How do you get your music performed? (Tool #52)

A lot of us write a lot of music.  Some of us don’t write much music, but still take music composition seriously.  No matter how much music you write, some of it is likely unperformed.  That begs the question: how do I get my music heard?  How do I get my music performed?

Sure, you can apply to score calls, festivals, competitions, etc.  Sites like The Composer’s Site are great resources for finding players and organizations who solicit new music, but I disagree with paying application fees unless it is something you have a real shot at (I dislike paying a fee to be overlooked so that the ensemble’s best friends can get paid commissions), and you will be competing against hundreds of other great composers–and so likely given little attention (and overlooked for reasons out of your control).

So, you have a stack of scores (and/or folder of PDFs on your computer).  You ask yourself, “How do I hear this music live?”

The simple answer, that is easy to say but incredibly hard to do (but absolutely necessary and worth it), is: make friends.

Go to concerts.  Introduce yourself to the ensemble(s) and conductor(s) afterwards.  You might mention that you’re a composer, or you might not.  These relationships take a lot of time to build, and the point is not to get your music performed–the point is to join fellow musicians: that is what this is all about.  When you are part of a musical community, you will have friends who are either willing to play your music, know people who would love your music, or solicit you to write music for them (or perform your stack of scores).  Here is a list of other ways you can make friends besides going to concerts:

  1. Become active at a local school, college, or university
  2. Start blogging
  3. Start a new music ensemble
  4. Start a podcast
  5. Go to public events
  6. Go to people’s shows at bars and cafes
  7. Become a music teacher and join that community
  8. Visit an artist collective/community and become active in it
  9. Host concerts of other people’s works
  10. Participate in a summer festival
  11. Go to an artist residency
  12. Promote other people’s events
  13. Donate to people’s funding projects (eg. CD releases) and help publicize them
  14. Join community ensembles (choirs, wind ensembles, orchestras, etc.)
  15. Start a correspondence with someone whose work or performance you find amazing
  16. Join social media groups and be active (and friendly) in them (no spamming with your material!)
  17. Have coffee with local musicians/conductors/administrators
  18. Invite other musicians over to your place of residence (“Listening Parties” where you all agree to pieces to listen to together and possibly follow along with score, after dinner or snacks/adult beverages, are quite a hit)
  19. (etc.)

The point is that in order to hear your music live, you have to be an active part of the musical community that is out there.  Everyone knows everyone in music nowadays; the networking apparatuses and chains of connections are astoundingly tight and complex.  Get outside your “silo”, get inside a network, enjoy fellow musicians’ company, learn from them, be humble, don’t feel entitled to getting performances, and be a part of the community.  Once the primary goal of being a wholehearted musician arises, getting performances is easier.  But, please know that that should not be your primary goal.  Being a musician is oftentimes as much about supporting others and being a part of the community as it is making music.  We’re in this together.  There is no getting ahead of others–a rising tide lifts all boats.

Questions?  Comments?  Thank you for reading.  Happy composing and networking!


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