For piano composers, players, and teachers, creating a sustainable business can require more than talent and musical knowledge. Professional pianists can better manage their work from advertising to production with these tips based on my decades of experience as a piano instructor, performer, and composer.
1. Continue to educate yourself. Music theory and composition have existed for centuries, and the music industry is constantly evolving. Make sure that your final product is both enjoyable and beneficial by staying up to date on industry breakthroughs and trends, as well as researching how fundamental principles can be applied to your music in new, exciting ways.
2. Spread the news. Composing, playing, or teaching piano without marketing efforts is like opening a business and not telling anyone. Consider building a website and/or a social media platform so that you can advertise, share updates, and, most importantly, sell your music or lessons.
3. Assemble a team. This is huge. Having other professionals in your corner will allow you to focus more on your music and ensure that your business as a whole is as highly functioning as possible.
For example, if notating and editing your piano music is taking up too much time, consider hiring a music editor. Cover art made or edited by a professional graphic artist can help ensure that your albums and songbooks will make the stellar first impression you want them to. Also, recording studios and producers tend to specialize in particular genres; do your research to find the ones with the exact expertise needed for your music. And if building or maintaining your own website or social media page sounds tiresome, hire a marketing consultant or social media manager; that way, you can focus on your music without leaving behind the people who want to hear or learn it.
Many of these professionals offer their services on a freelance basis, making your relationship more collaborative and the final product more in line with your goals and specifications. Check out LinkedIn or other reputable job sites to find qualified individuals that you can work with (and pay) directly, which could help minimize your expenses.
4. Copyright all of your music. Copyrighting any and every piece you compose creates a legally binding record of ownership with the federal government. Once you register a copyright, no one else will be able to say that your music is theirs or profit from it as if it were, and you can take legal action against anyone who does. Visit the U.S. Copyright Office’s website for details.
5. Join a performing rights organization. Groups like BMI, ASCAP, and SESAC are great for networking and learning about industry updates. They can also help you understand and defend your rights as a professional pianist, should you ever need to demand payment for services, protect copyrighted piano music, or otherwise enter the legal arena for professional reasons.
Managing your music studio or piano performance career can truly be a labor of love, whether you’re an established instructor or just starting out as a professional musician. One thing is certain, though: it is possible to build a successful business around the pursuit of your passion, and music is perhaps one of the most dynamic industries to do it in.
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