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Five Ways to Advance Your Music Career

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Hannah Hagar, the director of music at Hotel Van Zandt, shares how local musicians can fine-tune their careers and drum up support for the Austin music scene.

By Andrea Tinning, Illustration By Madison Weakley

Born and raised in Austin, Hannah Hagar is no stranger to the live-music scene. As a guitarist and singer, Hagar began booking gigs at the age of 14, and still performs today.

Her passion for the industry eventually led her to New York City, where she achieved a master’s degree in music business from New York University. But ultimately, her love for music pulled her back to her roots. Hagar now works as the director of music and social programming at Hotel Van Zandt in downtown Austin, a gig that connects her with the best musicians this city has to offer.

Hagar’s experience transcends simply being a musician. As a listener, performer, academic and social programmer, she has a unique understanding of what it takes to put on a show. Here, she shares her tips for up-and-coming musicians trying to make it to the big stage.

Play it by ear.

“Just like any other industry…music [is]one of relationships, so I would encourage musicians to take that coffee or that lunch meeting. Take the gig. You never know who that person could be or who they might connect you with.”

Chime in.

“Volunteering is also networking, but it’s a wonderful way to give back to the community and a great way to meet people. Again, you never know who you’re going to volunteer next to or meet at the booth or festival or wherever you’re volunteering. Organizations like the Austin Music Foundation, Kids in [a]New Groove, the Health Alliance for Austin Musicians—those are all awesome organizations that you can get involved in. Kind of an interesting story: I volunteered last year with Fortress Festival in Fort Worth, of all places, and ended up getting bunked with this girl who a year later, I met [again], and she works for the Austin Music Foundation. We work together in a very different capacity, so that’s a very real volunteer connection. I used to volunteer for the Austin Music People and I met all kinds of people that I don’t have lasting friendships with necessarily, but I definitely call on them for artists or for advice or just general music knowledge.”

Jazz up your knowledge.

“Keep yourself educated, and not just about music things but culturally and in general. I had a professor tell me that to hold your own in a conversation was to know a little bit about a lot of things because that could make or break your interest into a conversation and really allow someone to remember you for those little tidbits.”

March to the same tune.

“Go support the people who are doing the same things you are doing. Go meet them, go be friends and go learn from them. Bring your friends and support the community that you are part of.”

Blow your own horn.

“Be confident in your abilities but also be realistic in your abilities and don’t sell yourself short. This is a very male-dominated industry, but that is not to say that I don’t work with some really badass women as well who are in some pretty cool positions. I think a lot of it just has to do with being confident in yourself and in your own ability. I know, for myself, as a musician, there was a you’re-a-girl-with-a-guitar kind of a mantra, but as the years have gone by, if you are doing something worth hearing, that’s all that matters.”

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