What Is A Professional Musician

pedro navahas

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Ok, I’ll play.
Being the divorced father of three kids I took whatever job made me the most money at the time. Whether playing drums or building houses, cabinets and furniture, I have made a living from both. Am I a professional or a whore?
 

CC Cirillo

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Ok, I’ll play.
Being the divorced father of three kids I took whatever job made me the most money at the time. Whether playing drums or building houses, cabinets and furniture, I have made a living from both. Am I a professional or a whore?
Sounds like you’re resourceful, talented and a hardworking dad.
 

UptownShakedown

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This question will answer itself when the big client presentation and the big live gig fall on the same day, which they inevitably will. People who dedicate themselves to a life in music and all that comes with that lifestyle are professional musicians - the rest of us are something else.
 

Tornado

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This question will answer itself when the big client presentation and the big live gig fall on the same day, which they inevitably will. People who dedicate themselves to a life in music and all that comes with that lifestyle are professional musicians - the rest of us are something else.
Ladies and Gentlemen, the answer.
 

Pat A Flafla

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I've seen drummer-wanted ads where a band that pulls in $150/mo is looking for a "professional" drummer and not a "hired gun." Yeah, they want someone who professes to be a career drummer to commit to only being in their part-time band. Makes me chuckle every time.
 

A.TomicMorganic

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Here's another criteria. When you can't make the gig because your other job got in the way.
 

Jay-Dee

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There's some fantastic arguments/points being presented here but sadly I think you're all wrong. Remember in the modern PC world it doesn't matter what you actually are, or do, it's what you identify as.

Therefore, if someone calls themselves a professional musician then that's what they are.
 

Whitten

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One wrinkle I would like to add to all this ...
So, if we take one point made by several members here ...
You are a professional musician if the majority of your income is derived from that.
I would bring to the table many professional musicians that make quite a bit of money in other ventures outside of music. Wineries, Software, Real Estate, etc.
Well this is a topic that as far as I'm aware only gets discussed on internet music forums. No one in the music business really cares what people call each other. Are you passionate about music, do you put music first, can you cut it? Those are the benchmarks.
You do have to put a 'profession' on legal documents, tax forms, bank loans etc And I doubt anyone puts' musician' when 90% of their income comes from real estate, or pest control, or building.
But for the sake of argument, I know Mick Fleetwood has shared ownership in a winery. Say he now makes more income from wine than his music (unlikely). It's just the main career he is known for, how he got where he is - which is being a musician. If he stopped playing drums and just made wine, then yes, he would not be a professional musician any more.
 

Rock Salad

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There's a term I hear people use that describes the elite level of skill, commitment and willingness to work that some would like for the term "professional musician" to denote. That term is "a real pro." I hear us here and friends in working bands use the term to describe someone who is a level above the working player in skills and knowledge- and often quite mercenary in their time management.
Then there are the more artist leaning players who are at the top of their game skills-wise. They are typically referred to as badasses, they're in it more for love than money.

So, Ringo- badass
Purdie- real pro
Me- bar hack dummy
All professional musicians by some definition of the term.
 
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Sprice

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I'm not bashing anyone, just making an observation on what the question made me think.

Whether it's music, sports, business, or whatever else it seems on one end you have newbies/amateurs/hobbyists who are learning and happy to be a part of what you're doing and on the other you have established experts who love what they're doing and have nothing to prove. In between is the trouble area with a lot of great people but also the ones obsessed with how they're perceived and what their title or ranking is. I am musical nobody but just by chance I've played with beginners and at jams with people with a slew of recording credits and always enjoyed it. The only problems I've ever had are with the people who are almost really good and are super eager to show how much they know about everything and prove what they can do. I've enjoyed rounds with newbies just learning golf and scratch golfers who can carry drives in the 250 range and my worst days are with the people on the verge of a single digit handicap who only want to talk about wedge loft degree and act like every errant shot just cost them a Master's jacket.

