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John Henry “Bonzo” Bonham, Viola Clara Smith, Danny Carey, Cindy Blackman and Dave Grohl, what do they all have in common? Is it their age? Is it their race? Or is it their gender? No. It’s something more primal and instinctive, a feeling that they were born with, something so deep and true to them that only people of the same distinction can understand:

The inescapable urge to play the drums.

Do you feel it too? I feel it every day of my life. It’s the one constant I can rely on to push me forward in my career, and ultimately what I was born to do.

Having drive is the first step, but you’ll need more than that to become a professional drummer in today’s industry.

Here’s a five tips that have helped me over the years with my career, I hope you take something positive away from them. Enjoy!


Turn off your phone!

Now I understand that is quite a statement, but hear me out…

We live in a society that is surrounded and completely engrossed by media and technology, and for the most part it’s great! It helps us to communicate with one another all around the world and learn an abundance of information. But unfortunately there is an underlying issue involved with using technology regularly, it causes us to deviate from spending time practising or improving our abilities, and instead we spend more time watching others online, doing what arguably would be more fulfilling to do ourselves! For me this just isn’t healthy or productive.

So, my advice is when you want to get down and practise (for any amount of time) try and leave your phone on silent and away from your area of practise so you can really engage with your time. This experience without any technological distractions is almost like meditation. I’m not saying it’s easy to do, and it’s definitely something to teach yourself with some commitment and time. But, I can’t express to you enough the feeling when you achieve that complete concentration and engagement with practising, it is truly amazing and very addictive! The moral here is to spend more time focusing on YOU and YOUR journey, not the journey of others!


Fundamentals can be understood in a plethora of ways; rudiments, grooves, techniques or drum sounds etc - and I like to consider them as the building blocks of your own development as a drummer.

Utilising them in a way that works for you and your abilities is key to the fundamental understanding of the drums, they will unlock doors to help you on your own journey with the instrument.

To this day, I still regularly practise basic rudiment exercises, for example: singles, doubles, paradiddles and six stroke rolls. They may seem boring at first, but over time with the correct application, they will open up your technique, stamina and most importantly your own voice on the drums! Never underestimate the importance of fundamentals.


Your attitude towards others in the music industry is of paramount importance. The industry is a small place and the way you are within it will ultimately determine how far you will go.

Especially when starting out, once you get the opportunity to tour for yourself and support bands, it’s very important to treat everyone with the respect and courtesy they deserve, no matter their job role. Whether they be front of house, monitoring or light technicians, tour or production managers, roadies or catering staff, they are just as important to your show as you are.

If you show up either as a headliner, or arguably more importantly as a support act, with a bad or demanding attitude….trust me you’re going to have a bad time and those people will forever remember you for that experience. Act professionally and learn to work with and adapt to the inevitable last minute changes and disasters that can and will happen on tour. A big one is to always get on and off stage as quickly and respectfully as you can.

As drummers, we have a hard enough time as it is with the amount of gear to carry and set up, so make sure the team is on your side from the start, it’ll make your life so much easier.

Introduce yourself and remember their names, it goes a long way when you’re touring to get to know everyone, including the band.

Be respectful. Be kind. Be understanding.


Practise time and techniques are very important to our development as professional musicians. The amount of time you practise and what you practise is very important. I find that warming up for at least 15-30 minutes before my practise routine at home, or playing a live show is really noticeable. Our bodies work much more efficiently when we’re warmed up and you’re less likely to injure yourself. You can do this either on a practise pad, electric kit, real drum kit, snare drum, pillow or arm of a chair, whatever you can find.

Make sure you’re setting yourself goals for your practise routine, whether that be working through one of the many incredible rudiment or drumming books available today (I will reference some at the bottom of this post), practising dynamics, learning how to swing, playing with ‘feel’ or perhaps trying to sit in the ‘pocket’ of a groove. Whatever it is you’re aiming for, try and give yourself achievable tasks that can be reflected on throughout your journey such as:

Using tempo charts for exercises, start slow and build up to a comfortable level that sounds and feels good, then over time you will soon notice the difference.

