Robert Estrin - piano expert

How to Get Jobs Playing Music

Learn how the music business is actually a real business

In this video, Robert gives you useful tips to thrive as a musician in the ever-changing music business.

Released on March 19, 2014

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DISCLAIMER: The views and the opinions expressed in this video are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Virtual Sheet Music and its employees.

Video Transcription

Welcome to and I'm your host, Robert Estrin, and today's question is, how to get jobs playing music. Boy, this is a very big subject I'm gonna try to tackle and give you some pointers. Well, there is no one-size-fits-all here, but there are some general things that are essential. You know, the music business is a business and a lot of times, people get a false sense of complacency about the business end of it. For example, music students who work so hard in conservatories, practicing hours and hours a day, sometimes get the feeling or the impression that if they're just good enough, they will be discovered. Sadly, this is not the case for a number of reasons. First of all, there are far more qualified musicians than there are positions available. And secondly, you've gotta network with people or nobody will know you even exist! So the number one is getting yourself out there. You must find other musicians to play with, to talk with. Now, you have to also be one who can start things because, you know, everybody is looking for that person who's got the gigs, you know? Who's the person who's hiring? If you can be that person...that's right. Believe it or not, it's easier to form your own thing than to find others to hire you. In this world today, jobs have become scarce in every field and most people who are successful these days are entrepreneurial types who find their own, carve their own way. It's especially true in music. So if you can network with people... For example, you could specialize in almost anything. Maybe it's events like weddings. Try to use social media. Go to your local wedding planner or florist or wedding photographer, talk to them and maybe you can give them your card and recommend them to people and they might be very receptive if you tell them that you might have potential of giving them work. Then they'll think of you when somebody asks for a musician.

So that's just one idea. You must be business-like, entrepreneurial. You can go to different functions, music groups, for example, whether it's virtual, online groups or in-person groups. All of these are valuable. Also, any opportunities for fundraising concerts where you can offer your services. People will then see you as somebody important in the community. And if you can get others involved and once again, network and people find out how good you are, that's the secret. So get yourself out there. Be creative. Find something that brings the spark of energy that you can wake up in the morning and want to make some phone calls and send out some emails because otherwise you can be the greatest musician in the world and remain undiscovered. So don't be afraid to spread the word and talk to people and see what you can make happen in your life, and you might enrich other people's lives at the same time. Thanks so much for joining me, Robert Estrin, at and
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Comments, Questions, Requests:

paul.plak * VSM MEMBER * on November 23, 2016 @2:20 pm PST
Another way to get a somewhat easier access to musician work is play an instrument where in general there are not that many players. Viola is a good example of seats that are often unfilled in orchestras or quartets not the high end professional ones, though. The technique is much the same as violin, but as it is used less as a solo instrument, many violin players don't want to switch to the viola. Actually it opens a repertoire that covers most of the range you can reach with a cello and with a violin. I suppose other instruments like the bassoon also have some scarcity.
But the advice in this video will still be valid.
Robert Estrin - host, on November 24, 2016 @3:41 pm PST
You offer a great suggestion. As you mentioned, in the professional arena, the competition is fierce on all instruments. However, there certainly are more opportunities generally for less popular instruments as well as being fluent in a variety of styles.

An even better way to augment the possibilities of working as a musician is to play more than one instrument
Tammy Hall * VSM MEMBER * on November 23, 2016 @6:06 am PST
Your dead on right with the whole marketing thing. I ended up setting up gigs with assisted living places. Due to their desire to tax the musician 1099 tax form we decided to play locally for free. Our names are still out there but we have the bonus of being more relaxed during our performances. Now I work as a Director of Music Ministries. Being in that position I am constantly looking for musicians. May I suggest going to local church's, funeral homes, hospitals, malls, wedding venues, etc. and hand them a business card.
Robert Estrin - host, on November 23, 2016 @10:52 am PST
Those are excellent suggestions. Better yet, approach each type of business asking if they are interested in referrals of business to them. You should get a very positive response. Then you can connect the businesses to one another bringing great value to them. Following up later on you will be remembered for offering them something instead of asking for something.
Myra on May 7, 2014 @7:01 pm PST
Just loved your videos on how to get work, and playing gratis!! I have been gigging for over 30 years now as a viola player, and occ vocalist too. I'm in the mid-west, and it's easy to get the Your youthful enthusiasm is helpful!! Thank for the pep talks!!
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