View Full Version : Going Pro

02-16-2006, 11:28 PM
Hey guys, i wonder if some of you can help me with something- again. All my life i've wanted to be professional musician. My problem is- i dont know how to go pro. How do you get started? Everyone who hears my music is always telling me i should be playing out more, that i'm wasting my talent by hiding it. But my problem is- rent. I play pretty good, i think, i can jam with almost anybody, i can play alot of solo peices, i've played with latin bands, rock bands, funk bands, and they all want me to play more often. But i've gotta work 60 hrs a week just to get by. So how do i make the transition? How do i know if i'm really good enough? How do i make enough to live? How have you guys done it (if you have)? I dont want to work forever at a job i cant stand. Any advice?

02-17-2006, 04:26 AM
Well... the transition is gonna be rough. It's going to mean to still work your normal job and play gigs whenever you can (this means very little sleep), then once the gigs get better (and you get more $$$) you can phase out of your day job some; if you want to go all original stuff... well chances are you'll be broke for a while. With covers you might see cash sooner (specially if someone hooks you up with private parties).

Good luck man.

02-17-2006, 04:29 AM
well, I'm certainly no pro, still a student and will be for a number of years but...

Being a "professional" musician just means that you make a living off of it nothing more nothing less. It doesn't say anything about being good or not. I know a lot of people that are mediocre players at best that do quite well for themselves. They just happen to be very good business men first and acceptable players second. They have the ability to network with enough people and can give themselves a lot of different outs. Then there are a few guys that have unique skills, such as insane reading abilities, so they get hired all the time because they can play and reasonably improvise over whatever you put in front of them. Are they the best players I know? Not by a long shot. In fact, some of the guys that get the most gigs and make the most money are some of the most musically unsatisfying players I have ever heard. So just imagine what could happen if you had the skill to go along with the business aspect?

I was once told that being a musician is kind of a combination of three possibilities. Those are, composition, performing and teaching...and aparently, coming from trusted sources, if you are able to do two of those at a reasonably high level you should get by just fine. Of course we are all in unique situations and nothing is going to happen over night and whatnot, but eventually one just has to accept that this is what you want to do and go put yourself out there. Do you teach privately? You might want to pick up a few students on a part time basis because it will go a long ways to supplimenting your income if you end up quiting the day job. It certainly wont be a stable or financially rewarding lifestyle, but who needs all that anyways?

02-17-2006, 05:08 AM
Yeah, i dont need to be rich or famous, i just want to be my own boss and play. If i could bring in half what i do now i'd be a happy clam. Starting three years ago i slowly reduced my overhead- smaller apartment, paid off the car, etc. so now i dont have much to pay except rent and food. My girlfriends an actress and she's completely supportive of my going for it. But man is it scary. I was thinking about putting together a fingerstyle solo cd and looking for gigs at restaurants, cafes and stuff. That should be easy to find gigs. Unfortunately, here in Miami theres not many live music clubs- but lots of restaurants!
I just wish i was a better businessman.

02-17-2006, 02:46 PM
Network, don't burn bridges, talk to lots of people. All the "pros" I've met are really cool. Steve Morse, Vinnie Moore, Nuno Bettancourt (Sp?), etc... down to earth, no attitude, genuinely nice folks. I bet that helped them out, and I like their music MORE after meeting them in person.

Get your name out there, do the fingerstyle gigs, and play. It might be worth it to further your education/skills in your daytime life to make more during your "normal" job.

02-17-2006, 03:09 PM
I just wish i was a better businessman.

Have you considered a manager or at least a representative of some kind? It might be worth looking into. If you are not a businessman and have trouble promoting yourself, let someone else do it. I think having a rep who would promote me would make me feel more professional.

What someone else said above seems true. Talent is not the most important thing in being a successful musician, especially in the megacommercial music world. Talent seems much more important in the more local club scene.

My difficulty in being a complete professional is that I'm only competent at my music, and I don't play in a genre (old time Americana) that rewards or even tolerates showy musicianship, not that I'd be any good at the show aspects anyway. So I can relate to the challenge you have, I think.

Having a supportive girlfriend or wife (or parents, even) is a great boon. Good luck and keep us posted on your strategizing.


02-19-2006, 09:32 PM
...All my life i've wanted to be professional musician. My problem is- i dont know how to go pro. How do you get started? ...So how do i make the transition? How do i know if i'm really good enough? How do i make enough to live? How have you guys done it (if you have)? I dont want to work forever at a job i cant stand. Any advice?

Goood questions, all.

Good responses, too.

I note you said you'd be happy making 1/2 what you make now...and that's good, vecause you'll likely take a pay cut before you see an increase. I also note you said you had reduced overhead, which was to be my first suggestion. Good for you.

Yeah, I'm a pro (as are several of the folks who visit regularly) and I can give you 2 suggestions:

1) Embrace the Fear, and

2) Embrace he Chaos

Unless yo have a steady gig (like working in a music store or teaching guitar at a university), then music is a nickel-n-dime biz. That is, you'll need to immediately diversify the revenue streams. I typicaly suggest utilizing live gigs, teaching a steady roster of students, and merchandising. You can also look into studio work, composing for local TV/radio ads, and that sort of thing. Music, as a career, is (to my experience) very chaotic & requires disciplne and motivation and optimism in the face of fact (hahaha!!!)....probably no different than running your own convenient store or computer consulting biz.

You are in a GREAT location to make a lot of money from live performing if you don't mind multiple gigs every day. I know several guitarists who live & work in Florida and milk the tourist flow for everything it's worth.

There is a very talented performer in Florida named Elizabeth Roth who makes her way as an indie musician. She was in a car accident recently, so she isn't performing right now, but her 2005 schedule is still listed. You might wanna check it out so you have a realistic understanding of life as a performing guitarist (since that is the corner-stone of her music career):


My calendar, by contrast, is not as full. I don't live in an area that generates near the tourist traffic as St. Augustine. Thus, the current corner-stone of my career is teaching (so my student base is always at a minimum of about 60 students - I currently have a roster of about 105 active students).

Others, like Mark Akin, focus on a combination of composing & sales. Mark is the guitar wizard you hear if you watch DragonBall-Z. Others, like high-profile players Jennifer Batten & Greg Howe, make it primarily as hired guns. Others still (80s alumnis like Jeff Watson to new gurus like Justin King) open competitive recording studios.

The market is hot, but wide open. You just have to view all your options and then taylor them to your local environment.