I started playing guitar when I was fourteen and for a few years I was pretty determined to make music my career. In those years of bands, gigs, adventures, emotions and growth my sole focus was on playing. How to play better, how to play new stuff, how to play different kinds of gigs. We would be paid quite regularly for performances, good pay for kids.

But I never for a single moment considered the non-artistic side of the life I thought I was going to have. That’s probably one of the reasons why I quit my path in music and ended up a finance manager. Today I think that every kid that seriously wants to become a professional musician should start thinking and learning about how to make this activity viable as early as possible, so not to have to abandon later on the beautiful path of a life in music.
When I started out in 1988 there was no internet, there were no mobile phones, and the Compact Disc was the hottest new thing in the music world. Today everything is evolving and is virtually at our fingertips – it’s “only” a matter of how to find what we need, and this is admittedly not always easy to achieve, given the level of information overload we all experience.

The following are just some of the main changes that the world of music has gone through in the last 20 years or so.

  • Training is everywhere there is an internet connection – you can learn ANYTHING you want, in many cases for free.
  • Recording has become much more accessible.
  • Your potential audience is the World, and your connections are virtually infinite.
  • Crowd-funding makes it possible to finance any kind of project (an album, a tour, a company…).

All this brings to mind one of my favorite words: possibilities. In order to navigate these possibilities, you need to develop your own “compass” because there is no one-fits-all solution. The only “solution” is to be open to life, to connect, to be ready to learn from others and to be, in a word, creative. Creativity is therefore not only to be sought in our artistic endeavour, but also in our approach to life as musicians.

I recall a story that I heard from jazz giant (bass player and composer) Marcus Miller. He was one of the main collaborators of the legendary Miles Davis in the 80’s and once he asked: “Miles, what would you say is the single most important thing that a successful musician must have?”, and the answer was crystal clear: “Imagination!“. Of course you’ll have to be the best musician you can possibly become, and constantly work to improve yourself. And of course you’ll have to learn how to thrive in this World. But the key attitude in this beautiful adventure is to remember Miles’ “secret”, to always use and nurture your imagination.

Getting back for a second to my own story, if I were 14-year-old me starting out in music today, I would surely spend far more time in high-level training and practicing, I would network much more, I would read and listen to success stories that could inspire me to try new things and find new paths. This would surely teach me how to create multiple “revenue streams”, including some pretty unconventional ones. We’ll dig deeper into this in future posts.

And we will inevitably have to face and decode the endless contrast between “art” and “commerce”: are we in it for art of for money? Is there really a choice to be made? Is there anything wrong in making money making art? Every one of us must develop his/her own answers and attitude on this, by developing the “compass” I referred to in the beginning.

Now please let me know your stories if you care to leave a message in the board below.

Which possibilities are you exploring in your musical life?
Is imagination really important to your future?
How do money and art go together in your own experience?

Below, Marcus Miller and Miles Davis play Mr Pastorius, by Marcus Miller