This is a piece of “advice” I have for anyone in music, but especially for those who are building a career as an onstage performer or a private teacher. However, this “advice” would be good for anyone really who wants to have order in their lives and remember what they did in life.
No Job too Small
No Venue too insignificant Off the Beaten Track
No Audience to Small
It ALL Counts
Wherever you happen to be in your musical life I highly recommend starting today to plan your musical endeavors with a calendar and keep a journal of your activities in music. While online is a possibilitiy I recommend real pen and paper.
Now, if you are a teacher of music it is something you have to do to organize your lesson schedules and keep track of your income for tax purposes. So, this is one of those things you would usually do if you are professional about it. You would even keep a file, record, of each of your students progress.
But for those who are just starting out or trying to build a career for yourself planning with a calendar and keeping a log of your endeavors is of the utmost importance.
I don’t say this because I did it, I say this because I should have done it. Planning and keeping track of your activities is part of being a professional musician. Not only is important to be able to show something for your work thus far, as in a CV, Curriculum Vitae, or a Resume, but it becomes increasingly important in being able to remember your past.
A Calendar is a tool you can use to plan your career. This is especially important if you are an independent musician who has no schedule given to them for the next year. You won’t HAVE a schedule unless you MAKE a schedule and that is done with the almighty calendar.
So with a calendar you can plan your year. Lets say you want to earn $50,000 in gross revenue in the coming year. This becomes a lot easier if you create a plan to do that. If you give 5 concerts a month for 10 months and make $1,000 a performance then you get there. If it takes twice as many performances to get there, then do it. For someone starting out that may seem like a huge challenge but is it really. At $20 a ticket, you only need to sell 50 tickets per concert and usually the venue you are performing at will help you get to that number. You create a program, perfect that program and then organize 5 concerts a month in different places and do the tour. Each year you either create a new tour, and/or revisit those venues the every year, building your repertroire, your audience, and your resume. Always record your performance before you go on tour so you can give away your CDs with the price of admission.You can build your Email list and keep your audience informed of your activities using your auto-responder and/or social media, which many savy musicians already know how to do today.
Remember that mastery comes through repetition and by doing so many repetitions of this one program you become a master of it, it becomes easier. Rock bands always do it this way, classical musicians should also do this. Some rock bands have been playing more or less their top hits for 40 years now and still people are amazed.
The practice/performance log/journal is important because it shows you what you have done, who you did it for or with, and your take aways from those experiences. You also build the number of people you know and this is an important tool for your musical future.
“Well, they made it because they knew the right people!”
How many times have you heard this? I know I’ve heard it a million times from people who didn’t “make it” in music. But what kind of an excuse is that? It is a truth if you put it into perspective.
Basically your job as a career musician is to become “known”. In other words, if someone doesn’t know you, how are they going to be able to hire you? So, what you are doing early in your career is making it possible for people to get to know you. You do this by scheduling your future, taking names, numbers, and addresses of the people you meet and find a way to “stay in touch.”
As you move on in your career you will want to spread your wings and try to fly higher and so to do that you have to expose yourself to “more people” so they can get to know you. If you have a proven track record then that is proof that you are dependable. No, at 22 you probably haven’t sung at the MET yet, but you have sung XYZ here and there to prove that you have experience. You usually can’t make it to the MET unless you have a proven track record through however you can do it. But unless you keep record of that, nobody else is going to.
You are writing a novel called “My Life as a Musician”. Keep track of everything you do, the people you meet, and the experiences you have and that novel will write itself. Trying to dig up that stuff from your memory is hard to do.
Having a consistent calendar method, and a journal to keep track of your work are very important tools to building a career in music.
Here are the types of papers you need to keep updating for your work so you will have them at hand when you need them. Don’t worry if you don’t yet have that much to put on them right now, just get a placeholder for each of these and fill keep updating them as time goes on.
- Keep up to date:
- Press Release
- List of willing references.
- Accounting (Keeping track of money)
- How much you spend and on what
- How much you earn and from what
- Keep a folder for receipts
- I would place receipts on pieces of paper and label them and placing them in an accounting notebook, rather than having loose different sized receipts hanging around.
This is called the “Business Side” of the Arts, get good at it yourself or suffer.