15 Things You Must Do

15 Things You Must Do to Make it in the Music Industry

15 Things You Must DoWondering how to make it in the music industry? In this guest post, TakeLessons Teacher and music industry veteran Nick Gunn shares 15 tips musicians can’t afford to ignore… 

I’m not particularly famous (in most people’s eyes) and I’m certainly not financially wealthy (in Wall Street’s eyes); I’m just a guy who has pretty much done it all in the music business with some major successes, and some even larger major flops!

Just so we are all on the same page: I am a part of the approximate 98% of all music artists, music producers, and other music professionals who didn’t wake up one morning and put on their famous pants.

Yes, we exist! In fact, we are the majority. Sure, I can boast about my great track record in sales and the awesome albums I’ve produced, but the truth is I struggle like most music artists.

I’ve sold close to two million records but no one would recognize me, and the bulk of those royalties are all gone now. I also owned and ran a 75 artist roster label that died in the 2008 recession with the closing down of record retail.

Basically… I’m the perfect guy to write this article. I’m a music industry survivor and I’m still doing it!

Not only am I still doing it, but, shockingly, I’m still extremely optimistic and still finding new successes from what I have learned. So with pessimism aside, here are my top 15 tips on making it in today’s music business.



In this section, we’ll cover tips to help you get your head in the music game.

1. Be Optimistic at Every Turn


It’s the only true survival tool you have that you can control. If you start with undying optimism you will be more resistant against the neglect you may feel when first starting out.

Trust me, this will be tested!

Try not to take things personally, as the barrier to entry in the music business is set incredibly high.

There are approximately 80,000 albums released every year, of which Billboard and other associated charts report on a revolving Top 200. That’s 0.25% of the total releases each year that are moving and shaking enough to get on the radar.

Still feeling optimistic? Keep reading….

2. Observe Excellence and Be Excellent at Your Craft


This applies to everything you do!

It all starts with the music you listen to. Sometimes, society can train us to lower our expectations by convincing us mediocrity is acceptable. It is not. Excellence is at your fingertips, it simply needs to be understood and observed.

Study carefully from music teachers who are well versed in music theory and music appreciation. Study those who are successful in music and what they have done.

Listen to everything, no matter what the genre, and try to see the beauty in everything that is music, despite your personal preferences.

The foundation you lay now with your acceptance and understanding of these basic essentials will define who you will be in your own music career.

3. Be Careful Who You Take Advice From


People often tend to seek advice from those who have been unusually successful. It’s a natural human tendency to do so.

But remember, the best advice always comes from those who have failed and are painfully aware of their mistakes.

4. Form a Strong Professional Peer Group as Your Sounding Board


Family and friends are great but they are often too biased to give proper guidance and advice when it comes to your music.

Music professionals tend to give more constructive guidance and can set more realistic goals and expectations.

Remember: Grandma will most likely love everything you do, no matter what, so don’t take her advice too seriously!

5. Know That No One Simply Gets Up and Puts on Their Famous Pants


The road to success in the music business is never a straight one. By the time an artist breaks into mainstream consciousness there is always a story to tell about how and when it all happened.

Unfortunately, the bulk of your new fans will never experience this part of your journey. The illusion is, to the general public, that one day you woke up, wrote a song, and put on your famous pants.

Don’t let the long and winding path to your success get you down, it’s totally normal!


This section is all about the business of making music, and making sure you get paid.

6. Understand What the Top Revenue Streams are in the Music Business


Touring, Publishing, and Branding.

These top three revenue makers in the music industry encompass a wide range of sub-topics, but it’s important you understand how you can make money from these three main sources.

Touring: Touring and playing live is self explanatory. Festivals in particular are currently at an all time attendance high. It’s about getting the fans to your shows and having the promoters wanting you on stage.

Publishing: Writing and recording original music can ensure you own both your master rights and your performance/mechanical rights, giving you the ability to publish and control your own works.

Branding: Branding requires that your image and likeness – your logos, who you are and what you represent – are clear and aligned with similar products that aggrandize your musical mission.

I highly recommend reading This Business of Music, which is currently in it’s tenth edition, as a reference guide to your business future.

7. Incorporate Your Brand


At first you most likely will be pinching pennies at every turn, so be smart about your cash flow and your spending!