Explore the avenues between all of the limbs at your disposal, if you have mastered something with your right hand, what about your left? Or your feet? How do they hold up together or individually from one another. These are just some of the many thought processes and practises that can elevate your drumming to the next level!


My final bit of advice is to just play! Play with every fibre of your being, early on in your career join many bands until you find the right fit, and explore the many different musical genres at your disposal. Be THAT drummer that people remember, play up to your unique strengths, and put yourself forward for as many opportunities as you can. Learn as much about your chosen skillset, explore other genres and styles of music that you may not like personally, but professionally will have a greater impact on your abilities throughout your career. You will only get as much out of the instrument as you put in, and that certainly goes for the people you surround yourself with. Music is a people’s industry, make sure you’re part of that industry in every way.

You could film your practise routines or live shows to critique your technique, and perhaps even share your progress online. This is such an amazing commodity that the aforementioned legends of drumming never had in their time – but beware - use it to your advantage and try not to get distracted, save it for downtime after your practise.

Lastly, my most important bit of advice is to make sure you always stay true to who you are and what you want to achieve. Follow your own path, as it’s the only one you can truly rely on.


The New Breed – Gary Chester

Syncopation – Ted Reed

Future Sounds – David Garibaldi

The ‘PATTERNS’ series – Gary Chaffee

Stick Control – George Lawrence Stone


Songs For the Deaf – Queens Of The Stoneage (Dave Grohl)

Led Zeppelin IV – Led Zeppelin (John Henry “Bonzo” Bonham)

10,000 Days – TOOL (Danny Carey)

Crack The Skye – Mastodon (Brann Dailor)

Deloused in the Comatorium – The Mars Volta (Jon Theodore)

Inner Mountain Flame – Mahavishnu Orchestra (Billy Cobham)

Magma – Gojira (Mario Duplantier)

Thirteenth Step – A Perfect Circle (Josh Freese)

Sound Awake – Karnivool (Steve Judd)

The Joy of Motion – Animals as Leaders (Matt Garstka)

Diamond eyes – Deftones (Abe Cunningham)

UCAS is a vital part of the university application process in the UK. And it's something you'd have to do if you wanted to apply for our BA course at WaterBear, the college of music. Your UCAS application is what communicates to universities your reasons for studying at Higher Education. Although it seems intuitive, it is often a confusing and intimidating process for students.

We want all WaterBear applicants to thrive and reach their full potential, so we have put together some of the best ways to nail your UCAS application.

Sell yourself both musically and professionally

We know you have what it takes, but if you don’t tell us, we’ll never know! The personal statement is the perfect place for you to tell us about who you are. Make sure to include any and all musical experiences that have formed your career goals and aspirations. When it comes to qualifications, tell us your most recent qualifications to date and what you are currently studying for. And finally, references. Make sure your referees know you musically. Include everything UCAS asks of you, and you are on to a winner!

Be specific about your reasons to study at Higher Education

We receive a huge amount of applications so the more direct you can be the better. Alongside selling yourself and your experience we want to know why a music degree is right for you. Also, why this course specifically? What will having this degree help you achieve? Will this be a vehicle to your greater goals? Remember, this course is for you, so we want you to get the most out of it and steer you in the right direction.

Check in regularly to find out about UCAS application updates

As you’re preparing your application you should become well acquainted with the UCAS track. This is where any and all updates to your application will appear. Often people will check once or twice and leave thinking they were either unsuccessful or their application did not go through. This is almost never the case, check regularly as this is where you will find out any decisions.

Don’t discount your talent – demonstrate both passion and skill

The advantage of WaterBear being a boutique university is that we review every UCAS application on a case-by-case basis. So even if your results aren’t what you expected don’t be put off. We assess everyone with a mixture of academic results but also musical skill / experience. If you show you have the passion and skill then we will make sure we support you.

If you would like to book a consultation then get in touch via [email protected]

You can see details of all of our courses and departments here.

Applying for our MA / online music degree courses

Similarly to our BA courses you will be required to have a consultation ahead of your application. What makes this different however is the application goes directly to us. All the same advice applies, make sure you’re thorough and provide evidence along with everything.The link to the direct application for the course will be sent to you on completion of your consultation and once WaterBear have confirmed their recommendation of an offer to you.

