3 Strategies For Building Your Career

1. The “hangout” strategy


This idea that a lot of musicians who live in large metropolitan areas are sold out to: if I hang out in the right area with the right people long enough, I’ll get the right kind of gigs. This method really can work- there are literally hundreds of success stories from people being at the right place at the right time. 


A friend of mine happened to be walking by Oceanway Studios in LA in the mid 60’s. He landed a job sweeping the floor, and when the mix engineer didn’t show up because he was tripping on acid, my friend stepped in and landed a job in one of the best studios on earth. 


The trick to this method is being ready when you get your chance, and finding the right place to hang out. When I moved to Nashville in late 2014, I partially was relying on this philosophy. I can tell you from first-hand experience that it’s hard to be patient, but when you do see it pay off, it really can pay big. 


2. The “death by numbers” strategy


Death by numbers philosophy goes something like this: I’ll put out as much content, be in as many places as I can possibly be, and hopefully someone will hire me because I’m available. Of the three strategies, this one is probably my least favorite, but I have seen it work. 


One of my friends from Missouri started taking photos of people when she was a junior in high school. She was pretty bad at first, but would take pictures for just about anyone, so she worked quite a bit. She quickly got better, and was able to start charging for her work. She’s now 24, and commutes back and forth between LA and the midwest doing fashion photography. 


Usually people that embrace the death by numbers philosophy will end up doing quite a bit of uninteresting and boring work for very low pay, with the hopes that they can break through eventually. If can take the pain in the beginning and are disciplined enough to avoid using this strategy for your entire career, death by numbers could serve you well.


3. The “blow your mind” strategy


The idea behind the blow your mind strategy is being so amazing, so remarkable, that people hire you. These are the people we usually think of as geniuses- the girl that can cover any guitar part you throw at her, the arranger that can turn the simplest song into a masterpiece.


One of my friends is the only singer I’ve ever worked with that can pull off Adele, Gladys Knight, Regina Spektor, and Etta James seemingly effortlessly. She also struggles with bipolar disorder, making her a bit difficult to work with through no fault of her own. Because she does her art at such an amazing level, she will always be first call when I need a good female vocalist. 


Few people have enough raw talent to make this strategy carry an entire career, but it’s an important facet of any musician’s career. Let’s face it: unless we’re a savant, we probably can’t use this strategy for our instrument. But we can use this in the other areas like marketing, onstage performance, productivity, etc to blow people’s minds. 


The good news is that these strategies aren’t either/or options. I’d recommend using all of them together, modding them to fit who you are and where you are in your career (that’s what I’m attempting to do). 


What did I miss? Leave your thoughts below: