music business tips

  • How to Handle Being Left Out

    Quite often, in the music industry (and even in school bands), you will find that there will be times where you will be excluded – not even considered, passed up on for a job opportunity, or not included for any variety of reasons.

    How you handle these situations, will help you maintain a healthy career and positive outlook, or the exact opposite if handled poorly.

    Each person develops their own way of dealing with rejection and being left out. Some better handle it better than others.

    Some of the obvious reactions are acting indifferent, becoming frustrated or angry, or interpreting it as an opportunity to improve and grow. Depending on how YOU choose to react, you can continue to enjoy doing music your own way, work unhappily the way others decide for you, or become frustrated and quit music all together. It is up to you to decide which way is the path that you’ll take.

    For young musicians, you may be excluded from a number of opportunities due to your age. Even if you play well enough to take part, your age can be a restriction (it can also be huge door opener). At this stage, it’s a part of who you are and you need to learn to accept it and use it to your advantage. If people discredit you for your age rather than accepting the merit of your musicianship, it’s their loss. There are plenty of opportunities for young talented musicians. It’s a matter of connecting with the right people. If you are left out, shrug your shoulders, try to figure out why and if it has nothing to do with the way you play, say “oh well” and move on. Don’t dwell on rejection.

    Like young musicians, female musicians can also face situations where they may be left out (or included) for matters outside of their abilities as a musician. For females, many biases come along with the gender. It is often automatically assumed (although this is becoming less and less common) that a female will not or cannot be as good as a guy because of reasons including not being aggressive enough. These opinions can make it difficult to be accepted as a musician (it was not until the 1970s that women were really able to work in orchestras – you can read our interview with bassist Carol Kaye to learn about some of the hardships that female musicians have faced because of their gender).

    Male or female, young or old, it is important to approach things with a mature business sense and not take anything that happens personally (even if you feel that it might have been). Music is a business and even when others are not “playing fair,” you should make every effort to run your business professionally. This ensures that your decisions are logical and mature rather than rash and not well thought out.

    Have you ever been left out? What did you learn from it? We’d love to hear about it in the comments!

    August 30, 2012 • Music and Career Advice • Views: 1491

  • How to Treat Your Fans

    Just to start out – the most important thing to remember about fans is that no matter what the fans say or do, it is always a compliment. They are your FANS, they love you, so if they say or do something insulting, it wasn’t meant that way!

    In this article, I have listed some of the “quirks” or “personalities” the fans tend to have and how to approach each. This article is exaggerated intentionally, quite tongue-in-cheek, although it does end with a realistic lesson to take away from reading the article.

    The Stalker (I just had to start with this one!)

    There are many ways to handle a stalker – it all depends on which action that person will respond to. Here are some suggestions: (1) Nicely tell them to give you space; (2) ignore them (not recommended, sometimes it just makes them mad); (3) get a bodyguard and have them look out for that person; (4) be rude to the person (also not recommended); (5) get a restraining order – only if you tried everything else and it doesn’t work. Some precautions to take if you have a stalker: hide valuables, never leave unattended items, avoid being alone, lock all the doors and windows to your house and cars, don’t say your phone numbers, address, or email addresses out loud, and be wary of who you give that information to, and last, go anywhere but home if you are being followed – preferably the police station.

    The Obsessive Fan

    The obsessive fan – everyone has dealt with someone of this character. An obsessive fan is usually the opposite gender as you (not always) and they constantly pursue any means of contact with you. In some cases, it can be a fan that has confused musical admiration for emotional and just needs to be set straight. However, an obsessive fan should not be ignored, but you should not give into their every need. In essence, treat them as you would any one else and they will eventually grow out of their obsession. If they do not – then you respond to them the same way you would a stalker.

    The Loyal Fan

    The loyal fan is the fan who shows up to all your gigs to support you and is willing to help you out (for you and not for them). It is really easy to take advantage of a loyal fan and not appreciate them. So it is key to appreciate everything they do (and express it to them). You also have to make sure that you don’t always have “favors” for them to do, even if they are willing. It is okay if you have them help out every once in a while, but not all the time.

