Embarking on a career as a professional musician is a very attractive prospect. After all, who wouldn't want to make a living playing music in bars, clubs, or even on cruise ships? Through this article, I will offer advice to anyone aspiring to “make it” as a professional musician.

Learn Your Craft

Becoming proficient on your instrument may seem like an obvious step, but many people forget that to become a professional musician, you have to play at a professional level.  Several years of private lessons will go a long way toward making sure that you are competent on your instrument.  It is ideal to start your studies as early as you can, and to take lessons from the same teacher for as long as possible.  This will make sure that you follow a directed lesson plan, tailored to your personal musical goals.

Diversify Your Style and Skill Set

Gaining consistent work as a musician means that you will have to play styles of music that you don't normally like to play. Some important styles for a modern, working musician to know are: rock, funk, jazz, Latin, Afro-Cuban, reggae, and country. Latin and Afro-Cuban styles include: samba, bossa nova, nanigo, mozambique, calypso, and mambo, among others. It is also important to learn more than one instrument. Saxophone players, for instance, are regularly called upon to “double”on clarinet or flute. Drummers can open extra job opportunities by learning to play hand drums and auxiliary percussion, such as timbales and shakers. All instrumentalists can benefit from learning to sing backup harmonies.

Getting a Job

The most difficult aspect of launching a music career is getting the first job. Two important tools are a résumé and a demo recording. There are many online resources for resume building, one only needs to spend a few minutes on Google. The vital thing about a musician's resume is to include every bit of music education and experience that you have, including: school band, student ensembles, private lessons, clinics and master classes, recreational bands, amateur recordings, etc. Demo recordings are becoming more affordable as quality recording equipment continues to drop in price, so musician can now buy a day's worth of studio time for only a few hundred dollars. It may seem like a lot of money, but a good demo recording is an invaluable investment. You can even get a few friends together, learn some songs, and split the cost of the studio time evenly. That way, you don't have to spend as much money and you will each have a recording that demonstrates your playing.

Shameless Self Promotion

The last step is sending your résumé and demo recording to anyone who will take them. Start by contacting any recording studios in your area to offer your services as a studio musician. You can also send your materials to high school and middle school band programs to offer your services as a private or group instructor. Another resource worth using is Craigslist. Post free ads on the Craigslist sites of any nearby cities offering your services as an instructor or performer. Also, it's important to keep track of the ads that others place on Craigslist. You never know when someone will be looking for a musician with your skill set!

Keeping The Job

Once you have a job, the next obstacle to overcome is keeping the job, and keeping more jobs coming. In the music business, a musician is only as good as his last gig. Be sure you show up on time – early is better – and with a professional attitude. Make sure that you know all of your music when you arrive so that you can perform with minimal rehearsal time – after all, time is money. Be polite, professional, and respectful and the other musicians will treat you the same.


Follow this advice and you'll be well on your way to earning your living as a professional musician.