How To Be A Succesful Musician (in 10 easy steps)
Succeeding as a musician requires two things: first, you need to be
taken seriously, and then people need to remember who you are. I've
received plenty of advice on how to succeed, and all of it comes down to
these two essentials. Most of this advice I've got completely free of
charge from colleagues who want to help a friend out and show the true
path to greatness - and now I'll share these nuggets of wisdom with you,
spreading the love. All you need to do is follow these 10 simple steps,
and you'll succeed in no time.
1. Wear make-up. Nobody will take you seriously without it.
(You'll be surprised to know that a soprano told me this. I assumed it
only applies to women, but hey, what do I know - a little mascara never
2. If you live in Finland, be in the Sibelius Academy. In
the bachelor program, doing your masters or doctoral studies, teaching,
as a janitor, just get in. Because if you're not in the Sibelius
Academy, your career is as good as over - people will forget you in a
flash. (Sorry, majority of Finnish musicians. Apparently everyone forgot
3. Win competitions. That's the true way towards greatness. If you just can't win, then at least (4.) have CDs to your name. Nobody buys them or listens to them, but you've got to have them to look like a pro.
5. It's easier to win competitions if you look artistic
when you're playing, because then everyone will know you're a serious
musician. (This nugget comes from a competition jury member.) Looking
artistic means waving your arms around a lot, making faces, closing your
eyes for emphasis, and keeping it visually interesting in general. The
only people allowed to just sit there and play are 60+ male pianists
whose CVs are longer than them. Everyone else must keep moving.
6. Build and nurture a strong online presence: facebook,
instagram, twitter, youtube, soundcloud, blog, vlog... - update them
regularly and curate your content so that it resonates with your target
audience. Then make millions from ads and sponsor deals.
7. Have a teaching method, it's the new black. (This is
forward-thinking news from Continental Europe - Finland is always years
behind, but this is our chance to catch up.) I've launched the Color
Star Shiny Pumpkin method that makes every child play like Lang Lang in
just six weeks. It's part video game, part coloring book, and I'm
selling the material on- and offline for 1.600$ per student.
8. Get your concerts right. A succesful musician only does two types of concerts: conceptual and market-friendly.
Conceptual concerts get shitloads of funding because they're innovative
and new. They take classical music out of dusty concert halls and into
the real world: to shopping malls, swimming pools, forests, and fire
trucks. It's important to add new layers to the musical experience: at
least you have to have an app for the audience, preferably an
interactive video game, or then just make the audience build their own
kites and fly them in an abandoned factory while you play Bach fugues on
a guitar made from potatoes.
If you can't get funding, you have to make the audience buy tickets. The
audience doesn't like difficult music (I've heard this from a few
different singer sources), so stick to the golden hits of opera, throw
in some relaxing piano classics and finish off with a musical number or
two. You will get rich and then die of brain explosion during the
19.576th performance of Meine Lippen Sie Küssen So Heiss. May you rest
9. Have a company. (This I've heard from everyone who has one.)
Nobody wants to employ a musician these days - they don't want to take
care of all that legal hassle. Have a company and just send them the
bill, that's how it's done these days. If you don't, they'll never hire
you and you'll starve to death in the gutter.
10. Have attractive (and slightly suggestive) PR photos because sex sells and that's what everyone does these days.
...and that's it. Needless to say I've ignored most of this feedback. I want to believe that the work we do speaks for itself, and we will get by if we respect our colleagues, audiences, and the music itself. What more is there than performing and teaching from our hearts sincerely and honestly? Sharing music with others in a way that is true to ourselves, coming from our unique point of view? No matter how you define success, take a moment to appreciate and admire the career you have right now. Whatever it looks like, obscure or brilliant, love it. It's your very own.