With so many music coaches and online career programs out there, it can be hard to find what’s best for YOU. If you’re confused or frustrated with all the marketing messaging from coaches offering advice and promising success, I hear you. If you’ve wondered how coaching really works or how to find the best music career coach for you, you’re not alone.
These are the kinds of questions musicians often ask me. In response, I’ve put together this guide, based on my 30+ years of helping musicians create their own paths to success.
To make it easier to find the best coach for you, here’s the skinny on what music career coaching is (and isn’t), what to expect from an expert coach, and how to find the best match for you.
What IS music career coaching anyway?
A music career coach is a professional you hire for expert feedback and support to help you grow your music career over time.
To be clear, a coach is not a booking agent, artist manager, or a publicist. Your coach doesn’t get you the gigs or promote them for you. Instead, she helps you upgrade your mindset and your music business skills so you can book more of the work you want and grow your own career.
A good music career coach can clarify next steps and help you stay motivated so you can get from where you are now in your career to where you want to be. It’s a process, not a quick fix.
Coaches help musicians with both sides of their careers. There’s the needed logistical help with the business side: your promotional materials, networking skills, email pitches, time management, etc. And then there’s the help with the “inner” work: to get past the common mindset obstacles like imposter syndrome, self-doubt, and procrastination. Whether or not you work with a coach, you’ll need to deal effectively with both sides if you want to find artistic fulfillment and build a sustainable music career.
What do music career coaches actually DO?
An expert music career coach works with you to clarify your goals and create a roadmap for how to get where you want to be in your career.
An experienced coach will first meet with you to get a clear picture of where you are now and what your specific short and long-term goals are.
Asking a series of powerful questions, a coach will get a sense of your background, values, and strengths and what your biggest challenges have been. She’ll also want to know what you’ve already tried in order to get past these challenges.
Next, your coach will help you create a plan for moving toward your goal. Expert coaches will help you formulate clear action steps so you can eliminate the overwhelm and move ahead with confidence to make real progress.
But having a plan and action steps isn’t enough.
The critical piece is the ongoing support of coaching — the accountability and objective feedback. It’s having someone in your corner cheering you on, and the expert needed to brainstorm real-time solutions when you’re stuck.
What’s the difference between a coach, a consultant, a mentor, and an advisor?
Again, a professional coach is someone you hire for ongoing help to grow your music career over time.
These other terms are related and overlap a bit, so it may be confusing.
A consultant is someone hired for shorter-term project work or for expertise in a particular niche area, such as social media, branding, website creation, or publicity work for an album release.
The titles mentor and advisor are sometimes used interchangeably and can refer to less-structured career advising that musicians may get from faculty and staff while in school. If you’re in a degree program, I recommend first using the free music career advising resources available at your institution before investing in an independent coach.
How does music career coaching differ from life coaching?
Life coaching is about helping you uncover your own answers, while music career coaching is about helping you take action so you can fulfill your potential.
With life coaching, the focus is on clients connecting with their inner wisdom so they can make good choices and take next steps from a place of connection and agency. Life coaches aren’t about teaching or offering solutions — they’re all about drawing these out of clients. All that is great.
However, as a music career coach I find clients come to me seeking practical advice and concrete answers. So, in addition to helping clients reconnect with why they first fell in love with music so they can reignite their motivation, I also provide instruction and examples to help with the logistics of growing a career. The range of practical help needed may include everything from upgrading your Bio and website, to polishing networking skills and email pitches so you can book more of the performances you want. Depending on a client’s goals, we may also focus on fundraising, grant writing, building your fanbase, filling a teaching studio, or winning a college teaching job.
In addition, I teach clients proven mindset tools for dealing with common music career obstacles (distraction, avoidance, fear, and negative self-talk).
How is coaching different from therapy?
Therapy looks at the past to help with the present, whereas coaching focuses on what you can do now to achieve your desired future.
That said, there are some personal issues that call for other expertise. For example, if you are experiencing depression or high levels of anxiety, I recommend getting a good therapist first before focusing on your career challenges. I’m all about getting the appropriate help needed. Working with a therapist has been enormously beneficial in my own life, as has working with my own coach.
How to know if you’re ready for coaching
Ask yourself . . .
- Are you open to making changes in how you manage your career, your time, your mindset?
- Are you willing to make a real commitment to the process: to doing the work?
- Are you ready to be honest with yourself and your coach about what you want and what has been getting in your way?
If you’re truly committed to taking your career to the next level and are willing to confront the inner demons that have held you back, you should be a good candidate for coaching.
6 Steps to Finding the Best Music Career Coach for You
- First, clarify the help you are looking for: what specifically do you want to improve or change? A coach can’t help you if you’re unsure of what you want.
- Ask your network, get referrals, and search online. Once you’ve identified a handful of coaches who seem like potential good fits, read their websites.
- Read to get a sense of their approach, the tools they use, and the “why” behind their work. Also, search to find any of their videos and podcast appearances so you get a sense of who they are in action and how they work. See if you resonate with the coach’s messaging.
- Check the coach’s professional experience to see if it aligns with the kind of help you need and the type of music career you’re pursuing. (For example, my own background is classical: for many years I directed career and entrepreneurship programs at Manhattan School of Music, Indiana University, and New England Conservatory. And although I’ve loved working with singer-songwriters and jazz artists as well, my main expertise is classical.)
- When you read the testimonials on a coach’s website, you should get a sense of the:
- range of musicians the coach has worked with, the
- kinds of projects she’s helped them with, the
- stage these musicians are at in their careers, and the
- results they’ve achieved.
This should give you a sense of whether or not the coach is equipped to help you reach your goals.
- If what you read seems promising, you’ll want to have a Zoom call or phone meeting to see if it’s indeed a good match.
Most coaches offer an initial free session so you can see what it would be like to work together. For musicians who’ve applied for one of my strategy sessions, I ask questions to help them clarify their goals and what obstacles might get in their way.
In the session I make it a point to give prospective clients a strategic action step or two they can take immediately. And if it seems like a good match, we discuss what working together would look like. When we’re not a fit, I do my best to recommend other excellent coaches.
What should you expect from a coach?
The goal of coaching is to get you into forward motion, gaining traction in your career. So, at the end of each session you should be crystal clear on your next action steps.
By taking consistent action each day, you should see improvements in your outlook, your productivity, and in your career over time. Being in forward motion and taking charge of your career builds confidence and the motivation to keep going.
How long should it take to see results?
The results you get will depend on your goals and how quickly you implement what you learn in the coaching sessions. That said, my clients often report feeling more clear and energized — and being more productive from the very first session.
I’ve had clients get what they need from our work in just a few months, and others who’ve worked with me for years, one project after another as their careers unfold and progress. Overall, to make substantial changes in your work habits and mindset — or to see an ambitious project through to completion — this can take six months to a year.
What about the cost?
Fees for coaches vary widely, reflecting their specific client base and the coach’s experience level. Some charge by the hour, others offer packages, and some offer both private and group programs.
You’ll need to balance what you can afford with making a real investment in your long-term future. Before you sign up for anything, make sure that you are clear on what you will get. The coach should provide a written agreement with everything spelled out, including the payment schedule and policies.
Working with the right coach can help you gain new confidence and help you step into the next chapter of your music career. Use the information here to help you find the best coach for your situation so you can get into forward motion.
If you’re serious about getting coaching and are interested in working with me, fill out this quick form and schedule a time to meet so you can decide for yourself if it’s a fit — I look forward to helping you move ahead in your music career!
Here’s to your better future,
Dream Big, Plan Smart, Live Well