What it means to be a successful professional musician

Does the idea of being a free spirit and working as an artist on your own time and by your own rules sound appealing? Great! Follow that aspiration, but don’t think you’ll be employable with that mindset/work ethic. Being a successful, professional musician requires punctuality, respect, and accommodation. Success follows musicians that lead by example.

Be punctual

Do you know the difference between working for a Fortune 500 company, a lawyer, or an accountant and being a singer, musician, or actor when it comes to being on time? Nothing. If you are late, you will be out of a job, even if you call that job a “gig.” The rule-of-thumb is showing up 15 minutes early is actually on time.

True story: Guitar players were auditioning for a popular show. One of the favorites to land the lead guitar was scheduled to begin his audition at 2 pm. This meant, his instrument plugged in, tuned, and his first note hitting at 2 pm sharp.

At 2:05 he showed up, guitar not tuned, and he had a bag of fast food in hand that he just wanted to “scarf down quick.” As he was told to take his time, the other band members began packing up; as they knew the audition was over. He was thanked for coming in, and everyone went home. Pretty clear he didn’t get the job. Don’t be tardy.

Be respectful

Know your songs, your scripts, or whatever you are required to know. Perfect it the way an attorney knows the law, an accountant performs math, and a pastor knows the bible. And keep in mind that every audience member matters. Smaller venues are just as important as arenas. You should give maximum effort in your performance regardless of the pay and the audience size.

Remember, producers and directors, talk. They have long-lasting relationships and have an excellent ability to remember individuals. They understand the law of supply and demand when it comes to available talent. If you don’t give your best effort, they’ll find someone else. And there is no lack of skill in the performing arts.

Be accommodating

Some festival producers will use the same bands every year. The lineup might not include the best bands, but to producers, that’s not always the deciding factor. Most will respond saying the talent is “easy.” Meaning, they do not have the time and patience to work with high-maintenance divas. Nor would they want to work with anyone that has a selfish mindset.

Have you ever been told you are talented? Keep in mind there is always someone better than you. Be humble, listen, and understand your role. Why are you performing? You are capable, you have worked hard, and you want to entertain. That requires humility and respect. If you genuinely love performing, do not act in a way that could jeopardize your future or name.

Remember, being an artist can be a hobby or a therapeutic endeavor. There are karaoke nights, Community Theater, all kinds of ways to be creative. But, if you cash a check and have a musical career, then you OWE all those who paid you your 100% commitment.

Aspire to be a professional musician.