job in the music industry

Advice for finding, keeping, and leaving a job in the music industry

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Musician, author, educator, and music industry consultant Bobby Borg talks to Dr Chaz Austin, an employment consultant and author of 100 Ways To Find Work And Keep Finding Work For The Rest Of Your Career. Excerpted from “Working Successfully in Music,” this post and video highlight the importance of building and maintaining relationships at your job, whatever industry you’re in.

Bobby Borg: The topic for my discussion stay is working successfully in music and beyond, and I’ve got a great guest with me today, Dr Chaz Austin, a consultant specializing in employment and the author of 100 Ways To Find Work And Keep Finding Work For The Rest Of Your Career. We’re going to break this down into three main points:

  1. Finding a job
  2. Keeping a job
  3. Leaving a job

For any of you of you out there looking for jobs in the music industry, whether that’s working for a management company, a publishing company, a record company, or if you’re a musician looking for a gig, understanding these three things is extremely important. Let’s jump right in. What are some tips musicians need to know when it come to finding a job?

Dr. Chaz Austin: The through line is always relationships. People hire who they know and trust, so you need to develop and deepen relationships with people who can hire or refer you in your particular industry, and the music industry is no different. The second thing is you need to do is look at what your assets are: what things will people pay you for? What is a potential employer looking for? Do you have those abilities? If you’re a keyboard player, it could be helpful if you also play reed instruments, so learn that because then, if somebody says, “I need somebody who can play all these different instruments,” you can do that. Then they don’t have to hire five people — they can hire you. If you can’t read music, then learn to read so you can get studio work. Learn to play a variety of styles of music, become more of a utility player and you’ll have more opportunities to find work.

Bobby Borg: So a combination of understanding your forte and then also having a variety of other skills that will make you more diverse and then, of course, your relationships. Let’s move on to number two, which is keeping your job. That’s important, and some people are better at this than others. So there’s the politics game we have to play…

Dr. Chaz Austin: Number one, do what you’re told. You’re a soldier, not a general, you’re following someone else’s orders. Do what they tell you to do.

Number two, and this hopefully starts before you ever start the job, develop a relationship with the person you’re reporting to so that there’s trust. They know you want to do the best you can and that you have an ability to communicate with them, where you can say, “Listen, I’m not clear about what you asked me to do and I just wanted to clarify so I don’t mess it up.” Show them you’re someone who listens and can foster good dialogue. If you’re somebody your manager can talk to, somebody who listens, somebody who wants to do a good job, you’re somebody they’ll want to keep around.

Bobby Borg: Let’s move on to number three, which is leaving. There are going to be times where perhaps the job you’ve chosen has a sort of a lifespan — you’ve gotten as much as you can out of that gig and it’s time to move, maybe on or up. It’s important that you always leave on good terms. Can you talk a little bit about that?

Dr. Chaz Austin: Again, it builds on the relationship you already have, where you can go to that person and say, “Listen we’ve been working together for a couple years and I’ve got new things I’m doing. I’m sorry to do this to you, but I’ll stay on as long as you need me to.”

Bobby Borg: What do you do internally when you are leaving a job because you were fired? A lot of times people can really get down on themselves and feel unworthy or depressed. It’s easy to fall into a slump.

Dr. Chaz Austin: That’s normal and natural. Nobody ever says, “Oh good, I got fired.” You you need to work it through, process it, talk to other people. Realize you’re not the only person who’s ever been fired and move past it. And if you’ve developed relationships with other people in your industry, you can talk to them and they might know of another gig for you, or even want you to work with them. Realize there’s nothing to be ashamed about, look forward to what’s next.

Bobby Borg: One piece of advice I often give is that the best time to find work is when you’re working.

Dr. Chaz Austin: A musician should understand this — it’s always been a gig economy. You don’t punch in and out at music incorporated. You’re always looking for the next thing and people understand that. That doesn’t mean you have to be actively looking for something else while you’re on a job. You have two jobs: one is your job and the other one is marketing yourself. People understand that, gigs end, so keep making friends and deepening relationships and expanding your network, so when the gig ends, there’s something to move on to because you have all these people you’ve stayed in touch with who know you and like you and you’ve built on what you did at this last gig.

There’s lots more… watch the entire conversation!

Bobby Borg is the author of Music Marketing For The DIY Musician (Second Edition), Business Basics For Musicians (Second Edition), and The Five Star Music Makeover (published by Hal Leonard Books). Get these books at any fine online store in both physical or digital format. Learn more at

How to make more money with music, vol. 1

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