Freeway Music — Columbia, SC’s Premier Music School

7 Essentials to “Making It” in Music

As a kid we dream of being famous musicians. I wanted to be a rock star when I was 12. Metallica’s Kirk Hammett was my hero! Slowly my dreams have changed and altered over the years, but I feel like I am achieving my dreams, and still never quit dreaming. I have seen many of my friends “make it” and achieve there goals too. So what are some of the common denominators to “making it” in music?

1. Define What “Making It” is to You
Becoming a rock star, or famous, is most people’s thoughts when they are young; however, what you first need to decide is what would make you content, and then, build your way up from there. I personally feel like that “making it” for me was becoming a professional guitar player, not having to work a different job. A different person’s thought of “making it” may be to tour the country with a band. Another person may want to play in a symphony. Whatever it is for you, figure it out and run towards it. Remember, your dreams will slightly change over time. If you are working towards them properly, the reality of what you can achieve will increase in size as well. The way that will happen is through goals.

2. Set Goals
The people who control the most success in the world are those who set goals. The biggest trap musicians fall into is forgetting the business side of music. You need to sit down and make a game plan with clear goals at each step along the way. First, write down your big dream goal. Then, work backwards from that dream with goals and mini-goals set out on a timeline. Have goals set daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, semi-annually, and annually. From time to time, you will have to adjust your goals, but at least you will have a plan.

3. Be Cool
All of my friends who have achieved their goals are cool people. They know how to get along with people, and treat people well. This goes a long way when you are trying to make connections and further your career. Ask yourself what kind of person you would want to associate with and hire. Then, work towards those character traits. Personality can’t get you there alone, but it can certainly speed up the process.

4. Be Professional
This goes back to the business side of music. Always be on time, and always be prepared! My friend and former teacher at Freeway, Jesse Isley, was the best example of this. He would always show up on time and ready. It affected his reputation in a major way. Everyone in town wanted to hire him. Conversely, if you get a reputation of being a slacker and unreliable, no one will hire you. By the way, Jesse just recently played The David Letterman Show; I’d say he is doing alright.

5. Study Your Craft
Be the best at you can be! This is where private music instruction is a huge factor. We have lots of blogs about the importance of taking lessons, practice, finding your teacher, etc. Go check them out. You need to take lessons, and get proficient at your instrument. I feel like one could take lessons forever, and there is always more to learn about music. The better you are at your instrument, the more people will notice and want to be associated with you. This is often where musicians put a lot of energy. Just remember, this isn’t the only factor when working towards your music dreams.

6. Good Gear
You can be the best musician in the world, and still have terrible tone. We dedicated a whole blog on tone. That’s how important is. Make sure and check it out! If you have put in countless hours to make yourself the player you want to be, why wouldn’t you put the same amount of energy into how you sound. Granted some musical equipment can be expensive, but I think we can agree that it is a wise investment.

7. Get in the Line of Fire
I know some really great musicians who want to “make it,” but all they do is play in their living room. Unless you are a YouTube star, this probably won’t get you very far. Get into the scene, be seen, and meet people! Networking is key in any occupation, especially music. If the scene you are in isn’t a good fit for you, move to a scene that is. Nowadays, you can almost do it anywhere with social media, YouTube, internet radio, etc. If you are just sitting by, and not being proactive to make some connection with people, chances are you will not make it very far.

Define your goals, and work towards them. If you are personable, proficient with your instrument, have great tone, and professionalism, everyone will want to hire you…but they won’t know you exist unless you put yourself out there. “Making it” isn’t easy, but you can achieve your goals if you work hard. Good luck on your music journey!

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