As the last of the graduation caps fall out of the sky and make their way back to the respective owners, music students' stomachs are aflutter. The big question of the day is, "What's next?" But with thorough preparation on your end, we're confident you'll find ways to begin earning your living as a musician.
The Life of a Professional Musician
Here are some of the ways you can get ready for your new life as a professional musician.
Think outside the box
You may have your heart set on being the next first-chair violinist for your favorite orchestra, and we hope that dream becomes a reality. In the meantime, you may have to think outside the box to move boldly forward in your music career – one step at a time.
Perhaps you work as a freelancer – stringing multiple part-time music jobs together to create a full-time work week (weekend gigs, performing in a church band and teaching music lessons). Or, maybe it's time to review the wide-range of music-oriented careers that rely on top-tier musicianship, even if you're not making money for playing music. Examples include things like conducting a band or orchestra, becoming a music therapist or working behind the scenes in the music or performing arts business.
Read, Top 5 Jobs for Musicians, for more inspiration.
Start the job hunt sooner rather than later
One of the most important "tips" for music school seniors is to start job hunting now. You'd be surprised how many employers are happy to hire seniors or graduate students before graduation, contingent that they receive their diploma.
In addition to making the remainder of your senior year less stressful, applying for and obtaining a job ahead of time takes you out of the post-graduation date competition as the rest of the college graduate population puts themselves out into the job-hunting crowd.
Cultivate a network of reputable musicians
It would be nice to believe that what you know is more valuable than who you know - but that isn't always the case. The reality is that connections can lead to "big breaks" in the music and entertainment industries.
Cultivate an impeccable online presence and network all you can via social media accounts. Spread the word to family and friends and encourage them to share who you are, your talent(s), and your interests with their networks. You might find that a friend of a friend is looking for someone just like you and that your music-focused networking has paid off.
Create an online, money-generating presence
Speaking of networking, there are all kinds of ways budding musicians make money online - some to the point that they fully flower into famous musicians. From YouTube videos that generate advertising attention to businesses writing custom-songs for fans and solo- or band merchandising, you may be surprised at how the trickle of online earnings add up to a generous flow.
Check out the DIY Musician's article on 5 Amazing Ways to Make Money Online as a Musician.
Think "realist" instead of "materialist"
When people fantasize about professional music careers, they often dream up cushy salaries to go along with the career. The reality is most musicians make modest salaries, so you're better off cultivating a frugal lifestyle, prioritizing the essentials, so you live within your means for the first years out of music school.
If you're one of the lucky ones who find a six-figure salary career right off the bat, more power to you. Otherwise, you'll appreciate cultivating a practical budget and lifestyle, which makes the bonus of increased income generation over time that much more sweet.
Consider becoming an entrepreneur
Have you noticed a music- or musician-related need that isn't readily met online or via storefront businesses? Do you have a unique talent or a combination of talents/interests that could be packaged as a unique business proposition? Harness your inner-entrepreneur and begin putting him/her to work creating a unique, niche business utilizing your skills and the need of others.
There's never been a better time to be an entrepreneur, and the online marketplace makes it easy for someone with a great idea, a decent amount of business savvy, and a well-thought-out plan to become successful.
Be the best at whatever jobs you take
It's easy for a frustrated musician or artist to feel lackluster in a job that isn't what they want to do. However, you just never know how that job could lead you to a great contact or an experience that launches your career. Be the very best you can at any job you take. It could be that a single conversation with a customer, or a boss who believes in you and wants to help you succeed in your music career path, will lead you to a music-related job you love.