How to Become a Professional Musician

By Chris Brower
A high skill level will make it easier to become a professional musician.

A professional musician is someone who makes money playing music. This can be through performances, jingles, recordings and writing music. While you don’t have to be a virtuoso on your instrument to be a professional musician, your chances of success increase the more talented you are. Most musicians complete years of practice before becoming professionals.

Record a demo tape. This showcases your abilities on your instrument. Make copies of this demo tape and share them with other musicians, club owners and people in the music business.

Create a website that lists information about you, your performance dates and contact information. You can also use social media websites.

Book shows so you can demonstrate your ability to play in front of people. Many bars and clubs have open mic nights where unestablished performers can play. These often involve showing up at a certain time and signing up to play. To book regular shows, call or email the booking staff at a club or venue and tell them you’re interested. They’ll often ask for a demo tape or link to hear how you sound.

Show up to the performances on time, ready to perform. Be well-rehearsed and professional. Play the amount of time the venue allots, but no longer, unless they give you permission. Following the rules increases the likelihood of you getting paid and being asked to play there again.

Meet other musicians at your shows, or attend other musicians’ shows and introduce yourself. They can help you, and you could possibly help them. They might be able to get you recording or performing work, and offer advice.

Attend auditions adequately prepared. If you’re trying out for a group, symphony, orchestra or other project, learn your audition piece. As always, show up on time and be professional. If they see you’re not only a good player, but easy to work with, it’ll increase the likelihood of you getting the job.

Get an agent or manager to increase your bookings and exposure. Research the agent or manager to make sure it's not a scam, and that he's a good fit for you. Consult the musicians he represents and see if they're happy with his services. Remember though, you don't need an agent or manager to be a professional musician. However, a good agent or manager can help you get higher-paying bookings and recordings and provide career advice and guidance.

Take lessons if you're having trouble or need more practice. Don't be afraid to seek out help in order to become a better musician.

Tip

Your demo can be recorded at a studio or a home studio if you have the right equipment, such as ProTools and microphones. If you go to a studio outside your home, some audio engineers are willing to cut a good deal for new musicians with a limited budget. Also, many colleges and schools that have music recording programs need musicians for their students to record, which can get you a free recording. Contact the school and mention your interest.

Maintain your equipment. If your equipment routinely falters during a performance, venues will be reluctant to book you again.

Warning

Keep a watchful eye on your equipment before and after you've played at a performance. Likewise, if your equipment is in your car, make sure it's locked and hidden. Use a blanket to cover up large pieces of equipment. Don't leave your expensive instrument sitting in the front seat.

About the Author

Chris Brower is a writer with a B.A. in English. He also spent time studying journalism and utilizes both to deliver well-written content, paying close attention to audience, and knowing one word could determine whether a product is a success or a failure. He has experience writing articles, press releases, radio scripts, novels, short stories, poems and more.