iCould.com Pt 2 – Careers In Music.

So, following on from my first post about careers advice, what are we to do with careers in a music industry that’s entirely in flux? Where no-one can categorically say where the ‘jobs’ will be in a year’s time, let alone 3 or 5 years time.

I think this question needs to be looked at on many levels. The obvious one for me is the thing I say over and over again here – the best you’ll ever be as a musician is when you are pursuing your own vision for what music should be and can be, soundtracking the world as you see it. I feel like a stuck record going on about it, but I read so little about it in other places, that I need to keep throwing the idea into the mix until it sticks (fortunately, things are bubbling under for this to become a much bigger conversation – one I didn’t start but have been invited to be a part of. Watch this space).

But beyond that, from a ‘careers advice’ point of view, there’s a great point that Terence Eden made in Pt 1 of this post about having ‘basic skills’:

What are the basic skills needed to make a living in music?

Well, I often say that being able to touch-type has been the 2nd best skill I ever developed after playing the bass. Communication skills are so important to working in music, it’s amazing that music students aren’t forced into a double-major at university. My work as a journalist has been equally important to my music career as has, for example, the big tours I did opening for Level 42 and 21st Century Schizoid Band. My ability to write – here or in magazines/newspapers has given me the skills to draw people into what I’m doing, who wouldn’t otherwise have listened to a ‘solo bassist’ or to someone ‘looping’ – the mechanics of it weren’t enough, but my story was well told enough to get them to hit play and let the music speak for itself.

Web skills are clearly vital for an modern musician – not least of all because they’ll save you tonnes of time and money by being able to administrate the web-side of what you do yourself. Again, I am where I am as a musician because I was an early adopter as a musician on the web – I had a website in late 97/early 98, and for the longest time was the ONLY bass guitar teacher in Europe with a website! That helped.

An ability to dissect what’s really going on is vital in any vocational area that thrives on myth. Way too many musicians have their careers curtailed by being dragged into the bullshit quagmire of rock ‘n’ roll mythology. Seduced by limos, big gigs, cover features and TV specials, they allow someone else to spend their money for them.

If those musicians were pre-warned about the BS of the industry, and introduced to other models of business, from co-operatives and collectives, to co-working, self-employment and creative entrepreneurship, they may be better equipped to be part of defining the future of the world of music, rather than stumbling punch-drunk into a dying industry only to have their last shards of hope dashed on a 360 deal from a record label making a desperate land-grab for intellectual property.

Those basic skills – on top of the non-basic music-world skills of being brilliant and motivated and tenacious and passionate – are vital to anyone wanting to approach music making as a career with any seriousness at all…

So where does this inspiration and career information come from?

  • From people who are doing it telling their stories.
  • From academics documenting actual career trends, not freakish chance occurrences in a TV talent show were 0.01% of people end up with anything.
  • From colleges and universities allowing music courses to have more loose definitions of what goes into an accredited music business module, so they don’t end up teaching out-dated notions of what ‘the industry’ is, but can modify it and bring in the emerging specialists as the landscape shifts.

How does this fit with iCould.com? Well, it’s a great platform for the story telling part. Here’s a video of Huey Morgan from the Fun Loving Criminals, talking about his start in Music:

If you want to see the full version of the interview, click over to it on icould.com – it’s obviously got more of a music industry sheen on it than my story, but he’s talking about his life, his story… imagine if we all did that? Here are a couple more from the site – Vicki Burke, Harpist/teacher , and Clare Finnimore, classical Viola player. I also really like this one from Peter True, guitar builder.

In an industry that thrives on larger than life myths, it’s always tough to get honest information about the realities of a job within it. It’s all the more important when the internet presents such amazing opportunities to musicians to be heard, to build and audience and do it without treading some out-dated crap-strewn path to the doors of the major labels.

If you’re in London, and want to hear my story, I’m speaking at Imperial College tomorrow – click here for more details and to register (it’s free).

So, musicians, tell your story – the good, the bad, the ugly, the funny, the day to day, the life lessons – the comments box is yours:

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