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Finding Work as a Musician

Being a working musician is not about filling 20,000-seat arenas on a world tour, but getting paid to ply your craft. It is the musician’s equivalent of being a character actor; you may never make it to the cover of any magazines, but you can make a living at what you love to do most.

1 Network: Getting work as a musician is not an easy task if you are an introvert. You might be able to build up a reputation over time, but until you get to that point, you have to get the word out. Go to shows, go to parties, talk to people; as with all industries, it is about who you know, as much as how you play.

2 Print business cards, and carry a CD showing your past work. Also create a website that acts as an electronic press kit (EPK), outlining past accomplishments, along with music samples and mp3 recordings.

3 Never refuse a gig: Even if you hate the music requested; having a broad range of samples works in your favour. This shows that you know how to adapt, and that you are easy to work with. Acting elitist about gigs can work against you, especially in the beginning; you cannot afford to be too choosy. Eventually, the ideal situation will be to be able to choose your gigs.

4 Broaden your musical horizons: i.e. If you play bass; learn to play guitar, keyboards or drums. This makes you seem like a more formidable musician and can really help with your musical chops. Practice often.

5 Work free of charge: Take any recording gig you can; it is easy to make professional sounding recordings at home. If you play more than one instrument, you can do most, if not all of the recording yourself; fattening your EPK.

6 Give an air of confidence, but not cockiness. People want to work with other people they can get along with: a musician that doesn’t want to hog the spotlight, and is happy being a backup session musician. The term “team player” seems overused, but it is an important consideration for a backing musician.

7 Check job boards: Craigslist is actually not a bad place to find composer work; normally a low-paying gig for a student film project, but it’s a start. There are many musician job boards online, such as Berkleemusic: Also go to musician forums, to find new opportunities in your area e.g. Sputnik music, among others.

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About James Carey

James Carey