Get Your Music Heard: 6 Business Skills Every Musician Needs to Be Successful


When you wake up five years from now, what do you hope your life and career will look like?

I know, I know. You’re still wrapping your head around what you want THIS year.

But it’s important to look forward, and here’s why:

I imagine you have big goals to get your music heard.

Maybe you want to have at least 50 paying concerts per year.

Maybe you want want to sell out major venues.

Maybe you want to grow your studio and help more musicians find success.

Here at iCadenza we’ve helped hundreds of musicians make their big dreams a reality (it’s one of our favorite things to do!).

And we’ve also watched musicians who struggle year after year, never quite reaching their full potential.

What separates the successful musicians from the ones who struggle?

Get Your Music Heard: 6 Business Skills Every Musician Needs

There are six business skills for musicians that are critical to your success.

So if you want to get your music heard, start by cultivating these six, crucial qualities.

Skill #1: Owning an Entrepreneurial Mindset

Entrepreneur Magazine calls musicians “the ultimate entrepreneurs.

This should come as no surprise.

Mastering your career in music requires the same qualities that make for successful entrepreneurs. You must overcome challenges and setbacks, stay disciplined, and commit to your dream.

Astrid Baumgardner, Lecturer & Head of Office of Career Strategies at Yale University School of Music, describes it well: “Success in the music world today is not a linear process. Rather, it is highly creative and requires that musicians master a lot of skills on top of their musical talent.”

Success in the music world today is not a linear process. @abaumgardner Click To Tweet

But adopting an entrepreneurial mindset can be tricky for many performers, especially when you’re continually shown traditional models of success.

How can you make the shift and cultivate creative, innovative ways to get your music heard?

It starts by dedicating time and energy to sharpening skills outside of the practice room.

For you, that might mean growing your audience, learning marketing strategies, or building a stronger network, all of which help get your music heard.

Determine your strengths and weaknesses and decide where to focus your attention so you can reach your career goals faster.

Skill #2: Identifying Your Audience

Finding and defining your audience is THE key to success.

That’s because, once you’ve zeroed in on your audience, you’ll know better how to reach them, what to say that will make them take notice, and how to bring value to their lives.

Do not underestimate the power of this knowledge!

When you create a true connection with the people who are eager to support you, endless opportunities will open up.

Does identifying your audience sound overwhelming?

Don’t worry.

Despite popular belief, fan engagement can be authentic, heartfelt, and fun—at least that’s what we’ve learned from composer, violinist, and singer-songwriter Chrysanthe Tan!

On top of that, your fans can influence your art.

As Hao Nguyen explains, “You can create much better music when it’s aimed at the people you know best and the people that you know can appreciate where you are coming from.”


Skill #3: Creating Your Career Pathway

I asked you this earlier but it’s an important question:

Are you able to craft a vision for where you want your career to be in the next five years?

If you are, how clear is the picture? Can you see it, feel it, and experience it deep in your bones?

If you’re not, make time to visualize the future.

As Amy Kweskin, founder of Artsightful says, “your vision is your intention.”

Where do you see your career in five years? Your vision is your intention. Click To Tweet

Here’s what that means:

When you’re struggling to see where you’re going it’s harder to take the necessary steps to get your music heard.

But once you’re firm on your career pathway, you can then break down your action steps, create a timeline for making it all happen, and finally get your music heard by the right people.

First comes vision, then comes action. You need both to get your career in music off the ground.

First comes vision, then comes action. You need both to get your career in music off the ground. Click To Tweet

Skill #4: Knowing How to Spread Your Message

It doesn’t matter how well-known you are—at the end of the day, your ability to spread your message will make or break your success.

I mentioned earlier how important it is to connect with and engage your audience… but HOW do you reach them?

The best way to reach the widest audience possible is to get your message across a variety of platforms. This ensures you’re meeting your audience where they hang out most.

And if getting your message out to more people feel daunting, you’re not alone.

The good news is, it doesn’t have to be overwhelming (or expensive!) to get your message out there and get your music heard.

To start, take advantage of the free resources you already love and use every day. Social media is your friend!

Want to know more about what makes your audience tick? Check out Buffer’s post on 10 Free Tools to Help You Understand Your Social Media Audience.

Arts entrepreneur David Taylor recommends using free distribution channels, especially when you’re in the first stages of learning about your audience and what they respond to.

To maximize your reach, use press releases, social media, and interviews to get your message out into the world.

Skill #5: Creating a Standout Press Kit

As a professional musician, it’s easy to believe that presenters are brick walls that block you from getting your music heard.

But this kind of thinking can hold you back, especially when it comes to your press kit.

Think about it this way:

Presenters see SO many press kits that they can all start to blur together into one giant mashup of images, links, and audio clips.

So you need yours to stand out!

To make your press kit stand out be sure to get feedback from mentors and professionals whose opinions you trust. Ask what they love about it, what’s missing, and what’s unclear.

Continue to adjust your press kit as you learn what works best for you.

Skill #6: Grant Writing

Funding is critical to bringing your art to life.

Like everything else we’ve talked about today, even the grant application process is entrepreneurial.

You must understand WHO you’re writing to, HOW to tell your story in a way that will connect, and WHY your need for funding should be met.

That’s why non-profit consultant Gretchen McIntosh emphasizes the importance of understanding the funder’s perspective and communicating your story clearly, concisely, and unforgettably.

What else can help your chances of getting funding?

Knowing that relationships matter.

Successful grant applicants develop relationships in and around their communities. Plus, they maintain relationships with funders, even after those funder are no longer funding the artist’s project.

As you’ve gathered by now, crafting a successful career in music is a long game.

Stay true to your values, learn the six skills above, and you’re sure to get your music heard—faster than you think.

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