26 Professional Development Resources for Performing Artists

Sometimes, we independent artists need a little help.

(Other times…..all the help we can get!)

I thought it would be good to pull a bunch of resources together in one place for the benefit of musicians, actors, storytellers, mimes, puppeteers, and other performers who are making their own way in the arts and entertainment worlds.

Making a living in musicNeed help with marketing? Insurance? Managing your contacts? Booking? Staying creative? Taxes? Gig ideas? PR?

Read on…

Crowdsourced Recommendations

I reached out to arts organizations, consultants, performers, and interested others for this article, pooling their best suggestions with some of my own favorite “go-to” resources.

Be warned! 

There’s a LOT here.

In fact, some of these resources contain lists of more resources within them.

I’ve also linked to all of the “suggesters” – the folks who recommended each book, website, etc. – as you may be interested in keeping tabs on them too.

article by Dave Ruch with 26 resourcesHere’s hoping you’ll pick up at least a few new ideas, tricks, and techniques to help you succeed as an artist.

1. The Artist’s Compass (book)

Subtitled The Complete Guide to Building a Life and a Living in the Performing Arts, this 2016 release by Rachel S. Moore “shows how to build a successful, stable career in the performing arts.”

Resource: The Artist’s Compass

Suggested by National Endowment for the Arts (arts.gov)

#2. NYFA Source (website)

This online database lists over 12,000 awards, services, and publications for individual artists and arts professionals, with more programs added every day. Search by artistic discipline, location, type of award, and more.

Professional development for performing artists - dave ruchResource: NYFA Source

Suggested by Dave Ruch (daveruch.com)

#3. 17hats (software)

Specifically designed for solo operators, this software helps you keep track of your projects, contacts, invoices, quotes, calendar, and more, all in one place. Try it for free.

Resource: 17hats

Suggested by Catherine Borzym, Self Employment in the Arts Mastermind group (facebook.com/groups/1656588214592297)

#4. Performingbiz.com (website)

Joel Gavin recommended this resource to me, saying “Jeri Goldstein was a speaker at our conference several times, I can attest to the positive feedback we’ve received about her from performing artists.” Jeri’s website contains all kinds of free resources for the performing artist interested in developing their career and booking more gigs.

Resource: Performingbiz.com

Suggested by Joel Gavin, Oklahoma Arts Council (arts.ok.gov)

#5. The Artist’s Way (book)

Resources for Musicians and Performing ArtistsAccording to Amazon, where this book enjoys a very high rating from over 1,000 reviews, Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way “is the seminal book on the subject of creativity.” Jen Swan from my local arts council here in Buffalo told me “hands down, don’t go anywhere without this.”

Resource: The Artist’s Way

Suggested by Jen Swan of Arts Services Initiative of Western New York (asiwny.org) & Elizabeth Ellis, storyteller (elizabethellis.com

#6. Fractured Atlas (organization, website)

The Fractured Atlas website and monthly newsletter are chock full of good resources for artists interested in health insurance, fundraising, legal matters, industry metrics and news, and more. They also offer membership, the single greatest benefit of which is their fiscal sponsorship program which allows you to write grants and raise funds for your work without the 501 (c) (3) status that’s normally required.

Resource: Fractured Atlas

Suggested by Dave Ruch

#7. HowlRound (website)

An online “water cooler” by and for the theatre community (more artfully described as a knowledge commons on the website). All of the content comes from the theatre community itself.

Resource: HowlRound

Suggested by New York Foundation for the Arts (nyfa.org)

#8. Making Your Life as an Artist (e-book)

Don’t starve. Make art. That’s the tagline of Artists U‘s free e-book, subtitled A Guide to Building a Balanced, Sustainable Artistic Life. This PDF download comes recommended by NYFA.

Professional Development Resources for Performing ArtistsResource: Making Your Life as an Artist

Suggested by New York Foundation for the Arts

#9. Jeri Goldstein’s Recommended Resources (webpage)

A nice selection of recommended books on tax issues for artists, negotiation and business practices, managing an artistic career, and more.

Resource: Jeri Goldstein’s recommended resources

Suggested by Jeri Goldstein, Performingbiz

#10. Americans for the Arts (website)

On the “For Artists” page you’ll find a curated list of resources for housing, health insurance, funding, networking, and more.