APEL advice

If you feel you have covered the content of a module/ modules via your work/ life experience but have no official qualification, APEL is a way to provide the evidence to show this and to gain credit for it. This is basically using your CV as evidence to join the course. Contrary to many rumours there is no charge for this!

APEL applications must be completed within two weeks and must be an accurate statement of your experience. This is different to your personal statement which reflects why you think the course is right for you. You must provide three pieces of evidence of experience alongside this. These can be live footage, recordings, posters, articles, etc.

If you have any questions regarding your UCAS application please don’t hesitate to get in touch via [email protected]

You can find details on all of our degree courses and departments here.

The topic of management comes with a lot of implications and considerations, and there are different circumstances that dictate whether or not your band is ready for management yet. There are some key questions on this topic that I will respond to below so that bands can have a better insight as to whether or not they’re in a position to benefit from having management, and also which type of manager suits what you are trying to achieve long term. It’s important to maintain an objective stance on this topic as some bands can easily become disillusioned or disheartened with their expectations. As much as having management can be glorified and assist with your band’s profile and credibility, it’s important to consider the reality of what stage in your career you are at, and what a manager brings to the table.

The role of a band manager

The role of a band manager has evolved a lot in recent years. Managers today have a much broader spectrum of responsibility than they once did, and it is a constant hustle to get artists heard in such an oversaturated industry where there is a lot of competition. Your manager must have relevant connections, experience and knowledge of how the music business operates to put you in a better position for success. Ostensibly, it is a manager’s job to oversee the careers of their artists, to proactively search for opportunities, and to maximise all revenue streams.

Managers are normally inclined to build a team for a band, so may seek out recording or publishing deals for you, hook you up with a booking agent, a publicist or find you relevant endorsements. Once the team is formed, the manager may delegate tasks, oversee the team and manage the overall project, as well as developing the artist. This ensures that when a band has a release, it is pushed from all angles and has maximum reach.

Managers also oversee day to day logistical tasks such as the organisation of photo and video shoots, merchandise production, branding and image consultancy, social media promotion, marketing and more. Sometimes, when bands are particularly high profile, they may have a main manager and a day to day manager so that the tasks can be split and carried out thoroughly. However, most managers who work with bands take on an all-encompassing role, which means that their job doesn’t fit a precise description, and they end up just doing whatever needs to be done. You may already know this having self-managed your band.

At what stage does your band need a manager?

With the age of the internet and social media, the definition of what ‘stage’ a band is at in their career can vary. Some bands have huge online success, others translate better in live situations. Others have never played a live show before. It all depends on the artist, the demographic of your audience and also the style of music you play.

Some managers are attracted to high social media engagement and the amount of Spotify monthly listeners you have, others are more concerned with how many live tickets and how much merchandise you sell, but normally, it’s a mix of the aforementioned factors combined. If a band is particularly promising live and connects with an audience, the online statistics can always be developed if a manager wishes to invest time and marketing efforts to bring everything up to their expectations. Live is a huge part of an artist’s income and typically, managers, labels, PR folk would want to see strength in this area, particularly if you operate in the rock spectrum. Try to get feedback as well so you have an indication of the quality of your live performance.  Bands typically use their online presence to effectively promote tours and encourage ticket sales and grow their live income.

However, If you’ve never played a show and if you have no active engagement on social media, then chances are, you probably don’t need a manager.

Some managers (and agents)  are open to development deals but they may request a payment model that isn’t reliant upon commission. I will talk about the different types of management deals in my next blog.

Once a band starts picking up momentum and you make the decision that you are no longer capable or willing to self-manage or seek out appropriate opportunities to take you to the next level, then is the time to look to bring someone on to the team. I speak about how to effectively self-manage your band in my first blog ‘Top Tips on how to self-manage your band’. Bands both proactively seek managers and also there can be instances whereby a manager will approach the band.

To summarise, there’s no right or wrong time but there are some components that increase your chances of attracting management and future deals.

What is the difference between wanting and needing a manager?

