Get A Job! - Working As A Musician

Ok, so we all play music here, or at least aspire to, but have you considered doing it for a living? Here are some ideas you may not have considered.

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Contrary to what most people think, most working musicians do not tour the world performing before throngs of screaming fans or signing autographs at records stores. For every rock star, there are probably thousands of teachers, studio players and live giggers, sound guys and instrument techs. Though you and your amazing band will probably not be rocking Tokyo anytime soon, you can make a living playing music, and trust me, it sure beats a day job!

Step one is to learn the fundamentals. This doesn't mean you just learn how to shred and leave it at that, or play hours of slap bass until the local authorities give up and call in the military to get you to stop. You have to be well-rounded, otherwise you will not be in demand. There are a million and one noodlers, and the truth is, no one really wants to hear them. To work in music, it will be most helpful if you can play fast as well as slow, loud as well as quiet, and to know when to lay down a groove or step up for that jaw-dropping solo.

Study theory, take some private lessons, "wood shed" a bit, and eventually you will become an experienced and confident player. If you have not done so already, explore outside of your #1 choice for listening. The best choice if you're at the "I like punk! " or "I like metal! " stage is to listen to the styles that provided the foundation for the music you love. Believe it or not, a lot of modern music came from the Blues, Country, Classical, Jazz, African American and Native African music, Island music and so on. It's a melting pot! If you're into Metallica and Slayer, pick up a Black Sabbath album. If you've already done that, try some BB King on for size, or Eric Clapton. You'd be amazed how much history your music has - whatever your music is. The more you know about the foundations of music, the better off you will be. The best part is, you will find out about a whole bunch of artists you probably didn't even know about before.

The next step is to expand your marketability. Expanding your instrument base is a good way to do this. Do you play guitar? Well how about learning bass, too? Same goes for bassists - learn guitar! If you play two - or three or four or fifteen - instruments, you are that much more in demand than you were before. You may love sitting in your living room busting out the deep blues on your strat, but if someone is willing to pay you $100 to sit in on stand up bass tonight, what's wrong with that? The answer is nothing at all! The best thing about doing this is that when you go to play in a band setting, you will have a better understanding of the other players and their roles within the band. If you're the lead guitarist by trade, you'll learn to listen closely to the bass player and feed off of the bass line. Doing so makes an unbelievable difference in your sound. If you play keys, learning drums will make you more percussive and dynamic. No matter what your passion, the better you understand the big picture, the better you will play.

Finally, be professional. Remember, this is your job. As with any job, you are expected to show up on time and do what is expected of you when you are hired. If you're playing a wedding reception, leave the Slayer t-shirt on the hanger. Unless you're doing Kerry King's wedding, of course. Weddings, Bar Mitzvahs, hey, these may not be the places you always dreamed of playing, but have you ever seen the bill for a shindig like that?!

Jobs as a musician include, but are not limited to; studio sessions, live gigs (of course!), teaching - (this can be a very lucrative job, and you never stop learning yourself), director - (how about leading a band?), producer, technician - (someone's got to tune those guitars!) The sky is the limit, but the trick is to be open-minded. You and your black metal band probably won't earn a lot with battle axes and chain mail alone, but if you do that on the weekends, teach kids and maybe do a wedding or two during the week, you may never have to cut your hair or wear a suit! The best thing about being a professional is, you never stop playing, so you never stop getting better. If you think you shred now, wait until you're going 6 days a week.

Good luck my friends.