    The I’m Only Hanging Around Cause It Makes Me Look Good But I’m Not Actually a Fan

    When you are successful, there are people who are going to want to be around you and/or be your friend solely for your success – it makes them look good. The only advice I have for you about these kind of people are to watch out for them. They can be very manipulative and you have to be careful not to fall into their trap. They pretend to be loyal fans, but really could care less about you and just want to share your success. Avoid these kind of people in every way except common courtesy.

    Friends and Family

    Never treat friends or family members like a fan. They are not fans, they are people who know you, love you, and support you! Be sure to spend time with them if they come to your gigs and tell them you appreciate them coming (something you should actually do with all of your fans, especially at small venues). But make special time for family (before or after the show).

    People Who Look Up to You

    If you ever have success, you are guaranteed to have people who want to be like you. They want to know how you got where you are, what gear you use, who you studied with, etc… Know that it is okay to tell them whatever they ask – for they can never be YOU or take your place or success, so there is no reason to be threatened by them or keep from aiding them in having some of the success you have had. For example – just because someone plays the same mouthpiece setup as you does not mean they are going to sound like you. People are different (I can’t emphasize this enough), so no two people will play (or sing) exactly the same. I do not recommend trying to sound the same as anyone else either – just try to be an individual!


    Kids kind of fall under the “I want to be you” category because of the degree of admiration they have and because of if a kid thinks you are cool – they do want to be you. However, since kids are attention craved – you make their day when you talk and/or play to them. Whenever there is a kid at one of my gigs, I will always try to interact with them. For example, before the gig or on break, play a song for them, talk to them and find out if they play something or want to; just talk to them; smile and wave at them; catch their eye and look at them while you are playing; etc. It is always important to make sure the kids enjoy the music too – they could be the next generation of musicians.


    Now peers (other musicians) aren’t necessarily fans, but do show up at the gig, so you do have to talk to them too (networking!!!). If they are a musician and you don’t know them, they will usually come talk to you, but if they don’t, you can always pick them out of the crowd because on tunes they know, they usually finger or tap along. If they are there, whether you know them or not – talk to them! It’s networking – a new connection. Therefore, someone now knows you exist which could lead to more gigs or opportunities. Do not let more gigs pass you by – as a musician, work comes few and far between (with exceptions). So in conclusion – network!

    General Notes: As far as fans go, you don’t NEED to go and talk to everyone at the gig, but you SHOULD if you can. Who knows, you could sell one more CD or earn more loyal fans or create relationships with people that you may later find incredibly valuable and irreplaceable. Regardless, be courteous and don’t trash ANYONE! Smile and be genuine. Know how to end a conversation and move on – “Well, it was very nice to talk to you. I hope you enjoy the rest of your night and I hope to see you again soon.”

    August 30, 2012 • Music and Career Advice • Views: 1510

  • The Role of Image and Gender in Your Music Career

    In the Jazz world, image isn’t as important as it is in many of the other music industries, but appearance still plays an important role in the shape of your career. Having “been” in the jazz industry and working with or knowing other musicians who have been in it longer or have performed in other music genres, I have concluded that image is very significant – even if it is not in an obvious way.

    Image can appear in a number of ways, it could be anything from being in an all girl band (image is your gender in this case) to dressing up in a suit just to respect the music and not look like a “bum” on stage. It is a matter of “looking the part”. However, your skill at your craft/instrument is also important – so you typically won’t get gigs based on your looks unless you are in pop music and look like a super model.

    Image versus skill in some cases is important, and in others is not. Depending on the gig, you could get hired no matter what gender you are or what you look like if you have killer chops whereas another you might be hired over another person if you dress nicer even if they play better. It is important that you can be flexible with your wardrobe in a sense and be willing to look the part for a gig. Ideally, you want to go for the best of both – play well and present yourself well.

