“You just need to practice and write music, and opportunities will come your way!” – young musicians often encounter this advice. However, in today’s rapidly evolving classical music industry, this approach alone no longer guarantees success.

Eszter Bodnár

Seth Godin, an American writer and entrepreneur, emphasizes that in the 21st century, individuals no longer need to passively await invitations to projects, job offers, media coverage, or CD releases. With the proliferation of communication channels, new avenues have emerged. His counsel to young individuals is: “Don’t wait for others to pick you. Pick yourself!”

The age of entrepreneurship – also in the world of music

As a musician, there are many options open to you today, in what form you show your music to the world. Although there are traditional workplaces that promise more commitment and stability, it is increasingly common for musicians to act like entrepreneurs: they shape their professional life themselves. The so-called portfolio careers, where the musician’s income comes from several sources, are also becoming more common. For example, there are those who play in chamber ensembles and orchestras as freelance performers, but also give solo concerts or participate in recordings. Many composers give masterclasses, organize and lead festivals. These musicians have to juggle projects and schedules admirably and consciously forge their own paths. They must constantly plan, build relationships and work hard to achieve their goals.

What does a musician need to know?

Astrid Baumgardner, faculty member at Yale University’s School of Music, writes that success in the world of music is not a linear process – it is much more creative work and requires the musician to have knowledge of many skills in addition to his musical talent. Self-leadership can help you show your music to as many people as possible. This means knowing who you are, what your goals are and what steps lead to them, what your strengths and areas for development are, what opportunities and difficulties characterize your environment. Even if you choose a more traditional career path, careful planning and conscious time management, as well as legal and financial knowledge, are essential. And if you work as a freelancer or want to implement your own project ideas, you need to understand areas such as project planning and management, fundraising, branding, networking, marketing, PR, sales, communication, community building, and digital presence.

Is it really me who have to do this?

The question is valid, as it takes a lot of time and effort. Every musician dreams of having a manager do everything for them. Some get it, and even a complete agency behind them. However, this happens less often with young musicians starting their careers due to the logic of the market. But even if you already work with a manager or an agency, this is your career, and no one will make the most important decisions for you. It is also important to understand the basic concepts so that you can work more effectively with others. Of course, as a freelance musician you don’t need a doctorate in your field, but it’s important to be aware of the basics and know when, for example, you need to turn to an expert.

Where to start?

In addition to practicing and composing, always make time for the business side of your career. Consciously think about your career strategy – it can serve as a compass for developing your medium- and long-term goals, on the basis of which you can more confidently choose between projects and opportunities. Think about how you want to be seen, what you would like to show the audience about yourself. Get to know the environment in which you want to work thoroughly. Map out similar projects, players in the industry, follow the life path, decisions, and latest trends of musicians you consider exemplary. Devote your energy to learning and acquiring new skills. Observe what your strengths are and build on them, and try to improve the areas that are more difficult. Consciously develop and nurture relationships with musicians and other professionals, look for opportunities for collaboration. Finally, don’t forget to stay physically, mentally and emotionally balanced in order to remain a successful and happy musician in the long run.