“Being talented is wonderful, but technical skills alone do not assure a successful life in this business.”
-David Cutler in The Savvy Musician p. 5
Professional musicians have a problem: they spend thousands of hours practicing — honing every detail, shaping every phrase — expecting a career to just happen.
Good at music + degrees from the right places = $$$ right?
Wrong. Music is a business, and the musicians with successful careers are Savvy Musicians.
The Savvy Musician is David Cutlers encouraging, but realistic, message to professional musicians everywhere.
Let’s Start at the End
The last chapter of The Savvy Musician it titled “Leaving a Legacy.” In short, what do you, as a musician want to be remember for? Why should a musician worry about this? Simple: it gives focus. In every choice made, one can ask, “Does this help with my goals? Is this part of the plan?” A legacy is the same thing as a brand, something Cutler discusses in the very first chapter (a very nice ABA structure for the book overall!).
Cutler rightly points out that very few people talk about the rhythmic cell in a piece or instrumental technique or the subtleties of dynamics. No, people are social creatures: people are interested in other people. People are interested in the artist, and the image the artist presents — the artists’ brand.
Business, Getting Work, and Building an Empire
The first chapters of the book cover business skills, and outline creating a business plan and marketing. The marketing chapters are outstanding and cover basic strategies to preparing a resume/CV to “Pounding the Virtual Pavement” and online marketing. The following chapters discuss recording (self published vs record labels) and having extraordinary people skills. Both recordings and people skills fall, in my book, squarely in the land of marketing. What’s a CD other than a way to attract attention to your brand? In short, the marketing chapters are about building an empire around your brand.
Materials found in the “Nice Work if You Can Get It” cover employment opportunities for freelance musicians. Another chapter, however, gives a solid dose of reality for those that didn’t get it in the first few chapters: it’s not really about outstanding performance. That is, musicians should be good, but it’s about engaging the audience in a meaningful way. It’s about selling a product that benefits the audience. It’s about presentation.
A Little Bit of Everything
Additional materials in The Savvy Musician cover personal finance, funding considerations (grants, etc.) and artistry and relevance.
In a world where music students get all performance instruction and no business instruction, The Savvy Musician fills a gaping hole in music school curriculum. If you’re an aspiring professional music or someone struggling to maintain a music career read this book.
The Savvy Musician is more than a bunch of knowledge collected, it’s a call to action. As I read it, I stopped to think about my brand; when Cutler instructed me to write a business plan, I started on it before I finished the chapter. When the discussion turned to recording, I was brainstorming ideas for making a CD. It’s very rare for a book to combine solid knowledge with the instructions for making it work. David Cutler in The Savvy Musician does it well.
Just One Question…
Are you a savvy musician yet? Because if you’re not, someone else will be.