even I'm very busy with my work, I oblige myself to write some music each day; I consider that composing is like an instrument; you have to practice each day if you want to be good.
    The last advice I could give to you, is t ear what's inside your mind. If you really want to be a composer, that may take time before you make a living with your music, but you'll be a composer Don't miss your way man...
    It seems I'm speaking like my grandfather "you should do this, never do that....
    So I'll just wish you the best.
    On mac G 5 2x2,5 Ghz, 2,5 Go RAM

  6. #6

    Re: Thinking about a career in music - Need advice...

    Hey, guys.

    I bumped this thread because we've got one of our own here who's looking for help and advice. That's what community is all about, and I know there's a lot more people here who have valuable insights that Pete, and others, could really use.

    So come on, folks. Step up to the plate and share what you've learned with those who need the benefit of your wisdom. It's the GPO thing to do.
    Christopher Duncan
    Author of
    Unite the Tribes and The Career Programmer

  7. #7

    Re: Thinking about a career in music - Need advice...

    I'll post my 2 cents here, with the disclaimer that I am only semi-pro and am still in the very beginning of a career, but maybe that puts me closer to home on some of these points.

    Christopher - your post is succinct and dead-on. Every point you make is %100 exactly right from my experience so far.

    One thing I would add is that if you want to be a composer (or what have you), get out there and DO IT, money or not. Do it as much as you can. There - you have a 'career' - defined here more as an 'arc' or path. You are doing what you are, you are a composer. This will put you on your way to building your business, being in the 'scene', meeting people, all of which are an extension of this path. But first, do. Put it out there. The rest will be a matter of time, thoughtful strategy, and determination.

    Jeff's point is also very valid - something my parents (pro musicians) warned and warn me about. Once you make a career out of music, the business side will take up %90 of what you do, composing %10, and that's probably a generous estimate. This is not meant as a deterrant, necessarily - networking, and dealing with the business side of things can actually be very creative and rewarding in and of itself, if you attack it that way.

    Again, one thing I really liked about Christopher's post is that he's not giving you a step-by-step guide, do this, then this. There are thousands of permutations on how you might advance in and grow your career, but in each one, all of Christopher's points are relevant and necessary. Be open to different ways of getting to the same place. Be flexible and adaptable, and imagine many ways to overcome your obstacles. Opportunity wears many disguises!

    Get out there. Do what you do. Tell EVERY SINGLE PERSON you meet or know what you do. Meet and mingle with others who do the same. Never stop learning about and improving what you are doing. Believe in what you do and have a support team that does too - they will be there to help you through what rejection may come - and there will be lots of that! It's part and parcel of putting yourself out there. The bigger the rewards, the bigger the risk.

    I hope this doesn't come across as pedantic - these are just things that have helped me greatly in my short time working at building my own career.

    Cheers, and good luck!!


  8. #8

    Re: Thinking about a career in music - Need advice...

    I can understand someone coming to a point, where they say.." I would rather have a bad job involved with music, than a good job doing something else."
    I would like to give practical advice, but so much depends on your life situation. Married with 10 children is different from single with few responsibilities.
    I do music proffesionally, and I make my money from 3 main Areas.
    Playing. I have 3 different groups of my own, I play in 4 or 5 groups that other people run.I play duos with 3 different people. I do the occasional recording session for variuos writers, and studio owners.
    Do you Play? What instrument. What styles? Can you read fluently.Can you improvise.?
    Teaching I teach privately a handful of compostion and piano students.I also teach an advanced Jazz class at a local community centre.
    Composing I write albums for my band, and have done stuff for theatre, tv, radio, advertising,Library music.
    The thing I most enjoy is composition.If money were no object, I would only do composition.But the other stuff is ok.When I play a Cole Porter song in a restaurant duo, I am picking stuff up I might use in a composition.So everything feeds into that.
    Most of the composers I know make a large part of there income from teaching.So that is the first area you should look at.
    It is difficult to offer more concrete advice without knowing your life circumstances.But I hope some of this helps.

  9. #9

    Re: Thinking about a career in music - Need advice...

    Thank you very much for all you helpful replies! I took my time to think about each and every word you said and did not reply immediately. All your different approaches and viewpoints are most helpful and appreciated. I cannot thank you enough for your input.

    It seems that I will have to perform a 3-step program:

    1) Find out where I stand.
    2) Find out what I want.
    3) Take the neccessary steps to get where I want to be.

    My first step will be to get in contact with a slovakian musician friend of mine. He is producing his own CDs all the time and invited me into his studio some time ago. Seems that it is time to scrape together all my courage and try it. I really have to work on my social networking skills, which unfortunately are totally under-developed.

    For now I will try pursuing 2 things at the same time: My first career, which I have been working on for so long plus the composition of music (Even when it means only 2 minutes dealing with music stuff per day).

    Thank you again for your kind words.
    Greetings from Vienna!
    My website: Above the staff.net

  10. #10
    Senior Member Styxx's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2004
    West Seneca, NY

    Thumbs up Re: Thinking about a career in music - Need advice...

    The best advise I could give you is, STAY THE HECK OUT OF BUFFALO!

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