Resource: Americans for the Arts “For Artists” page

Suggested by Jen Swan, Arts Services Initiative of Western New York

#11. #ArtistHotline (Twitter chat)

On the third Wednesday of each month, NYFA holds a full-day (9:30am-5:30pm eastern time) Twitter chat with staff and outside partners (including yours truly) answering any and all career-related questions. You can see recaps of past chats here, and join the live event each month using the hashtag #ArtistHotline

Help for Artists with their Careers Resource: #ArtistHotline

Suggested by Dave Ruch

#12. New Music USA (organization, website)

In their own words, New Music USA provides “over $1 million each year in grant support for the creation and performance of new work and community building throughout the country. We amplify the voice of the new music community through NewMusicBox, profiling the people and ideas that energize and challenge music makers today. We stream a wide-ranging catalog of new music around the clock on Counterstream Radio and provide an online home for composers to feature their own music.”

Resource: New Music USA

Suggested by New York Foundation for the Arts

#13. The Actors Fund (organization)

A national human services organization helping professionals in all realms of entertainment and the performing arts. The Fund is a safety net, providing programs and services for those who are in need, crisis, or transition.

The Actors FundResource: The Actors Fund

Suggested by New York Foundation for the Arts

#14. Discmakers PDF Guides (e-books)

With titles like Musician’s Guide to Social Media and The Definitive Press Kit Guide, this free series of downloadable publications covers marketing, promotion, creating, performing, and recording.

Resource: Discmakers PDF Guides

Suggested by Jeri Goldstein, Performingbiz

#15. Marketing Webinars for Artists

Three topics currently available, all packed full of tips, tricks, and best practices for booking more high-quality gigs.

Worth many times the cost of admission.

Topics are:

  • Booking Gigs Through Email Marketing
  • Artist Website Best Practices
  • Performing in Schools: How to Create and Book Your Own Show.

Resource: Marketing Webinars for Performing Artists (scroll down to “Training”)

Suggested by Dave Ruch

#16. APAP’s International Festival Guide (document)

22 pages of music, dance, theater, and performing arts festivals you might want to perform at, sorted by month and spanning the globe.

Resource: APAP’s International Festival Guide

Suggested by Dave Ruch, Jeri Goldstein, and APAP (apapnyc.apap365.org)

#17. Artist Resources Directory from Indy Arts (website)indy arts resources for artists

Choose your artistic discipline from the right-hand menu and explore resources covering the business side of being an artist, compiled by Indy Arts VP Shannon Linker.

Resource: Artist Resources Directory

Suggested by Shannon Linker, Arts Council of Indianapolis (indyarts.org)

#18. How to Make Money Performing in Schools (book)

I’m pretty sure a fair amount of the information in this 1997 book by David Heflick will be outdated at this point – BUT – I got so much good guidance here when I first started “cutting my teeth” in schools that I’d recommend tracking down a cheap used copy and reading it anyways. Or better yet, find a library copy and borrow it.

Resource: How to Make Money Performing in Schools

Suggested by Dave Ruch

#19. Teaching Artists Guild (organization, website)

If you have any interest in performing in schools or other educational settings, TAG has a bunch of resources for you, including job listings, a quarterly magazine, webinars, and training programs.

Resource: Teaching Artists Guild

Suggested by Dave Ruch 

#20. LinkedIn (social network)

Yes, LinkedIn. That social network for professionals. You may have established a profile for yourself or your performing group already (if not, why not?), but are you using the Groups feature?

From your home screen, type the word “groups” into the search box in the upper left corner (see diagram).

Next, select “Groups” from the menu (second diagram).

Now, use the search box to type in your areas of interest (ex: “music,” “theater,” “songwriting,” etc) and you’ll find groups of like-minded people to join. Once you’re a member of the group (you can belong to up to 50!), it’s all about getting in there and sharing, asking questions, and reading other people’s posts. Some groups are filled with little more than self promotion, but find a good one and there’s a ton you can learn from others doing similar work.

Resource: LinkedIn “Groups” feature

Suggested by Dave Ruch

#21. Twitter (social network)

social media for artistsThere are all kinds of performers and consultants and arts service providers and pundits tweeting useful articles and tools for performing artists. Recommended accounts to follow for musicians include Bandzoogle, Sonicbids, and CDBaby. For other artistic disciplines, just search around a bit.

advice for musiciansOnce you’ve found some trusted advisors to follow, create a Twitter “list” to easily organize tweets from just those accounts into one useful stream.