If a band lacks skills, connections and time to manage themselves, then looking to hire a manager may be a consideration. However, if a band has not been very proactive and doesn’t have the financial stability to support future activities, then the likelihood of attracting a manager is not likely.

A band may need a manager if they have managed to grow a successful online following, are selling out venues locally and nationally, and have done everything they can to get to a certain level. Some bands may be great at juggling all of the various tasks involved but do not feel they can negotiate the best record/publishing/licensing deal for them and may need some assistance here if they know that the labels are interested. Some labels prefer working with bands who have managers before they sign them, others just want to know they are dealing with someone capable, professional and efficient.

Bands can prematurely feel the want to bring a manager on board, but they also need to take into consideration the financial implications here and if they have enough revenue to compensate a manager for their efforts. Hence why I mention financial stability above - where a lot of the time cash flow comes from day jobs that initially support the band’s activities until they are self-sufficient and monetising.

Back in the day, managers were compensated upfront for their efforts by way of huge advances from recording and publishing deals, deposits from show fees and more. Nowadays the models are very different and managers will be mindful of existing and potential revenue streams that they can help maximise.

What can you do to attract the attention of a potential manager?

Look good, sound good, be professional. How are you perceived by potential managers?

There are many things a band may do to attract the attention of management, and that can include making a buzz online, performing at showcase festivals, having impressive sales and streaming statistics and attracting a live audience. Again, most of these things are mentioned above but I want to emphasise the importance of all of these contributing factors.

Having a unique look, personality and message in conjunction with having high-quality music is a great package for any manager. If you have spent a couple of years developing yourselves and have a good CV to bring to the table complete with media coverage, Spotify playlists, notable support slots, festivals and any other achievements, then put this all in an EPK (Electronic Press Kit). Make managers aware of what you’re doing. Stay in touch with them and provide updates on your progress. A manager may express initial interest, but feel more needs to be done before they commit to a long term working relationship with you. Keep this in mind and just maintain communication with potential managers so that they can keep track of how you are developing as an artist.

Why your band can’t find a manager

Do your research, don’t send blanket BCC emails and be realistic. I regularly receive submissions from bands out of my genre remit, proving they have not done their research. Ultimately, they’re just wasting their own time and energy by firing emails in all different directions without any specific vision of what they need.

Personalise your emails, show you have a knowledge and interest of what this manager has achieved for their artists and acknowledge that you feel they could bring to the table what you’re looking for. There is nothing worse than when a band sends a blanket copy and paste email with no information, a few links and just a line saying they’re looking for management. Emails like that will go in the trash.

Try to be formal with your correspondence when initially approaching managers, this is a business after all. Reaching out and pretending they’re your best friend before you’ve built a rapport isn’t going to bode well for a professional relationship.

I’ll be expanding on the different types of management deals in a future blog so stay tuned. But for now, good luck in your search for a manager and I hope some of the considerations above may allow you to think about why you may have not been successful yet in your search.

There’s going to be a revolution in higher education. It’s going to be the end of the university as we know it, and many of our universities are totally unprepared for it. As I write this WaterBear have announced an exciting new partnership with Falmouth university. This is such an important working relationship for WaterBear.

Both institutions are deeply committed to quality and innovation. Innovation is the key word here. The Music Industry has changed and now Music education must do the same. And because I have this dual career in music and education, I want to compare the devastation that happened in the music industry between 2000 to 2013, with what’s about to happen in higher education. I’m going to explain how this could affect you, your friends and your families, and what you can do about it.

The problem with traditional university

Now, this is the issue: the cost of the degree is going up, while the value of the traditional degree is going down.

It’s unsustainable.

At the same time, there’s been a huge swing in the power balance between universities and students. Universities used to have a relationship with students which was patriarchal, almost parental. Students were subordinated under the authority of the institution.  Now we’ve gone the other way and the interaction is closer to that of ‘customer’ and a ‘service provider’.

Also, the key element of a degree course- i.e the ‘learning’ aspect - has become easily available and free. This is because we’ve all got the internet and we’ve all got phones. Nowadays we all have access to things like YouTube, and subscription-based courses via a google search that cost a few pounds a month. Because of the intense competition out there, some of the content on these courses is staggeringly good; it’s bang up to date and super personalised with one-to-one feedback. We also have access to YouTubers who are giving out amazing content, day in, day out, for nothing. This is the competition for learning now.

