DIY Musician Course

I wanted to be a professional musician once. I wanted to make a living off of making art, music. I bought equipment when I’ve had money. I tried out for singing groups. I even started making beats to sell and to use for collaboration. Then I realized it wasn’t my destiny to be a professional musician. How? You may ask. How did I know I wasn’t mean to be a professional musician? Simple. I met some people who are professional musicians and they had skills that were millions of miles ahead of mine.

Now, that’s not to say that I still don’t make music. Nor do I think I couldn’t get to their level of skill with many many more hours of practice and experience. The way I really knew that I wasn’t meant to play music professionally, was that I found out I loved helping them achieve their music career goals. That’s where I found my niche.

After so many years and so many endeavors in music, from playing violin in Suzuki Strings, trumpet and drums, I finally figured out that professional musician is NOT my lane. And that’s ok. Not everyone who tries is meant to be a professional musician. It’s up to each of us to figure that out for ourselves.

So maybe you have a similar story. Maybe you’re still on a path to be a professional musician. You just have to decide within yourself, right now, if that is the path that was meant for you. If playing music on stage for people lights your soul on fire. If hitting that perfect chord with your fellow band mates is your spiritual experience, you might be on the right path. You should still get nervous before shows. You are human after all. But if you’re literally terrified before and during your stage performance, you might want to rethink things.

The point of this article is not to discourage anyone from being a professional, do-it-yourself (DIY) musician. The idea is to make you ask yourself the question: is this really what I want to be doing?

The lifestyle of a DIY musician is a struggle. It’s a hustle. You need to eat, sleep and breathe music if you plan to be a DIY musician. It’ll take many years before you make any headway. I once heard that the average “overnight success” takes 10 years to reach. Given the math from Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers (link), that’s about right for having finished your 10,000 hours. Just know that overnight success is a myth and it takes years of practice and an obsessive dedication to your craft to break through. Depending on how much success you want in this industry, you will have to have a work ethic to match the price tag you want to claim for yourself. If you want to be a millionaire, are you giving a million dollars worth of effort, every day?

Of course, there will be days when you can’t work on your craft, but you can always plan mentally until you can get to a place to write down an idea or record a sample in your head. The people you see on television typically have outworked everyone and are likable enough that people want to continue to work with them. That’s why they’re making the big bucks. They can perform their craft effortlessly, on cue, every time. That’s what people pay for. Can you do the job they need to be done, well and on cue? If not, good luck getting any more gigs. You can’t become a millionaire giving a $10/hour effort. Now if $10 an hour is all you want, that’s all the effort you need to put in. If you want any more than that, guess what? YOU HAVE TO WORK HARDER. Give the effort equivalent to the price tag you want to charge and you will be closer to making it happen. Many of the other pieces to the puzzle are people you know and the people who know of you. Much of that is luck of the draw, but quite a bit of that is knowing how to network. Network with musicians in an out of your scene, executives, radio and press people and on down the line. If you want to be successful and you don’t know how to network, learn. This is a trial by fire sort of situation. Force yourself to go out and meet people. Have a goal to meet 5 new people in a day if you don’t know any.

The other part of being DIY is that it is all on you. If you have a plan, but you don’t complete a step, guess what? It’s not going to get done. You can’t blame your mother or your sister. The only person to blame for not getting it done is you. That is why I like to use the phrase, “This is a marathon, not a sprint.” That reminds me that even if I don’t get everything done today, I can continue tomorrow and still be on track. That’s not an excuse to procrastinate. That’s just advice so you don’t get too discouraged early on. This is a long haul. You can’t get down because you don’t achieve everything right away. It takes time. These are natural laws you’re dealing with, not some sort of magic.

These are just some of the basic things you need to know as you start your journey. We can tell you much more, here.

Bullet Points:

  • Not everyone should be a professional musician
  • Lifestyle of a DIY musician is a struggle until it’s not
  • It takes hard work, great networking skills and a little luck (timing) to be a successful DIY musician