Resource: Twitter

Suggested by Dave Ruch, D Grant Smith (dgrantsmith.com)

#22. Arts Councils (organizations)

Arts councils can be so important to an independent performing artist’s career that I’ve written a whole separate resource guide on the “how’s” and “why’s” of connecting with yours.

Resource: What Arts Councils Do For Performing Artists

Suggested by Dave Ruch 

#23. The Empowered Artist (book)

How to Make Money in PerformingThis book by Bob Baker was recommended by Solveig Whittle, who blogs on music, marketing, and social media. Subtitled A Call to Action for Musicians, Writers, Visual Artists, and Anyone Who Wants to Make a Difference With Their Creativity, the Amazon description promises “a big dose of reality checks, empowering attitudes, shifting perspectives, powerful mindsets, and nitty-gritty details on the real work you need to do to make a difference (and make a living) with your talents and know-how.”

Resource: The Empowered Artist

Suggested by Solveig Whittle (shadesofsolveig.com)

#24. No Booker, No Bouncer, No Bartender (book)

Author Shannon Curtis made $25,000 on a two-month house concert tour, and created this how-to guide for other performers interested in doing these kinds of gigs. “Concise and full of good tips” says Solveig Whittle, whose opinion I respect very much.

Resource: No Booker, No Bouncer, No Bartender

Suggested by Solveig Whittle 

#25. How to Be Your Own Booking Agent (book)

Another resource from Jeri Goldstein, this book covers negotiation, cold calls, contracts, promo packages, conferences, trade shows, funding sources, media coverage, and more.

Resource: How to Be Your Own Booking Agent

Suggested by Solveig Whittle

#26. Educate and Entertain (blog)

It’s the blog you’re reading right now, and if you’ve made it this far, you might want more. A free subscription delivers weekly articles, tips, encouragements, and how-to’s for regional performers (in any region) interested in making a great full-time living in the arts.

Getting gigs that payResource: Free Subscription

Suggested by Dave Ruch

Call For More Resources

What Did I Miss? What Would You Recommend?

I hope you’ll let me know, in the Comments section below, about any resources that have been really valuable for YOUR career.

And if you’ve given any of the above a try, I’d love to hear about your experiences.


About The Blog

The Largest Online Gathering of K-5 Classrooms for Connected Educator MonthSince leaving a white-collar marketing job in 1992, Dave Ruch has been educating and entertaining full-time in schools, historical societies and museums, folk music and concert venues, libraries, and online via distance learning programs.

Along the way, he’s learned a great deal about supporting a family of four as a musician.

The Educate and Entertain blog provides articles, tips, encouragements, and how-to’s for regional performers (in any region) interested in making a great full-time living in the arts.

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9 Responses to 26 Professional Development Resources for Performing Artists

  1. Shane Thomas

    Man what plethora of resources Dave! Ok I just used my big word for the day! Thanks Dave!

  2. Shana Brewer

    Wow thank you so much for this Wealth of information. I will be working towards my Minstry towards a lot of Great Content.
    ShanaChanel

  3. ActorscomfortCompany (@Actorscomfort)

    Good stuff Dave! Another great resource is BGNY (Between Gigs in New York) providing NYC actors remote and part-time job information to supplement their income in between gigs. Web App coming soon!

  4. Ann Summers Dossena

    Thanks for this list. Everything helps. The International Resource Centre for Performing Artists (IRCPA) in Toronto presents Workshops and Encounters with Employers for opera singers, singer-songwriters, instrumentalists, chamber groups of classical, jazz and world music. W e are aware of some on your list and appreciate knowing the others. Let’s keep in touch.
    Ann Summers Dossena

    • Dave Ruch

      Hello Ann, from just across the border in Buffalo. Thanks for posting; it’s great to know about the IRCPA. Is most of your work done right in Toronto, or do you also offer workshops and services online for performers from other areas?

  5. Robert Van Horne

    Hi Dave and thank you for this valuable list of information for musicians and entertainers. I appreciate you creating all of these resources in one place and sharing them. I know I’ll be using many of the excellent ideas to expand my performing career. Thanks, again!

  6. Becky Wright

    Dave, once again, you’re AWESOME and so helpful, brother!!!! I am grateful, and have just ordered one of the books you recommended (about doing house concerts, which I’ve considered before, but never really pursued). THANKS!!

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