What Is A Professional Musician

Monday317

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We can all produce examples of this.
So, if it fits "YOU" ... then put it down here.

Enjoy the discussion ... and keep it civil. We're all drummers.
In my case, a free beer during an Open Mike Night gig, keeping time for the proletariat constitutes “professional status”.

Most of my circle, such as it is, feel recovering the fuel cost to a gig is professional; earning enough to pay for new heads is icing on the cake. So we bottom-dwellers are on the low end of “professional musicians”.

Seriously, a Professional Musician is simply one with the training, talent, aptitude, and acumen to earn a steady living performing in whatever venue they choose. Some scrape by OK, some earn great wealth. Entertainment is an awfully risky business into which you have to invest your life.

With three of six kids still at home, I’m content to be asked to back tyros at Open Mike Night for a beer!
 

cruddola

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I used to be a professional. From 1968 to 1979 My entire income for over a decade was from banging away at the drums. My brothers, sisters and I were part of a 27-member Latin Jazz and Dance orchestra. Over half were Mexican musicians. My Texas-born bricklayer dad grew up with almost all of them. Five mighty wealthy families of the business elite threw huge formal parties on the weekends. Owning a black and a white tuxedo was mandatory. Two were wealthy families just across the border in Mexighanistan. Those required white tuxedos. Women members wore tuxedo tops over ankle-length skirts. A third of the band were women. Everyone better than any guy on the band too! Every venue had their own dance floor, stage and killer sound-system in their back yards. 200-300 seats. The Mexicans could seat 500-700 people. Huge ranches. Every Saturday a different family. The Cloud Nine Orchestra still operates today, but out of Mexico City. They got famous among the business elite party-throwers. Those guys now make over a grand a night. Tuesdays and Thursdays were rehearsal from 6-10pm. Missed one you didn't play two performances. a possible 600-850 dollar loss. The American parties paid 300 cash as you boarded the bus after a two-hour set, a half hour break followed by another hour. The Mexicans parties paid 425 cash as you boarded the bus back home after a two-hour set. Mind you that's 27 band members, 2 roadies and a manager. Equal pay for everyone. Percussion got one roadie (my youngest sister). 1750 cash a month for less than 30 hours a month as a single dude was a lotta money back then. Parties on a weekday holiday was 500 cash per member. Ever see the movie 'Sabrina'? Those parties were ghetto comparatively. After the military, I toured and did recording sessions for almost another 5 years. The European tours were the toughest. I left the business because I only played the drums when there was money to be made. That required I get a 9-5. I did. I retired from that back in June. Now I'm a professional retiree! I learned that a professional has to be true to the music, true to the band and true to themselves. Drum on!
 

David M Scott

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There have been a few threads over the past ten or so years that seem to be dancing around this question.
So, why not just ask it directly.

What is a Professional Musician?

Obviously, we have the Employment Service and the Musicians Union and such to fall back on.
But even those don't agree 100% on the definition.

When you ask a bunch of drummers here ... I've seen the answers vary quite a bit.

I'll kick off the discussion with this point. Ya'll can take it any direction (within the constraints of this forum) you feel.

There appears to be a strange belief that you cannot work at a full time career in a different field and still be called a professional musician ... if you do, you are a hobbyist and not a professional musician.

This one is blatantly incorrect from where I sit.

I'll use a friend as an example. This guy is pretty much the picture on the page of why you can have more than one "professional" title attached to your name ... including "musician".


Greg Flesch - longtime guitarist for Daniel Amos ... arguably one of the most important Christian rock bands to ever put a needle to the groove. Legendary.

Greg recorded more than a few albums with DA and others ... he's been DA's guitarist since 1984 ... the last recording they released was 2013, with still more to come. No idea how many tours he's done over what would be almost 40 years ... let's just leave it at a bunch.
He's toured the world and played to hundreds of thousands of people through those years. A handful of his recordings are considered some of the most important in the Christian Rock genre.
He's in countless history books on the subject.

