By Ryan Buckner
A major factor for success in your music career is how you decide to €act' on new information you receive about the music business. If you are like countless other musicians, you are overrun with the advice and opinions of those around you who think they understand how the music industry works (even though they've never worked in music).
This kind of advice can often be very convincing, but mostly is unfounded. If you act on the advice of these people, it is possible that you may never reach your full potential as a professional musician.
That said, I would like to give you the insight of a man who HAS succeeded in the music industry at a very high level so you can better understand what makes for good and bad music career advice. Recently, I contacted Tom Hess, professional musician and guitarist in metal band Rhapsody Of Fire in order to get his thoughts. The end result was a Tom Hess review of the top three most discussed music career advice amongst friends, family and other non-musicians. After the interview ended, it was obvious that the advice you get from people outside of the music industry is highly inaccurate. Check out the full Tom Hess interview / review:
Tom Hess Music Career Review Topic Number One:
Ryan: €If you want to make money as a musician, you need to write pop music so that you can get it to play on the radio.€
Tom: When someone gives this advice, they are confusing a couple of fundamental concepts. Fact is, simply having music that plays on the radio is NOT how to make a lot of money as a professional musician.
Having the goal to write great music and have it played on the radio is certainly not a bad thing; however, you must not mix up your GOALS with ACTIONS. Writing music that gets played on the radio is an example of a goal that you can reach by performing certain actions. However, earning a living as a musician is a totally separate goal that is reached by different actions. All the things you do in your music career begin with you becoming clear on what steps you must take to achieve the specific results you want. You may think to yourself, €That is stupid€¦of course I need to do that€; but this is actually a very common occurrence that causes A LOT of musicians to go years without reaching their music career dreams.
In addition, you don't have to be a songwriter in the music business in order to make a living (there are many different things you can do). In the end, if you are looking to become very secure while working as a professional musician, it is essential to work on developing many different sources of income. By doing this, you will not become totally dependent on just one way of making money. In order to find out how to put together many different ways to make money in the music industry, get advice from a mentor who can direct you to all the different ways of growing your income within the music business.
Tom Hess Music Career Review Topic Number Two:
Ryan Buckner: €Before you can become a professional musician, it is essential to go to a university and get a degree to fall back on. Once you have done that, only THEN you can try to make it in music.€ What do you think of this advice Tom?
Tom Hess: Perhaps this piece of music career €advice€ is the most common. The idea that you need to pursue a job, career or degree outside of the music industry BEFORE working on becoming a professional musician is 100% backwards. When people tell you this, it is likely because they have heard somewhere that the music industry is highly risky and it will be nearly impossible to earn a stable income. Their logic is that you should go to a university to get a €real job€ before you try your luck with the music industry. Once you have a secure job in place, you won't have to worry about it if your music career doesn't work out (€¦so they say).
In response to this, I have 2 things to say:
1. The music business is NOT hectic, unstable or risky.
Fact is, the majority of people working as professionals in the music business are neither rock stars nor starving street performers.
Actually, the music business consists of a large middle class filled with musicians who earn a stable and secure living. Additionally, the music industry is more stable than other non-music industries in many ways.
When you are working as a professional musician, you have various opportunities to build and sustain music-related income to come in from many different sources at once. Some examples include money you make from touring, releasing instructional music products, selling your own music, and doing session work€¦just to name a few.
This gives you much more financial stability than simply making all your money in the form of a single check that you pick up from work each pay period (€¦like in most non-music jobs).
2. By pursuing a job in a field outside of the music business, you are only taking time away from what you truly want to do with your life (music).
Did you ever take a moment to consider what people really mean when they tell you that the music industry is €too unstable€ and you should €get a degree for something else€? Although they may think they have your best interests in mind, the truth is that they are not really helping you pursue your music career dreams. In reality, they are giving you advice to help themselves cope with their own fear of the unknown; not advice to help YOU achieve your dreams! To help explain this, let's say that you wanted to become a lawyer rather than a musician. If that was the case, would people still tell you that you should skip law school for 4 years until you get a degree in something else? Definitely not. So if this logic would not apply for becoming a lawyer, why does it suddenly apply for becoming a professional in the music industry? In the end, both becoming a lawyer and becoming a musician are equal choices when it comes to deciding how you want to live your life.
With all this said, it is safe to say the following:
a) You have the desire to work as a professional in the music industry.
b) It is very possible to make a stable living as a musician.
So considering these thoughts, there really is no reason for you to stop pursuing a career in music. Always remember, whatever you do in life is your decision, do not let others decide how YOU should live your life!
As a side note, there certainly is nothing wrong with creating your own backup plan; however, if you are going to do this you must always center your plans around your main musical goals. By keeping your highest goals in mind whenever you make your plans, you will be much more likely to achieve them.
Tom Hess Music Career Review Topic Number Three:
Ryan: €Becoming a successful pro musician is all about bumping into the right person at the right time.€ What do you think about this Tom?
Tom: Whenever I encounter someone who believes that becoming successful merely amounts to €you must bump into the right person at the right moment€, I immediately know two things that this person thinks:
1. Becoming a professional musician requires a good amount of €luck'.
When people strongly believe that they must become lucky to make it in the music business, they often expect that their musical dreams will simply fall down into their lap. As a result, they do not work as hard as they would otherwise. Plain and simple, this is not how the music industry runs, and if you want to achieve great things as a musician; you will need to take action every day to work hard and €create' your own €luck€!
2. The key to achieving success as a musician is simply €knowing' someone who already works in the music business.
You've probably heard people talk about €that one musician€ who bumped into the head of a record label one night