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Most musician jobs – club dates, songwriting – will never require a resume, and employers are increasingly turning to musicians personal websites for resume-like information. Nevertheless, a musician’s resume is still a great marketing tool for getting gigs, and I still use mine frequently.
Here are some basics that every musician should include when building their resume.
1. Contact info
At the top of the page you should include your name, cell phone number, email address and website URL. You should also include at least the city you live in, if not your full address. Where you live will be very important to contractors that might consider you for gigs near you.
Duh, right? But you should keep a few things in mind with your contact info.
Make sure your email address isn’t something like “firstname.lastname@example.org” or anything else like that. If you were a contractor and you had to choose between “email@example.com” and “firstname.lastname@example.org” – who would you pick? Make sure the email address you use for professional correspondence is professional sounding.
Give your cell phone number. The people that hire for gigs are impatient. If they call your phone and you don’t answer, or it’s a land line and you’re not home – they may very well just call the next musician on the list. Give them a phone number that they can reach you at night or day. And answer your phone!
2. An Intuitive Layout
It’s very likely that no one will ever read your resume in its entirety. Most people scan through resumes for points of interest. Where did this musician go to school? Who have they played with? Where do they live? You should use font techniques – like bold, italics, font-size, etc. – to make certain parts of your resume stick out from the rest.
I have a friend who studied violin at Manhattan School of Music. While she was there she took a class that included a section musician resumes. As an exercise, her prof passed out a musician’s resume to the class. They were to look at the resume for only 5 seconds, then turn it over and tell her if they could remember anything it said.
This classroom exercise is similar to what’ll happen to your resume when you send it out. It’ll likely get put in a stack of other resumes, and your potential employer will scan through all of them, looking for the right musician.
Use large, bold fonts for those parts of your resume that you want people to notice. For musicians that means where you were trained, the big gigs you’ve played, and anything else impressive. All the other details of your resume should be in a regular-sized or small font. It’s as if you were saying, “HEY LOOK AT THESE IMPRESSIVE THINGS I’VE DONE…and if you’d like, you can read the details as well.”
I like to use thin lines to seperate the different sections of my resume. I think it helps make the layout more obvious. Here is a copy of my resume. I’ve used lots of different layouts in the past, but this is the one I’m currently using and I think it works well for my needs.
Save time and buy the source file!
Note: No instructions, software or support are included with this file. Knowledge of MS Word (or equivalent software) required.
3. Something Unique
As a musician, you are your own business. Business people often talk of “branding” the company – and that’s something that musicians can do too. A resume is a great place to start.
Personally, I have a simple logo that I put on everything as well. It’s on my resume, my website, my business cards, even my emails – anything that represents me, my playing or, in other words, my product.
4. Make It a PDF
I send my resume out weekly, but I haven’t printed it out on a real printer for months and months. I email my resume to potential employers, and you probably will too. You’ll want to make sure that your resume shows up on the contractors computer the way you intend it to look.
The best way I’ve found of doing this is making your resume a PDF. If you send your resume to people as a Word file or a text file, you’re depending on their computers to have the fonts that you used, to have the same display size, etc.
Also, people hate it when you send them Word files. At the very least, I hate it. A word file means I have to open MS Word, which takes forever. A PDF is nice, slick, fast, and displays exactly how you want it.
Mac computers are able to print any document as a PDF file, so if you don’t have a way of making your resume into a PDF yourself, find a friend with a Mac.
5. Remember It’s About Perception
How do you get your foot in the door on a new job? Getting gigs from other gigs is easy – but how do you get that first gig? How can you get someone to hire you based solely on a resume?
The truth is, it’s all about perception. The people that are hiring you need 3 things before they call you. The need to trust that you will show up, that you will act professionally when you get there, and that you can play the gig. The best way to get these 3 things is to get a recommendation from someone else that also has these 3 things, but if you can’t do that, it all has to come from your resume and cover letter.
Be confident, but not cocky. Don’t exaggerate your credits, but don’t leave out anything impressive. Don’t be arrogant or entitled. Here’s the trick: don’t ever act like they’d be an idiot not to hire you, but make sure, by the end of it, that they feel like they’d be an idiot not to hire you.
This article is part of a series. Please also visit: New Ideas for the Musician Resume