Making It Here (by Tony Lee)
To the general public, considering music as a vocation is as preposterous as aspiring to be a professional fire-eater in a circus side show. The average person is stunned to learn that a musician can not only survive but actually thrive, deriving an income from the performance of music and other music-related occupations. But, just how feasible is it to be a professional musician in Columbia?
Endeavoring to be a musician is a course with few familiar landmarks. Unfamiliarity often leads to fear; in this case, the fear of the unknown means that specific advice regarding goals and expectations is not readily available. Although the age-old concept of working hard is a great beginning, the skill set required for success is much more undefined.
If You Can Make It Here
The unique vibrancy that exists in cities such as New York, Nashville, and Los Angeles is such that each opportunity to perform there is an audition for the next one. The irresistible need to cut one’s teeth leads young “lions” (and “lionesses”) to these places where the talent pool is deep enough to challenge them and hone their development. So, those cities often “steal” the best talent…but not always.
Making a living in Columbia playing music is certainly possible. There are enough opportunities available to sustain our best and brightest musicians. The predicament we face is more about whether those same musicians can find fulfillment living here or whether they are drawn to other places seemingly more suited to their professional goals and needs. I suggest that any musician would be wise to sit down and write out a list of goals for his or her career and judge whether those objectives can be realized here.
Get To Work!
Staying here? Great! Let’s get to work. Remember: being a musician is a word-of-mouth business, and in some ways it’s no different than being a plumber, as doing good work is your best marketing. Having a reputation of arriving on time, wearing the right clothes, being happy to be there, and giving your best effort have more to do with success than both the level of your abilities and whatever delusions of grandeur you might foster. While it’s not essential that your skills be world-class, the level and range of your competency increases your number of potential employers, so take the time to prepare yourself to be successful. Practice and absorb as much as possible!
It’s up to each of us to determine not only how we become successful, but also ultimately how our city nurtures its population of talented musicians. May your gig calendar be full and all your bills paid.