Diversifying your Performance Skills Portfolio

I like to put all my eggs in one basket. Good thing I have plenty of odd eggs, right?

I like to put all my eggs in one basket. Good thing I have plenty of odd eggs, right?

As I mentioned in a previous post, developing versatility, Dick Weissman says that Developing Versatility is a key factor in pursuing a lifetime career in music.  Another way to put that principle is to Diversify your Performance Skill Portfolio.  Obvious to anyone with some knowledge of economics or finance I’m taking my cue from the idea of Diversification.

Without getting into technical details, think of your performance skills (or really, any skill you have) as an asset which is nothing more than an economic resource.  If you want to get more specific, it is an intangible asset (as opposed to a tangible asset like, say, your instrument).

Having a performance skill, say, being trained to perform classical music, is one asset, or rather a bundle of assets (e.g. the ability to play classical music usually implies the ability to read music, which can translate into performative contexts outside of simply being able to play any particular style of music).  Another performance skill is the ability to improvise.  Another could be the ability to play more than one instrument or, alternatively, in another style on your instrument (or other instruments).  You get the point.

Basically the idea is that the more diverse your performance skills (i.e. assets), then the more opportunities you will have for getting work.  In other words, you’ll get higher returns (e.g. more gigs) with lower risk on any one investment (e.g. time and resources that is put into one developing any one particular performance skill).  What good is it being a highly trained specialist in 14th century lute performance if there are no performing opportunities for lute, right?

And that last point is probably the one issue that needs to be emphasized.  With an investment portfolio, you can’t just invest in anything.  You have to invest in something that is actually out there to be invested in.  That’s just common sense, right?  So having a diversified investment portfolio means having diversified investments in things that actually exist.  You have to know your environment and since the asset of performance is intimately tied to you as a musician, then the region you work in will, to a large extent, determine the environment within which you can find work.  In other words, if there are no symphony orchestras within several hundred miles of where you live, you’re not likely to find work as a symphony musician (unless you move).

Obviously some performers will move to where the work is.  Symphony musicians being a case in point.  If an audition is won, then more than likely the musician will move to the area where the orchestra is based.  But for the most part, musicians will attempt to find work where they happen to be settled (even if it was a musical job that brought them to the area in the first place).

And unless you’re very fortunate and happen to already be the ‘go to’ musician with any type of regularity for one particular specialty that you have the monopoly over in your region, then Diversifying your Performance Skills Portfolio is a much safer bet and will yield a much higher average Return On Investment (aka ROI).

As the saying goes, “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket!”

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Related Links:

David Cutler’s blog post, Building Your Portfolio Career Part 2: The 21 Income Models, at The Savvy Musician blog.

Sarah Lutman’s blog post, Can you teach resourcefulness?.

Gerald Klickstein’s blog post, 8 Ways to Build Sustainable Music Careers, at The Musician’s Way blog.

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