A key factor in pursuing a lifetime career in music is Developing Versatility!

In chapter one of Dick Weissman’s book, Making a Living in Your Local Music Market, he emphasizes one thing that I often emphasize wholeheartedly as that’s one thing that I’ve been doing the past 15 years or so in relatively small music markets.  That thing is developing versatility!

Weissman states:

A key factor in pursuing a lifetime career in music is developing versatility!  The more instruments that you can play, and the more musical styles that you can master, the better are your chances of getting freelance work.  This work may be in local recording studios, dinner theaters, playing for touring Broadway shows, the circus, or for touring ice shows.  Besides having the ability to play more than one musical instrument, it is desirable to develop you skills both in reading music at sight and being able to improvise.  Usually, there is one relatively short rehearsal before you are expected to go out and do a professional performance, where you sound good and play in tune.  (pp. 6-7)

A bit later in the chapter Weissman has a section titled “The Multi-Dimensional Musician” which gives some examples of how musicians have taken on the task of being in different bands (or in bands that have completely different kinds of performance offerings).

Remember that this book is geared towards those musicians who are not living in one of the four big music markets (in North America) which at the time of the first edition of the book were listed Toronto, New York, Nashville, and Los Angeles.  While Weissman also ranks some second and third tiered music center cities, the book isn’t inteneded to be a guide for making it in the saturated markets of the big four.  Since most musicians probably live well outside of those first, second (and possibly third tiered) regions it makes sense that a book like this would be useful.

We see this kind of asymmetry in discussions about the music business all the time.  When an Orchestra or Opera or Ballet company is not doing so well, they can be a way to purportedly “check the pulse” of the industry as a whole.  Since most full time orchestras and any ballet company will invariably be found in a large metro areas which are also filled with the homebases of very large media companies like newstations, late night talk shows, nationally distributed newspapers and magazine it shouldn’t be a big surprise that the arts institutions within those regions get much more focus.  But that can be a very misleading picture of the field as a whole and I’ve said as much in this blog as well as in comments to other blogs.

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