Amateur musicians face steeper competition than ever before in a digital era when music can be made and shared in a few clicks, or mixed live on stage with high-tech hardware to make every performance unique. In addition to having a unique style, a skillful hand and a willingness to learn, you’ll need some practical skills to help you make the transition from amateur musician to pro.
These tips aren’t quick fixes that will send you shooting to the top, so if you’re looking for a magic bullet you may want to try somewhere else. If instead you’re dedicated to your craft and bettering your profession, keep reading to see how you could improve.
- Treat Music Like a Business
The first, most important and easiest change you need to make is how you think about music and money. We’re not suggesting that you sell out and start making mass-consumer music to make a buck, but we are saying that if you want people to pay you for your services, you have to earn it first.
Specifically, that means dressing the part for any gig, whether it be a street festival or a wedding. You may have a signature look, but if it doesn’t conform to the standards of your gig, drop it for now and dress appropriately.
Always show up early, not on time, as this will make you stand out against your competition of amateur musicians who are notoriously flaky. Make a real commitment to timeliness.
Don’t neglect to order business cards with all your contact information clearly posted. Nothing fancy, but enough to prove that you take your profession seriously.
- Learn Multiple Instruments
You may feel like you’ve already got it covered with years of hard mastery over a guitar or keyboard, but your journey isn’t over. When it comes to working with other musicians, you want to be as flexible and skillful as possible, able to pick up multiple instruments for different projects as needed.
Make it easy on yourself and start in a vein you’re comfortable in- if you’re already a guitarist, pick up the bass. Pianists can graduate to pure percussion and vice versa. The key is not to stress yourself and to experiment and learn naturally.
- Have The Right Technical Skills
It’s much more difficult for technophobe musicians who aren’t keen on modern advances to keep up in the industry. Digital music, computers and the internet have had a huge impact on the music world and it’s important for you to stay in touch with the latest software and hardware available.
Ideally, you will have ownership of and know how to use a DAW, or Digital Audio Workstation. Music making and home DJing has become so popular that there are a lot of lightweight DAWs on the market, but those looking to go pro should look into better tools like Cubase, Ableton and Pro Tools. These programs will work with your instruments and other equipment to record, mix and finish songs in one place.
Professional DAWs can be intimidating to first-time users, so try an Ableton Live 9 tutorial for example to see how easy and fun they are to use.
MIDI controllers are used with DAWs to make digital music more tactile, and come in a large variety including some which look like instruments and others which simply feature buttons. Many musicians and DJs use MIDI controllers on a regular basis, especially in “one-man-band” situations.
Even more important perhaps than having a grasp of the technical side of music, you should be familiar with social media networking, and look into creating your own website. From your website you could sell music and merchandise, keep fans up-to-date about upcoming gigs and more. Don’t neglect your internet presence when trying to put your professional stamp on the music world.
Hard Work and a Little Bit of Luck
No one has ever been handed a successful music career, and like anything worth having, it will take a lot of hard work and effort to start supporting yourself with your music. Don’t give up though and give luck an opportunity to find you by always putting yourself out there.