5. Think Like an Entrepreneur
Thinking like an entrepreneur is a hot topic right now in higher education. Claire Chase, the founder of the International Contemporary Ensemble, won a MacArthur Fellowship in 2012, a $500,000 prize (since increased to $625,000) bestowed by a supremely prestigious organization that invests into the future of accomplished intellectuals.
What did she win it for, exactly?
Her title used along with the award was “arts entrepreneur and flautist.”
This was sort of a huge deal at the time because no one in the history of the MacArthur Fellowship has won the award for being an “Arts Entrepreneur” before Claire Chase.
Another group using entrepreneurial skills to elevate their career is Groupmuse. A classical music organization, Groupmuse is using a basic franchising business model (like what restaurants do) to create more ensembles under their brand name throughout the entire country. Their money-making model is advertising to both individuals who want Groupmuse performances in their homes as well as to corporations that choose to infuse their company culture with classical music. They have already played corporate gigs for Google!
4. Use Blogging & Social Media to Establish Clout
A lot of musicians think it is impossible to promote an individual career of outside of an orchestra or already established chamber ensemble.
This is a hugely limiting belief on every single level.
Many musicians have taken to social media to promote their careers. The Twitter account of composer Nico Muhly displays an eccentric personality that might be as well known as his actual music. His thoughtful blog on his personal website from 2007-2011 was read by everyone at least once in the classical music community.
Cellist Zoë Keating has taken to Twitter to establish a following of over one million.
Pianist Valentina Lisitsa shot premium videos of her performing, subsequently becoming the most popular classical pianist on YouTube, not using a manager, tour promoter, or a record company to launch her success.
Ditto with flutist Nina Perlove and her large following on YouTube.
And while on the subject of YouTube, think about world-famous composer Eric Whitacre, and how he united the voices of people all over the globe into his “virtual choir” project, which ultimately further established his already successful reputation.
You may tell me these people are the exception, rather than the rule. Today, I might agree with you.
But musical figures like the aforementioned are providing the blueprint for what will inevitably be the future of creative social media marketing for musicians looking to establish clout and a successful, individualistic career in music.
3. Develop Skills That Complement Your Music Degree
Understanding how competitive instrumentalists and vocalists are, with the amount of hours musicians devote each day to refining and enhancing their musical abilities, I don’t say this one lightly.
However, in order to make a career outside of an orchestra, it is a very smart move to complement your musical skills with those that could work in a related music career.
Now I’m not saying you should take up another career that would take the place of your musicking. Absolutely not.
But there are a number of wonderful careers that you can go into with your music degree that don’t require you to play in an orchestra.
Check out my article in which I reveal 70+ careers you can achieve with a music degree – you will soon realize that “playing in an orchestra” and “teaching in a college” are only two of the many opportunities available for musicians.
2. Take Control of Your Performance Opportunities
I’ll never forget one of the most powerful lessons I received from the conductor of new music ensemble Contemporaneous, David Bloom, when he and I used to run a different ensemble several years ago together.
On booking performance opportunities, he said “always call, never email.”
This is such solid advice that I can’t stress enough to other musicians. The confidence a musician portrays from the simple gesture of calling and subsequently meeting in person speaks volumes to the character of a musician.
Anyone can email and say anything behind a screen. I understand the irony of my saying that on a blog, but it’s true.
But calling a club owner, festival manager, venue operator, concert series curator, or whoever is the best way to secure performance opportunities for yourself outside of playing in an orchestra.
And there are so many wonderful performance opportunities that you probably don’t know you can pursue with your music.
Check out my article on being a musical soloist – in this article I list 17 unconventional venues in which you can perform. Charities, museums, in people’s living rooms – the opportunities are endless when you open yourself up to new possibilities outside of the limited thinking of just performing in orchestras and recital halls.
1. Have An Open Mindset
What do you want to do with your musical abilities?
Do you want to curate, perform, produce, compose, teach, record, write, sell, publish, conduct, arrange, license, orchestrate, improvise, engrave, market, or direct music?
Once you realize the endless possibilities for making money as a musician in and out of an orchestra, only your mindset can be your fiercest enemy or most wonderful asset.
The right outlook is yours for the taking.