Things like expensive instruments and recording equipment can definitely improve your music career, but no amount of money can buy talent and an artist’s willingness to work. There are free and inexpensive things musicians have access to every day that they can be doing to change their careers in a huge way. Here are three of them:
Create realistic long and short-term goals
This is not only massively important but is also free for musicians wanting to further their careers. Your music career won’t develop and thrive until you know what you really want to get out of it. Make a list of huge goals, making sure not to limit yourself in any way. Stuff like “get signed by my favorite label” and “quit my job to pursue music full-time” fits here. Then, make a much larger list of short-term goals and benchmarks that you’ll need to reach your big career goals. Things like “play 50 shows this year” and “release two EPs by June” fit here. By putting not only your dreams but also the things you’ll need to do to get there, you’ll set yourself up for progress by planning in a way that puts you on the path toward reaching your big goals.
Stick to a strict music-making schedule – no matter what
Here’s another completely free but hugely beneficial thing every musician can do to further their career. By creating and sticking to a weekly music-making schedule, you’ll be inching closer to your goals through consistent work. If you’re like most adult humans, you’re probably incredibly busy. Everything from your relationships to distractions online to the things you do in your life to make money have the potential to distract you from your music. Sticking to a schedule is so powerful because it forces you to succeed by prioritizing music. There are times when artists receive seemingly random inspiration for their music while driving or at the dentist, but the most progress you’ll ever make as a musician is when you set time to focus on your work. If you’re skeptical, try devoting a few blocks of time a week to music-making for a month and note the results after. Music-making can be rehearsing with your band, writing, or producing, but nothing non-musical like marketing or booking shows.
Listen to new music every day
Here’s the only thing on this list that might cost money. Listening to new music every day, even if it’s just a song or two, can absolutely transform your music career. This exercise will broaden your musical tastes and creative perspective. Through a paid streaming subscription, video service, or even live concerts, expose yourself to new music every day and get specific about what you think about it. If it’s great, why is it great? Narrow down things like instrumentation, melody, chord structure, rhythm, lyrics, and production. If you don’t like it, pinpoint why that is as well. What you discover through new music will inform the energy and musical philosophy of your own work.
The tips listed here are free or cheap to do, but that doesn’t make them easy. It takes work to launch and sustain a music career. And while the predictability of these suggestions might seem at odds with your creativity, they’re actually designed to develop and unleash it.
Patrick McGuire is a writer, musician, and human man. He lives nowhere in particular, creates music under the name Straight White Teeth, and has a great affinity for dogs and putting his hands in his pockets.