So, what’s the issue here? I mean, this is a good thing, right? This is democracy in action; we’re democratising knowledge and it makes university a choice. University is now just one of a number of choices for self-development.

The same thing is true in music. We don’t need record companies anymore. You can put out a record as D.I.Y. artists. We have phones and the internet, so we can reach our audience. Therefore, in 2020 getting a record deal is also just an option. As I said, most would agree that this is a ‘good thing’. So, where’s the problem?

The current landscape of higher education

The problem is that the need to change hasn’t got through too many of the universities yet, and the consequence of not taking this seriously is that the majority of universities are persisting in the business of selling knowledge for a lot of money. Politicians and the establishment have created a situation where this product is very expensive and student support is thin on the ground. But the worst of it is that they’re asking the customers to buy and consume the learning in the least convenient way possible.

Universities package up this product called ‘a degree’ and ask the customer to move to a new city, pay for accommodation, be given a product that’s one-size-fits-all, and work to a timetable that suits an institution. Students are expected to do this and endure the costs for three years. You add it all up and what we’re asking people to do is almost impossible in many cases. It’s not sustainable. It’s not how the world works anymore.

Nearly all the students that we work with tend to have to have a job as well, so they’re really busy. Many young people are burnt out and fed up of it, and it’s preventing older people with responsibilities from accessing higher education at all.

Where are universities heading?

I think I know how this could pan out, because the music industry also had a high value product that suddenly become ‘free’ to consume. In 1994 I had a number 1 album with the band, and it was a brilliant time to be young and in the music business. The labels were manufacturing CDs for about 50p and they were retailing in the shop for more than £15 back then. It was the closest thing to printing money that you could imagine. It continued like this until about 1999 when suddenly file sharing started happening. This meant that anyone could share any amount of music with all their friends all day long. It was free, it was impossible to police and the value of music went from high to more or less nothing.

The music industry lost 80% of its business. Hundreds of billions of dollars over a couple of decades. Imagine what would happen if universities lost 80% of their revenue because the thing, they are selling has become devalued. Imagine what would happen to research activity which was subsidised by student fee income. Could it be that the university in your town in a few years could be a car park, a block of flats or a cinema? Nobody’s talking about this as a possibility. I don’t know why. It might be because no-one expects it to happen. But no-one in the music industry expected 90% of the major recording studios to close when music became free to share either, or they did.

What can universities do?

Unless universities effectively train people for today’s environment and today’s workplace, the credibility of a degree won’t last much longer. Industries are changing much faster than education and many universities are not keeping up with real life. Degrees are reviewed and tweaked every three years. It’s just not good enough.

A lecture content must be reviewed the day you deliver it to make sure that it’s up to date. It stands to reason, because the landscape is changing so quickly. For lectures to be effective, the people delivering the lectures and designing the degrees have to keep their own professional practice up to date. This is because you have to be in the industry to understand it and to teach it. One can’t retire into education anymore. That’s why I’m planning a tour next year and I’m putting a record out the year after that. Unless I’m active in my practice, I’m no use to creatives or to new students.

On top of that, there’s an uncomfortable truth that people in education are resisting right now, but we’ve all got to face it. Our primary role is now one of content creating. The reason for this is that in the real world outside of the university, learning is taking place 24/7, on the consumers’ timetables. Learning can’t stop beyond the four walls of a classroom. We’ve got to create learning communities in higher education on trains, in hospitals, in the workplace, at home, in people’s flats, in coffee bars… because learning needs to be set free.

WaterBear’s part in higher education

We must continue to evolve with the changes that present themselves. We musicians evolved when the music industry changed, and this is what happened:

10% year on year growth in recent years. We’re not selling any more CDs. Instead, we’ve innovated with live music, we’ve figured out how to monetise digital music and we’ve developed D.I.Y. income through direct relationships between fans and artists. Similarly, there are people dragging higher education kicking and screaming into the present day. There is good practice going on, there just needs to be more of it. WaterBear have recently partnered with Falmouth University. This is a great step for WaterBear and our students, because Falmouth University share our commitment to quality and innovation.