102 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Mick Mackler
    Very informative. But my question is, what if you want to make original music? You'd have to play other people's music all the time.
    Unseen_hero
    well, i'm well on my way i'd say, i do just about all of those things.. besides the profession part.
    80s_rock_girl
    As emeril lasgasi says "BAM!" Be eclectic (it means have various styles) Great article. )
    Tamiasboi
    I thought u were gonna tell us HOW to get into that stuff... Everyone with a music pulse knows how to promote your name localy. Hmf!
    Lespaul135
    My guitar teacher is Shania Twains' former lead guitarist B.B. Barcus and he's taught me a lot in just it's not all about the shredding but mainly being percussive and like said many times play the board I've laerned to play Muddy Waters from liking Led Zeppelin and The Beatles and studing who those guys looked up to and seeing why and how they wrote those songs from who they were inspired by I can play Metal to Blues, Jazz (John Mayer) to Classical and the cool thing it no matter how it comes out of the speakers it's all the same chromatic scale! Lespaul 135
    Damicksta2k
    Fantastic article! I would love a job in the music industry, not necessarily playing (although that would be a dream), either the technical side or the journalism side, this has given me a serious boost, so cheers and keep it up!!
    DannyLancs
    ('insert dorky handle here'): Hi, my auntie's shoulder-in-law used to know someone who used to water Robert Plant's plants. Oh, and I can play keyboard, bass, drums and guitar. A bit of rythm, lead, shredding, frosting and crunchy nut cornflakes. Bored. Thanks a lot, Danny (aged 5) :-/
    Yongyot
    Hey, great article! Nice stuff But i just wondered...are U proffessional?
    Joey .G
    I agree on the playing a lot of instruments and playing other genres. 5 stars
    Scourge441
    The next step is to expand your marketability. Expanding your instrument base is a good way to do this. Do you play guitar? Well how about learning bass, too? Same goes for bassists - learn guitar! If you play two - or three or four or fifteen - instruments, you are that much more in demand than you were before.
    That can be a double-edged sword. If you learn all those instruments, you may become a jack of all trades and a master of none. A lot of people on the bass forumagree with that. Unless you use techniques from one insrument on another. If you learn guitar, you'll learn chords. Not very many bass players use chords. And how many guitar players slap and pop on a normal guitar? Awesome article. 5 stars.
    cyco_bob56
    ^you've certainly got a lot to say. but you are definitely right. Get out there and make something of the talent you've got. no matter how little or how big it is. Just don't let it get to your head. Great f***ing article.
    dive-inme
    This article is really nice, i have been playing guitar for a year now and still a long way to go but my personal experience is that if you play different kinds of music as well as play with different bands that really gets you better the more you do the more excellent you get on your instrument, but as for learning other instruments i rather wont agree with that i will still say concentrate on one thing perhaps learning other instrument would eventually become a hurdle in learning what you basically want to, but those who are learning other instruments should carry on because its a good thing,. According to my personal experience if you want to play some stuff then dont give a dam if its underground, official, or if its just a wedding just do it for your own good it works really amazing the whole point is that you need to stay in the scene doesnt matter if some band only higher u to tune their guitars, u will always learn something if you are a part of these gigs/weddings. believe it or not guys one day can change your whole life i mean one thing leads to another u can find suitable people to form a band or any band can higher you, so i'll suggest if you want your name to be out in their then GET YOUR FEET IN THE SCENE unless you do that, playing at home wont get you anywhere. I appreciate the idea of making money by being a professional musician, because if you are a guitar lover then theres nothing in this world you can enjoy doing other than playing your guitar your instrument is your strenght there aint nothing better than making money off your self beside we dont need the destory our lives with cuz of a f-ucked job with a f-ucked up boss and a s-ucked up pay.
    Bubonic Chronic
    Getting your name out can be tricky. I spent $50 on business cards, and they look like I might be some kind of Real Estate lawyer or Brain Surgeon until you read them. Seriously, invest some money into advertising and be patient. You can only expect about 1% return on ads - that's one gig per 100 people who see the ad - but that's why you advertise all over the place, from swank ass business cards to cheesy signs at the grocery store to...THIS! Even the web works.
    Puppet_King666
    yeah i know that GREAT ARTICLE for people starting out. and yes i know the history i have a BB King cd and a Joe satriani cd and a jimi hendrix cd. IT all started with the beatles, then elvis, then jimi hendrix changed guitar sound with badass solos. then Black Sabbath then metallica then so forth and so forth. there we go. told you i knew my history