One way to do this is by incorporating so you can receive tax breaks and manage your cash flow and expenses properly. It can also protect you as an individual and be more effective in financial growth.

Honestly, it’s not that hard. Just go to and spend the $500 to start your own LLC, or whatever structure company you want.

8. Learn How to Produce Your Own Music


Let’s face it, the days of needing big recording studios is long gone.

I have constantly given this advice from the beginning and the result is always the same. Those who learn how to produce their own music have a much higher chance at success.

Not only does it make you well versed at your craft but it makes you highly authentic with your sound.

Yes, there is a learning curve. Sure, it’s gonna take some time and money.

But if you are serious and passionate about your music, this will be an amazing experience for you. Gear today is accessible and affordable and you can set up shop in your parents closet, if need be.

Make it work for you! Your recorded music is your calling card to your artistry, so start producing now.

9. Register Your Works


If you are writing and recording your own music then you need to have a clear understanding of what Performing Rights Societies are and how they collect money for you!

In the United States you primarily have ASCAP and BMI (which collect on the same thing, so only register for one) and also SoundExchange.

These societies monitor performances of your works (ie. when your song is played on the radio, TV, a film, etc) and pay you – the writer/composer and/or publisher/administrator – according to how you have these works registered with the society.

If you are the sole writer then you will receive the entire share of the writer’s revenue stream. If you are also the Administrator/Publisher (which you are if your works are original and you’re putting them out yourself) you’ll collect the entire share of publishing revenue stream, as well. So make sure you register as both a writer and a publisher!

Yes, this requires some investigation but it’s important you do the work – this is money while you sleep, people!

So, if you haven’t already, you should look up ASCAP, BMI, and SoundExchange. Registering is easy; it will seriously take you less then ten minutes.

10. Understand What a Copyright Is


Copyrighting is a process used to protect your works from theft. The United States Copyright Office offers a verified method that is used universally to acknowledge protected works.

However, in today’s age, time stamps on computers (that created the work) or using your originating publisher information, as well as sending self addressed, date stamped copies through the mail to yourself, can all suffice as proof of ownership.

Contrary to popular belief, deliberate music copyright infringement is quite rare. It often mistakenly occurs as we all emulate what we have heard over our lifetimes.

Also, choosing to flagrantly rip off music does nothing to benefit your career in the face of your peers.

11. Distribute Your Music Effectively


It used to be that having your music distributed was reserved for signed artists to large record labels. That is no longer the case!

There are many distributors, large and small, now operating in the music and media business.

Some are harder to establish relationships with, however companies such as CD Baby are now at your fingertips and offer emerging artists a way to get their music in stores such as iTunes, Amazon, Beatport, and many others.

Music streaming platforms are now an integral part of how people listen to your music, so be sure you are well represented at sites such as iTunes, Spotify, and Pandora for streaming services.

Also, make sure you are visible on apps such as Shazam, as it’s an extremely effective way for fans to locate your music without knowing your name or the song.

12. Have a Clear Focus on Social Media Platforms


This is a topic that rarely needs significant discussion, as everyone today is a social media pro. However, it’s important you separate personal social from business social, even though they may appear to be the same.

Make sure your social media platforms are engaging fans and representing your overall brand.

You don’t always have to post about your music. Make sure you are talking about related topics to the music industry, your favorite artists and things you love as an artist too!

Social media is a lot of work and can consume hours per day for most professional musicians. Try using tools that blast all social platforms at the same time or buffer posts throughout the day.

Having a great team player for your social media will soon become a top priority for you.

13. Create an Amazing Team


This takes time and can be in constant flux. However, you can’t do this all by yourself.

If you look carefully at the most successful music careers you will see that it’s the team that creates the success, not the individual or band alone. Labels, managers, booking agents, publicists and social media all go into making a well oiled team.

Recognize talent in others and hold them close to your chest. It’s about surrounding yourself with talented and highly motivated people that believe in you and bring resources to the table.

Granted, getting the attention of the right team players is a difficult task. However, Rome was not built in one day and staying the course is part of what makes you attractive to influential team players.


Now that you’re a success, keep on going! Use these tips to continue developing your career in music.

14. Stay The Course


There’s a saying I often use that relates to success in the music business: “If you play golf long enough in a lightning storm you will eventually get struck by lightning.”

