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Music Career: Myths and Expectations vs Reality

Musicians spend an awful amount of time on their education and perfecting themselves and their art. By the end of a Bachelor's degree a musician has played his/her instrument for at least 10-12 years on average, which is much more than any other job qualification.

However, the music institutions we are part of during our study years rarely focus on the career of being a musician and the skillset one needs to acquire in order to succeed. Fortunately, being a musician is a very versatile job and sooner or later each of us finds his/her path. So here is a list of myths and expectations vs the reality of being a musician:

  1. Myth: If you have talent, you will succeed. Reality: Being talented (whatever that might mean) is great and can give you that extra something to stand out, but if you don't put in hard work into nurturing your talent, you will never grow.

  2. Expectation: If you are good at playing your instrument, someone will eventually notice you and your career will skyrocket. Reality: There is a very small probability of that happening, unfortunately. Even if you are the best of your class or university even, it doesn't guarantee that you will be successful after graduation. Not even winning an important competition guarantees a career as a performing artist. Invest into your knowledge and networking/social skills. A course I can't recommend enough is the BYOM Academy. It touches upon all the important aspects of being a musician today, including strategy, social media, finances, fans and much more.

  3. Myth: if you fail at being a concert performer, you will be a teacher. Reality: this couldn't be further from the truth. In fact, being a great concert performer doesn't always mean that you are good at teaching. There are many examples of incredible musicians who are not always aware of how they do what they do, so inevitably they will not be very good at teaching that to others. Being a teacher and passing on your knowledge to young musicians is a privilege and a big responsibility. Above all it is something one learns.

  4. Myth: Social media following will bring you concerts and success. Reality: while having recognition on social media is a great thing, it is important to convert that into real working opportunites. Otherwise you will become an expert in social media, but will have little to no concerts.

  5. Myth: only the best musician survives in our competitive environment and manages to have a career. Reality: what makes a musician the best one? Who decides that? A jury? A competition? The only person you need to be competing with is yourself (the day before today). It is absolutely normal and human to be envious and/or jealous of what your colleagues are doing, especially if you have the same goals and they succeed first. But, at the end of the day, each of us has his/her own path, story, hardships, luck, etc. which make us be who we are and do what we do. Once you acknowledge that being envious/jealous is a normal sentiment, you will experience it differently.

  6. Myth: you should always accept everything that comes your way. Reality: there might always be a voice in the back of your head saying "what if..." and force you to accept every single concert or project that comes your way. It might be good for buliding up experience and stamina during the study years, but when you are out in the real world you should have some sort of benchmarks. If a concert or a project doesn't satisfy you in some way, try to negotiate and reach an agreement. If that doesn't work out in the end, just walk away. You will be better off investing your time into something more fullfilling.

  7. Myth: you should never share what you know with others. Reality: there is strength in numbers. This is something I have learned only about a year ago. Up until that point the information I had was (in my mind) something that made me stand out from the crowd. Nowadays, I believe that by sharing information and tips among ourselves we can all benefit. There is an old saying: if you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.

Have a great Sunday!



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