The world doesn’t work the way musicians think it does.  Here’s a typical thought process of musicians about their chances of success:

If I work hard and get really good on my instrument, there will be plenty of gigs for me.  With this music degree from a prestigious university or conservatory, I’ll get hired to perform in concerts regularly.  Being the best on my instrument will assure that I’ll always have work.

Unfortunately, these thoughts are a fantasy.  Success in the music world actually takes a completely separate skill set, one that few musicians cultivate. 

Contractors and producers who hire musicians assume that the people they hire all have professional playing skills.  Being a great player is the bottom rung of a large list of skills you’ll need to climb the professional music ladder.

Here are a few of the dozens of other skills, possessions, and personal habits you’ll need to succeed:

1.  Nerves of steel:  You’ve got to win auditions, walk into unfamiliar surroundings for performances, and perform with strangers.  Only musicians who can deal with these situations survive.

2.  Equipment: Make sure you have a professional level instrument (or instruments), music stand(s), tuner, metronome, and all accessories you need to be self-sufficient on any gig or at any recording session.  Not having an extra 9-volt battery has lost some guitarists work.  And, for all you string players out there: have an extra set of strings with you at all times!

3.  Clothing: You’ve got to be able to dress the part.  Depending on your genre, this can mean anything from ripped jeans to white tie and tails.  If someone calls you with work tonight, are you ready to walk onstage dressed appropriately?

4.  Be friendly:  Musicians who get hired over and over are the ones who can get along with other musicians, contractors, producers, band leaders, conductors, stage hands, and anyone else they come in contact with.  Don’t be fooled by the myth of the aloof diva or the surly rock star.  The vast majority of pro musicians need to behave themselves on the job.

5.  Be on time: If you’re willing to show up early and leave late, you stand a better chance of getting re-hired for future gigs. 

6.  Be helpful:  When you’re aware of the needs of those around you and are willing to aid them, you stand out from the crowd.

None of these skills is discussed in music lessons or in music school.  You’ll need to cultivate this stuff on your own.

Work hard to become a great player.  Then, work harder to become a professional people will want to work with.

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