He easily fits the definition of Professional Musician for most all air breathers.

However ...
Greg's day job is with NASA. Yes, that NASA. He's been with NASA for more years than I can recall.
So, does he lead off only with NASA? ... or can he consider himself a professional musician when conversing with other musicians?

According to some here, he's not a professional musician because he has a full time day job and doesn't spend every week playing and gigging and recording with his band.

My goal here is to civilly discuss the idea of what it is to be considered a "Professional Musician".
I believe it's a positive thing - trying to point out that things are not always one way or the other.
There are many professional musicians that do not fit into those tidy little boxes we try to create.

Many musicians have very deep and satisfying lives that crisscross the roads of categorization.
We can all produce examples of this.
So, if it fits "YOU" ... then put it down here.

Enjoy the discussion ... and keep it civil. We're all drummers.
Webster describes a professional as one who displays high levels of expertise and efficiently and works and behaves in such a way that others think of him/her as competent, reliable and respectful.
But then Webster describes a professional as a person who persecutes professionally for a livelyhood and not in the character of an amateur.
Confusing or what. So typical of the English language which is full of double entendre's.
NB: I went through the door and threw the ball !
So which one is a Pro musician ? Fun huh ?
 

Paistekid

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People tend to get the term professional musician and accomplished musician mixed up...I personally prefer the latter

Definition between the two terms:

A professional musician is one who plays an instrument or several instruments proficiently; performing is their primary source of income

accomplished - highly skilled; "an accomplished drummer"; "a complete musician
 

cruddola

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Webster describes a professional as one who displays high levels of expertise and efficiently and works and behaves in such a way that others think of him/her as competent, reliable and respectful.
But then Webster describes a professional as a person who persecutes professionally for a livelyhood and not in the character of an amateur.
Confusing or what. So typical of the English language which is full of double entendre's.
NB: I went through the door and threw the ball !
So which one is a Pro musician ? Fun huh ?
Stinking Webster was never a musician. Stinking Webster didn't rock! Webster can roll on the hell out of here! A professional is one who is true to the music, true to the band, true to themselves and gets paid for it! Webster couldn't describe a decked-out prostitute from a nun at a bus stop! LOL!!
 

Jay-Dee

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My opinion is that if you earn your living playing and teaching music you could reasonably call yourself a professional musician. That could be with one band or freelancing playing and recording etc with numerous artists.

If you have a regular (for want of a better term) job and earn a few bucks playing music on the side you could consider yourself semi-professional.

A guy that started a local musos club in my home town about thirty years ago called himself a professional musician. He was actually on unemployment benefits (the dole as it's known over here) and picked up a few gigs here and there.
 

David M Scott

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Stinking Webster was never a musician. Stinking Webster didn't rock! Webster can roll on the hell out of here! A professional is one who is true to the music, true to the band, true to themselves and gets paid for it! Webster couldn't describe a decked-out prostitute from a nun at a bus stop! LOL!!
Someone put salt on your cornflakes this am no doubt ?
 

Frank Godiva

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According to this drummer, a professional sideman makes less then minimum wage; which in Nashville today is 7.25/hr. Warning this guy is long winded.

 

Tornado

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According to this drummer, a professional sideman makes less then minimum wage; which in Nashville today is 7.25/hr. Warning this guy is long winded.

Speaking of Nashville, I found this gem the other day while trying to find something useful. It should have more than 77 views.

 

Squirrel Man

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If roughly half of your constituents are your strongest supporters and roughly half of your constituents are your harshest critics then I'd say there's a good chance you're probably a "pro".
 

Jay-Dee

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Speaking of Nashville, I found this gem the other day while trying to find something useful. It should have more than 77 views.

Yep that's a cracker, it deserves way more than seventy seven views.
 

BennyK

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Lawrence Welk was a professional musician .
 
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