As a blanket piece of advice, this works, and I would even say it’s mostly correct.
But so far as I – and any other professional coaches – are concerned, it’s missing some important nuances.
When hunting for good music career advice, you’d need to keep the following in mind too:
The Best Musician Coaches Aren’t Necessarily the Best Musicians
You don’t just want to look at how successful a coach is in music, because they may be more successful at coaching than in music.
A great musician isn’t necessarily going to make for a great coach, and a great coach isn’t necessarily going to make for a great musician. Occasionally, you will find someone who is skilled and accomplished in both areas, but they are rare.
Being successful in music is a lot of pressure to put on a coach, given that if they are any good, they are probably busy coaching and don’t have hours of spare time to invest in their music career.
Just for reference:
- I am a four-time award winning, one-time nominated composer
- My music has been featured on The Antidote and CCM Magazine
- I have performed over 300 shows across western Canada
- I have been teaching guitar since 2001
These accomplishments took something on my part. But they are nowhere near as impressive as my credentials as a coach.
The Best Coaches Listen & Ask Questions
Sure, us musician coaches share some of our best tips in blog posts, podcast episodes, and YouTube videos too. How else are we supposed to get traffic? But dispensing advice is not the true function of a coach.
The best coaches, once hired, don’t just come at you with a list of things to do. First and foremost, they are great listeners. Secondly, they ask questions that bring clarity to your situation.
If they come up with a list of tasks or a plan, it’s because the student requested it. So far as a coach is concerned, this is never step #1. Step #1 is either listening and asking questions, providing a self-assessment tool, or both.
If a coach isn’t starting there, then either their method is unconventional, or they’re not a great coach. Because if they’re not listening and asking questions, they don’t understand your problem. And without understanding your problem, how are they going to solve it?
The Best Coaches May Not be the Best Known
I was recently chatting with Diane Foy, and I tend to agree with her, that the most prominent musician coaches aren’t the best. In fact, good musician coaches may appear a commodity, but they are very hard to find!
Remember what I said earlier – the best coach may be too busy coaching and earning their stripes as a coach to be able to promote themselves. If a coach is prominently appearing in search, social media, and ads, it’s likely that they have investor help, are bankrolled, or are self-funding to the extreme.
I can’t say I know anyone professional who does this for the money – they do it for the love of music and musicians! But there are shills and charlatans out there to be sure, so user beware.
The Outrageously Successful Aren’t Always Dishing Out Advice
It’s funny how people say, “find the best person in your niche and ask them for advice.”
It works until it doesn’t. I’m not saying Michael Jordan, Wayne Gretzky, or Tiger Woods aren’t giving back. But Jordan’s best apprentice, arguably, was Kobe Bryant, and he was a competitor, playing in the same professional capacity Jordan was. If he wasn’t in the NBA, do you think he would have received any kind of direction or mentorship?
Unless you’re on the same label as Miley Cyrus, I don’t know how you expect to learn from her, and even then, she probably doesn’t have time for you unless you’re collaborating on a song.
Ever notice how the “best” aren’t available for comment? Most of them aren’t just freely dishing out advice on Clubhouse or Instagram like it was NFT “knowledge.” They’re busy doing instead of talking about what they’re doing.
If you’re looking for the best coaches on social media alone, you’re just skimming the surface of self-funding types we talked about earlier.
You’ve got to be discerning in choosing your coach, of that there’s no doubt. But if you think the best musicians make for the best coaches, oh how wrong you are. Teaching is a skill and a talent, and not everyone has been blessed with those capacities. Everyone can become a better teacher, but not everyone is a natural, or even has proven results!
You can look for people who are outrageously successful (or appear to be so), but they aren’t guaranteed to be the best coach, and unless you’re also considering the above, you could end up being exploited by disingenuous providers.