South African musicians

South African Musicians – How We Can Overcome the Daily Struggle

As South African musicians, of which many exist but few of us flourish, we endure daily struggles that many other professionals cannot comprehend. Yes, ultimately we decided to allow our passion to become the mainstay of our career pursuit. Opportunities will often lie in once-off performances, tours, and projects. Struggles can catch up with us at any time of the month, season or year. But there are avenues to create a better life for ourselves and the people that depend on us. Being a musician in this day and age can no longer be sustained by your niche for an occasionally-requested feature performance (in my case, Irish Fiddler!). We need to get savvy, up our skills-base and put ourselves out there to a wider network of platforms, connections, and industries. Consider some of the following avenues to untie yourself from your struggle and turn challenges into unexpected success and growth. 

As South African Musicians, don’t depend on Agencies to fill up your Diary


Perhaps we, as South African musicians, have only ourselves to blame for the saturation of entertainment agencies that control much of the bookings and high-profile entertainment in this country. Before the internet, and specifically, Google Search became the starting point for sourcing musicians, we pretty much had it our own way. However, the antics of a few shot us in the foot as we gathered an unfair reputation as being privy to turning up late, smashing the free bar, and pissing off the organizers. In the eyes of the client, the multitude of options, contracts and ongoing support that entertainment agencies offer them in advance of an event benefits everybody. Agencies do play an important role in the entertainment industry but they can’t be the be-all and end-all for your career prospects.
So, back to you, the musician, and what you can do. Own your profile, talk directly to venues and marketing managers, invest in a professional photoshoot, demo recordings and video footage which you can send directly to potential clients. Show your target customer that you are in control of building your brand, and ultimately they will trust that they can deal directly with you, thus limiting your dependence on an agency to generate work for you. Take ownership and self-direct your progress.

Look beyond Social Media as your Primary Voice!

As an Irishman, I always try to see the humor in an awkward situation. We will do our utmost to avoid offending people. However, there’s always a stage where my patience runs dry. Last year I let my frustrations out on paper by penning the tongue-in-cheek article on Singer-Songwriter Tips How (Not) to succeed in the industry. If I had a penny for each musician that pitched “check out my Instagram page”, I’d have one hell of a brown coin statue to chuck at the barking dogs over my wall! Don’t get me wrong, Facebook, Instagram, and others are great tools to promote awareness, generate engagement and a hopeful referral to an upcoming gig. But it doesn’t cut it in the long run for the vast majority of us. Think outside the scope. Put yourself in the position of the client seeking great South African musicians. Which takes me back to Google search again. How you can get there, and stay there, is by learning SEO (search engine optimisation), climbing up the pages of Google and elevating your brand in more focused searches. Ensure your website is up to date, imagery is professional, and you have clear calls to action to entice a client to get in contact with you and make that all-important quote request. You’re already quite the whizz on social media, it doesn’t take much adaptation and you’ll learn great new skills in the process.

Explore a Career in Digital Marketing

Let’s just say you’ve already been following steps one and two above and I haven’t given you much advice that you don’t already know. Well, if you’re hopefully still following this article, I may finally have the answer. Use your skills to kickstart a career in digital marketing. You’ve built up a pretty good brand for yourself, and let me assure you, there are many companies out there who could benefit from your experience to get their brand back on track. This is precisely what I’ve done, and it has helped me to convert what was once a daily struggle as a South African musician, into a wider scope of opportunities. I have a child to raise, a car to fill up and a property bond to maintain. The beauty of a freelance career as a digital marketing strategist is that I am able to complement my gig income with a fixed income. A guaranteed cheque or two that relieves the pressure in the quiet months. Allow your online brand to become your resume, your promo material to represent your content creation, and rid any lingering mindset that taking a day job is akin to being a “sellout”. You’ll quickly realize how natural the digital space is to you, and flourish in your new-found talent. And the best part – you get to invest your rapidly-expanding digital ninja skills back into your musician brand.


About Me

I am both a Wedding Violinist and Digital Marketing Strategist. As part of my New Year’s resolutions, I’m committing to writing at least one blog per week in 2020 to impart as much of my music and life experience to help anyone overcome struggles and grasp opportunities. If there is anything you would like me to write about in an upcoming Blog, please feel free to get in touch.

