Advice Clinic

8 things I’ve learned as a full-time musician

9th August 2021

My name is Dan Hughes and I am a full-time musician, solo recording artist and member of the music project DHT. I left BIMM Institute way back in 2005 and have since been a full-time musician; touring, recording albums, composing for adverts, playing on cruise ships, performing in international hotels, teaching, and more.

I have released four albums with DHT, perform around 250 gigs a year, get regular radio play and TV airtime globally, played on three continents, and performed at international festivals. Between all of that, I found time to set up the first-ever UK/Indian-based independent record label, Panda Records, with Rajesh Panda, based in Bhubaneswar, India.

Here are eight things I’ve learned since graduating from BIMM Institute:

1) GET VERY GOOD AT PLAYING LIVE

Many musicians make a living by playing live, so it’s essential to get good at doing it, whether in a band, duo or solo. When I left BIMM Institute, I thought I was a pretty decent performer. However, it wasn’t until I started hitting the road and constantly performing that I became better at my craft and gained valuable experience. That’s when different opportunities came my way. If you can perform live, then you will never go hungry.

2) TOURING WILL OPEN UP YOUR WORLD

In my opinion, touring is one of the most valuable things any musician can ever do. It opens up doors for you and creates a new outlook on how you work and look at life. Touring on an independent level makes you realise that many people worldwide live their lives in different ways to yourself and it opens your world up to new possibilities.

3) IT’S NOT JUST ABOUT BEING A GREAT PLAYER

“Treat everyone you meet with respect and kindness.”

You could be the best musician in the world, and nail live sets left, right and centre, but if you act unprofessionally, word will spread, making future bookings less likely. Always carry yourself with a sense of professionalism and treat everyone you meet with respect and kindness – you never know, you might end up working with them in the future!

4) WRITING MUSIC IS STILL SO IMPORTANT

Making new music will always open doors and create unique opportunities. When I made the first DHT album, Neil, back in 2016, it gained a small indie following with people covering some songs. This opened new doors. I also did a show with UK artist Stuart O’Connor who put me in touch with a member of Korean Band Ju’s Project. Subsequently, they helped me book a tour of South Korea and Asia.

5) DO YOUR ADMIN AND PAPERWORK

If you are a freelance musician, doing paperwork can take up a lot of your time. Whether it’s filling in forms or sending off and chasing invoices, a lot of time should be put aside to ensure that everything is ship-shape. Everyone has their own way of getting things done, but there’s considerable importance in taking phone calls and replying to emails.

6) LEARN TO DRIVE

When you’re starting out, it’s preferable you learn to drive to make playing shows elsewhere easier. It can also get you work as a tour driver, roadie or support act, which leads you to other opportunities. It will also save you money on train fares, which are usually more expensive than petrol.

7) LOOK AFTER YOURSELF AND YOUR HEALTH

“Make sure you’re giving yourself time off and not overworking.”

Putting yourself and your health first is so important in any walk of life. The music industry can be an unforgiving place, so checking in with yourself is so vital. Gigging and touring can be very strenuous, so just make sure you’re giving yourself time off and not overworking.

8) ACT OUTSIDE THE BOX

Quite often, the trodden path isn’t always the best or only option to go down, so look for different ways to go. This could be done by NOT looking for record labels or chasing Spotify streams but making an effort to connect with fans on a more human level. Start your own label or make your own success – don’t wait for things to fall into your lap.


Wow, amazing stuff from Dan! You can check out more success stories from our alumni and students here.

Author

Matt Leppier

Matt Leppier is one of BIMM's newest marketing recruits. Alongside this, he works for Off Licence Magazine as a music editor, writer and photographer, as well as hosting several radio shows on Balamii and Platform B. You can usually find him DJing for hip-hop acts around the UK.