Career Strategies that Drive Creativity

“All the inspiration I ever needed was a phone call from a producer.”
–Cole Porter, composer (The Musician’s Way, p. 108)

Many musicians mistakenly deem career-building tasks to be anti-creative.

For them, career development equates with writing newsletters, updating websites, emailing presenters, and the like – chores that take them away from practicing.

We all have to carry out administrative tasks to sustain our careers, but the most important professional moves we make aren’t administrate but creative. They’re the activities that inspire us, that give direction to our music making.

And the more excited we are about professional opportunities, the more effectively we practice and the less onerous administrative work becomes.

Here are 7 entrepreneurial strategies that can boost any musician’s creativity and career.

  1. Craft Compelling Concert Programs
    Presenters will flock to hire you if you offer innovative programs that draw media attention and bring in listeners. Plus, you’ll be keen to promote shows that you know break new ground.
  2. Expand Your Audience
    Are there venues where your type of music isn’t normally heard? Have you ever put together school programs or interactive concerts for the elderly or infirm? When you reach beyond your typical audience, you increase your relevance to your community and stretch your creative powers.
  3. Compose on Commission
    Dancers, filmmakers, theater directors, singers, and even business leaders often need music for their presentations. If you make yourself available to them, you open up possibilities for both income and creative synergy.
  4. Record Distinctive Music
    As with live music, recorded music that blazes with novelty can rise above the competition. Classical performers, for instance, who commission and record new works stand out as pioneers – and plenty of grantmakers support commissions.
  5. Team Up in Unexpected Collaborations
    Not only do collaborations broaden our musical abilities, insightful ones can lead us to new soundscapes and trigger bursts of compositional invention. These in turn can bring on ideas for concerts and recordings.
  6. Create Educational Materials
    From one generation to the next, aspiring musicians need up-to-date pedagogical materials. Who better to create those materials than you? The publications you devise can aid countless music lovers and earn you royalties far into the future.
  7. Tap New Technologies
    Suppose that you land a string of concerts: Why limit your audience to those who can attend your show? You might acquire some video production chops and stream your concerts live via sites like UStream. Or you could audio-record your performances and sell recordings right then on flash drives, as Aderra does.

In sum, there are abundant audiences eager to hear high-quality music. It’s up to us to think imaginatively and do the work necessary to deliver that music.

For more career-building strategies, see “Embracing Career Challenges” on pages 299-307 of The Musician’s Way.

Related posts
The art-career tango
Artistic vision
Music: The practical career?
Programs that pop
What makes an entrepreneurial musician?

© 2011 Gerald Klickstein

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2 Responses to “Career Strategies that Drive Creativity”

  1. Jim Richardson said:

    Feb 26, 11 at 14:30

    Hey, I love the blog by the way. I just recently started doing paid gigs, I like the article, very motivational. Keep it up.

  2. Dakota said:

    Apr 25, 11 at 15:38

    This is very good information. Thanks for writing about it. I don’t try to get ‘paid’ gigs but do sing and play often with my church praise band. I’ve also done some outdoor freebies with my Grandma’s church.
    Last year I was one of the winners with NISO here in my hometown. This is great for my college resume.
    I’m starting to explore other avenues of income rather than only teaching piano. The website is one, but we all know how much work and time that takes to get going.
    I found your list inspiring and encouraging. I’ve already been working on some of your ideas, like creating my own online piano learning system and creating downloadable music.
    Thanks again,
    Piano Lesson Girl