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>.

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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.