Anyone who plays a musical instrument can be called a musician; but not every musician can be called a ‘PROFESSIONAL’. Being a professional is not only about the skills involved in playing, it entails a whole lot of other aspects like attitude and relationship with other musicians in the industry and generally other people around you, professionalism also has to do with how seriously you take your work and how much effort you put/are willing to put into it.
Becoming a professional musician is mostly born out of experience; it is usually built over time and doesn’t happen in seconds, minutes, hours or even days; it takes months and years of unrivaled commitment and an extraordinary level of patience and dedication which eventually pays off because everyone loves to work with professionals – not only because of the good music they can provide, but also because of the aura that they exude when it comes to doing business together with them. So let’s see what it takes to become a professional musician
Upgrade Your Personality
On your way to becoming pro, your personality is key; it covers your behaviour, temperament, self-control, character and reactions to situations. You may be an enviable musician with great skills and what-not, but if your character is out of place, no one, honestly no one would enjoy working with you. Disagreement and conflicts may arise; it’s bound to happen since you’re working with other humans, but how do you handle it? How do you voice out your opinions without lashing out on others? How do you resolve conflicts? These things are very important to consider and work on if you want to become a professional musician.
Know how to communicate
There’s a certain way to communicate to win the hearts of people, and there’s a certain way to communicate to lose them forever. Know the difference between the two. Communication is not only what you say, it’s how you say it, when you say it and the body language with which you say it. There’s a preconceived notion that professional musicians are rude, violent and extremely sarcastic. I strongly disagree with this fact, I believe that anybody’s mode of communication is dependent on the individuals themselves and not a certain profession. Learn how to talk to people nicely. I’m not saying “kiss-ass”, be firm when you need to be, but without any form of disrespect.
Learn the business side of music
Music career/profession is divided into: music and business. I talked about the business/entrepreneurship side of music in this article Music Entrepreneurship. We have many people that are more than willing to exploit musicians (professional or not), having a vast idea about the business side of music flips the coin in your favour, your ability to bargain and negotiate sensibly, market yourself and put out good publicity, takes your professionalism up a notch.
Prepare for gigs the right way
Preparation for gigs or interviews as a professional musician covers a great deal of overall preparedness. You have to be punctual (even for rehearsals); lateness connotes unreliability and no one wants to work with someone who cannot be depended on. Arrive 1 to 2 hours before the appointed time, this would give to the space to breathe, relax your mind, go through your interview questions, do sound checks if need be, and even eat or drink something light before your performance. If you’re with a band, it would give you time to organize your songs if you haven’t done that, add up a little more rehearsals or touch-ups if need be. Before you get on any stage, make sure you have rehearsed together and separately weeks before the gig; disorganized or unharmonized playing always gives a bad name and leaves a negative lasting impression.
React well to criticism
Criticisms come from the good, the bad and the ugly. It is true that some people criticize negatively no matter how good you try to be, but there are still some good critics out there too. If you have more than 3 negative reports on a particular aspect of your playing or your attitude, you should take an inner look at it and fix it. When you’re working with a band, producer or an artist, don’t be defensive especially when they try to correct you about your playing. You played it so you should take responsibility for it, their corrections just mean that there is a better way for you to play and it would sound much better, so take corrections, do not make it personal and move on.
Any musician who practices often, practices effectively, practices efficiently and listens to other musicians never goes out of style or out of trend, he is always abreast with new styles of music. Constant practice added to the skills you have as an average musician is what makes you a professional. Your music is your means of livelihood or one of your means, so take it seriously and give it your utmost attention.
Learn from experience and exposure
To become a professional musician, you should learn how to go out for gigs and shows more often, at the beginning, these gigs might not pay so well, don’t give up, see it as a means of gathering exposure and experience for your upcoming success story. Learn to also learn from your past mistakes and failures, don’t be caught repeating a mistake.
Enhance your looks
To become a professional musician, you should do all you can to make sure people take you serious which also involves enhancing your looks. It’s time to do away with those amateur-looking raggedy clothes. Not saying you should break the bank to buy clothing to make you look too rich or something, but a decent pair of jeans, nice tees and a pair of boots or sneakers should get you started. Smell good, take care of your hair, nails and your overall appearance.
Take up courses that will improve your music career
I’m not saying you must go for a Bachelor’s degree or master’s degree programme in music, but if you have the time and the funds, why not? There are lots of online courses and articles that you can lean on to make your music career better than it currently is. Courses about music theory, music management, sight reading, music business, audio and video production, recording and mixing, song writing and a ton of others.
Becoming a pro takes time and patience, but first of all, it takes determination. When you make up your mind to start doing things the professional way, you’re already on your way to becoming one. Do not settle for mediocre. If you’re already a pro musician, big ups to you. But if you’re not, start aspiring to do your own bit to get there.