    Sometimes your image, as far as gender, which you can’t really change, plays a role as well. From the female perspective, girls are sometimes hired or not hired solely based on their gender. Music is a male dominated industry, so music can be seen as a “guy” thing. Part of the appeal of a gig is the hang (also the money or the music) so guys sometimes feel like they can’t just “hang with the guys” with a girl there – which can be a reason they won’t hire a girl.

    But at the same time girls also may be hired because of their gender. One reason is for image – a girl in a band creates gender diversity in the group. Unfortunately, she also is sometimes hired so she can be something to look at by the guys in the band or by the audience. Another reason a girl may be hired is because the bandleader may have a crush and is looking for more than just the girl’s playing (watch out for this one). Whatever the reason for a girl being hired or not hired is just another example of the role image plays in the shape of one’s career as an artist. Some of the scenarios are quite unfortunate, but they exist and it is important to be aware of the possibility of each one.

    The importance of image as opposed to skill changes within each music genre. It is all about what the art is trying to do; if I may be so bold, how “authentic” the art is. Finding which shape your career takes is up to you and which direction makes you happy.

    It is important to understand that liking pop music and wanting to play pop does NOT make you a sellout. If you like jazz, but you play pop music for the money, well, that is different, but a lot of people do it. Jazz is a selective industry, so it is very difficult to make money as a jazz musician. Sometimes, musicians need to find a way to supplement their income, and that can take a variety of forms, including what some might call “selling out”.

    Try not to let the opinions and statements of others make decisions for you. Consider your own values and goals, then make your own decisions. You are the one that has to live with the choices you have made, no one else does, so make choices that give you satisfaction and will not cause you to regret your decisions later on.

    August 30, 2012 • Music and Career Advice • Views: 1438

  • Marketing Yourself | The DIY Musician III

    This article is for when you get out of college and you’re ready start your career but are not sure exactly how to go about it. The first step to establishing yourself as a musician is to sell your name as an artist. You really have to promote yourself – without being overly aggressive. You just have to be honest and tell people what you do – it is key not to exaggerate. They will find out the truth eventually.

    Ways to promote yourself include creating a press kit, staying in the public eye, writing articles for magazines and websites, creating your own website, maintaining your own blog, etc.

    Do not be afraid to ask other musicians questions about what they are doing. Most musicians are willing to help other people out because they are complimented that you think something you are doing is cool. Take advantage of every opportunity that makes itself available to you – “opportunity knocks once”. Have an outlook of saying yes first and then finding out how to do it immediately after. However, you do have to make sure that the task is “doable” before you commit to it.

    Take business classes, English and writing classes, and public speaking classes. The skills that the classes offer are irreplaceable. You need business experience because music is a business – you can’t be successful without good business skills. You need to take writing classes so you can write your own bio, or articles or even CD liner notes. You need to take speaking classes because you are always going to be in the public’s eye and you need to have speaking skills in front of big groups and small groups of people.

    An important skill to have is good time management. Find those few minutes to get what you need to get done finished. For example, in between writing your latest composition and going to the studio to record for that one guy’s new album, get a few minutes of practicing in. It is not enough to just be a good musician – there is a lot more involved in having a successful career as an artist. You have to really want it and be willing to work hard to get there.

    You also have to be a good educator – it is important to be able to tell other people what you are doing and how to do it. Plus, knowing how to explain what you’re doing will, in fact, improve your musicianship.

    Once you begin to have some success, it is time to advertise your music. If you want to take promoting yourself to the next level then why not buy some Magnetic signs for cars / vans? You can create a logo for yourself and easily attach it to your car without damaging the paint. Your vehicle can become a mobile advert for you and your music.

    Get your own website, have publicity pictures, a bio and written material about what you do. The internet is a valuable source of promotion. There are outlets all over for artists to get their music and information out – take advantage of it!

    Some suggestions:

    – Create a fan page on Facebook
    – Create a Twitter account
    Soundcloud channel with constantly updated clips
    – Take Berklee School of Music online classes (or some of the free Coursera alternatives)
    – Reverbnation artist profile
    – Maintain and produce videos on YouTube

    And for when you’re out doing gigs, make sure you have something physical to show or give to anyone who may come up asking about you. At the bare minimum, get yourself business cards from somewhere like Kaizen Print. Who knows where, or in whose hands, one of those cards may eventually end up?