This basically means that you must stay the course, not deviate, and have faith that eventually your hard work will pay off. This is the same for artists that have already received success.

Sooner or later, every artist must redefine their path moving forward. As in most business, every five years you should take inventory of where you are in your career and map out the next five years with your team.

15. Don’t Bite the Hand That Feeds You


I am actually a perpetrator of this one.

Music artists, including myself when I was younger, can have a slightly egotistical view of their music and persona after they receive some success.

We often think that the success we are receiving is the result of “my music,” “my hard work,” “my talent,” etc and make unusual requests of labels and team players.

There is no positive outcome here. Being a diva never results in long term success, it simply results in having a bad reputation.

BONUS: Give Back and Mentor

The generation behind you needs your support and wisdom. Reach out, donate money to arts and education, teach, mentor!

There is nothing more gratifying to the soul than watching a young person flourish from what you have shown them.

If you are experiencing success, donate to a cause that provides opportunity to underprivileged kids so they can experience something larger than themselves – the gift of music!

Well, there you have it. I hope you soaked some of this in and can use it on your musical journey. Good luck and keep on rocking!


Do you have any more music industry tips, or questions about how to make it in the music industry? Let us know in the comments below!


profile_79983_pi_Nick PicPost Author: Nick Gunn
Nick Gunn teaches audio engineering, songwriting, and music composition in Chicago, IL. Nick is a multi-platinum selling composer and producer.  Learn more about Nick here!

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How to Make a Living Doing What You Love

Musicians, Here’s How to Make a Living Doing What You Love

How to Make a Living Doing What You Love

Ready to take your talents to the masses, but not sure how to get music gigs? In this guest post, our friends over at GigSalad share a few helpful tips to help you start your gigging career…


It’s safe to say that almost every musician dreams of making a career out of their talent. However, many artists are intimidated and unsure of where to begin. If you’re serious about your music, and you know you want to succeed in the industry, there are a few essential steps to help you find music gigs and kickstart your career. By applying these few simple methods to actively promote yourself, you’ll be well on your way to making a living doing what you love.

Practice, practice, practice. We know you probably hear this enough from your teachers, but your practice hours are crucial to your sound. It’s what attracts fans and keeps your calendar booked, so before you start your gigging endeavors, make sure you’ve mastered your performance.

You need a solid web presence. In order to line up your first few gigs, you have to put your talent in front of a lot of eyes and ears. One of the best (and cheapest) ways to do this is by promoting yourself online. There are many marketing tools available for musicians, but don’t overwhelm yourself by trying to utilize them all. Just focus on these few, and you will have a stronger impact.

  • Find a website builder. You don’t have to be tech-savvy to have a great place to host your music. There are several website builders that make it easy to plug your media into a beautifully designed template. You’ll want to choose one that is mobile-friendly, can be easily customized, and offers stylistic flexibility. We recommend Bandzoogle because it’s built specifically for musicians to add downloadable music files, gig calendars, and band merch. Having a beautifully designed website is an excellent way to gain more fans.
  • Use your social media. Your social platforms are a great way to engage your audience and attract new fans. You can notify followers of your upcoming shows, get feedback from past performances, and even find out what kind of music they’d like to hear in the future. And by activating the new Facebook call-to-action button, you can get booked directly from your page! To truly maximize your opportunities, consider going outside of your own social media feeds. When you connect with other local performers, venues, and community groups, you’re exposing your business to their followers as well. Liking other posts instead of just asking users to like yours creates a more direct relationship with those users.

Get gigs by playing gigs. At the beginning of a gigging career, often times artists will put on free shows to get started. These performances are typically in smaller, more intimate venues such as coffee shops, libraries, or house parties. Although these are unpaid gigs, they can still offer other valuable benefits. Any gig opportunity helps boost your stage presence, earns you the spotlight, and gives you a chance to recruit more fans.

Surround yourself with musicians. Not only do you get a chance to chat with people who have the same interests, but you can also learn a lot from these conversations. The music scene is constantly evolving, and your fellow musicians can keep you updated on the latest trends and tips that have helped them. This also gives you a great opportunity to create mutual referrals for future gigs.

