This is a guest post by Jennifer McCoy Blaske. She has been been playing the piano for weddings throughout the Atlanta area since 2009. A former public school music teacher, she currently home schools two of her three children. Jennifer is the author of two books about her musical career: Giggin’ for a Livin’ and Confessions of a Wedding Musician Mom, which she continues to insist is fiction.
How do you skyrocket the number of wedding gigs you get? Playing for weddings is a great way for musicians to make some extra money. Not only does it pays well — much better than, say, a restaurant gig — but it’s a lot of fun and takes you to some really interesting and beautiful places.
I’ve been playing for weddings and other special events regularly for seven years. and in the beginning I tried everything under the sun to find gigs. Over the years, I’ve discovered that by far the best way to get wedding gigs is through my website.
This is a guest post by Josi Emery. Josi is a classical guitarist who performs and teaches in the Lynchburg, Virginia area. She graduated in 2015 with her Bachelor of Music degree from Liberty University where she was a student of Dr. Sean Beavers. To learn more about Josi, visit her website, http://experienceclassical.com/.
How do you find opportunities as a musician? Maybe it’s just luck. Maybe it’s all in who you know. Being in the right place at the right time.
Or can you increase the chances that you meet the right people? That you are in the right place at the right time?
During school, music students are overwhelmed with the need to practice, do homework, and perform recitals. They may occasionally get a paying gig or teach a private student, but these situations are usually unplanned. For the student musician, these opportunities seem like a result of luck. However, when starting a music career after graduation, finding opportunities requires much more than just luck. How can music school graduates kick start their career? In the past year since graduating from music school, I have found two broad categories to be essential in getting my career started: advertising and networking.
High school music students frequently ask me how to prepare for majoring in music at a university. The short answer is also the path to Carnegie Hall: Practice, practice, practice!
But those asking the question are looking for more guidance than that. They need to know the different types of musical activities they should pursue to be well prepared. Here’s what I tell them:
How do you find more concert opportunities? This is a question musicians frequently ask. You became a musician to share music with others. Yet it can seem daunting to find frequent opportunities to share music.
Here are 11 strategies that will help you to book performances:
Many young musicians ask me how to start a music teaching studio. They’re looking for a steady income. They think teaching music will be fun.
In reality, you can make a steady income teaching music. And you can have fun. Perhaps more importantly, you can enrich the lives of others as well.
But how do you start? If you’ve never taught a lesson before, just do it! Get a couple of students. If necessary, teach your friends for free to get some experience. Once you’ve been teaching for a few weeks, you’ll have lots of questions. You’ll be ready to take the next step. Seek out an experienced teacher and ask for their advice. Here’s what they’ll tell you:
How do you make money as a musician? This is probably the most common question I hear from aspiring musicians. Or some variation: Why is it so hard to make money as a musician? Why do freelance musicians face so many obstacles? Once you graduate with a music major, then what?
Only two options seem to be available:
Be a Starving Musician
Make music and love it, but constantly struggle to pay your bills.
Have a Day Job
Find employment that pays the bills but has nothing to do with music. Fit in whatever music you can in the evenings or on weekends.
Is There Another Way?
Is there a way to make the music you love and yet still make enough money to make a living? How can you make music all day, feel fulfilled and creative, and get paid well for it?
Are you selfish for thinking this way? Many people seem to think that musicians should make music for the love of it without getting paid. Yet for some reason, people who love being doctors or business owners are not expected to provide their services for free.
Why is that? Many people love music enough to do it for free. But do they do it well? Would they do it better if they could spend 40+ hours per week doing it? Would society benefit from better music if there were more full-time musicians? I think so. I believe that music enriches society greatly. And that it has value.
So if you want to make a living through music, how do you get there? There are two main challenges:
Musicians spend time doing many things: practicing, performing, teaching, composing, and scheduling gigs. Why would a musician add blogging to the list?
There are many possible motivations. Here are 4 reasons why you should consider starting a blog:
How do you know whether to major in music? Many high school students considering a music career ask this question. College students who have already started a music major may wonder whether to stick with it. After all, it’s hard to make a living in music, right? Your parents said it would be better to major in something sensible like business.
My father received similar advice from his parents. When he was a young man, he wanted to major in English or history but, at his father’s urging, he majored in business. He regretted it for the rest of his life. My grandfather was a consummate businessman. My father, on the other hand, did not enjoy business and preferred to immerse himself in reading.
When I was a senior in high school, I was undecided between majoring in music or computer science. I almost decided to go with computer science. I obtained admittance at three universities in computer science and one in music. Then, I broke a finger and couldn’t play guitar for six weeks. I missed the guitar so much that I never wanted to go another six weeks without playing guitar. So I majored in music. In retrospect, I believe that the broken finger was used by God to show me that music was the right path for me.
But how do you decide the right career path for you? This is a complicated question. A good place to start is by identifying work that fits all three of the following criteria:
Many musicians play wedding gigs. Some enjoy them. Some do not. A popular YouTube video demonstrates the type of wedding gig musicians complain about.
For years, I frequently played wedding gigs, and I enjoyed most of them; I also had my share of unusual experiences. I remember one outdoor ceremony at dusk on a summer evening. Chairs were set up on a manicured lawn, and the happy couple was to be positioned in front of a field of tall grass. I sat in a chair near the tall grass and began to play classical guitar. Things started well.
I recently asked my Facebook friends about the biggest frustration in their music careers. The answer that rose to the top was the scarcity of full-time guitar teaching jobs at universities. Many guitar faculty are employed part-time. Professors who do have full-time positions often keep them for twenty or thirty years, making new job openings rare.
While it’s hard to find a full-time guitar professor job, it’s not impossible. I know because I did it. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach for finding your dream job, but here are the steps I took: