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Music Biz Advice: 18 Pros Weigh In

This week I asked some of my friends about the best advice they could give a young musician about building their career in the music industry. I got a wide range of answers, and I've included them below: 

Stay focused. 

"Be honest with others and yourself about what it is you want to do. Follow your inspiration, even if it causes you to change course. 
Know what you want and where you want to end up and start making friends that are already doing what you're looking to do. No one is out there looking for you to join their circle. Make friends, don't network. 
Create your own scene. Find other people that want to be involved in the kind of work you want and bring them together.
Learn to do many things, but don't try to do everything."

-Ben Jackson

Nashville Session/Touring Drummer

Sister Hazel, Joe Nichols, Frankie Ballard


Cultivate friendships.

"Not just relationships that you hope will pay off. Be prompt and willing to work, wear good black, carry your own gear, and smile. 

Don't neglect the fundamentals. Practice your scales, practice playing in tune, practice your INSTRUMENT, not just the music you happen to need at the moment. I can always, always, ALWAYS tell in an audition which students do that and which ones practice *just* for an audition. 

Hone your skills. Love what you do (doing it well makes it even easier to love it)."

-Paula Bernhardt

Music Teacher

Kirkwood Music Institute, St. Louis, MO


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Set clear goals for your career.

"Set about the work of accomplishing said goals. “I want to be successful as a musician” is not a clear goal! You must first define what success is and work from there."

-Jamie Richardson

Audio Engineer

Atlas Digital Audio


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"Treat the music right and enjoy the ride".

-Jason Ramsour

Country Artist


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Be the captain of your own ship.

"Everyone will be giving you advice and their own opinions on what you should be doing. Listen to it all. Evaluate it all. Use what is relevant to you and don't let the voices clutter your mind or lead you off track. At the end of the day, you are responsible for your successes and failures along the way."

-Danika Holmes


Danika and the Jeb


Talent, skill, preparedness & all the chops in the world will only take you so far.

"Be the person you would like to work with & possibly live on a bus with. Your musical ability is a divine & precious gift from God, not a super power so leave the ego at home. 


Speaking of ego... you’re never too old, too experienced or too good to learn from others. You’re in competition with no one other than yourself. Challenge yourself & allow yourself to be inspired by others. Strive to be better tomorrow than you are today. Celebrate the success of others & just know you may achieve it & you may not. There are no guarantees in this life & especially not in the music business. Some of the most dedicated, unbelievably talented musicians I know or have ever heard, never “made it”. “Success” isn’t necessarily measured by a large annual income. 

And finally, never forget why you fell in love with music. When it becomes a “job”, you need to change either your attitude or your occupation. If you’re getting into the music business to become rich or famous, then it’s not for you. 

I know that’s a little on the lengthy side but I really appreciate this being discussed. I’ve had to learn some tough lessons over the years & I don’t mind at all sharing some of my experiences & dare I use the word “wisdom” with others. Especially the next generation of great musicians & great people!"

-Shannon Wickline

Keyboard Player

Charlie Daniels Band



Be Open Minded.

"Be open minded in your learning process so you can spend time acquiring skills in different styles of music. You will not only be ready for any type of gigs but it will also spice up your whole playing."

-Yanni Aumont



Don’t be a dingbat.

"Learn the songs. Rehearsal or the show is not your personal practice time. 

Also, don’t be a dingbat."

-DJ Phillips

Guitarist/Music Director

The Downtown Band



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What are your strengths? Play to them. 

"Never stop trying to better yourself, and ALWAYS be kind.”


-Jonathan Warren

Freelance Fiddler and Mandolin

The Hootz

Don't be concerned with the final outcome.

"Don’t be so concerned with the ending outcome. Just enjoy the process of it all.” Paraphrased, but the quote is from my wonderful friend and #1 hit songwriter, Kirsti Manna."

-Brian Czach

Freelance Drummer, Nashville, TN


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Spend time with people who are more experienced than you.

" Spend time with people who are more experienced than you and spend time with people who aren’t as experienced as you. The sheer knowledge I’ve gleaned from the more experienced people may be the thing that helps the person who is less experienced flourish."


-Vincent Morris

Band Leader, Houston, TX


Make the right connections.

"The music business is 75% who you know, 20% skill, and 5% chance. Networking and building relationships will carry you farther than skill alone, BUT you'd better have some well crafted skills for when the other 80% gives you the opportunity to show them.

Just know that you can be the most skilled and talented person on the planet, but if you don't know the right people, or if the right people don't have a reason to like you personally, you'll get basically no where."

-Brian Santa Maria

Worship Leader

First Christian Church, Washington, MO



Learn some basic business and marketing skills.

"Learn some basic business and marketing skills, particularly self-employment status in your area. Knowing how to manage your finances and promote your business is key."

-Bethany Coad


St. Charles, MO


"Always say “yes I can do that”, then figure out how to do it."

-Justin Caldwell

Singer/Band Leader

The Downtown Band



Figure out what you do best, and develop that even more.

"Do not say yes to everything. No one is good at or will be happy with, doing everything."

-Tim Grogan

Touring/Session Drummer

Penn Jones Conspiracy


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People matter.

"Don’t be afraid to invest your time into getting to know people instead of always trying to make moves towards finding work. Good friends will always call you first."

-Nick Haynes

Arranger/Trumpeter, Nashville, TN



Be yourself.

"Be yourself. Be smart. And put as much love as you can into everything you do."

-Matthew Melton

Touring/Session Bassist

Chris Tomlin, Phil Wickham



Always show up early and prepared.

"If you’re on time, you’re late. Positivity and being a great hang is the X factor. Every successful gig leads to the next success. Follow your passion like a compass - then your art will always have that undeniable and infectious quality that only you could have created."

-Christian Cullen

Session Keyboardist/Arranger



What piece of music advice would you give a younger musician? Leave it in the comments below! 


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