I can’t believe it- today marks my 9 years of making a full-time living as a musician. Since I graduated high school, I’ve been supporting myself one way or the other as a musician, and it’s been a wild ride. If you’re looking to switch to doing music full-time, here are 3 first steps I’d recommend taking:
We own music equipment to serve a means, not to be an end in itself. Here are 7 ways to make your performances more about your music and less about fiddling with your equipment:
• Practice pressing buttons. The quicker you are at getting the sound you want, the less you have to worry about twisting knobs during the performance.
• Pre-prep everything. Don't wait to the last second to put together your equipment – test everything at home, so it's not a distraction at the venue.
• Buy intiutive equipment . If your live rig is difficult to work with, get rid of it. Speed is everything when you're making on the fly tweaks.
• Buy quality equipment. Settling for cheap may be easier in the short term, but paying a few extra dollars for something that won't constantly need fixing saves time and a lot of headaches.
• Don't switch equipment too often. It's tempting to always buy the latest and greatest, but having equipment on stage that you're comfortable with is often more important than having all the latest bells and whistles.
• Practice using your equipment at home. Don't just program at home – set up your equipment just like you'll be using it at the venue, and practice with it frequently.
• Simplify, simplify. The fewer cables, software instruments, and keyboards you have on stage, the less likely you are to have a problem with one of them.
Ask a musician what his style of music is, and he'll usually answer "I don't know, it's hard to explain – we do a little bit of every style".
While I respect a musician's right to eclecticism, there are a lot of positives to being incredibly narrow in what you offer customers. Here's five of my top reasons why you should go narrow:
5. you'll stand out. In a crowded market, being the "expert" in a specific field gives you serious street cred, and separates you from your competition in the minds of your customers.
4. people will trust you more. If you're confident enough to refer people to your competition if you don't offer what they need, your customers are going to trust that you have their best interest in mind. Pluses for you: you'll become the go-to contact guy of your industry (good for a ton of reasons), and a bunch of your musician friends will owe you big favors for all the gigs you hooked them up on.
3. Every time someone wants what you're offering, they'll think of you first. If you're selling yourself as the everything-fits-all option, there will be no single distinctive feature that will stand out to your customers. Humans remember specifics and extremes. If you communicate neither to the customer, it's time to go narrow.
2. You'll get better at what you do. Relentlessly focusing on being amazing in one area will usually. . . make you amazing in that one area. Big surprise.
1. You'll be happier. If you pick a skill you're good at and enjoy, you're probably going to love working in the field you've chosen. And since you'll be so much more successful than before you got narrow, you'll most likely be happier, too.
While I’m still getting started working as a studio sideman, I’ve been lucky enough to talk with musicians that have worked with Chris Tomlin, Stephen Curtis Chapman, Matt Redman, and Keith Urban. Here’s what I’ve learned from them: