I have a friend who is a college student who is studying music and ministry. He needed to interview someone ‘in the music business’, so he sent me some questions. And while I don’t work in the music industry per se, I think the input was helpful for him.
And I remember thinking, as I wrote my responses… Well, HERE’s a bunch of stuff I didn’t see coming when I was in college.
I posted the responses here for your perusal and commentary. So… peruse and comment. Any help this provides will be like you getting the extra credit for my friend’s assignment. 🙂
Describe your career in the music business:
I work as the Director of Artists for a music missions organization. I oversee artist development and strategies related to mobilizing missional artists for outreach and worship events. This includes live performances for outreach and worship, as well as recording and video projects. Prior to being in senior leadership of our ministry, I led a band and served as a musician/performer and communicator for several years, traveling all over the U.S. and internationally as well.
Our work is to perform concerts where we partner with ministries to share spiritual truths, as well as train people in worship, music evangelism and communication (public speaking and storytelling skills).
Describe the typical work day in your career.
There really isn’t one – it changes a lot during a typical year. Sometimes it involves a lot of administrative tasks like budgeting for a department, leadership and oversight of people (reviews, encouragement, alignment, etc.), and putting together project teams for musical projects, tours, worship conferences, etc. Other times, I will serve as a guitarist and/or music director for music teams for conferences or for bands that go on tour internationally.
How did your educational background and experience prepare you for this career?
I did not study music OR ministry in college. I have a degree in liberal arts and had a career in Information Technology prior to this. So neither my education or professional experience DIRECTLY prepared me for my current vocation. But, ironically, my education and career helped reveal to me that my 18-year I.T. career was unfulfilling, and I needed to do something I was actually passionate about (and not settle simply because it was lucrative and safe.)
How did you get started in your career?
I got started as a musician in middle school, started performing with bands in high school, and started working semi-professionally as a musician in college, playing live shows and doing occasional session work. After spending a good many years in I.T. and doing music (and music ministry) ‘on the side’, I eventually changed careers and went to work for a music missions organization.
What specific skills do you feel are necessary to launch and maintain your career?
I’d say there are two important categories of skills to launch and maintain a career – artistic and entrepreneurial.
Regarding artistry (whether as a performer or songwriter or producer or whatever), you need to invest heavily in developing those skills. The oft-quoted ‘10,000 hours’ figure illustrates that becoming an expert at anything will take an investment that must be made to the exclusion of many (if not all) other things. The strength of your creative output will be the backbone of your work; you need to develop those skills and abilities VERY intentionally.
Regarding entrepreneurism, there is a degree to which being a self-starter, personal brand-builder and organizational linchpin are indispensable skills. Whatever sort of creator you are, you need to take ownership of your career, chase down opportunities and make things happen.
What common mistakes do you find are often made in pursuing this type of career?
I think a lot of people make the mistake of insulating themselves from legitimate criticism. There is a proverb in the Christian Bible that says that wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses. Many people do not have anyone who will tell them the honest truth about their ability, or about how easy/hard they are to work with. If you want to be a professional, you need to get some honest feedback to keep you both truly sharp and truly humble.
What advice would you give someone who is just now entering the music business?
As far as advice, I’d say to commit to do the 10,000 hours at whatever your craft is, and create a feedback loop that will develop your abilities and humility. Figure out who you REALLY are as a creator and bring that to the world. Learn to be servant-hearted, because being easy to work with AND excellent in your craft will make you invaluable. And finally, YOU are your own greatest resource when it comes to making opportunities.
Be great, and get out there and take some risks.