For the most part, the music business skills guitarists need to build aren’t that different from skills other musicians should be equipping themselves with. Communication and networking skills. Marketing, image and branding. Punctuality and professionalism. Money and time management.
However, there are also some obscure or counter-intuitive skills that guitarists should take the time to develop, like the ability to teach, write, or speaking clearly about music.
Punctuality and Professionalism
If you want to be seen as a professional (and get paid like a professional), you need to show up on time to all of your engagements; recording sessions, live gigs, industry parties, and so on. Being late doesn’t leave a good taste in other people’s mouths, and it also leaves them wondering whether or not they can depend on you to fulfill future commitments.
One gig or business meeting can easily lead to another, so long as you make a positive impression on the people you work with. If people like working with you, your clients may want to hire you again, and you just never know how connected they might be. They may have plenty of projects in the works that you could potentially play on. Treat every opportunity with respect, and deliver on your promises.
Guitarists Need Great Communication Skills
It isn’t just what you know that matters. But rather who you know and how they perceive you. This plays a big part in getting you to where you want to go in your career as a guitarist.If you hardly know anyone, and hardly anyone knows you, then... good luck.
This isn’t to say that playing skills aren’t important, but if others don’t know you as a spot-on professional, you’ll find it difficult to build trust with them. People tend to do business with those they know, like and trust, so you have to be thinking about how you can develop a rapport with everyone you meet; not just industry gatekeepers and people of influence, (although they are definitely important too).
It can take time to feel comfortable networking, but if you make it a part of your lifestyle, you’ll be meeting people everywhere you go, and it will become a habit. Reach out to potential collaborators on social media and YouTube, go to local Meetup groups, workshops and open mics (offer to play lead with others), and attend concerts put on by other local musicians. Get to know people everywhere you go. And, communicate well. This will always end up as being positive for your future career endeavors.
Crafting An Image/Personal Brand
Image matters. If you’re a metal guitarist that looks like a country bumpkin, you’re going to have a tough time getting the kind of gigs you’re looking for (and you’ll also end up disappointing people at the gigs you do get). If you're a teacher, but you look like a homeless hippie, you'll likely have serious troubles getting students to take you professionally.
You need to have a professional, congruent image that matches the type of music or music business direction you play in your career. This does not mean that you can’t adapt as necessary, especially if you’re versatile and you find yourself playing with a variety of different artists, but it does mean that you should have a pretty good feel for what you’re good at, and an image that reflects it.
You may feel like you are limiting your opportunities by branding yourself, but in the long run, this is not true. Whether you’re a folk or jazz player, be proud of the style of music you play and show it in how you conduct yourself. This will get you the kind of gigs that you’ll enjoy most.
Marketing Is Important For Guitar Players
Whether you’re looking to record your own album or play on another artist’s project, you have to know how to market and sell yourself to others.
You’ll see more gigs coming your way if you’re able to effectively market yourself to fans and artists alike. It’s important to focus on both, because if you can market your music to fans, other artists looking for guitarists will see the fact that you have a fan base as an asset. Meanwhile, if you can market yourself to other artists, you’ll be able to drum up more session playing gigs.
Guitarists can’t neglect the importance of marketing, no matter what their focus is. They have to be able to get their name out there and be seen in as many places as possible.
Money and Organizational Skills
Let’s face it. While it is certainly possible to make a good amount of money as a guitarist, money tends to come in spurts and bursts rather than in the form of a monthly paycheck (no matter what stage your career is in). If you aren’t good with your money, you’ll be suffering in the down times, and spending way too much when business is good.
It doesn’t matter how good you are; there will be ups and downs in your career. If you’re good at managing your money, you’ll make it through the slower times with flying colors. The implication is this; you need to be better with your money than employed people generally are with theirs. This is a business skill, and it can be learned.
As for time management and organizational skills, it should be pretty obvious why these are important. You need to leave an adequate amount of time to go from one gig to another, schedule time for practice and administration, and take on as many gigs as you possibly can to keep the money coming in.and, if you teach, you better respect all of your students. They have lives too, and they need to be thought of with a highly professional outlook. Otherwise, you'll get a bad reputation that will impact your success for years to come.
Teaching and Writing Are Important Skills For Guitarists
If a guitarist can teach, they can build a student base, release instructional DVDs, create their own online guitar lessons, represent different brands to showcase their gear, or even lead workshops and clinics.
There is a lot of money to be had in each of these areas, because there will always be a never-ending supply of beginners that want to learn how to play.
Teaching makes sense, but why do guitarists need to know how to write? And, just to be clear, we aren’t talking about songwriting here. Writing is an important skill because it can also open up more opportunities in the teaching field.
From columns in popular guitar magazines to guest posting on known blogs, you can increase your online an offline presence considerably by being seen in a variety of different places.
As a guitarist, seemingly unrelated skills can sometimes work in your favor. No matter what you aspire to be, if you’re looking to succeed, it will take everything you’ve got. Use your creativity, and leverage what you’ve learned throughout your life to further your career.