In the ever changing world of the music industry, it is getting more and more challenging to find your way as a guitarist (or should I say as a musician) and make a successful career out of it. I think the best piece of advice I can give from my experience, is to do a realistic checklist of your strengths, of where we stand as a musician, of your goals and then make a plan on how to achieve them. It is very important to review these goals from time to time and even more important to renew them once achieved (or missed!!). Without a goal to work toward it is very easy to loose our way.
First of all there are a few dualities we have to explore: are we a leader or a sideman? Solo artist or band member? Do we find work for ourselves or would we rather be part of a team? Do you want to be a jack-of-all-trades or the best at just one?
Do you have a product to ‘sell’ or are you all form and no content?? This could be a CD, a book or even just a song you really believe in. Maybe it is time for you to start writing your own material rather than covering somebody else’s or mimicking parrot-fashion your idol, or the ‘in’ act of the moment. You always stand a better chance to make it with your own material, and believe me the rewards are much bigger, especially from a personal point of view. You can record your own album or demo at home with very little gear, so no excuses there.
Another misconception I seem to hear many times, is that a musician has to be only a performer to be called a musician…actually some of the most well established guitarists I know are not only performers, but also writers, teachers, producers and more! This is why well rounded musicians stand a better chance to make it. Overnight fame very rarely happens. Most artists concentrate on developing different ‘streams of income’ or earning a living through a combination of session work, writing, producing, and any other music opportunities that may present themselves. Networking is a key element in all this and nowadays it is easier than ever with social networking sites like Myspace and Facebook. Having said that, nothing beats going to live gigs, meeting face to face and building long lasting relationships.
Building a Mailing list is vital if you want to keep your connections alive! These could be for people that like your music and are your fans, or clubs where you want to play, recording studios, management companies, and more. Keep those email addresses in a safe place, and don’t be afraid to use them!
After all that, I must say must say that one thing is still true: follow your instincts!!
A short list of websites where to find gigs/work in the UK as a musician:
www.gumtree.com – Pick your town and search in their musicians’ section.
www.myspace.com – Musician exchange section