Again, I know it's a totally innocent question but if someone were to come to me and feel the need to tell me they're a "professional" anything, it would make me wonder.
 

itsjjp

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Certainly anyone who does it full-time for a living, that's a no-brainer. From there I would say there are varying degrees. Certainly any established working bands like tribute acts and genre specialists with very regular work (Journey, U2, Pink Floyd, Beatles, Stones tribute bands; 80's hair metal bands; polished classic rock bands; wedding and party bands). I would include anyone who offers formal, paid private lessons on their instrument. I don't qualify hack players who just happen to be getting paid to play a handful of gigs per year as professionals. Like some average band that plays 1-2x per month. That's a hobby, not a professional thing imo. My first bass player used to say "We're professionals (with excitement and seriousness) because we're getting paid." However, for some context, I was 17 and he was 23 and I think it was his way of saying we should take practice and gigs seriously enough so we don't go out and look like fools or let people down. He was smart that way.
 

toddbishop

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Again, I know it's a totally innocent question but if someone were to come to me and feel the need to tell me they're a "professional" anything, it would make me wonder.
If musicians say it a lot, it's because musician is a pretty low-prestige business in the USA, and you do have to let people know that you're serious, that it is your job. That's just how it works. Everyone's trying to appear serious-- even some incredible lame asses, in all fields. They put a lot of money and energy into that. And some people get more help from their job title than others.

Having seen a lot of these online discussions, I've noticed that a lot of people are desperate for music to not be serious job-- so they can think of themselves as experts in it, or declare that the only experts are some rare birds who just do high powered tours and record dates all the time.... while also excusing their own lack of seriousness, ability, or success with it.
 

Mcjnic

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Wrinkle number three ...

According to the legal definition of Musician ... a lyracist is considered a Professional Musician.
A lyracist does not have the requirement to have proficiency with an instrument.
I've known quite a few lyracist' that do not play any instruments ... I'm sure some of you do, too.
Any tune that was crafted around a poem written by a person that does not play an instrument pretty much qualifies.

So, that is an interesting point.
They don't have to show professionalism to many people at all - basically, their agent/manager is pretty much it.
Generally speaking ...
their work is done in private ...
the schedule may or may not be hit ... as they see fit ...
they submit their lyrics to a party that handles the business end.
They could be considered hired poets ... and the business is handled through their agents/managers.

So, pretty much all of the variables defined so far don't line up with these individuals. And yet ... they are legally classified as Professional Musicians ... as they are paid for their work.

Just having some more fun with this one.
Those darn little comfortable boxes ...

Enjoy.
 

vintagedrummersweden

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My cousin, A-grade student, had to choose between becoming a clarinetist or medical doctor. He had the possibility to become either of them.
His father just said: it's easier to be a hobby musician than vice versa.
 

Tornado

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Wrinkle number three ...

According to the legal definition of Musician ... a lyracist is considered a Professional Musician.
A lyracist does not have the requirement to have proficiency with an instrument.
I've known quite a few lyracist' that do not play any instruments ... I'm sure some of you do, too.
Any tune that was crafted around a poem written by a person that does not play an instrument pretty much qualifies.

So, that is an interesting point.
They don't have to show professionalism to many people at all - basically, their agent/manager is pretty much it.
Generally speaking ...
their work is done in private ...
the schedule may or may not be hit ... as they see fit ...
they submit their lyrics to a party that handles the business end.
They could be considered hired poets ... and the business is handled through their agents/managers.

So, pretty much all of the variables defined so far don't line up with these individuals. And yet ... they are legally classified as Professional Musicians ... as they are paid for their work.

Just having some more fun with this one.
Those darn little comfortable boxes ...

Enjoy.
I don't think displaying professionalism is a requirement for being a professional. There are just too many examples to the contrary, career harming as it may be. Professionalism is just something that is expected out of a professional, and can be demonstrated by professionals and amateurs alike. But merely acting like a professional doesn't make you one or put money in your pocket.
 

Mcjnic

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I don't think displaying professionalism is a requirement for being a professional. There are just too many examples to the contrary, career harming as it may be. Professionalism is just something that is expected out of a professional, and can be demonstrated by professionals and amateurs alike. But merely acting like a professional doesn't make you one or put money in your pocket.

I included it because it is a variable established by several members on the thread here. You have a very good point.
 


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