Finding Good Musician’s Career Advice Online: It Can Be Tough

Once again, I’m digging into my Pyragraph blog archives to share some indie-music-business-commentary. Here’s a post about, you know, fiding good career advice for musicians online. A lot of it is horribly written and condescending, but you can find good stuff if you Google hard enough.

Warm Advice – Hard To Find?

It’s like they’re teaching in Chinese. I don’t eve know Chinese.

This is what I’m talking about.


Here’s another example of the kind of article/blog/advice column that gets under my skin. (Please don’t tell me my family pussyfoots around my feelings when I know that they have no problem sharing their opinion – negative and positive – about my music. They’re musicians, too. They have high standards.)

Here is a page I found when I was researching about how to go about doing my own taxes. There’s some great info there, but what’s all this about artists not doing well with exacting rules? Don’t we have to deal with things like tuning, melody, chord structure, and instruments, the rules of which have been codified in this big, complicated thing called music theory?

I also learned about this guy, Ari Herstand, when I went down a particularly time-consuming internet vortex. He’s an independent musician who also writes an advice blog. While I’m not crazy about his tone (illustrated by these titles that turn me off most: Musicians Are LazyYour Music Doesn’t Matter), I do essentially like his posts.

Yeah, we’re artists.

We know the boring, standard, stereotypical equation: Being an artist equals being flaky. Being an artist equals being someone who can’t deal with the real. Being an artist means that you can’t do deadlines, do numbers, show up on time, or handle the business end.

But, dude. Check this out. We’re visiting your website. We’re reading your blogs, your articles. We’re open to advice. Please, please, oh pretty please don’t talk down to us.

I might just have to go and get myself upset.

I must confess: I am usually late to appointments. I don’t check my email enough. Sometimes I forget to eat breakfast. I am not perfect. But as a teenager I did get A’s in math, even though I hated doing every last problem.

What is my point here? I can’t handle all this negativity. I know this career is supposed to be difficult in some ways, but I also know that it’s supposed to be fun. Yes, even the business-y end. Even the “boring” stuff.

So, you can probably understand how happy I was when a couple years ago I came across Derek Sivers‘ lovely free ebook, How To Call Attention To Your Music. I had never read anything so supportive, so helpful, so warm, so – what’s the opposite of condescending?

Mr. Sivers, a musician and founder of CDBaby, has a lot of experience as a performer and business person in music. In the ebook, he asks that musicians be considerate. He asks that musicians reach out to people the way you would want to be reached. He wants you to find good people that can help you. He asks that you know who you are. He wants you to be yourself. He wants you to try everything.

Download his ebook. You’ll feel inspired, I promise.

And there’s more.

There’s this fabulous blog written by Seattle-based trumpet player Jason Parker on What It Really Means To Be A Working Musician. Too many people have this idea that the only “successful” musicians are the famous ones who are selling craptons of records and playing sold-out stadium tours. Here Mr. Parker points out that you can make a living doing music. You don’t have to be a starving artist, and you don’t have to be famous to be successful.

In the same vein, here’s a link to a talk given by Pomplamoose’s Jack Conte. He, too, talks about this false dichotomy between musicians who’ve “made it” and the rest of us who continually “struggle.” Ah, times, they are a-changing! We have the resources to be independent. We can create our own successful small businesses in music, and have an awesome time doing it.

And, of course, there’s this lovely Pyragraph blog by musician Rennie Sparks about the benefits of playing depressing shows. And another one of hers called Tour Brain. And this one by musician Marianne Dissard about how she brought a lot of people together to make a high-quality, low budget music video. There’s also this amazingly supportive one by writer Shae Irving about owning your talents. And this hysterically funny one about generating ideas by writer and illustrator Jeff Nitzberg.

So get your act together, hippie. Cut the crap and learn that the real world isn’t such a cold, cruel place after all.

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