Location, Location, Location. Does it Matter for a Pro Musician?

Q: Having read previous columns, I noticed that you’ve lived all over the US. I was wondering if you’d found that developing a music career was any more beneficial in one place than another. I live in Edinburgh, Scotland, and get the impression from a lot of musicians and friends that Glasgow, Scotland or London, England would be a better place to try and make a career as a musician. Whats your take?

A: I have lived many places and there are many things to consider when moving to any city.

These days, I found it doesn’t matter as much where you live as it used to matter. Flights are cheap and much of the work is done online these days, including recording sessions.

But, it may be harder to get noticed when you live outside a major scene. It’s easier to move to “the sticks” once you’re already established, to a certain degree.

Living in a city with an active music scene is a wonderful way to develop as a player. I’ve found more value out of living in a city with players who are better than me, and where there are the kind of gigs that allow me to push myself. That scenario will make you become a better player and in turn, easier to get noticed and get some cool gigs.

You also have to consider the cost factor. If the city is too expensive and the gigs pay too little, you very well may wind up spending all of your time working a day job in order to afford your apartment, instead of gigging and practicing. That may be counter productive to your goals, and needs to be considered.

I would try and strike a balance with your choice of location. A reasonably affordable and livable city with quality musicians and gigs is the ideal. Best of luck!

Readers, what’s your take? Tell us in the comments

Have a question for Damian Erskine? Send it to [email protected]. Check out Damian’s instructional books, Right Hand Drive and The Improviser’s Path.

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  1. Jose Perciba

    You can make a career in many places, unless you live in Spain. T_T

  2. Uwe Forschner

    There are “the” places where music happenes. As in the 80’s and 90’s a german band told us in a song “komm nach Hagen, werde Popstar, mach Dein Glück” (come to Hagen, be a popstar, make your fortune),. so these days you have to be in Stuttgart, Berlin, Hamburg or Frankfurt to become a pro faster. The provinces won’t give you the changes as the metropols, where culture, art and musik lives! In my hometown there is a beautiul venue where 6 “loud” concerts are allowed during the year – and three of them belong to the city’s brass band….. There is one club who gives young bands a chance, every rwo weeks. And there are some bars which have 2 or 3 gigs a year. In springtime there is “music spring”, in the city, all styles of music everywhere on one Saturday. Only one place for all Rock Bands! And there is a “night of musik”, when you buy one entry and you can visit like 20 bars and restaurants, all filled up with band. My band played for 4 years in a venue impossible to reach without car, maybe 50 guests possible. We once had a chance for a bigger venue, the owner of the bar wanted us to play in his bar, but the “Jazz Club”, one of the initiators of this event, wanted a country and western-band to play there. The Owner of the venue had to fight with the organisation team, he sayed, either BBC (my former band) plays in his Club, or no band plays in his 4 venues. Finally we played there, but it was hard work even getting there! The next year we have not been invited again.

  3. Ron MacDonald

    The bigger the metroplis the better the chance of making connections and playing better ($) gigs, but that’s not always the case….. The bigger cities cost more for rent and food so your cost of living increases…… Though large cities have more $50 gigs than small cities so, if you’re a good sub and hustler you can do OK…… If subbing isn’t your thing and you’re kind’a shy then that city can be a struggle……. If you can locate in a smaller community somewhere within an hours commute/drive of several larger cities then that might work for you also.

  4. Lane Baldwin

    Yes, larger cities can offer more opportunities but, as has been stated in the article, the cost factor may balance it all out. Also, in a larger city, there are often far larger musical communities, so you have to compete against more people to get gigs. There are also often a core group of players who get the best gigs (in any genre), so it can take time to build your reputation to the point that you are getting the good calls. It really is different for each person. We all have different goals, and different skill sets. Only YOU can decide what is best for you. ~ Lane on Bass http://www.laneonbass.com.

  5. Roberto William

    I think it’s better live in an expensive metropolis and HAVE gigs, than live in a little province and have NO gig at all.

  6. Nick Badgio

    Sometimes it is good to be the big fish in the small pond. If you can make a name for yourself in a small city, then you have a reputation which can follow you. It’s all about building a resume.

  7. Many players live or move to Nashville or LA, but like it has been mentioned your a tiny fish in a big ocean at that point and better bring your “A” game to survive. I have heard of others musicians being successful in other “music” cities, Seattle and Atlanta to name a couple. It does however also depend on you genre of music or playing style. I think some “music” cites are just too saturated to really make a name for yourself.