    rockeroller
    nice article. i play guitar as well as flute (jethro tull, i know) and even playing a classical intstrument can really step up your game. maybe next article you can give ideas how to get gigs. once again frickin sweet article.
    dre-0
    I really like this article, makes you reflect and want to do more. I found it very interesting becuase in a month im gonna be playing guitar for a wedding band. Gonna play lots of funk, r&b type of stuff, not really my thing but hell im getting paid and im sure im going to enjoy it. -Dreo
    Toffolux
    I play a lot of jazz piano and have a job in bars and restaurants and it's good pay Even if I'm still in education it's nice to have some money coming in without having to slave my butt off on some labour intensive work, it's good money for something I love! I also play drums, it has helped my piano comping no end, being able to create rhythms on the piano awes everyone, they have no idea how it's done yet it's a critical point of any jazz band rhythm section. Awesome stuff. Keep writing.
    Snipe
    Nice article. For my guitaring, I had been playing for about 8 months and sucked horribley still. Then I bought a bass, and just a few months after that I became about twice the guitarist I was.
    marley_man
    Nice article but you shouldve listed more jobs you can get as a musician, not just talking about what it takes.Nice article though, it would be sweet to do what I love most for a living.
    Klayy
    I've played piano for 8years and guitar and bass for 3 and drums 2.With each instrument I thought, that the other wouldn't help me very much.I was wrong, cause I am now able(and I do) to compose for a whole band.And if there was a rock band who needed any of those instruments, I could join. Also I play in orchestra (drums, percussion).Until you haven't tried it, you won't know how controlling more instruments is helpful.There's only one music, but million ways how to find it. I also began to learn cello this year. Music rocks, no matter what style.Just find a way to express yourself. Yeah, and five stars, 100% kick-ass
    backinblack478
    Great article, I play guitar, drums, keyboards, and french horn... It also helps to learn brass or woodwind instruments to add to the diversity and style of your music.
    Klayy
    I've played piano for 8years and guitar and bass for 3 and drums 2.With each instrument I thought, that the other wouldn't help me very much.I was wrong, cause I am now able(and I do) to compose for a whole band.And if there was a rock band who needed any of those instruments, I could joim. Also I play in orchestra (drums, percussion).Until you haven't tried it, you won't know how controlling more instruments is helpful.There's only one music, but million ways how to find it. I also began to learn cello this year. Music rocks, no matter what style.Just find a way to express your style. Yeah, and ***.. , 100% kick-ass
    Klayy
    I've played piano for 8years and guitar and bass for 3 and drums 2.With each instrument I thought, that the other wouldn't help me very much.I was wrong, cause I am now able(and I do) to compose for a whole band.And if there was a rock band who needed any of those instruments, I could joim. Also I play in orchestra (drums, percussion).Until you haven't tried it, you won't know how controlling more instruments is helpful.There's only one music, but million ways how to find it. I also began to learn cello this year. Music rocks, no matter what style.Just find a way to express your style. Yeah, and ***.., 100% kick-ass
    Canadiens1160
    and the bassist from quiet riot teahces too
    Well, I'm sure he has the time these days considering Quiet Riot's gigs are limited to birthday parties....
    ForestHeart
    do-do-do-do-do-do-do-do-do-do-do-do-do-do-do-do-do -do-do-do -do-do-do-do-do-do-do-do-do-do-do-do-do-d o-do-do-do-do-do-d o-do-do-do-do-do-do-do-do-do-do- do-do-do-do-do-do-do-do-do- do-do-do-do-do-do-do-do -do-do-do-do-do-do-do-do-do-do-do-do -do-do-do-do-d o-do-do-do-do-do-do-do-do-do-do-do-do-do-do-d o-do- do-do-do-do-do-do-do-do-do-do-do-do-do-do-do-do-do -do -do-do-do-do-do-do-do-do-do-do-do-do-do-do-do-d o-do-do-do-d o-do-do-do-do-do-do-do-do-do-do-do-do- do-do-do-do-do-do-do- do-do-do-do-do-do-do-do-do-do -do-do-do-do-do-do-do-do-do-do -do-do-do-do-do-do-d o-do-do-do-do-do-do-do-do-do-do-do-do-d o-do this is my song i hope you like it
    redwing_suck
    Donahue2, you get a warning for posting an irrelevant link multiple times. could be a virus or simple spam.... either way, you've got thirty days to cool down.
    will102387
    awesome article. I play percussion(keyboard percussion too) and guitar. Percussion for band and guitar for jazz. Both force me to pratice and let me get better, which I enjoy. I'm thinking about picking up a bass now too, since my local music store has got them on sale.
    SimpsoN-HomeR
    iv just started doing everything that that artical said just a couple of weeks ago. im 18 and play in a band, playin small gigs and festivals...my favourite band is metallica and im listening to country, folk, jazz and blues for inspiration.i can play rythm, lead and especailly bass,(im bassist) and now im teaching a few young ones and a 22 year old man( i dont charge tho)< its great for revision. great atricle!