Want to be a professional musician? 10 things that make it easier.

Want to be a professional musician? 10 things that make it easier.

Go for it!  Here’s the thing.  If it’s what you want to do with your life, do it.  You literally have nothing to lose. It may take a lot of time to hone your skills, figure out what you want to do in music, and learn how the business works.  You’ll probably spend a bunch of money on gear and classes and going to hear bands.  But that’s an investment.  Your parents will probably suggest you get a real job, but they are  just worried you will starve.  You probably won’t starve.  You may or may not have a 401k anytime soon.  But if you want do music, I’m guessing you love and have a passion for doing music.  So will you ever retire?  Maybe or maybe not.  So you’ll gain life experiences, you’ll go for a passionate way of making a living, and you’ll discover a ton about yourself, and you’ll get to do something that is a dream for most people.  Win win.

On the other hand, you don’t have to be a professional musician to do it and love it.  Or to be happy. Sometimes in life, it’s more enjoyable to have music or art as a hobby and not put the burden of money on your talent.

1)  Plan for 5 years minimum.  Don’t give it a year or a couple of months to “make it.”  If you really love it, it’s going to be a life journey.  Within that five years, you may in the first 6 months have a hit song.  That would be awesome.  But I would suggest not give your success or career a make it or break it deadline if you can avoid it.

2) Learn about music!  I went to music school and most professional musicians did.  I would suggest that for many reasons.  You’ll have to take a bunch of music classes.  By the time you are finished, you’ll know music so well.  You’ll have some credentials and you’ll meet and play with hundreds of other musicians that will become professionals.

3) Have a skill that you can freelance and make money with.  For many professional musicians, they teach lessons part time.  In my opinion, that is ideal (if and only if you like teaching).  You get to still do music, share your talents, foster other people’s talents/passions, continue learning about music, have an outlet for the community that is not centered around you performing but giving back, and stay really current with what is happening/trending in new music.   But you could have any skill: stylist, dog walker, anything you can freelance.

4) Have more than one instrument.  The more instruments you play, the more valuable you’ll be to a band and the more you’ll get.  I would learn at least piano or guitar, no matter what your main instrument is.

5) Whatever you are going through, try to stay positive and focused.  No matter what anyone else tells you about how hard the business is, just smile and say “thank you.”  Then get right back to it.

6) Don’t ONLY do music.  Life is about balance.  Exercise and hang out with friends and go hiking.  Travel besides touring.  Go camping.  Hang out with non-music friends.  Take up a hobby that is non-music related.  Learn Spanish.

7) Meet people. Make FRIENDS. Not just acquaintances.  There are millions of people in Los Angeles in the entertainment business and millions of opportunities to make connections with them.  Thousands every day moving to town hoping to find success and many leave LA feeling like a failure, lonely, and bitter.  Doing other things besides music will help you build a community.  A community will help you find meaning outside of music and feel like you belong.

8)  Being a Professional musician and being Famous are VERY different things.  Try to figure out it you want to do music for a living or you want to be famous for doing music.  Most professional musicians are not famous.  They record and write and freelance to make a living.  The ones you probably know of are the ones on TV and the radio. They are usually more entertainers than professional musicians.  Both are fine, but just different.

9) Live Simply.  Try to keep your expenses down and live as cheaply as you can in whatever city you choose.  Most major cities are expensive.   The less money you spend on clothes or alcohol, the less “other” work you will have to do.  And you will have more time for music.  I would also suggest having a little savings.  Sometimes freelance work dries up or you want to record an album and need a few months to focus and not work.  It really comes in handy.  If you don’t need it, go on a vacation 🙂

10) If you are not happy, it may not be the right path for you.  Just because you wanted to do music at one time, doesn’t mean you can’t change your mind and say, “this isn’t what I thought it would be” or “I am not enjoying this.” There’s nothing to prove to anyone.  If you go for it and don’t like it, it’s okay to change your mind.

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