Stephanie Lewis - Music & Education Talks expert

Music? Career?

Discuss with Stephanie the concept of today's music careers

In this video, Stephanie discusses and answers a common question among musicians: What are my career options in music?

Released on April 5, 2017

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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

Hi, I'm Stephanie and together with Virtual Sheet Music, I wanted firstly to thank you for the interesting responses I had in relation to my last video "Audience Animals." Not only was it wonderful to hear about other people's experiences in the audience situation, largely bad, sadly, but we also got a great glimpse of the international Virtual Sheet Music community with comments coming in from all over the world. Many thanks to all of you, and please do stay in touch.

Today's video has been suggested by a professional musician who wrote bemoaning the lack of guidance received at conservatoriums, music schools as regards careers in music. As he himself stated, "Beyond the weddings, hotels, teaching and studio work, where else do you go if you're not in the big time?"

This is an extremely valid point for just about every musician I know. Most turn to teaching as it's less precarious than simply gigging. For example, in terms of the gigging situation, I've a good friend, an excellent drummer, who tells me that to play reputable venues these days, you have to assure said venue of bringing in a certain amount of people. And if you fall short there's a financial penalty, i.e. you have to pay to play? But even for those of us in more secure non-teaching posts, for example orchestras, there still seems to be problems. There's an orchestra, for example, here in Milan that pays its players one year late.

So what if you are making your way in music but are fed up of the same old wedding gigs, scholastic hum drum and unchanging repertoire? What are your choices if you're not being asked to do world tours, interviews on TV, and posing for magazine covers? Well, you need to sit down and start getting simultaneously strategic and creative.

I've consulted with a coach on what might be possible steps for doing this because I'm not a coach and I'm certainly not a careers adviser. And she came up with some pretty solid advice. A lot of it will be obvious and it's certainly not going to be the quick fix that most of us dream about. But I am hoping that it might be able to guide thinking so that obvious alternatives can more naturally arise for you in your situation, using your music and of course your skills, both musical and non.

For those social commentators, coaches, and entrepreneurs out there who just happen to be watching this video, please also do share your thoughts, ideas, and experiences so as to enrich upon the simple points I present here today.

Number one: Do not give up your day job. Your bread and butter needs come first. And if you've got the security of a wage, it's a lot easier to calmly consider future options, in terms of outright alternatives, if you want to change musical direction completely, or simply by adding in more interesting options to what you're currently doing. With your essential needs covered, you've got the head space to do step number two.

Which is sit down and look at your skills, interests, and experiences and write them down. Combining these elements, brainstorming ideas that arise from these various combinations and seeing where you can go professionally, financially, with them. Of course, you have to align up this brainstorming with people, with the consumers. And I do need to emphasize this word. Now consumers universally consume certain things like food and drink, clothes, transport, health, holidays, dare I say it? Pleasant looking people. Is there anything here which you might, given your particular circumstances and talents, be able to overlap and exploit?

Here are two examples. You're a DJ. You have a knowledge of recent pop music development and a good idea of said consumer. Added to this combination social media skills, which are relatively good, and you could develop a nice little sideline, say selling play lists to restaurants, beauty parlors and such like. The other example is this. You're a singer with a penchant for new age tendencies. Aligning yourself with a yoga school or a health shop chain or various known retreats, you could set up a mutually beneficial relationship, developing your own musical reputation through established institutions that are obviously enriched by what you offer.

Now you can see already from the above that there's an awful lot of foot work to do. It's certainly not easy but this kind of strategic thinking can be a great generating tool long term. And in itself, it's also a creative way of approaching the mundanity of earning a living.

Step number three: research and then tread carefully before you invest everything of yourself in to a new project. A lot of us, and I include myself in this, have undertaken projects that intelligent, fulfilling, and wonderful though they are have not made a dime. Now, there are two problems to this. One, you don't make a dime, obvious. But number two, and this is certainly more important for me, the quality of your product, what you bring to the consumer, the value of what you give is simply not recognized at a material level. And this just hurts. So if you've got a new music product that's complete, you then need to research it, you need to talk to people, you need to trial it and get feedback and then refine it and trial it again and then get feedback and so on and so forth. Only by persistent testing out of your musical product will you be able to move in any kind of direction. But of course, this leads us to number four.

You need to know how to use and develop contacts. To do this, you need to throw caution to the wind and be courageous. Personally, I feel that this is the most important feature as it provides a back bone to any kind of contact with others, formally, informally, via email and so on. Without courage, you just can't confidently endorse yourself and you will not go far enough in taking the bold steps, and dare I say it, risks that are needed to explore whether a project will or will not work. This boldness also includes things like getting in touch with people you think probably won't be interested in what you do. I've found that often it's these alleys that are most fruitful. And unlike impersonal social media where the unusual innovative you is lost amongst zillions of other people, the personal contact that you have around you allows you to be seen, felt, touched, and explored by others who will remember you for a future occasion.

If music is your thing and you're wanting to explore untried paths, then you have to remember first and foremost that you're a business. And that the business aspect will ultimately take precedence until your feet are firmly on the ladder. Now my hope is that there will be qualified business and life coaches that see this video and feel prompted to offer additional tips in the comments section under this video. But that said, don't let theory, the four step point plan above, changing a mental approach or any of the other zillions of strategies that you can find online every day, don't allow all this theory for you to procrastinate. Do it now and only look back and regret when you're dead, okay?

So really hoping to hear the thoughts and ideas generated from today's discussion. And of course, please also write and tell me what you'd like me to look at for the next video. Until the next time, bye.
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