Tips for Getting Started as a Freelance Musician

It’s one thing to have a love and passion for music. It’s another to be a musician for a living. Because of the nature of the music industry, most musicians nowadays take the route of doing freelance work, which means taking on different projects from various employers, rather than working for one person 9 to 5, Monday through Friday.

Don’t be fooled, musicians are always needed — probably more than you’d imagine! But your chances for success are far higher in the freelance world than trying to find a full-time gig. Of course, you’re still going to have to work really hard. But if making music is truly something you want as a career path, you can absolutely do it. And to give you a bit of help, we’re going give you six tips to help get you started as a freelance musician.

Record Music

Probably the most important thing you can do as a freelance musician is recording yourself. You never know when an opportunity is going to arise, and you may not be able to give a live demonstration of your talents.

If you’re on the songwriting front, having recordings is especially important! If you’re more of a writer and insecure with your musical talents, have a friend perform, or notate your songs on some sheet music.

These recordings don’t have to be professionally recorded, though they should be clear enough to where the listener can get an accurate reading of your talent. And make sure that the songs or pieces you are recording showcase your very best! To separate even further from the pack, try recording a variety of styles and genres to prove your versatility.

Once you’ve made some recordings, make sure you have them in an accessible place. You can post them online to platforms like YouTube or Soundcloud, keep them all on a hard drive for easy access, or post them to a website or your social media channels, which we’re going to talk about next!

Create Social Media Channels

It’s no secret that social media is slowly and surely taking over the world as we know it. If you want to be taken seriously as an artist, you should have profiles on most (if not all) social media platforms so that people can find you.

If you already have personal social media accounts, consider creating separate accounts for your music. You don’t have to do this, but if you are looking to be hired on a case by case basis (as a performer, for example), this is a good idea, as it makes your music look more like a business and less like a hobby.

We recommend creating profiles on

  • Facebook (create a Facebook page)
  • Twitter
  • Instagram
  • YouTube

For example, you don’t want to be @johndoe on Facebook, @johndoemusic on Twitter, and @johndoe12 on Instagram. We recommend keeping your username short and straightforward, preferably @firstnamelastname or @firstnamelastnamemusic. Structuring your social media handles this way allows you to be taken seriously, rather than something like @prettypiano_1992.

Once you’ve created your profiles, commit to posting regularly. Start with posting at least once a week in the beginning, and as you become more comfortable and your platform grows, try posting two or three times a week. Of course, the exception to this is YouTube, where you will likely be posting less, however once a week is a still a great goal to have for this platform.

Social Media Pro Tips:

  • Try sticking to an aesthetic on Instagram, so that all of your posts look like they go together. In this way, you are establishing a brand, again, setting yourself apart.
  • Post pictures and videos of yourself. How can anyone know who you are if they never see you?
  • Post videos. If someone comes to your page for the first time and sees that you’re a musician, but doesn’t see any evidence, you’ll leave them unconvinced.
  • Make who you are and what you are doing obvious.

Network

We can’t stress this point enough! Networking is so important in the music industry, and it’s absolutely essential for your success. You can’t get a job if you don’t know who you’re working for! But where do you even start?

As a musician, you’re probably familiar with going to events, competitions, and conferences. If you went to college for music or even studied music in high school, you’ve been to more events than you can count. These are great places to start. At the next event you attend, make an effort to talk to conductors, businesses, event coordinators, other musicians, or anyone else you can engage in conversation.

In addition to events you’ll already be attending, try and get in contact with local recording studios, music businesses, teachers, and musicians. You may have a little bit of trial and error here, but you never know who you might meet that could provide an excellent connection or opportunity for you.

And of course, it goes without saying that if you already have a connection, take advantage of it! For example, suppose you’ve just played the piano at a gala, and you’d like to do it full time. Talk to whoever it was that hired you and ask if they’d recommend you to others. Tell them to keep you in mind for future events. Give them your contact information and make it your goal to be memorable.

This leads us to our next point: self-promotion.

Self-Promote

If you’re not the overly confident type, self-promotion may be rather difficult for you. But in a sea of talented musicians, you have to stand out from the rest, and that’s going to require a little bit of persuasion.

Promoting yourself in person doesn’t necessarily mean talking about how great you are. It’s good to talk about your abilities and versatility, but more than anything, you need to make an impression. And the best way to make an impression is to simply be prepared. You can do this by

  • Having business cards
  • Having recordings on hand
  • Being ready to perform at a moments notice
  • Doing your homework (knowing about the person you’re trying to connect with, being educated about the event you’re at, etc.)
  • Asking someone else for a business card
  • Knowing your schedule in case a meeting is set up

It’s likely that self-promotion in a conversation or at an event will take you some getting used to. But just like anything else, practice makes perfect!

Self-promoting yourself online is going to happen through your website and on social media. You can always post a video or recording on Instagram, but the self-promotion occurs when you change the messaging and ask your followers to listen, buy, share, or like your music. Because you’re asking them to take some sort of action, their attention is being drawn to you. This is one of the easiest ways to promote yourself because you don’t actually have to go anywhere or do anything, and it’s a great place to start if you’re feeling a little weary about talking yourself up.

Just remember, when you self-promote, you have to be able to follow through. Don’t promise anything you can’t deliver on! 

Be Open

Music touches more businesses and people than you might realize, so it’s important that when you’re pursuing a career as a freelance musician, you don’t limit yourself too much in one area.

For example, say you want to be a vocalist for various live events. Maybe you’re singing at an event, and there’s a producer in the crowd who wants you to be a session vocalist at his or her studio.

Say your goal is to be a singer-songwriter. Maybe there’s a night where you’re performing at an open mic, and a university professor invites you to teach songwriting part-time at the local college.

Part of the beauty of being a freelance musician is that you’re likely not doing the same thing every day. If you’re offered a new kind of job you haven’t had before, take it! Who knows where it could lead? At the very least, you might acquire a new skill or two. So don’t discount anything just because it’s outside of your usual gig.

Keep Grinding

-Beats Central Team

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