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by Laura Weiner

Angela Myles Beeching, music career specialist and author of Beyond Talent: Creating a Successful Career in Music, recently put out a survey to a wide group of musicians about what their top career concerns are and what they feel they need to address these concerns.  Early results indicate that the top issues on the mind of young musicians’ seem to be

  • attaining financial stability
  • finding more freelance work
  • booking performances
  • promoting performances, and
  • time management.

Though these concerns are hardly surprising, it brings into focus the difficulties so many musicians have in forging a career outside of the mainstream, large arts institutions.

Ms. Beeching’s follow-up questions were based on what methods and solutions musicians themselves have already undertaken, or could undertake in the future, to address these career concerns.  Some common methods include reading articles or self-help books and attending workshops.  Those surveyed gave a variety of responses as to what they need to help them succeed in their careers, from more time to better financial planning to simply living in a culture that better appreciates the arts.

While this survey was conducted nationwide to a wide cross-section of musicians, these concerns and solutions are resonating with musicians right here in our own UW-Madison School of Music.  Last winter, Arts Enterprise Student Association conducted a survey to students in all of the arts disciplines about what tangible, practical skill sets they felt would be most helpful to their future careers.  129 students responded from virtually every field, from performing arts to creative writing.  Though not asked to identify the larger problem looming behind their responses, students chose skills that would directly address many of the concerns of Ms. Beeching’s survey.  These include financial planning skills such as creating a personal business plan or maintaining a small business; networking skills such as resume and interview techniques; and promotional skills such as website design and creating a press kit.

Arts Enterprise Student Associaton of UW-Madison

Obviously, the Arts Enterprise survey tackled career issues from a different perspective (given these solutions, which would you choose first?); still, there are clear parallels between the financial and social issues concerning all artists, and the skills musicians know they need in order to surmount these problems.  If knowing is half the battle, arts students at UW-Madison are well on their way to finding the tools they need to succeed.  And there is strength in solidarity (as if anyone in Madison needs to hear that…).  If every young musicians at every music school could identify both what the abstract problems are facing the arts at large AND the concrete skills they need to make their individual art happen, then it’s only a matter of time before schools change the way they educate their students and students change the way they prepare for their future careers.  Everyone seems to know exactly what they don’t know…so let’s learn it.  And send young musicians into the world who are savvy and empowered to face these concerns.

Check out this goal setting exercise from Angela Myles Beeching, and let us know your top career concerns as a musician.

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