Have you ever asked for the advice of your friends and family when it comes to working in the music industry or becoming a professional musician? Chances are, if you are passionate about pursuing a music career, those around you have caught on and attempted to give you their “expert” advice on a consistent basis. Although they usually mean well, it’s likely that their advice does not quite answer your questions to the depth you’re looking for... And in many cases, you may actually be less likely to succeed as a professional musician if you listen to them!
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 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: Most of the people who give out this kind of advice think that a career in the music industry is hectic and unstable. These people believe that the only way to “make it” in the music business is to become a rock star; and if you aren’t doing that you are “barely getting by” at best. This causes them to become concerned; and as a result they tell you that you should do something more “safe” like get a business degree (or any other degree that has nothing to do with music)…Only then can you even ‘think’ about trying to make it as a pro musician.
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. Taking the time (years) to get a degree outside of music will only take time away from pursuing what you are truly passionate about.
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.
So to sum it up:
a) You DO want to become a professional in the music industry –and-
b) It IS possible for you to earn a living as a professional musician.
With these two points in mind, you absolutely do NOT need to give up on your music career in order to pursue something else. Live your life based on YOUR desires, not based on what others want you to do!
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 Two:
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: The truth is, writing music that is popular or getting your music played on the radio is not how you make money in the music industry. Sound strange? Let me explain:
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 Three:
Ryan: “In order to get into the music business, you’ve got to be in the right situation at the right time” Your thoughts Tom?
Tom: If someone has this belief, they most likely believe in any one of the following ideas as well:
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 while handing out his new CD... Of course, the two instantly begin chatting and the head of the record label signs the musician to a contract right there in the club! Sound good? Well, it is a great story to tell someone; however, outside of rare instances, this is just not how it works in the music business. Fact is, people who work in the music industry are not really interested in signing musicians to contracts until and unless that person can prove 110% that it will be well worth the investment of time and money.
The reality is that most music industry people already have 1000’s of people knocking on their door looking to win them over so they can get signed or begin playing in a band, working for a label, etc. To really make it in the music industry by building connections, you must do much more than merely “know” someone, you must work to build a long term and trusting relationship where both sides exchange equal value. In order to do this, you will need to become “the right musician” with all the correct pieces in place. This means both becoming a great musician AND a person with social and business skills. On top of all the value that comes with increasing your skills in these areas, you will also put yourself in a totally different category than most other musicians. Once you have ALL the pieces in place as a professional musician, you will be on the very top of the list when someone is looking for a new partner, musical artist or band mate!
Ryan: I appreciate you sitting down to talk with me about these things Tom. It’s been very insightful and I’m sure the people who read this will think so as well. To everyone who reads this Tom Hess music career advice review, it should be clear now that most of what you hear from people outside of the music business is worth your skepticism. To find out more on how to become a successful musician, I highly recommend checking out Tom’s Music Careers Mentoring Program.
Tom: My pleasure Ryan, thank you.
About the author:
Ryan Buckner is a professional guitarist and composer with seven years of experience writing informative articles about guitar playing and music. He has also spent time teaching guitar as the owner of his own guitar instruction business in Oklahoma City, OK.