The Importance of Staying Professional as a Musician

The Importance of Staying Professional as a Musician

I read an interesting quote online the other day by Dr Dre that said: 

“No matter how hard you work to bring yourself up, there’s someone out there working just as hard, to put you down…”.

A lot of people forget is that being a musician is a job like all others, and those who make this job seem like a joke are in fact not doing their job well. There is a reason why this line of work is often joked about, ergo “Don’t quit your day job!” is a phrase commonly heard by musicians. More often than not, those who do not take it seriously enough misrepresent the image of the industry. Which is why staying professional is very important. Your response to that question should be “Thanks! It is my day job!”.

So what does this all mean? It means that in order for music to be your job, you need to make it into a job yourself. No, scratch that, not just a job, but a career. This is your life. This is what you work hard for everyday and this is what your goal is to do in life. You either have this sense of drive to be a musician or you don’t. You cannot force yourself to do something you don’t want to do. It works the same way a student works incredibly hard and studies really hard to get to their dream of being a doctor, lawyer, architect or any other jobs of this kind. Being a musician requires the same amount of work.

I see musicians who treat everything so irresponsibly when it comes to their music, appearance and business plan. The amount of professionalism when it comes to social interactions is next to nothing and yet they expect so much in return. There seems to be this idea among some people that all you need to do is to play and not care about anything else, and somehow something magical is going to happen and you find yourself on stage a couple years later opening for your favourite musician. That’s not how this works unfortunately, or everybody would be doing it.

First of all, I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to be professional. Treat yourself like a professional and others will do the same in return. This means to be presentable! Don’t make anyone think of you as “another greasy musician”. Treat your musical project like it is a business. Make it your own thing and cherish it like it is your baby. If you want it to succeed so badly, treat it seriously and work hard hours to make sure that what you do is professional and can compete with everything else out there. Strip it down to its core and make sure the songs you write are professional and up to that genre’s standards and that the recording quality is top notch. Then make sure you and the rest of the band are amazing at performing so you can impress in a live setting as well. Make people want to come back for more! Not to mention, make sure the players you share this experience with are just as professional and talented at their instruments. Have professional gear that works and provides a high quality sound. Go to a professional rehearsal space to make you feel like this is a serious business for you and not just a hopeless dream. If you go rehearse in a dingy, dirty and uninspiring space, you are influenced by that and it will reflect in your business. Pay attention to every single detail and make sure everything is perfect and professional, the same way a business would. You’re promoting yourself to people who you want to draw in and stay, there is no room for error here. Think like a business.

Last but not least, SOCIALIZE! Don’t be that musician who just packs up their gear and leaves after their set is done. Interact with the other bands and their fans. Get some potential connections and do not be afraid to work with others! This is where looking and sounding professional comes in handy. People will be more responsive to the interaction if you make them feel comfortable and don’t smell like you’re drenched in booze and smoke. Have some really nice looking business cards to give out. Be nice and humble. Be dependable. Use professional language. For example, “Sup dude, dig your s*!?, is dope!” is not something you would say at a business meeting and be taken seriously (this is an exact quote of what someone actually said to me), as you should not say this when talking to a new potential connection. Every interaction is like a business meeting; it just needs to go well. Your career hangs in the balance and everything is important. You have to treat it seriously, otherwise it will collapse from right under you and your career will go nowhere. You don’t need to be stuffy or corporate, just professional – there’s a difference.

Do not get my wrong, playing music just for fun is great, and I have no problem with that. This is meant for those musicians who want to turn this passion into a career but don’t realize the work that needs to be put into it. This illusion that the music industry is easy and that everyone can do it by not doing business-related work has led many people down the wrong paths. The people you want to talk to and the people who guarantee your career (including your fans) are industry professionals and you should strive to be the same.

Stay professional, treat yourself seriously, and others will do the same. Try it and see how people start to treat you differently!

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