    Want to learn more about the music business? Check out our popular FREE eBook – Advice for Young Musicians: From Established Music Professionals.

    Read Part I on working as your own manager and Part II on working as your own booking agent.

    August 30, 2012 • Music and Career Advice • Views: 1517

  • Finding Work as a Musician | Starting Your Career Part I

    One of the greatest difficulties in becoming a musician is starting to find work. Most kids that graduate from college do not yet have steady work in music, and many are not even sure about how to approach beginning their career.

    The music world is enormous, and when you are fresh out of college, it can be overwhelming. You go from competing with musicians 4 to 6 years older or younger than you to competing with people who have been playing 40 years longer than you. It may not seem fair, but that’s the way it always has been and very likely how it always will be. Showing initiative and using what skills you have to your advantage will go a long way in establishing the foundation of your career in music.

    Know that you can’t sit around waiting for opportunities to come knocking at your door. That just doesn’t happen. The best way to get out there and find work is to create the opportunities yourself. If no one else will hire you for their band, hire them for yours.

    The first thing to do is hit local venues such as cafes and retirement homes. These are places where you will find your presence and playing the most appreciated. Cafes and senior citizen centers often do not already have live entertainment (or are looking for more), and will most likely love the idea of introducing it into their centers. Keep in mind, however, that these efforts will often be unpaid monetarily, but you’ll make up for it in experience and have appreciative audiences.

    Create a demo CD with three or four tracks that you feel are the best representations of you or your group and bring it with you to local venues. Often, people will want to hear you before they hire you, so it is best to have a sample of what you do available.

    A lot of young musicians tend to rely on their schools – this is the biggest mistake you can make. School is not always going to be there to help you out, pat your back, and push you along. It comes to a point that your career is 100% based on your personal efforts to get out there and find work. The only person who is going to do anything for you is YOU. If something is going to get done, it is because you are going to do it. Sometimes this means trucking out to venues to meet the person who books entertainment, sometimes this means cold-calling, and sometimes this even means taking gigs that you’d rather not have to do. Music, if you are pursuing it as a career, is work. It’s your job, and so, there will be days were it isn’t fun. Just keep the big picture in mind and all of those things will be worth it in the long run.

    Jam sessions! Can’t get your own gig? Go play at a jam session just for the experience of performing live. Some young musicians believe that you have to be paid to play anywhere other than your own bedroom. This is definitely not true. You will find that a lot of your playing initially will be for free, and that’s okay. By “paying your dues,” you are getting out, gaining experience and growing as a player, which is more important than doing one gig every few months that pays however much money.

    The more you play, no matter how much it pays, the more people see you and hear you – creating more popularity as an artist. If you are popular with the listeners, you create a better chance of being hired by other musicians or by venues because you have a following and will bring more people to the gig. Having people come to a gig is important because it increases the chances of the venue hiring the group again because they are making more money when you are there.

    Surround yourself with other people who are going to want you to get better and pressure you into working hard in a positive way. The fastest ways to improve are peer pressure, embarrassment, competition, and frustration. But be careful to avoid negative peer pressure. Don’t put yourself in a situation that will lead you into wanting to quit music instead of improve.

    And don’t forget that one of the best ways to figure something out by doing it poorly a few times. If you are not ready to start working as a musician now, take a few small steps that you’re comfortable with in that direction. It is really important to get out there, meet people, market yourself, and show initiative – it goes a long way.

    Want to learn more about the music business? Check out our popular FREE eBook – <a href=”” target=”_blank”>Advice for Young Musicians: From Established Music Professionals</a>.

    August 30, 2012 • Music and Career Advice • Views: 1654

  • Being Young in the Music World

    The greatest struggle young jazz musicians face, is truly knowing what one needs to do to get their career started. When you first start out, it seems as simple as just playing your instrument. What few realize, is that there numerous other elements imperative to becoming a professional musician.

