Transition from hobbyist to (paid)pro or semi-professional
Hey everyone, I was just thinking the other day about how many of us here are pro players, how many are semi-pro and the the rest of us at varying degrees of playing for fun. My question to the pro and semi-pro players is "When an how did you make the change to be a professional musician?" Did y'all have a few offers for a paid gig that used to be a freebie or decide that once you have a certain skill level you'd only play for pay? As a band member, band leader or freelancer? I searched but I didn't see a thread dedicated to this topic. Anyone care to share their story?
I've been playing bass since I was 12 and played primarily punk music. When I was 15 my dad started a bluegrass band with 2 other guys and I jammed with them often. The other guys asked for me to be in the band. Since then I've been playing paid gigs. After that I played upright in a rockabilly band for 3 years. I'm 22 now and play in a country band and a rock band with steady gigs. The transition was easy for me but I know it's difficult for most. I just happened to get lucky.
I've been playing for so long I don't remember how I got going. I can say that I played my first paying gig at age 13 in 1967. I've only recently (last 10 years or so) been actively seeking and finding paying gigs.
I sort of went reverse...I played in a traveling cover band/s from age 18 to 26. We played 5 nights a week some times and this is how I made my living all while taking college courses(non music related mech engineering). Traveling so much made my road to getting my bachelor's a 6 yr journey but....hey I got it. So once I started working in my field music was after hours projects only until I finally had pretty solid footing careed wise and put an act together which gigged 3-4 times a month. So I went from full timer to almost no timer to part timer. I used to want to play music full time for a living but the opportunity never presented itself/made the opportunity to make a good living doing it. Saw alot of guys get chewed up and spit out trying to make it...makin a good solid sustainable living playing music is only achieved by a rare select few when considering how many are trying....good luck
Through high school, my main instrument was cello. I took private lessons and played in a community symphony. The symphony was run like a pro orchestra in terms of expecations for rehearsals and performances, so I "learned the ropes" as it were, and also had good advice from my teachers. And there was a shortage of string players in my locale, so I got to play a few paid gigs, for instance in the pit for a community musical theater group.
Meanwhile I also played electric bass in the school jazz band, and started on upright bass lessons in college.
But for the most part, I played in school / college groups, even into grad school. There was always somebody who needed a bassist for a section, chamber performance, recital, whatever.
One day while in grad school, basically on a whim, I met a bandleader in town and asked him if he ever needed a sub on bass. A few weeks later I got a call to play in a jazz combo at a nearby restaurant for Sunday brunch. That led to more calls from more bands, and pretty soon I was turning down work.
When I moved to Madison, I did pretty much the same thing, with the same results.
Forced out of construction management. Outsourced out of computer work. Injured out of being a paramedic.
I had a real job like a real citizen for most of my life and played part time. Sitting in with a local house band for goofs turned into working the times when I was in between real jobs which turned into just playing for a living when the economy tanked.
play for hobby but ended up in a semipro situation
i aint quitting the day job anytime soon though
I'm a hack...just sayin, but I think 20 even 30 years ago it was easier to go to a pro level. Today..not so much.
Played Rock dances in high school.
Music store buddy said he needed a bass player for a country band gig.
Eeeww Country? I was reluctant but took it.
Ended up being a steady good paying gig.
Paid for my Associates degree.
Continue to play semi-pro weekend warrior.
I actually was originally a keyboard player. Only for recreation and jamming with my high school buddies who loved jazz fusion. Never wanted, or intended, to play for money back then. A little later in life I decided, what the heck, why not play guitar? So I did. I took lessons with a guy who taught both guitar and bass, and I learned to play both. The most I ever wanted to do was strum chords and sing for my wife and kids. But I wound up taking lessons for quite a few years because the more I played bass the more I liked it, to the point where I was spending money on equipment, basses, and learning more advanced techniques. At one point, my guitar teacher told me that there was nothing else for me to learn with him, in his studio. I had to just get out there and find a band to play with. So I did. Jam bands. Garage bands. And they all frustrated me because I'd work all week on material, practicing, etc, only to show up at our "practices" and be the only one who took it seriously and worked on it. I figured out with my OCD personality, I could not be around musicians who really were hobbyists and were like "Oh, it's just for fun". Then I finally landed with a band that worked for pay. And I liked it because suddenly the musicians became more serious about what they did, and the level of expectation for everyone suited my personality much better than previous people I'd played with. And I still feel that way. I just wouldn't like being with "pure hobby" players because I get frustrated with the disorganization. Plus, getting paid helps offset some of the cost of doing this. Not all, but some.
I am not a full-on pro, but a semi-pro weekend warrior who likes what he does.
As I see it a "pro" is someone who does a craft as their sole earnings...not a weekend/occasional gig.
An accountant can be good at carpentry and do side jobs on the weekend for extra cash. That doesn't make him a professional carpenter, he is still an account. haha...*** am I talking about...you know what I'm trying to say.
I have been a "hobby" player verging on what I would call "semi-pro" player for most of my musical life. I play gigs, and I get paid... but I have a day job. To the people that are "pros" I am probably just a "hobby" guy. But certainly part of my income and a lot of my time is spent doing music. I had an uncle who was a school teacher, but worked at REI on Saturday and a couple other shifts for years. Was working at REI a hobby? Or was he a dude with two jobs? Lots of semantics going on here.
My guitar player is just about one year into his transition into full time musician. He worked a steady day job for 10 years, playing music as a "semi-pro." He developed his own bands, got real good, played as much as he could, saved up a lot of money, and when he was ready, he put in his two weeks and now only plays music.
It has been tough at times for him. He has even picked up some contract work at his old job when there were not that many gigs... maybe his old job is his "hobby" now? I don't know. He struggled a couple months when he didn't have a roommate, etc. But he is doing it.
I think you will come to a point, and you will know it, where you can make the transition, and you have to decide what is important to you, and then do it or don't. No right or wrong. I fell like I have come up against that decision a few times now, and I have never jumped off the cliff myself. I do think it takes a little faith to make the move.
went to college for music
the actual material i learned made me far more qualified for a much wider variety of music. the networking that happens in a college music program can be really huge too.
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