No one can change the world on your own and we are very fortunate to have such strong allies. This revolution is already happening. I’m here to remind you that going to university is a choice, in the same way that doing a record deal is a choice for an artist- a tool that they may use in their journey to get them from A to B. My question to you is this: are you going to passively hand over £27,000+ for a course that’s a generic, one-size-fits-all, out of date and not fit for purpose? Or are you going to take control of the future, choose wisely, and take the power back?

In the next blog I’ll be exploring how to make sense of the marketing messages, ask to right questions and find the right answers to make sure that you enrol on a course that is right for you.

Falmouth University accredits WaterBear music degrees - a commitment to quality and innovation

WaterBear founding directors Adam and Bruce talk about the new partnership with Falmouth University who are now accrediting our BA and MA music degrees. They explain how this relationship strengthens the degree courses, WaterBear's unique offering and the musicians who study at the college both online and on-site.

Bruce: We’ve got some very exciting news!

Adam: Absolutely! From this year (2020), we have a new university partner – Falmouth University – who will validate all our new degree courses, which we’re incredibly excited about. Falmouth is one of the foremost arts universities in the world, with a firm commitment to partnerships and innovation.

Bruce: This new partnership will apply to anyone who’s starting a music course with us in 2020. The reason it’s so exciting is that it’s such a great cultural fit because of the commitment to quality in the arts in Higher Education and innovation. We’ve developed a new BA (Hons) qualification – ‘BA (Hons) Career Musician’ – and also a Masters qualification entitled MA ‘Music Entrepreneur’ already under this new partnership.

Adam: All the great stuff at WaterBear hasn’t changed. We’re still WaterBear. It’s still has independent learning at the heart. We’re just partnering with another university for our new music courses.  All of our current courses remain unchanged and so does our proud partnership with the University of Chichester, our university partner for all existing courses.

Bruce: The content has evolved for the new courses. We’ve still got a big focus on areas such as Technique, Improvisation, Live Performance, Songwriting and Composition, Studio Production, Recording Mixing and Mastering, Entrepreneurship, Business Studies… all that great stuff as before. But where it’s really different and where it has evolved is in its flexibility. You can build the course around your lifestyle and the way you want to study. Your course, whether it’s BA or Masters, is even more about you and where you want to take it professionally. Of course, that part is still carefully curated by lots of one-on-one discussion, flexible learning delivery and small class sizes.

Adam: By the time you read this our website will have full details about these new degree courses and how to apply for them, which is really straightforward. For the Masters you can apply directly to WaterBear and there’s a Falmouth University application form to fill out. For the three-year BA, you apply through UCAS with the new course codes on the website. For the 2-year accelerated distance learning BA, again you use the application form. And as usual, all applicants for all courses are invited to a 1-2-1 consultation. So, that’s it! We’re really looking forward to seeing everyone later this year on the new WaterBear / Falmouth University courses. If you’ve got any questions about our flexible degrees, just drop us a line and we’re very much looking forward to seeing you soon!

Bruce: Thank you for being part of the WaterBear journey.

If you have any questions at all, please contact the admissions manager at WaterBear, Megan Sayer, via the email address: [email protected]. If you are yet to apply, or are currently holding an offer from us, please do not hesitate to get in touch. Rest assured that Megan will be in touch with all offer holders very soon with details as to what to do next in regard to transferring your application.

You have started your music degree and you want to achieve variety in your creative goals. If you have been paying attention to our YouTube channel, you know that there is a range of jobs within music. Whether that is an Artist, an Artist Manager, a Promoter, a Booking Agent or Record Label Mogul. However, you might be wondering about what other careers are available once you get your degree.

Firstly, remember to keep going and realising your passion. Through this, you will improve and reach professional vocations you may not have considered. Work hard and these dreams will lead to becoming a creative professional. You'll have a multitude of core skills, both musical and business orientated. Ensuring you are ready for a portfolio career within music and the wider creative industries.