    Music, at times, can seem overwhelming. How do you get gigs? Where do you get ideas for projects, CDs, compositions? What is all that equipment attached to that person’s instrument?

    The solution to your questions and concerns lies with studying under a good teacher. A good teacher should be able to answer your questions because they have had experience as a professional musician. A good teacher should also be able to “kick your butt” – tell you when you are doing poorly and tell you how to fix it. They will also help you find your own shape as a musician and not mold you into their clone.

    The next thing that you really need to start working on, after developing beyond basic proficiency on your instrument, are connections. Your connections really start with the students you play with in band and with your teachers. I personally think that your private teacher (if they are a working, professional musician) can be your best connection. If you have potential, you try hard, and you do what he or she tells you, they will notice. If you get to a high enough level, they may even recommend you for gigs or invite you to sit in with them at their performances. Also, if you go to their gigs, you get to hear live music and meet more professional musicians (if your teacher introduces you to who he or she is playing with) – thus, more professional musicians that you know. Meeting other musicians and networking is very important – it gets your foot in the door of the music world.

    Another important thing to do is listen and “steal”, or emulate things other players do. You need to develop a sense of what you like, what you want to sound like (what sounds good to you?). Listening to other musicians play creates an awareness of what other people are doing. You begin hearing and deciding what you think sounds cool, learn it, and make it your own. Initially, it is important to emulate other players’ ideas to begin building up your jazz vocabulary. Your jazz vocabulary is the foundation for anything you can play – so the more you know, the more you can do.

    As far as establishing yourself as a musician at a young age, the process is very difficult. Because you are young, not very many people will be willing to take you seriously. The only way to really change this is by actually being able to play well. To be taken seriously as a musician is like being one of the adults. So, in a way, to be seen as one, you have to play like one (and act like one). There really isn’t a way to cheat the system and to be taken seriously as a young musician with little skill. Adult musicians who perform poorly aren’t even taken seriously.

    Lastly, and most importantly, is that you practice. The only way to get better is to practice. The greatest misunderstanding is that you are practicing if you are playing something you already know – it’s not. Working on something you don’t know is practicing. Think about it – playing or working. When you practice, it isn’t supposed to sound good. You are improving something you can’t do, so it will be awkward and you will make mistakes. If you only work while you are practicing, it can be very easy to get burnt out on your instrument or with music in general. It is important to spend some time just playing and having fun (as long as you don’t confuse playing with practicing).

    It isn’t always fun being a young musician but you are at an important stage in your development – socially and musically – both essential to who you will become as a professional musician. It is important that you don’t try to rush either aspect of your personal development.

    A lot of young musicians tend to compare themselves to how other musicians play. It is important to learn that sometimes people may not be better or worse than you – just different. They may do some things better than you, but you may also do other things better than them. If they do something that you wish you could do more like them, just figure out how they are doing it and learn to do it too (or ask them!).

    Expanding your ability and versatility on your instrument will help you grow as a young musician and it is easier to learn while you are young, so it is best to start now.[1] The foundations of your musicianship are set with what you are doing now – don’t let yourself miss out on any opportunities.

    Want more tips? Check out our popular FREE eBook – Advice for Young Musicians: From Established Music Professionals.


    1. There is actually a good argument that it is not easier to learn when you’re young, it’s actually that you have more energy and free time to dedicate yourself to learning different skills. Therefore, if you are not necessarily a “young” musician, that doesn’t mean it’s too late. If you put in the time, you can get far.

    August 30, 2012 • Music and Career Advice • Views: 1579

  • Working As Your Own Manager | The DIY Musician

    As an upcoming artist trying to pave your way and setup your A-team, the difference between a manager, booking agent, and publicist can be pretty blurred. So, to start out, it is important to clarify the difference (especially since it’s illegal in some states for one person to take on more than one of those roles).

