Earning power is our most precious resource after our health. We are on a losing path if our clients are aging along with us, or worse, are in an older demographic. They will retire, quit, or die before we do the same. We don’t need the youth vote, but we do need a balance of age groups in our portfolio of clients.
Ten tips for staying relevant as an aging musician:
1. Stay healthy through exercise, sleep hygiene, nutrition, and sex. Reduce the booze. It all starts with this step. Sick and tired goes nowhere.
2. Turn on the radio to have a more informed idea of what’s been going on. If you are 60, check out the music of the 1990s, 2000s, and today. Just for fun, learn a few of the classic pieces from the last 30 years. It doesn't have to be popular music either. Just stuff folks 10-20-30 years younger might being enjoying.
3. Find a new scene with a good distribution of age groups.
b. Jam scenes: Blues, Jazz, Country, what-ever
c. Concert bands
d. Community choirs, you get the picture
4. Take some lessons with an accomplished younger musician. It will restore your faith in humanity, I promise.
5. Listen to the drummer’s resource podcasts. Nick Ruffini has 300+ interviews with working musicians. I’ve learned so much about the industry today from young accomplished musicians and aging veterans.
6. Learn some new styles of music. Start by exploring what’s out there. When you find something new that resonates with you, go deeper. Find some practitioners of this music and hang out.
7. Sign up for a community college course on starting a small business. Learn to count. I found that this very helpful. I used a personal business coach a few years ago. A community college is a more economical option. I love my coach though, turned my business around.
8. Buy a new wardrobe. Sharpen out your look without trying to look 40 years younger. A sharp looking, in shape mature adult is always noticed.
9. Read, read, read. Read about successful aging. It’s not all grim.
10. Listen to comedy on the car radio. Sometimes we need to get out of our bubble.
Tony Jeary has some sage advice to improve our ROE, Return on Effort. His advice? Become a Master.
Tony outlines five areas; here is my summary:
How does this apply to a musician?
Focus on a worthy musical goal: Mine is playing creative music in the Toronto art scene as a drummer and pianist at the highest level I can achieve without derailing my teaching studio.
I have musical coaches I work with regularly weekly
I plan my schedule by the decade, year, quarter, weekly and daily. Really I do.
Step four? I'm working on it. :-)
I receive feedback from my coaches, my practice and performance recordings, and my friends.
Back from a recording session with my hobby band. Bed tracks of guitar, bass, and drums live off the floor. A click track was used. After a few bumps in the road we got all the tracks done. None in the first or second take though. Most on the 3rd, a few on the 5th.
What did I learn?
Time, Tone, Feel, Facility, Repertoire
· No time, no gigs
· No tone, no gigs
· No feel, no gigs
· No facility, no gigs
· Inadequate repertoire, no gigs
For those of us who play “beat music”, practicing with a metronome is mandatory. When I play classical piano, not so mandatory.
Recording our practices reveals to us our progress in time, tone, feel, facility. Knowing the repertoire makes us employable. A lot of this can be done by ourselves after we have reached a certain level. But, it’s always good to seek out a coach from time to time. After all, even poor Tiger Woods has coaches. The Toronto Maple Leafs don’t practice without several coaches observing, pushing and evaluating. Why do so many musicians think they are so different? Good question.
Wynton Marsalis on practicing: Confront your deficiencies
David Story: Professional pianist, drummer, composer, and educator. Well into his 5th enthusiastic musical decade, David works with adults pursuing musical dreams in the autumn of life, while he maintains an active presence in the Toronto arts scene.