Being a Professional Musician: What Does It Take?

Hakim Callier 1

What exactly defines being a professional musician?  That is a topic of debate in the music world.  I am inclined to say that it entails making your living by way of playing music.  While there are those who work a different type job by day and play gigs at night, I would call those individuals part-time musicians because they work it as a part-time job.  If one makes most or all through playing, I would say they are a professional musician.

But, the subject is controversial for sure.  Just because one does play music or sing, even on a full-time basis, does not make him or her good at it.  The same is true for a writer or an artist.  They may just be an opportunist who has lucked into a position by chance.  I suppose that falls into the category of quality.  But, on the same note, if one is able to make a living from what they are doing musically, most likely he or she is good or at least good enough.

How do you become a professional musician?  Lots of hard work, lots of luck and lots of talent.  Aside from that, your chances of earning your living in the field for an extended period of time are slim to none.  Although the life of a musician is known for being one that is outside the box, believe it or not, there are steps to follow in order to achieve the status just like there are for any other profession.

First off, you must be able to perform.  You will need to be not only good at what you do, you will need to be great at what you do.  Practice, listen to others, practice and…practice.  Ask those you look up to for advice on how you can improve and put their suggestions into action.  Never think you can’t improve.  A professional musician improves constantly.

Set your goals in place.  Define the steps it will take to achieve those goals.  If you are just starting out, one of your first goals should be to take lessons or to avidly teach yourself.  List your goals and what it will take to reach them.

Along with physical goals such as finding a group to jam with or the likes, set mental goals as well.  Far too many musicians find themselves led astray by emotional issues such as drug abuse or depression.  You need to be a strong person not only to attain your goals but to live with the results of being a professional musician.  Not all experience fame and fortune but it is very possible that you will if you are good enough so if you do, you must set in place a plan of action to be able to handle that.

Feed the fire that burns within.  You will need to do your homework on a daily basis.  Everything you are must revolve around your goal at hand.  You must be willing to do anything in order to achieve your dreams.  Sometimes that will require stretching yourself.  Maybe you are shy.  Maybe you don’t want to relocate.  Perhaps you don’t like the business aspect of music such as contracts and such.  Obviously, you will need to bend in those areas and accept the things you must do in order to make a profession in music happen.  Once you have given everything you’ve got, physically, mentally and emotionally, you stand a chance.  Music is a profession reserved for those who not only dream the dream but for those who actually make it happen!