How To Become A Touring Musician

  • Written By 
  • Jordan Holt

Traveling the world… playing for thousands of people… serving the Kingdom with your career… making a living being creative and playing an instrument… all of these things are truly incredible experiences. It’s no wonder why so many people dream of one day becoming a professional musician.

While I have been through many different seasons with my involvement in music, in recent years I have been blessed to have reached a point where God has opened doors for me to play and make music for a living. It is truly incredible and leaves me in awe when I reflect on God’s grace for me in my career path.

Since becoming a “professional,” a question I get asked consistently is, “I want to do what you do…how did you get where you are at?” It is a great question because it’s not an average job that calls for a resume and an interview. My responses are not typically what people expect. The following is a bit of wisdom I believe God has shown me on the matter:

Don’t strive

If you talk to anyone living outside of Kingdom relationship they will tell you to “network, network, network… it’s all about who you know… work hard…”  Sure, go ahead and move to Nashville, play every gig you can and try to grab coffee with everyone in town. Maybe you will get somewhere, but I promise that you will be exhausted and left unfulfilled.

Walking in God’s lane for you will be much easier and honestly, a lot more fun. Trust me. When you put the weight of having to make your music career work out for yourself, you are putting faith in your own ability, not God’s. He wants to orchestrate your life, sustain it and surprise you when you let him.

There is no formula

If you ever get the chance to talk to different musicians in the industry, you will quickly discover that everyone has a unique story. Some of my friends started touring professionally when they were teenagers. Others, like myself, started touring later on. Some got picked up in Nashville, others in Hawaii, others in South Carolina, etc. You get my point.

Maybe one day I will share my specific story on Worship Online, but just know that it is a different journey than most people’s. It’s one where I can’t take credit for the doors that were opened to me. This leads to the next point:

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Don’t compare yourself to others

I did this for years and consistently felt inadequate in my ability to be at the level of my friends or musicians that I looked up to. This is one of the enemy’s greatest tactics. I have older friends with incredibly successful music careers who still struggle with comparison. It’s a real issue.

If you are looking for it you can always find someone to compare yourself to and make you feel disqualified. Seek after how God sees you and the unique story he wants to create for you.

Practice

This is the most obvious advice anyone can give. If you want to be good at your craft, put some time into it. It doesn’t have to be 8 hours a day, but give what you can. If you care about something enough you will invest and make sacrifices for it.

It pleases God when you develop the gifts he has given you. If you are faithful with little you will be faithful with much (parable of the talents). He can trust you with more responsibility and favor when you steward what is in front of you well, even if it’s non-musical. Oh, and learn the Nashville Number System.

Learn to hear God’s voice

If you don’t listen to God’s voice, you are either listening to your own voice or the enemy. If you want what God has for you, develop an ear that hears the still small voice. Practice it. Journal it. This is more important than spending time researching what gear you need for your pedalboard. If I did not listen to Him for timing and guidance, I am confident I would not be where I am today.

Serve in your church

Notice that I did not say “play” in your church. Set up some chairs, greet some people, go to a home group, get planted. Make church bigger than just you. Surround yourself with people who have great faith and will call you to a higher standard. I cannot emphasize this enough.

Seek first the Kingdom of God.

“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” -Matthew 6:33 ESV

If you want my #1 tip for becoming a professional musician this is it. I believe this verse is the foundation of seeing any dream fulfilled and living a flourishing life. In most seasons I have been in, God continues to remind me of this verse. He often asks me, “How can you be a light where you are at? Do you realize that you are in full time ministry no matter where you are?”

I have worked a wide variety of jobs, each with their own struggles and even persecution. God used those seasons to develop in me a heart for serving his Kingdom first, loving others unconditionally, and finding my identity in Him and not what I do.

I am so thankful for His perfect timing because He had to show me what was most important – relationship with Him. Difficult seasons will do that. Push into him, embrace whatever you are going through, don’t try to run away, let him mold you, open your hands and let Him give you what is on His heart.

Here is some final encouragement – God does care about the desires of your heart. I struggled to believe this for most of my life and thought of myself as more of a lowly servant than a favored son. God has dramatically challenged my perspective of His character and my identity.

This has allowed Him to do some incredible things. The key is that you must delight yourself in the Lord first, as Psalm 37 says. Make Him the foundation of joy in your life and He will set you up for adventures greater than your imagination.

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