Nashville; To Be in the Game, You Need to Go to the Game

So you’re thinking about moving to Nashville. You’ve heard there’s a big music industry centered here and you want to work in it. You’re ready to relocate for the right opportunity and just posted a craigslist ad to notify the Nashville music community about your availability. What kind of opportunities exist here for you?

If you’re not already living here, then the answer is none. That doesn’t mean there aren’t any opportunities here for you, just that you need to live here if you want to be in the game. The most important thing to understand about the Nashville music industry is that it is very much community oriented. Most of the people earning a living from music in Nashville have been here for years, and many of these Nashville veterans have a long list of friends that are also working in the music business. When a tour needs to hire a new player, most band leaders want to hire someone they are familiar with and will start going down their list. They want to not only know that they are hiring a competent player, but one who is easy to get along with, someone that will fit into their touring “family”. In more cases than not, that player will either be someone they know personally, or who was referred by someone they know.

The same is true of the recording community as well. You’ve got to be proficient on your instrument, but you’ve also got to be someone that’s professional, easy to get along with and has already established these prerequisites. In most cases the session leader will hire others who are already established in the recording community and a part of that family.

For newcomers, this is the world you are entering and you can’t expect people to hire you before you’ve established this kind of reputation personally. Simply posting an ad from out-of-state with an audio link of your playing and your credentials doesn’t establish friendships and relationships. You need to be here. And you need to be here for a while (think in terms of years, not months) to establish the kind of relationships that might get you hired on a tour or recording session. You must invest yourself in the community, be a good person and work hard over a long period of time to establish your reputation. This is likely the case in any music community but holds especially true in Nashville where the supply far outweighs the demand.

The Internet can do a lot, and of course there are exceptions to every rule. I have met people online, be it message boards, craigslist, what have you, and some of these virtual connections have even led to real friendships and relationships. But in most of these cases, at least for me, any real friendship that might have started on the Internet only fully materialized after meeting the other party in the flesh, so to speak, or at least through telephone conversations.

Another way to look at it would be to compare it to becoming an actor in Hollywood. They’ve already got plenty of great actors that are out of work living right in Hollywood. Are they going to hire a stranger from an Internet ad that lives 2000 miles away? Probably not. They’re more than likely going to hire somebody that is already a part of that community first.

If you relocate to any city and invest yourself in the community, you will inevitably have many relationships and connections after 5, 10, 15 years or more. Nashville is no different. Shortcuts are simply not available for most of us.

So maybe a craigslist ad, or other Internet ad might work for some to make an initial introduction, or even to begin establishing some relationships. But if you truly want to be in the game, you should at least be present at the game.

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