 

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careers in music

Careers in Music – Dealing with Failure

As an Irish musician living and performing overseas, I was expecting a bumper week with gigs galore and impossible schedules to fill. The expectation that I would be bouncing all over South Africa performing my unique and authentic blend of Irish music and milking the utmost out of Saint Patrick’s Day (17th March) in South Africa. Hell, if you asked me a month ago, how my Paddy’s week was looking, I was very happy with my burgeoning calendar. Read what happens next!

 

For those of us who strive to maintain careers in music, you know that things can fall apart at any stage. And more often than not, it is due to circumstances that are entirely out of our control. Long story short, boy did Saint Patrick’s weekend wind up being a monumental failure for me! Cancellation nation, to be precise! Failure is an element that those with careers in music are forced to deal with, more than any other profession. It’s how you act upon it, that minimizes the risk of it becoming a recurring trend down the road. Here are a few factors to consider, that gives you some ammunition in growing your career, and not letting failures destroy your talent and passion for what you do.

 

Be the Co-Manager and Promoter of your Product

Remember that awesome muso you heard at that market three years ago? Wondering why they’re still playing that same gig and never really seized the opportunity while they were the flavor of the month? I’ve devoted much of my reasoning for this in my previous Blog. To put it bluntly, you can’t depend on that market events manager alone, to propel your career. He or she has a family, other work, bills, and mental and physical health to deal with. Set out clear goals – call it a 2-year plan, if you want. Set out realistic objectives and figure out what you can do by yourself and what you need help with. And in the process, you might just find out who your real fans truly are!

 

Look at Careers in Music outside your comfort zone

This doesn’t refer to changing your style of music or taking up a particular instrument because that’s what’s hot right now. It means getting on a bus, a train, a plane, whatever it takes, to take your music to new audiences. You know what, you’re probably going to be judged and vilified by people who know no better. South Africa isn’t the be-all-and-end-all of the music industry. If you pursue or are offered an opportunity overseas, take it! To hell with the begrudgers. Your value has been recognized, and you will flourish wherever you take your god given talent.

 

Careers in Music need a little helping hand from the WWW

Back in “good old days” musicians succeeded through strong record/CD sales, consistently touring and generous tv and radio exposure. That has all changed, and the sooner you accept it, the quicker you can adapt to avoid failure. While technology and the internet have allowed the big labels to flex their muscles and bully smaller players into submission, it has also opened up a raft of creative tools to advance the careers of emerging artists. Get a proper website up, do some SEO in order to be found on Google and other search engines. And finally, implement a social media scheduling tool such as Hootsuite, Buffer or Sprout Social to post all your social media updates simultaneously.

 

Picking yourself up after a crippling failure

There are countless hazards to careers in music. So much so, that it takes special character to bounce back from a catastrophic setback and rebuild your brand and quickly get back on track. There’s scarcely a professional musician out there who hasn’t either;

  • Had all their gear stolen
  • Been dumped from their record label before their music was released
  • Teetered on the brink of alcoholism/ drug addiction from the pressures of careers in music
  • Had a major tour canceled at the last minute
  • Had relationships and marriages fall apart as a result of their unyielding passion.
  • Etc. etc.

It might be scant consolation, but any one of these setbacks will teach you a harsh lesson and the proverbial kick up the backside. It toughens you up and gives you a piercing life lesson from which you can only improve. You will stop blaming external factors for your demise and understand that only YOU operate the driving seat to your destiny and a blossoming career in the industry. You will make that breakthrough when you create the mindset that you WILL become successful no matter what, and never limit yourself to local bars, politics and uninvited opinions.

careers in music

What next for me, when St. Patrick is sentenced to Murphy’s Law?

After my initial rage and frustration has subsided, I’ve had time to reflect on how good I actually have it. I still have two gigs this weekend. There are organisers out there who appreciate my band’s talent and investing good money in me and my colleague to perform as their headline act this weekend. What I’ve learned from this whole experience, is that I shouldn’t allow myself to be pigeonholed into the niche of being just the token Irish musician in SA. There are better benchmarks to set than chasing 100 gigs in a year or 4 gigs a day across Paddy’s weekend.

And best of all, I have substantially more precious time to spend our national holiday with my wife and son, something I haven’t done in… possibly forever!

 

David Delaney – Irish Musician

Juggling a life between digital marketing specialist and professional musician, I’m probably not the guru to guide you towards careers in music. The violinist in me, however, makes me a perfectionist in what I seek to accomplish. I’ve had my share of failures but I’m eternally grateful for the successes that have outweighed the former. I’m a violinist, flute player and folk singer and you can find out more about me by exploring my website today.

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