What Is A Professional Musician

multijd

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I have to admit this is a somewhat confusing question to me. I wonder why is this even being considered? I’ve never heard this discussion among my “professional” associates. If it did come up it would be from a leader/contractor who is unfamiliar with a particular musician querying others about that musicians’ capabilities in which case the reply might be “She/He is a pro”.

Further in smaller markets, like Buffalo/WNY, it is virtually impossible to work full time as a performing musician unless you play solo piano and/or live way below the poverty line. Neither of those things are bad but rather may limit the opportunities for growth, touring, expansion because of the time commitment involved in keeping those gigs.

Instead, most of the high level musicians in our region have teaching gigs (private studios, public schools or colleges), other business or labor jobs, or own businesses that may or may not be entertainment oriented. I don’t know anyone who is being supported by their spouse in the way that was suggested above. But let’s face it, we live in the era of two (or more) income households and the “gig” economy. Why would it be any different for musicians?

I’ve survived with virtually all manner of playing and teaching gigs for my entire career (40+ years). Sometimes it has been difficult. Teaching at colleges really provided me with stable steady income to get through the dry periods (like a pandemic). But rather than lessening my “professional” standing it has increased my abilities, opportunities to do what I want, and success. I absolutely consider myself a professional musician.

So my definition becomes, “A professional is someone who figures out how to piece together a musical career that involves creative growth, artistic opportunities and economic stability while providing a service that meets the needs of their community.”
 

JDA

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1.5 year and a half I did musician only. out on the road 'a' road... thing I noticed: nothing to do during the day.
that was a long time ago (1981) with 'The Marcels" you know.. "Bluuuue...Moon"
3 guys out front- George Eddy and Rodney- were "better than the beegees" - swung as hard- most nights.
4 pc back up band.
 
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Tornado

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I have to admit this is a somewhat confusing question to me. I wonder why is this even being considered? I’ve never heard this discussion among my “professional” associates. If it did come up it would be from a leader/contractor who is unfamiliar with a particular musician querying others about that musicians’ capabilities in which case the reply might be “She/He is a pro”.

Further in smaller markets, like Buffalo/WNY, it is virtually impossible to work full time as a performing musician unless you play solo piano and/or live way below the poverty line. Neither of those things are bad but rather may limit the opportunities for growth, touring, expansion because of the time commitment involved in keeping those gigs.

Instead, most of the high level musicians in our region have teaching gigs (private studios, public schools or colleges), other business or labor jobs, or own businesses that may or may not be entertainment oriented. I don’t know anyone who is being supported by their spouse in the way that was suggested above. But let’s face it, we live in the era of two (or more) income households and the “gig” economy. Why would it be any different for musicians?

I’ve survived with virtually all manner of playing and teaching gigs for my entire career (40+ years). Sometimes it has been difficult. Teaching at colleges really provided me with stable steady income to get through the dry periods (like a pandemic). But rather than lessening my “professional” standing it has increased my abilities, opportunities to do what I want, and success. I absolutely consider myself a professional musician.

So my definition becomes, “A professional is someone who figures out how to piece together a musical career that involves creative growth, artistic opportunities and economic stability while providing a service that meets the needs of their community.”
I have a lot of respect for anyone who can do this. The hustle to keep busy and the stress of it all would kill me. On the other hand, I often feel imprisoned by my own comfort, and I find the freedom of it all alluring.
 

robbkm

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I often throw "full-time" into the mix in this discussion. I am a musician. I have often had day-jobs where music was a part of it (from teaching music to composing jingles). I was only a "full-time" musician for about 6 years of my life. That was the "occupation" listed on my taxes.

Even then, I've made much more money playing side gigs, studio recording and cover bands while doing a "full-time" job as a designer than I did when I was a "full-time" musician. Am I a pro? Maybe? Sure. If I'm in a year where I'm gigging every weekend or taking time off to do a small tour.

To me, Mel Brown is a pro. I'm an enthusiastic, sometimes paid, lifelong musician.
 

JDA

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You mean, like Charlie Watts?
no I was thinking of local musicians a local guy drummer in particular resting on pretty low laurels
 
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BennyK

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A professional musician is somebody who's good enough to obtain a stable position teaching at a recognized academic institution .
 

SKINZ

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If u can afford the tour bus and pay the tour bus driver and put fuel in the bus u might be a paid PRO musician..............:cool:
 

Whitten

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I can't believe this has gone on like this. As has mentioned a few times...if you get paid, your a professional.
It really needs to be your primary source of income. This is how tax departments categorise your income - and maybe social services. This kind of thing has come sharply in to focus during the pandemic where lots of self-employed people have found themselves wrongly categorised and therefore ineligible for any financial support.
But anyway, if you are paid $20 once a month for a bar gig, but pay all your bills with your day job, you aren't a professional musician.
 

multijd

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1.5 year and a half I did musician only. out on the road 'a' road... thing I noticed: nothing to do during the day.
that was a long time ago (1981) with 'The Marcels" you know.. "Bluuuue...Moon"
3 guys out front- George Eddy and Rodney- were "better than the beegees" - swung as hard- most nights.
4 pc back up band.
I bet we played some of the same places! What was that outdoor theatre tent in the round on Cape Cod?
 

Deafmoon

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That discounts 90% of all the greatest musicians of all time - The Beatles and Rolling Stones for starters.
Please don't tell me Keith Richards and Paul McCartney are trades people.
Not sure what he’s doing musically now-a-days, but, I think I would still consider Jeff “The Skunk” Baxter a professional musician. Bobby Colomby? I think so too!
I though Colomby gave up drumming professionally when he went to California 40 years ago to be a reporter?
 

Deafmoon

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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?
I spent 36 years in merchandise supply chain logistics and only really thought about the next gig, practicing, drums and listening to music. I made great bank, but I was definitely a whore to the money back then. I’m done 3 years with that and at 61, I’ve never been happier!
 

senecaty

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There’s been many great answers so far! I’m of the belief that if you’re getting paid for performing a task, and it’s a consistent source of income...you’re a professional. Further to that; non-professionals and/or hobbyists often play for free or “for experience”, whereas professionals play for fair pay.

Fwiw, I had always battled with calling myself a professional musician since I technically worked a Mon-Fri day job which paid the bills. We’d gig most weekends or 80-100 shows/year and wouldn’t accept less than $1000/night with weddings and corporate events at a $2500 minimum, but I was still challenged with considering myself a professional since this was supplemental income doing something I enjoyed!

Eventually I accepted that if you’re paid a fair wage for providing a service and you present yourself accordingly, you’re a professional. Basically, if it looks like a fish and smells like a fish...it’s a fish.
 
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Slingwig26

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You are a professional musician if you file your taxes and you declare your profession as "musician". And you have 1099's to back it up.
 
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