It is important to know there has been year on year growth in UK creative industries. This is despite recessions and harsh economic environments. In the UK there are an estimated two million jobs within the creative sector. Between 2011 and 2018 there has been a 30.6% growth in creative industry employment, as opposed to the 10.1% achieved in the rest of the UK economy.

Throughout your degree, you will acquire a litany of transferable skills that will set you up for a portfolio career, both in music and further creative fields. You need a day job to pay rent - but there is no reason to settle for a job unrelated to your goals as a musician.

Transferable skills you are learning right now

Before diving into what career paths are available to you, it is worth considering the skills you are learning in striving for your musical goals;

“If you can manage a band, you can manage anything " - Bruce Dickinson 

Project Management

As an artist, you will be managing Single/EP/Album releases. You will also be conducting marketing campaigns, social media strategies and the most difficult of them all - managing other musicians. In my opinion, this is one of the hardest things, and you will hear many a musician say “it’s like herding cats”. These activities breed resilience and develop your potential in effective project management.


Music in a sense, is an abstract communication, by playing an instrument we are learning to communicate with an audience. By playing in a band we are communicating with the other members nonverbally. This is a refined skill and our natural aptitude for it can be turned to other communicative tasks - such as marketing and digital communications.

Executive function

In a TED talk about how playing an instrument effects your brain, researchers found that musicians strengthen their executive function by learning an instrument. This means that you may have increased ability in a series of interlinked tasks that include planning, strategising and attention to detail.

This is by no means a full list of the transferable skills you’ll achieve by being a musician and pursuing a career in the arts. However, I do hope it gets the ball rolling on all the amazing things you are learning, and how to market those skills to an employer.

The Transferable Careers

As mentioned, when writing this, I am assuming that you are already well versed in the more immediate career paths available to you as a musician.  It’s my hope that this blog can illustrate the transferable and less obvious paths your degree opens up.

Digital Marketing & Social Media Marketing

You are working on yourself as an artist and have the tracks to prove it. However, during the release campaign your attention turns to audience building. The first port of call is more than likely going to Facebook/Instagram. You will quickly realise that having a coherent social network strategy is essential. It’s not enough to release tracks and posts with no plan. You have planned your art and in the same way you need to plan your releases with attention to detail.

 If you look at the article linked in the title, you will find ten skills that are desirable in a digital marketer. Have a think, how many of these do you have? I’m sure from doing your artist campaigns you tick all of it. This mean you have developed an incredibly desirable skill in the creative industries.

A Writer/Blogger/Copywriter

This one is a bit meta, when I started as a musician my initial aim was to work as a session bassist. Through my twenties, I played in a multitude of bands that ranged in their successes. I’ll be honest, I never thought I would write blogs for businesses.

However, throughout my degree, I wrote many essays, emails, press releases, and social media posts. This culminated in an ability to write professionally. You are developing this skill every time you work on an assignment. Keep going with those essays, learn to enjoy them and you may develop another income stream for your career.

Project/Product Manager

We have already seen that as an artist you are developing transferable skills in project management and higher levels of executive function. Your ability to manage people through your work in bands and to also conduct multiple campaigns, puts you good stead for managing product/project releases. Not only that, you have a proven track record from your success in music and you are creating a portfolio of work to show an employer when you leave university.

Data Analyst

When you release a track or conduct a social media/marketing campaign you are creating data. This could be insights on where your audience is located, their listening habits, or gig attendance. Your ability to analyse and react to this data is essential in the music industry, you’ll find top A&R executives doing the same thing.

This means you are improving your data analytic skills, and this again is hugely desirable in most, if not every business. Again, you are creating a track record by working on your degree and artistic endeavors, if you can demonstrate this to an employer then you could pick up some well-paid work in analytics.

The Charity Sector

As a musician, you may find yourself more empathetic to ethically aligned issues and topics. You may also want to help others. Musicians tend to have a core drive of making music for other people to enjoy. The focus on the improvement of a listener’s experiences has crossover into the core visions of most charities.

Now, most charities need someone with strong administration, strategic and business skills. This is fairly fortuitous as we have developed these consistently with ourdegree, artistic pursuits and passions.


