When starting out the music industry, it’s important to find something that sets you apart from the rest. Music is a highly competitive career to choose, and so it’s important to stand out.

As you’re getting started, spend a bit of time figuring out what makes you different as a performer. It may be the way you perform, how you present yourself on stage, your sense of humor, your style, or how you play your instrument. It may even be a combination of two or more of the above factors that set you apart.

Take Dizzy Gillespie, for example. Dizzy had a lot going for him as a performer not limited to his image and the way he dressed to his actual performance as an artist. In addition to making Gillespie a fun and interesting musician to see perform, this combination made him a notable and extremely influential figure in jazz.

In case you’re unfamiliar with Dizzy or the unique attributes that we’re referring to, here are just a few:

  • He had a unique way of playing (his embouchure)
  • His trumpet stood out because his bell was bent
  • He had a certain way he dressed (beret and glasses)
  • His playing style also set him apart.
  • He also had a great stage presence and was known for his humorous antics

You can read more about Mr. Gillespie in our article on him here.

Dizzy’s music and image were his “brand,” his identity as an artist. Developing your “brand,” your identity, and those things that make you stand out will set you apart from other musicians competing in the same space and give you a competitive advantage. When people ask why they should hire you or your band, you have an answer. You have something that draws people to your shows.

But it isn’t just your “brand” that makes you stand out, it’s the way you run your business. This holds true for a lot of businesses that make use of music streaming services. And if you want to be able to hear your music in numerous retail establishments and other places in the future, you should get into the habit of listening to as many different genres of music as possible. One way to do so is by becoming a SiriusXM subscriber (for more info, check out here). Efforts need to go in many different directions when establishing a brand of your own. That little fact is sometimes easily forgotten. More often than not, we tend to focus on the more creative aspects of our jobs and the more administrative tasks get ignored.

But if you want to succeed, you have to treat your music as a business.

There are a few things you can do to ensure that you run your music business more professionally and we’ve included a few of our suggestions in this post. If you feel anything is missing from this list, feel free to add them in the comments!

If you plan on succeeding in music, there are a few qualities you should strive to develop. You should be a self-starter (meaning you can motivate yourself to work), proactive, organized and detail oriented, flexible, versatile, have industry knowledge, be willing to take on new opportunities, be a quick learner, creative, and willing to communicate.

Develop writing and/or design skills so that you don’t have to rely on others to do those things for you.

What does your voicemail recording say about you? Your social media sites? Your email address? Be aware of all those things because the people you work with will make assumptions based upon them.

Don’t ever tell people you procrastinate or put things off. If you’re ever asked what your weaknesses are (in an interview, for example), find a way to make it a positive.

If you make a mistake, don’t make excuses. Own up to it. Everyone makes mistakes, but fewer people actually take responsibility for the mistakes they’ve made.

Use the word “but” as little as possible.

Be confident in what you do. If you lack confidence, it will come across in your songwriting and in your performance.

Always be professional. Don’t allow yourself to get to comfortable. Things you shouldn’t do include showing up to rehearsals in flip flops, chewing gum while you play, not brushing your hair, etc.

Decide how committed you are to pursuing what you want. Are you willing to go at it 100% even if it means you won’t have a lot of money? Do you want to take on a full or part time job to support your career financially?

Do your homework. That means that you should not only practice and develop your craft, but you should have an awareness of what’s going on the industry (as previously mentioned). You should know what you’re talking about.

Get any agreements you make in writing. Always.

If you make a commitment to do something, make sure you deliver it and if you can, do more than required. Always go above and beyond.

Release dates are critical. Once again, do your homework. Before you release an album or single, make sure you know what else is timed to release around the same time, or whatever else may be going on.

Think before you act. A bad decision can be made in 30 seconds, but the effects of that decision can last for 30 years.

If you’re on the phone with someone, don’t do other things. They can hear you typing on the computer and they can tell you’re distracted no matter how good you think you are at multitasking.

Whenever you make a call, make sure you ask the other person if it’s a good time to talk before you launch into a conversation.

If you’re on a gig as a side person, make sure you get permission from the band leader to hand out your card. It’s bad form to promote yourself on someone else’s gig.

And last but not least, know your instrument. Practice, practice, practice!

What is your advice for standing out in the music industry?

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

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Published by Shannon Kennedy

Shannon Kennedy is a vocalist and saxophonist living in Southern California. She is author of "The Album Checklist" and the founder of Teen Jazz. She has been contributing articles to music magaizines and websites since 2004.