Monday, June 16, 2014

The 3 Secrets To Finding A Career In The Music Industry (and anywhere else!)

I think it's pretty safe to say that most people have some idea of what their dream job would be. Whether you're in high school thinking about your future career or in your 40's wishing for a better job than what you have, you probably have thought once or twice about some sort of job that you enjoy and don't do just for the money. Some people dream of doing work that's creatively fulfilling. Some dream of being a powerful figure working to do good. Others dream of unmitigated power and stepping on whoever they need to get there. They usually run for political office. Still others don't care so much about the work, they just want a job where they have free time and enough money to enjoy life. We all have our idea of a dream occupation.  Some of you reading may already have that job. That's amazing if you do. But most of the time those dream jobs are incredibly hard to get purely because of the fact that so many people want them. I used to spend a lot of time in LA and it's amazing how true the stereotype was that so many people there want to be actors.  I found it kind of sad that statistically it was impossible for many of those people to accomplish that dream. Likewise, not every computer programmer can work for Apple or Google. These are highly competitive fields with lots of people competing for a finite amount of jobs. I don't consider myself an important or even that smart of a person by any stretch of the imagination. But I do feel incredibly lucky and blessed to be able to play music professionally. I'm not rich, but I've been able to support a family by playing, writing, and producing music which, as you probably can guess, is not the easiest position to get into. I'd like to share with you a secret that was originally told to me by a mentor I had years ago. These 3 secrets are the key to being successful not only in the music industry, but really in any highly competitive field. Through the years I've seen his advice proven over and over again. I call it the Balancing Of the Major Skill-sets. Here it is:

To be successful in a highly competitive field (which includes the music industry), you need to be well-balanced in 3 major skill-sets. Those 3 areas are the TECHNICAL, RELATIONAL, and ARTISTIC.

Now let's define these areas:

This is about being good at what you do. Simple enough, right? If you are a guitar player, it means you're a really good player. If you're a computer programmer, you're an expert coder who knows many programming languages. If you're a lawyer, you know the law well and can articulate very clearly your arguments. If you're a teacher, it means you understand the subject matter so well that you can make it so clear that anyone can learn easily. This the meat and potatoes of what makes someone good at their job. This is a no-brainer, right? Everybody knows that if you want to be successful that you have to be good at your job. But here's a common misconception where many people run into trouble. Where many people go wrong is when they believe that simply being good at their job should be enough. If you ignore the other skill sets, it doesn't matter how good you are - you probably won't do well. I have met many people in my travels who are incredibly talented. Some of these people are musicians that can play circles around me, but they have completely ignored one or two of the other major areas and wonder why they can't get a gig.

This is simply people skills. How good are you with people? Do people like you? Are you easy to get along with? Do you constantly have drama in your life? Many jobs, especially those in the music industry, are determined by whether or not people like you. It's as simple as that. I know somebody reading this is thinking "oh, it's all about who you know" as if it's some unfair system. While there is a seed of truth in that statement, that sentiment is completely wrong. It's wrong in the assumption that if you know the right people, you can be totally incompetent and still get a gig. That simply isn't true. But here's the bit of truth behind that - I have seen many instances where the better musician was passed over for a gig simply because he wasn't a good "hang". And you know what? I think it should be that way. If I were hiring a band and had the choice between a player who was pretty good, could play the parts fine, and was fun to be around, versus another player who was an incredible musician worthy of the gods, but was painful to be around because he knew he was so high and mighty, I bet you all know who i would choose. I pick the guy I can get along with every time. Obviously the musician needs to be good enough to cover the parts, but the majority of music out there doesn't require modal improv free form jazz exploration. If you were in the same position, you'd probably make the same decision. Because if you're going to live on a tour bus for weeks at a time with people, wanting someone you get along with is a must. And the same goes for any job. If you're going to work in close proximity with other people, you can't be a complete and total douche bag.