Connect with venue owners. Venue owners come in contact with a ton of musicians, so it’s important to make yourself stand out. Introduce yourself in person, and be sure to leave them a link to that great website you’ve created to promote your music. Because of their heavy workload, it’s a good idea to send them a follow-up email if you haven’t received a response after a few days.

There are a lot of tips out there for musicians who are just starting their gigging careers, and it can feel daunting to consider all of them. Every musician is unique in their journey to success, so make the moves that feel right for you. By perfecting your talent, creating a strong web presence, and connecting with the right people, you can considerably boost your gigging opportunities.

Readers, what other strategies do you use to find music gigs? Let us know in the comments!

Post Author: Tessie Barnett
Tessie Barnett is the content writer for GigSalad, an online platform for artists to promote their talent, connect with event hosts and planners, and get booked for private and public gigs ranging from weddings and parties to corporate events and festivals. As the largest entertainment booking platform in the U.S. and Canada, GigSalad helps talented people do what they love.

Photo by Lauren Liggett

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Can You Identify the Weird Instruments Featured in Rolling Stone’s Top-100?

What do the contrabassoon, the swarmandal, and the finger cymbal all have in common? They all play an important part in the greatest songs of all time! Berklee Online recently took a look at Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time and focused in on the top 100 to give us an inside look at the music that has shaped our lives. From pop songs with flute to songs for alto sax, there’s something special about hearing unique instruments used in creative ways by some of the world’s most famous and beloved musicians.

So, think you can identify some of the weird instruments on this list? Check out the awesome infographic below to test your knowledge of these classic tunes!


So how’d you do? Were you able to name some of the weird instruments in this list? If anything, this infographic proves that great music comes from unique instruments and dynamite musicians – and great things happen when the two come together!

No matter what instrument you play, taking private lessons with a quality music instructor can take your musical skills to the next level! Who knows — someday we might see one of your songs on this list!

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5 Ways Microphones Have Changed the Music Industry

If you’ve ever stepped on stage to perform, you may not have thought much about the microphone you’re about to use. But its history is actually pretty interesting, as music recording equipment has developed drastically since the first condenser microphone came on the market. These changes have made a big impact on the music industry as a whole, and, for better or worse, are here to stay.

Power Requirement

Dr. Zaza, Mr. Zura & Muki M. im Gleis 1 in Waldenburg

Without outside amplification, the loudest musician wins every time. But when you introduce microphones into the mix, every individual instrument can be heard as the composer intended. So you can have brass instruments playing at fortissimo, and woodwinds and strings playing mezzopiano, but the final decision as to the volume is up to the sound engineer running the music recording equipment.

Likewise, in a live setting, a quiet singer or instrumentalist can still be heard in the back row with proper amplification. Microphones can be strategically placed around a stage to pick up any whisper or important sounds, so the audience can hear them regardless of where they are seated.

Live Performances

While microphones have definitely become a powerful tool in the arsenal of music recording equipment, they are equally as important in live performances. A vocalist or musician does not need to be exceptionally powerful, as detailed above. This allows him or her to be more agile and experimental with the sound. Whereas a non-amplified performance requires the emphasis to be on power to reach the audience, a microphone gives the performer the freedom to deliver the highest quality sound to the audience at whatever output power is manageable, and the amplifier picks up the sound from the microphone and brings it to a proper volume.

Overdubbing and Effects

guitar and microphone

With a live performance, a performer can relax and focus on quality over quantity, so to speak. In addition to the value of amplifying the output, microphones can be used in conjunction with music recording equipment to provide a wide variety of aftereffects.

Overdubbing, for example, can be beneficial for a solo artist who plays multiple instruments or sings different parts on a track. With the right music recording equipment, the artist can set up for the backing vocals, instrumentation, and then focus on lead vocals and one instrument during a live performance — or put it all together for a music video, like this YouTube artist.

Effects also heavily rely on a microphone. A vocalist can change timbre or distortion, and many acoustic instruments can be amplified with different waveform filters to change the sound. Without the microphone, all of these effects are limited, or nonexistent.


Sampling requires a microphone for it to be of any sort of use at all. The difference between a cover and a sample lies with who is doing the performing. An artist who wishes to sample another needs the original recording, otherwise he or she will be covering the work instead of just sampling the original artist. With a microphone used in conjunction with the rest of the music recording equipment for the original recording, the sample can be overlaid with the new artist’s and processed through another microphone.

