Countless people around the world would love to work full time as a musician.

Children and adults alike dream of a life where working in music for a living is a reality.

There are a lot of people out there who have tried and failed. Those mistakes often revolve around missteps including some of these common blunders:

  • Thinking a college degree in music is the only way.
  • Striving only for a record deal.
  • Spending more time in the studio than out playing live shows.
  • Working with the wrong musicians.

There are countless individuals who know how to transcend the ranks and make a living with music, and that’s enough evidence to know it’s possible.

As you’re looking to break into the professional music scene, a few tips can go a long way.

So, here are the best things to focus on when you want your dream to become your job.

How to Break into the Professional Music Landscape

As many people that have worked in professional music will tell aspiring professionals, talent and timing are everything. Much of the process relies on good timing and knowing the right people or places to play.

With that in mind, individual ability also makes a difference. That leads us to the first point in the journey…

Know Your Instrument or Voice as Well as You Can

There are few things more frustrating than someone who wants to work in professional music but lacks the know-how. So, you must work on your skills.

Open mic nights tend to be great for honing your craft, as the community is generally supportive. But keep in mind that people won’t want to book you for a show unless you know your stuff.

So, if you want to play at specific venues but don’t have the ability to do so, keep improving until venue owners and booking people start looking your way.

Regardless, a total control and knowledge of your instrument or voice makes a huge difference. So, keep practicing until you feel comfortable doing what you do.

Play Live as Much as Possible

There are a lot of things that could help build talent and experience, but nothing compares to playing live.

First and foremost, you get experience playing in front of an audience, which is key. It forces you to roll with the punches, whatever they may be. And, gaining experience can help you do something about those jitters.

Second, live shows are essential for breaking into the professional scene. Since it’s difficult if not impossible to make a living with album sales, you must supplement your income elsewhere. Live performance is a good place to look.

While you’re still developing as a musician, play out every chance you get. As you get booked for more and more gigs, you’ll get more regular and paid gigs.

Network with Other Professional Musicians

An important part of breaking into a music scene, no matter what the size, is knowing the others in the scene.

That doesn’t just mean musicians. Venue owners, promoters for local shows and concerts and even local media outlets are worth getting to know.

Build a presence locally, and take it from there. New opportunities should begin to present themselves as you get yourself out there.

Find a Music Scene Mentor

This goes hand-in-hand with networking with professionals. A mentor helps guide you through the early stages of a music career.

Not only can they offer helpful advice and tips; they can also be a sounding board for your ideas.

Your mentor also knows much more about the industry than your friends or family who are simply providing support.

To make the most of a professional career, find a mentor early and utilize their knowledge and support often. They can likely offer some other useful suggestions as well, whether it’s networking or show opportunities.

Market Yourself on Social Media

Marketing as a local musician doesn’t mean putting up posts on Facebook or Instagram saying, “listen to this great song I just wrote.”

People want to see that you’re out supporting the arts and playing live shows. You can share the writing process, practice sessions or other behind-the-scenes footage with your fans.

Overall, social media is the cheapest way to market your music. Take your existing social profiles and make them work for your aspiring career.

Summary

Breaking into the professional scene can be tough, but it’s doable when done right. Take the time to let yourself ease into a role in a local scene, and be patient with yourself and your craft.

Ian R

Ian R. is a life-long musician, and the owner/editor of the popular music blogs ThrivePiano, BassGuitarGuide, and DrumRadar.
Ian R

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