More Than Just Talent - 7 Essential Tips to Mastering the Music Biz

Key insights for a thriving music career with 7 essential, non-musical skills every musician needs to master.

By Magesh MageshContributing Author

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I have been lucky to play with some of the world’s biggest artists. From Lionel Richie, Rihanna, Ricky Martin, Chris Brown, Nelly Furtado, The Pussycat Dolls, Kimbra and Vernon Reid from Living Colour.

People would ask me all the time ‘How do I get big gigs like that?’ When I was thinking about answering that question I realised something. Many things you need as a musician may not have anything to do with the music itself. Obviously, you need to practice your instrument for years.  That goes without saying.

I want to talk about other skill sets that will help you get better gigs in the future.

#1. Reliability

I realized early in my career that the musicians who were getting the best gigs all had something in common. That was, they were always on time. They were on time for rehearsal, soundcheck, and any band meetings.

The other thing I noticed was, so many great musicians weren’t getting gigs. Not because they couldn’t play their instrument, but because they showed up late. I once played for a pop star on a popular Australian television show. The keyboard player got to the rehearsal an hour late, holding up the entire production! He was fired after the performance and spent the rest of his career in music hell.  By that I mean, being forced to play songs like ‘I Will Survive’ in a wedding band.

#2. Turn up Coherent

Many rock stars have written biographies saying they played shows when they were high or drunk like it was cool. I can assure you, it isn’t. You will never sound great under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

It will also be difficult to deal with other artists, musicians, record company people, and managers if you aren’t of sound mind.

#3. Be Polite! 

This one seems so obvious but I really can’t overstate its importance. I have seen musicians fired at airports in the middle of major tours simply because of poor behavior. This may have been in the form of a temper tantrum, aggressive behavior, or rudeness.

I like the old saying ‘Manners cost nothing.’ If you are polite it will mean you are an easy person to deal with. An easy person to deal with is a great asset on a tour when so much other stuff is going on.

#4. Be Positive

The music business is incredibly unpredictable. You have to be able to adapt to change quickly while staying positive. No one wants to be around someone who complains and moans at the slightest disruption, no matter how well they play an instrument.

I remember getting a major tour and was being surprised who the bass player was. I didn’t think he was a great musician and thought of 5 other bass players who were technically better than him. I quickly realized he was a competent bass player but an exceptionally positive and funny human being. People loved being around this guy for one reason. He made them feel good.

When you play a show it might go for 2 hours, although you may spend countless hours in a van, on a plane, and in rehearsal studios. It makes sense people will hire people that are pleasant to be around.

#5. Add Value

Back in the day, Sony Music would call me to put bands together for major artists. When they told me what hire gear we should get for the tour, I said I would have the musicians bring their own instruments. This meant I automatically saved the record company money.

This also meant anytime they wanted to put a band together they would call me FIRST. Not because I was a great musician but because I added value to the situation.

#6. Be Humble

For a lot of musicians, it’s always a ‘feast or famine’. Meaning you may have lots of gigs then not much on for months after that. The downside of playing with major artists is a lot of musicians will think you are too busy or that a club gig is too small for you. 

I always said ‘A gig is a gig’ and you should do it if people are paying you to play your instrument.

#7. Be Persistent, not a Pain in the Neck!

Major artist’s managers, record company executives, and club owners are busy people. If you have contacted them about a gig/audition and they haven’t gotten back to you, be delicate in how you follow up. It’s most likely they are not ignoring you but have other pressing matters to attend to.

Simply follow up with an email saying if you could get some more information on the gig/audition. Make the email short. If you follow these tips it may help you land better gigs.

Everyone needs to start somewhere. I started out playing Battles of the Bands, then into cover bands and reception bands for years. After gaining experience through playing all sorts of music I landed a big break with a pop star which led to other big gigs.  

Keep practicing and hang in there, your big break may be just around the corner!

About Magesh Magesh

Magesh is a musician and producer who has worked with Rihanna, Lionel Richie, Ricky Martin, Chris Brown, The Pussy Cat Dolls, Nelly Furtado, and Vernon Reid of Living Colour. He released an instructional drumming DVD called "Unique Beats" where he mixed the drum kit with electronics and Indian hand percussion. He recently moved from Australia to the UK to explore new musical opportunities.

Contact Magesh Magesh at

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