Architecture of Performance Halls and Recording Studios

Walt Disney Performance Hall

Prior to the use of microphones, live performances relied on natural amplification for the audience to experience the sound. This required extensive work on walls and ceiling segments that would reflect the sound in the proper direction. It also required performances to be quite exact, as improper placement or slight variations in tempo would have a drastic effect on audience perception.

While recording studios were few and far between before the microphone was in common use with music recording equipment, they also had to abide by the rules of natural amplification. Nowadays, every vocal and instrument has at least one microphone, and performers can even be isolated into separate recording booths, so that the microphone has no chance of picking up any other sounds. Effects such as echos, reverberations, and delay, which were originally built in to recording spaces (or present unintentionally), are now added after the original recording. 

Whether in studio or on stage, microphones should not be taken for granted. They help both first-time and seasoned artists make the most out of their music. And microphones add a new dimension to the production capabilities of music recording equipment. Who knows what technological advancements will be next for the music industry?


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Photo by saulk61, erik forsberg

how to write pop song

The Anatomy of a Hit Pop Song [Infographic]

When you’re learning how to write a song, looking at how other songs are structured can be a great place to start. Like looking at a map before you go on a roadtrip, checking out the basic elements of songs you love gives you a sense of how they were written and what you need to do to write a song of your own.

If analyzing all your favorite songs sounds like a daunting task (it is), you’re in luck. The Billboard Experiment wanted to know if there was a formula that could determine which songs would be hits and which songs were destined to flop. They ran the numbers on the top songs on the Billboard Charts since the 1950s, plus information from the Million Song Dataset, to get a high-level look at what goes into a hit pop song.

Of course, this study isn’t the ultimate guide to how to write a song. If everyone followed these rules, we wouldn’t have “Stairway to Heaven” or “Bohemian Rhapsody”. Standing out from the crowd can make you more memorable as a songwriter, so you might choose to avoid the things you see these popular songs doing.

If you’re just getting started as a songwriter, try writing something simple along the lines of the famous pop songs The Billboard Experiment studied. You don’t have to write a hit on your first try, and you probably won’t. Most songwriting teachers agree that the best way to learn how to write better songs is to start writing now, and keep writing as much as you can. Through dedication and practice, you will find your unique voice as a songwriter, and you’ll only get better from there!

If someone asked you how to write a song, what advice would you give them? Let us know in the comments below!


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Piano Apps

8 Piano Apps Worth the Download

You might think of your smartphone as something your music teacher asks you to turn off before your lesson. With the right apps, however, it can move from being a distraction to a tool that helps you practice, play, and learn about music wherever you are! Here are eight apps every pianist should have for Android or iOS.


Metronome for iOS

Metronome for iOS

The simplest and most common tool for the beginner pianist is a metronome. If you’ve taken at least a few piano lessons, the myriad uses of the device have likely already been drilled into you. When starting out, a metronome teaches you basic rhythm and helps you stay on tempo while you’re playing. Downloading a metronome app on your smartphone saves you a trip to the store and consolidates your gear.

Unlike the old-school wooden contraptions you may have seen, some metronomes piano apps have extra features. Metronome stands out on iOS for using a custom timer built by clock software specialists, which is more accurate than the standard iOS code most metronome apps use.

A good choice for Android users is Metronome Beats, which combines great features with a developer who actually responds to user concerns and bugs.

Sheet Music

forScore for iOS

forScore for iOS

Have you noticed some more forward-thinking musicians ditching the three-ring binder or stack of loose-leaf sheet music for an iPad on their music stand at live gigs? Chances are, they were running forScore. A sheet music organizer might seem like a simple app that’s hard to do wrong. Maybe you even think opening up some PDFs in Adobe Reader is close enough. But aside from organization and easy searchability, the key component of forScore is speed. You’ll never know how slowly the pages in e-readers or PDF apps turn until you are waiting on one to know what note you need to play next! Musicians call forScore’s turning “near-instantaneous” and “as fast as paper.” On Android, Midi Sheet Music is the clear leader. It doesn’t have the across-the-board professional acceptance that forScore does, but it is free (without ads!).

