Make the Most of a Degree in Music: Be Marketable

January 24, 2020, 12:33 AM · If you are wondering if a music degree is marketable, Yamaha's Dave Gerhart offers a definitive "Yes!"

"There are a lot of things that you can do with a music degree," Gerhart said last week in a lecture called "Be Marketable: Combining Performance and Entrepreneurship," part of the College Music Society GenNEXT sessions at NAMM.

Gerhart shared a chart of 227 possible jobs and career paths for people with degrees in music. Have you done any of these?

music jobs
Graphic courtesy

"I've done a lot of these things myself," Gerhart said.

A musician who focused on performing may not realize how many other skills he or she has developed along the way in terms of organization, collaboration, communication, etc. But as college comes to a close and one starts getting serious about finding employment, "You have to market yourself," Gerhart said. And then you have to keep marketing yourself!

In the 21st century, nothing is going to land in your lap. Knowing some basic business skills will allow you to recognize and take advantage of the opportunities that come your way.

Dave Gerhart
Dave Gerhart, Education Assistant Marketing Manager at Yamaha.

To that end, Gerhart offered some advice for getting started on some basic self-marketing, including branding, networking, time management, handling social media, creating a website, and interviewing for jobs. Here's an overview of his ideas:

Some General Advice

Gerhart started with some general words of wisdom, which he called "Three Things":

  1. Do your best every day. "People are watching you all the time, and you never know who may hire you." That gig that seems like it doesn't matter? It just might - you may be noticed by someone who has a job for you down the road.
  2. Don't take anything for granted. Attend events outside your discipline. Go to other people's recitals, go to masterclasses for another instrument, art, lectures, read books. "You never know what connections you'll make."
  3. Be marketable. "Create your own opportunities," Gerhart said. "It's not who you know, it's who knows YOU." If people are going to get to know you, you have to get out there.

Branding and Social Media

The term "personal brand," was coined by a business guru named Tom Peters. We all know about brands, and we certainly recognize the logos for famous ones such as Coca-Cola, Apple, Twitter, or even the-artist-formerly-known-as-Prince.

Coming up with a logo is a great idea, "but branding is more than a logo," Gerhart said. "Your brand represents all that you are."

Any social media presence that you have -- on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, etc. -- should tie into your "personal brand." Be thoughtful about what name you use for setting up both your personal e-mail and your social media accounts - it should be something you can use in a professional setting. For example, "HotMamaViolinist" might sound amusing (I mean, of course I considered it for myself! ;) ), but first consider what it will be like to give that name to a potential employer!

Also, be thoughtful about what you say and post on social media, as "whatever you put out there is out there forever," Gerhart said. "If your mom wouldn't approve, then don't put it out there!"

What you put "out there" becomes a reflection of your personal brand. "If you have a social media account, you have a personal brand."

When it comes to getting a good name, one way to see which social and domain names are available is with the website, which allows you to enter names and explore the possibilities.

"You want to create a consistent brand across all platforms," Gerhart said.

Creating a Website

When it comes to creating your own website, there are a number of options. Some of the website hosting services include Wordpress, Squarespace and Gerhart recommended getting your own domain and hosting it, if you can.

Time Management

"Get a calendar and use it," Gerhart said. He uses a paper calendar, so he can write know goals in it. One exercise you can do to see if you are using your time well: make two copies of a 24-7 calendar, for one week. On the first one calendar, schedule everything you intend to do, not just work, but also eating, sleeping, practicing, spending time with friends. Then use the second calendar for the same week, but write down what you actually wound up doing during those days, in detail. At the end, compare the two calendars. Did they match? How close were you to reaching your intentions? What do you need to adjust, when it comes to managing your own time effectively, so that you can accomplish what you both need and want to do?

Business Acumen

If you are still in college, take a business course. It's helpful to get some basic knowledge, when it comes to contracts, marketing, taxes, setting up a business, etc., he said. If you aren't in college, you can still take a business course, and Gerhart suggested finding a local class, attending a webinar, or accessing courses through, which is part of LinkedIn. Also, YouTube can be a great resource, though you'll have to search for quality.

CV vs. Resume

Know the different between a CV and a resume. A CV ("Curriculum Vitae") is a detailed academic document, used to apply for academic jobs. A resumé is what you use in the business world, and it's a document with basic bullet points about your experience and expertise.

Headshot and Bio

Always have a good headshot, as well as well-written biography of yourself. Your headshot needs to be well-lit, from the front. Consider investing in a good photographer, or doing a trade, so that your headshot looks professional.

When it comes to your bio, "have a short and a long bio, just so you're prepared, and update it frequently," Gerhart said. He advised keeping a "brag folder," to keep track of your accomplishments, so that you can remember them when you update your bio. Keeping programs also can help with this. If you've never written a bio, find five people that you respect, and look at their bios. Use those bios as inspiration for your own.

Electronic Press Kit

An "EPK" is a digital version of what you are and who you are. It has your headshot, your bios, links to your social media and website, etc. Once you get everything else in order, create one of these.

Interviewing for Jobs

Excellent, you have a job interview! What now?

"Just like you practice your instrument, you have to practice interviewing," Gerhart said. Have friends practice with you, and record yourself, so you can eliminate nervous ticks, etc. Do your research about the organization you are interviewing with, and be prepared to ask questions about the job for which you are interviewing. "When you don't have questions, you are saying to the interviewer that you don't care about the job," Gerhart said.

Google "top 10 interview questions" to see what you might be asked. "Have a sense of the questions, and then personalize your answers," Gerhart said.

If you are a music educator:

Check out the website that Yamaha has created for music educators: the Yamaha Educator Suite. Also, here is a link to a PDF outline of Dave's lecture.

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January 29, 2020 at 05:56 AM · Our colleagues over in the theater department have a better system. In addition to learning their acting skills, they also learn an ancillary stage craft; carpenter, lighting, costume, set design, etc.

It is those extra skills that frequently become the day job that pays the rent while they are waiting for the next audition. More music schools are wisely adding things like performing arts management, recording technology. Composers, if they also learn the technology, are versatile, and fast, can find work in Film, TV, Recording studios.

The more subjective benefits, qualities, of the music degree would the same as most any other major. It can get you into an interview, but not actually land a job. Most employers are looking for a very specific job skill or credential. Can you run this machine, run this program ?

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