So you've completed your bachelors, masters or DMA and you're finally going to make a go at in the music business. You have an immaculate GPA, gave your weekends to service organizations, have played a couple gigs in the local scene, and have an unsullied degree from University of Anywhere and you can't wait for all the phone calls to come in asking you to impart all your wonderful new knowledge of your instrument with your soon to be enamored colleagues.
So what is your first step in securing work as a musician? Wait patiently every Friday and Saturday with your phone on the charger, dressed in concert black waiting for that last minute call? If so, please reconsider your approach. How does anyone get a gig? Do you win an audition? Do you befriend a contractor? Do you go to local open mic's and meet other musicians? Do you curate the finest profile ever to grace Linkedin? Do you busk at the local farmers market? What ever you decide to do, there are common factors no matter the geographical area you're in.
First - Find out who controls the work for your instrument. It may be one person, it may be multiple people. There may be different circles of musician groups. These are people who are well respected in your scene, and are getting phone calls/emails/texts every week for gigs. They won't be able to do them all. Go play for these people. Do well there, and next time they get called for a last minute gig and can't do it, they may recommend your name. You nail the gig, you become a reliable player and that contractor will speak praises of you to other contractors. See where that goes?
Second - Maintain your craft. This seems like a no brainer, but oh boy is it not. Instead of giving you hypotheticals I'll just share my story. I got out of grad school, already had a per service symphony job. Outside of the laughable small prep work I did, I really didn't practice at all. Got a reputation for not being prepared among my colleagues (unbeknownst to me) and wondered why I wasn't getting any calls for other work. DON'T DO THIS. Just don't. Practice your instrument. Even if its only an hour. Do not under any circumstances not work on your craft. You may not be able to practice the 3-6 hours you did in school every day, but you need to spend some time with your instrument. You might have put in your 10,000 hours, but you still have to maintain that quality.
Third & final - Redefine what success is. By redefine I mean setting out goals you can achieve in three months or six months. I had a joke with a dear friend and singer-songwriter when we we're gigging together. We figured it was a three step process being a musician. First step was make music. Second step was a question mark. Third step was owning houses in Tiburon, CA (affluent town in San Francisco Bay Area.) We figured we had it pretty good since we had figured out two of the three steps. We always brought that up when we were doing a gig we really didn't enjoy. Unfortunately that question mark is giant and has multiple steps. Figure out what you can do in three and six month goals. Set yearly goals. Assess your actual accomplishments every three months. This isn't easy, but is a great way to acknowledge your successes and to keep your self mentally stable (a whole future blog post in itself.) Whether you keep it in a journal or on a white board on the fridge or a note section on your interwebs cloud account, have the goals visible.
What all three of these points have (and by no means are they the only three) is initiative. You will not be handed gigs for doing nothing. Folks who take self initiative get noticed, and people/contractors want to work with people who want to be there and are grateful to be there. Yes, this means fighting in the trenches scrapping for work, and that will be another future blog post.
Hope this can help in your hunt for making a living as a musician. Have a wonderful day and come back later for more blog posts!