I have dubbed the last area the Artistic skill-set. Every job has some sort of need for artistic sensibilities. Some require more than others, but it's there. By this, I simply mean your tastes. Your style. Your aesthetic. To use my musician example again, you simply can't be out of date. You can't expect to get a punk rock gig if all you know if 80s hair metal. If your clothes and even your gear don't match the vibe of the artist you're auditioning for, you're probably not going to get hired. And this is true for all jobs. If you're a home builder, you can't build houses that ignore the aesthetic demands of customers and expect to sell your outdated houses. Years ago there was a Brady Bunch movie, and the whole gag was that the Brady Bunch was living in modern times, but still dressed and did everything like they were still in the 60's. In a few scenes, the father, an architect, was continually trying to sell his outdated designs to be used in the modern age and was repeatedly turned down. It illustrates my point that your artistic sensibilities are important in any job. Here's the major pitfall that most people fall into when it comes to being current (at least in the music industry). When you are in high school, it is easy to be current. Billions of marketing dollars in everything from makeup to music to deodorant are thrown at your demographic in the hopes of getting you to buy things. You don't have to actively search out what's in style because it's served up to you on a golden platter. You're in school 5 days a week with your peers. If some new trend pops up, it's pretty hard to ignore. You don't have a full time job and you don't have bills to pay, so what else is going to occupy your time?? What I've noticed is that most people get their artistic sensibilities in high school (or college) but never grow or evolve them beyond that. They wear the same clothes they wore back then. You can even see it in hairstyles. Look at any adult's high school yearbook and chances are that ten years later their hair (if they still have it) is pretty close to that same style. I'm not saying to be fake and to be the old guy trying to act like he's young. I'm just saying it's healthy to keep an open mind to new styles that come out. You may actually like them.

Now that I've defined the three major skill-sets, here's the real point of what I'm trying to say. To even have a chance at getting a job in highly competitive field, these three areas have to be in balance. And here's the big secret - you don't even have to be 100% in all three areas. The trick is to not be lopsided. You don't want to be strong in one area and weak in the others. Like I wrote earlier, I know people who are crazy talented. Their Technical skills are off the charts. But their Relational skills were almost non-existent and their Artistic sensibilities were extremely low. A person like this is going to have an extremely hard time achieving their dreams. I've also met people who have almost magical people skills. I'm talking about that small handful of people you meet in your lifetime who are incredibly funny, witty, and everyone seems to like them. But some of these same people don't seem to have any Technical skill and wonder why their connections aren't getting them anywhere. And then there's the people who have incredible taste and can talk for hours and hours about the esoteric nuances of their field, but are snobby and can't come down from their ivory tower. But on the other hand, if someone is just pretty good at what they do, gets along pretty well with people, and they're relatively current, that's the person who's going to get hired. I'm living proof of that. I'm not an amazing player, but I can learn quickly and with a little practice I can play just about whatever you throw at me. I'm not incredibly funny and I'm not Mr. Charisma, but I can get along with most people and I can talk to anybody. I'm also working on not being such a jerk. And artistically, I am sometimes late to the party on whatever the most popular hipster artsy band is today, but I enjoy new music and get excited when somebody is creating music that's fresh and new. I'm not saying I'm awesome. It's actually the opposite.

So the moral of the story is to set your sights on mediocrity. Hahaha...ok not really. The moral is to be well-balanced in all three areas. The person who focuses on one or two but forgets the others is like the body-builder who only works out his arms and forgets his legs. It's just ridiculous. So I would like to encourage anyone reading this to examine yourself and determine which of these three areas you are strong in, and those where you are weak. If your Technical skill is lacking, you need to put in the practice and man hours to build your skill. If your Relational skills are in doubt, work on it. There's an entire industry of authors, speakers, and books dedicated to making yourself a better person. And if you find yourself painfully behind the times, open up a bit and try to find something you like that's new. I'm not saying you have to whore yourself out and follow every ridiculous trend that pops up. But I guarantee that if you open yourself up to the possibility, you will find out there might be a legitimate reason why certain trends are popular - you might just enjoy it.

And lastly, for anyone reading this, if you have a second please join my email list. I've got some really cool things in the works and my email subscribers will be the first to know. Thanks!

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About Me

"What came first, the music or the misery? People worry about kids playing with guns, or watching violent videos; that some sort of culture of violence will take them over. Nobody worries about kids listening to thousands, literally thousands of songs about heartbreak, rejection, pain, misery and loss. Did I listen to pop music because I was miserable? Or was I miserable because I listened to pop music?" --Hi Fidelity

Hey guys, my name is Nick Baumhardt. I help write and record music. I also play guitar for Thousand Foot Krutch and FM Static.

These are my thoughts on music, art, politics, food, recording and whatever else I feel like writing about.

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