    A manager is usually the first person an up and coming artist has or should have to help them out. For many young artists, a parent or both parents act as their manager(s). In essence, a manager is an artist’s consultant – they offer an artist advice and guidance about which steps they need to take to further develop their career. A manager established in the industry would also be able to provide their artist(s) with the necessary contact information to get a hold of record labels, etc. They negotiate on the artist’s behalf and often play the “bad guy” in different situations so that the artist doesn’t have to do it and can maintain their image when and if things go wrong. If you were to hire a manager, they typically charge 15-50% commission.

    In comparison, a booking agent gets an artist gigs. A booking agent contacts promoters and venues to book your act. How valuable you are to the agent determines how hard they work to get you gigs. A booking agent will take about 10% of the money you get for a show. One thing regarding booking agents to be aware of, is what is written in your agreement with them. Some booking agents require that they have 100% rights to who gets to book you, meaning you cannot even book gigs for yourself. You want to try to avoid this – at least until you are certain that they will get you enough work.

    Lastly, a publicist is the one who gets you exposure to the press as an artist. They send out a press release to television stations, radio stations, newspapers, etc. to try to get you interviewed or featured. A publicist can charge anywhere from $500-3,000 and up a month.

    If you are not up to being your own manager/booking agent/publicist, you may want to hire someone to fill one, two or all three of these roles. However, keep in mind that most managers, booking agents and publicists will not take you on unless you have a record deal, get radio airplay, or are an established artist. Doing all these things on your own can be pretty difficult, but if you find that you want to or have no other options, here are a few suggestions to increase your chances of success:

    1. Perseverance – One of the most important qualities to have is perseverance. For every ten times you are told “no”, one person will say “yes” – you just have to have the drive to keep going and trying after you are told “no” so many times.

    2. When you are told “no” – An important thing to learn now is that when someone tells you “no”, it isn’t anything personal. Music is a business; they have to look out for the company’s best interests and sometimes, that may not include you. Besides, they probably told twenty other people “no” that day before you. But, when someone does say “no”, take it as a chance to ask about other opportunities. In the case of a promoter, ask about future events that still have openings or contact information for another local promoter that still might have openings. Never let a conversation end at “no”. This applies to anyone that you will talk to – record labels, managers, promoters, booking agents, and publicists. When its appropriate, you may even ask why you were told no and if there is something you can improve upon in the future.

    3. Always say “thank you, regardless of the response you get – People in the music business (like any other business) are very busy. You should be grateful you even got them on the phone or received an email response at all. Always say thank you. It will help build the foundation for a better relationship in the future.

    4. Be over prepared – Have extra press kits pre-assembled so you can send them out the door last minute. Always carry CDs, promotional materials, and business cards with you wherever you go. You never know who you might run into.

    5. Be cautious – Name dropping can be very dangerous. Down the road you will find that the music business is a very small world – everyone knows everyone else. You may say something slightly exaggerated, only to find out that the person you are talking to is best friends with the person you were just talking about. NEVER EVER SAY ANYTHING BAD ABOUT ANOTHER ARTIST. And I mean never. It is the fastest way to make enemies. You may bash someone the person you are talking to dislikes, but they will still wonder what you say about them when they are not there. It is not a good way to network and form relationships.

    6. Be honest – Tell the truth when speaking to people, when writing bios, articles, press kit information. If you lie, you will be found out very quick.

    For more information about booking your own gigs, and getting work as a musician, be sure to read Part II: Working as Your Own Booking Agent.


    Commission – The percentage of money that your manager or booking agent will take off of the money that you make for a gig.

    Promoter – Someone who books large events such as concerts and festivals.

    Venues – Anywhere that offers or has the potential to offer live music; a coffee house, bar, restaurant, theater, winery, etc…

    Press Release – A statement written to the press giving information on an artist or a CD release. (One Page)

    Press Kit – a package of promotional material given to the press to inform them about an artist.

    Name Dropping – using someone else’s name to make yourself look better.

    Want to learn more about the music business? Check out our popular FREE eBook – Advice for Young Musicians: From Established Music Professionals.

    August 30, 2012 • Music and Career Advice • Views: 1651