Music Theory and Ear Training

Tenuto for Android

Tenuto for Android

Depending on your instructor and your curriculum, you may already get a healthy dose of music theory within your lessons. A great way to use technology to supplement your lessons, however, is to use piano apps that focus on music theory and ear training.

Here, both iOS and Android have excellent  solutions with Tenuto and Perfect Ear, respectively. Both apps solve the problem many have with learning theory from a book by including interactive keyboards that show you what you’re playing and why it adheres to a specific rule of music theory. Exercises and quizzes keep you sharp by turning work into games. Do games really accelerate the learning process? Well, just think about how easy it was to memorize the names of all of those Pokémon!


A Piano Itself

Sometimes you’re away from your piano, but how many of those are times when you’re also away from your smartphone or tablet? Enter the many excellent piano apps on iOS and Android that replicate the actual instrument! Of course, a touchscreen with flat representations of keys and sound coming from a single tiny speaker is no substitute for a real keyboard. But when you want to practice, to paraphrase a great photography adage, the best piano is the one you have with you.

Virtuoso Piano for iOS

Virtuoso Piano for iOS

Once you’ve resigned yourself to playing this way, the iOS piano app of choice is Virtuoso Piano Free 2 HD. The app does everything it can to replicate the key-tickling experience on a touchscreen, and while it’s better suited to the larger keys on a full-sized iPad, you might be surprised at the creative solutions you can come up with if you have six iPhones to play on at once.

The Android equivalent Perfect Piano is even more flexible, supporting external Midi keyboards over USB OTG so you can make use of the practice games and recording features in a more tactile way.

Perhaps more than any other pursuit, learning piano is best done one-on-one with a private instructor. None of these piano apps can take the place of that relationship, but they can definitely keep you motivated at home or when you’re on the road. The more resources and tools you have at your fingertips, the faster you’ll learn!

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Teacher Spotlight: Buying Socks For The King Of Pop

Michael JacksonDreaming of a career in the music industry? Whether you’re interested in recording, performing, promoting, or some other career path, it’s often all about your network – which sometimes means taking odd jobs along the way, just for the experience. Read on for Winston Salem guitar teacher Rob D.‘s story…


I would guess that most people who graduate from college with a music degree have an image in the back of their mind. They may see themselves on stage, singing in front of thousands of people. Or maybe they imagine writing that hit song that gets on the radio, or working on those hit songs in the studio with some of the world’s biggest artists.

In my case, one of these aspirations actually came true, but not nearly in the way I had imagined it would. Right after college, I moved to Los Angeles and started looking for my first job in a recording studio. Since I was one of the few people knocking on the door with a degree in music production and engineering, I had no problem landing a position at one of the major studios in Hollywood.

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Music To Money [Infographic]

Forget the “starving artist” cliche – with the right skills and network, it is possible to make money in the music industry! Whether you want to write your own compositions or get the party started as a DJ, there are tons of career options to consider. A strong music background can help, no matter what your preferred instrument is – so signing up with a private instructor for guitar, piano or singing lessons, for example, can give you a great head start.

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Getting Started with Composing for Films

film composersLearning how to read and write music can open up tons of possible pathways for music careers, including composing for films. Read on for some helpful advice from Linden, NJ piano teacher Richard D




Have you ever found yourself listening to your iPod or stereo, and felt like the music was perfect for whatever you were doing in that moment?  Sometimes, when I’m walking to the store or heading to work while listening to music, the song plays with my imagination and emotions, almost as if I’m in a music video or a movie. Maybe I just have an overactive imagination, but this is the power that music has over us. We can feel the emotions that the piece is expressing. If you’ve ever wanted to be a film composer, I have a few tips that I’d love to share with you.

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Jumpstarting Your Music Career: 5 Tips Nobody Talks About

street performerIf you’re one of the many with dreams of scoring a record deal, embarking on a world tour, or gracing the Broadway stage or maybe even the big screen, you’ve probably received a wealth of advice from teachers and mentors. You know the importance of working hard, practicing a ton, acing your auditions and networking. But there’s actually much more to it.

When it comes to “making it” in the entertainment field and getting the opportunity to do what you love, the path to success can be filled with frustration and unpredictable outcomes. So how do you survive the ups and downs? New York, NY teacher Natalie W. recently gave us her 5 tips for survival that aren’t always mentioned in the career guidebooks.

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