Thanks for reading and this is by no means an exhaustive list. However, if you are interested in learning more and are serious about progressing in your career as a musician please join us at WaterBear HQ for an Open Day or Order a Prospectus.

Do not listen to your parents. Actually, let me rephrase. Musicians, do not listen to your parents! Here’s why;

I get it, parents mean well. I’m still getting unsolicited career advice from my folks and I’m 52 - it never ends. The thing is, it always seems to hang around this idea of security and safety, it's understandable, the world is a scary place. They are transferring their anxiety onto you because they love you and it comes in the form of advice; sometimes a lot of it.

The problem is, sometimes this advice is based on ideas that worked decades ago. To the contrary of this well-meaning advice, we need to be able to create plans and strategies that will work in the future. And before anyone starts giving you advice or lecturing you, they need to know how your industry is working in the present day. Past knowledge is good; however, you need to work out what is going on today and look ahead.

If they are not providing informed advice, then it’s like seeing a doctor for a snakebite who treats you for a broken arm. I’m making a serious point here; I want to stop you reverting to old ways of thinking that will make it harder than necessary. There are things that all young people know instinctively but sadly parents, and sometimes teachers, forget. I want to make them explicit and a resource for you to draw from.

Point no.1 - there is no such thing as a job for life in any sector

This is true across the board and in the last recession, redundancies were running around 100,000 a month for a long period (Source ONS). Unfortunately, all the signs point to another recession coming. Employment per se is not a shelter from the impending storm. In fact, self-employment may just give you the versatility with your income streams to not only weather a storm but to thrive in it.

Point no.2 - previous careers you could bank on are not as safe as you think

Previous careers that you could bank on, let’s say nursing, education, accountancy, or any corporate entity is subject to review and restructure. Just because you have a job now, doesn’t mean you are going to have one next month. Job insecurity is built into the fabric of the workplace these days. Even if you keep your job, this doesn’t stop you from constantly worrying about losing it.

Point no.3 - the advances in artificial intelligence are changing the game

This means that any task or activity that can be replaced by A.I. over the next few years almost certainly will be. This will lead to even more fear and insecurity in the work market. If you check out this website the most frequently searched jobs are accountants, auditors, lawyers, computer developers, and software engineers. Now the mad thing is, these are areas parents are advising their children to pick as a career.

Point no. 4 – risking the creative career

With all this collective uncertainty, why take the risk of a creative career? Well, actually, for all those reasons, a creative career is less risky in many respects than the careers mentioned. A creative career could give the skills, knowledge, adaptability, and frame of mind required to thrive in the workplace for the rest of your life. What's more, you can do this on your own terms.

The big secret is to design your own ‘portfolio career’ sort of situation. That means your creative output is just one of several income streams and, in the ideal model, they all support each other. Managing lots of income streams means we are monitoring our career situation not just on a

monthly, annual, or weekly basis, but on an hourly one. We become used to adapting. This becomes a habit and we do not find it fearful, as it’s what we do day in, day out.

Point no. 5 – transferable skills

It’s all about those transferable skills. If you can run a band, you can run a business. What is a band these days? If it’s making a bit of money, then it’s an innovative business model. It’s all about doing things in new ways that work. Bands that work are usually experts in business and entrepreneurialism, they are also pretty hot on social media and digital marketing, which are incredibly useful workplace skills in the current market.

Point no. 6 – the future belongs to creatives

My point is that because everything is changing so fast, the future belongs to the creatives. They can adapt and they have the skills and knowledge to be flexible. Creativity cannot be easily automated by A.I. If you take a modern approach to running a band or solo career, and you design a future proof business model, then that's the best possible thing you can invest your time in right now. And, it will stand you in good stead for the rest of your life. You can go ahead and do this confidently but do develop your other income streams as well. In this way, you have a robust lifestyle which will set you up forever.

Point no. 7 – goals

Musicians are confident in setting their own goals and following their instincts. And parents, (I’m including myself in this as I’m a parent of three) we need to listen more and speak less. Sometimes that’s the hardest thing to do.

Thank you so much for reading this blog, we have tackled something incredibly important. I’d be interested in hearing your views on the subject, no matter whether you're the parent or a young creative.


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