5 Things I Think About Every Day as a Professional Musician
If you were to take a look at my planner, you'd see no two days alike. I have a career that's filled with a great amount of variety. One day I'm playing musical theatre auditions, the next day I may be playing organ at a church, the next day I might have a songwriting session with a singer. Most of my musician friends are the same waywe all have many different kinds of gigs that fill up our weeks.
But while everyday is different, there are certain things that I think about everyday as a professional musician, and I believe they are vital to moving forward in this career.
1.) What do I need to prepare?
Firstthe obvious. What do I need to practice? Is there music, or skills even, that I need to prepare today? Being a professional musician is a job that, for me, requires constant prep and self-initiative in order to be successful.
Tomorrow, for instance, I'm teaching a few new songs to a group of singers and I needed to learn the music today. Later in the week I have a singer coming over that needs a chart written outand I'm working on that tonight.
As far as skills go, there's always something to learn or brush up on. I just recently received my Finale 2011 upgrade, and there are a few new features I'm working on mastering. I'm always finding new YouTube videos about Logic that are helpful.
And if there's nothing to prepare, there's always that book of Bach on my shelf that I've slowly been making my way through.
2.) What's New in the Industry?
I have Google alerts that help me keep in touch with developments in my field. I subscribe to Playbill.com's RSS feed (which, frankly, sends an overwhelming amount of information). I try to keep up with the news from Broadway, music technology and my favorite artists.
Perhaps more importantly, I keep up with my colleagues online as well. I have a group set up on Facebook to show me the status updates of my musician and industry friends. I like to see what projects they are working on, and what's new in their world. I visit Twitter now and then (although I haven't yet found Twitter to be very valuable to me).
I subscribe to the RSS feeds of a few friends blogs, and I read those as they put new content up.
As a professional, freelancing musician, my friendships and relationships with others in the business are perhaps my most valuable asset in acquiring future work. We all trade work among ourselves and we all recommend each other to those that need us. I would estimate that 99% of my daily work comes from word-of-mouth recommendations of friends. So keeping up with friendships is very important.
3.) How Can I Better Monetize My Content?
I have two albums, two blogs and a number of songs that I've written in the past few years. Both albums invariably sell better when I concentrate on marketing them as best I can, so I try to spend a little time each week finding new ways to reach my audience. This can be as simple as writing a blog post about the process of recording one of the albums, or posting a free track to my friends on Facebook.
The websites I help run bring in income through advertising and affiliate fees. Moving forward as a working webmaster involves posting a steady amount of new content on the sites, tweaking SEO to increase traffic, and looking for new and innovative ways to monetize the traffic that is already coming in. The most challenging part, the part that takes some thought each day, is securing or writing a steady stream of content that's interesting to my readers.
With songwriting, I try to connect each day with people that might be interested in my songs. Singers here in the city, musicians elsewhere in the country. I try to establish collaborative relationships with other artists and creators who's work I admire. If I have a new song I often write it out in several keys and post it on my website for singer's to download. Getting my own work out into the world is a slow burn and a daily process.
4.) How Can I Add to My Library of Content?
I believe in the long-tail monetization of creative content. My 2006 and 2009 albums are still selling, and my blogs from a few years back are still bring in advertising. So it's worth continuing to create content and working to monetize it.
So I try to make something new each day. Perhaps it's a little groove, or a goofy ringtone, a full song or a new article. Maybe it's even just a thoroughly written email, a new blog post on my personal website, or piano recording of some standard rep. As I see it, I can't call myself a creative person unless I createso I try to create daily.
Eventually this creation coalesces into marketable collectionslike albums and blogs. And when that happensI refer to #3.
5.) What's the Next Thing I Can Try?
Music, theatre, entertainmentthis is a crazy business to make a living in. The shake-up of the past 15 yearsI'm referring to the information revolution of the internethas put the industry in what seems like a constant transition. Moreover, it doesn't seem to me like the industry has yet started to solidly settle into a new model for us. The large corporations in our industry (labels, studios, etc.) are still in crisis and independent artists are always finding new ways to make money in this new frontier.
So everyday I try to consider what else I could be doing to help my career. Is there something new in the business I haven't tried yet? Is there a new way, or a better way, to use existing technology? Is there a new way to organize and distribute contentthat will help me or the people around me advance in our career paths?
I'm very lucky to have a great group of working musicians that I call friends. If I've learned anything from watching their successes, it's that this career path requires perseverance and consistency. They work just as hard when things are easy as they do when things are hard. Our schedules may change radically from day-to-day, but the 5 things I listed above help all of us move forward as professional musicians.