How To Become A Full Time Musician


When people think of a full time musician, they see only the “STAR Lights” or flexibility of the musician’s lifestyle.  The dream of performing in front of a large crowd or audience is every musicians dream.  What people don’t see is the hard work, planning , and passion that one must possess to maintain that lifestyle.

There are many hours of rehearsals and practice, and sometimes it takes years to perfect your skill in order to have a career as a musician.  The time involved often exceeds an 8 hour job.   Learning multiple songs and music styles can be time consuming and involves a long term commitment.

If travel is involved, there are instances where a musician may travel long hours.  Arrive at the venue with little time to change clothes where dressing rooms can be non existent at some venues.  They proceed to get on stage and are expected to perform flawlessly.  Only to leave the performance and get right back on the road to the next destination with little or no sleep.  A true musician learns how to hustle and adapt to change quickly.

If a musician does not have the main characteristics of being a Full Time Musician, they will find themselves broke, homeless and discouraged.   It actually takes thick skin to become a Full Time Musician.  Your challenges are in many different areas and it takes some work to deal with each situation.

Want to be a Full Time Musician  ??   Here are a few attributes that can determine if you have what it takes.

1)  You Must Have Passion and LOVE What You Do –  It sounds so simple, but its the main reason why people stay in the business for so long.    Do you really think its about the MONEY  ??    I can guarantee that most musicians/artists have experienced times where they performed for FREE or wasn’t paid as agreed.  It’s not always glamorous and requires discipline.  You must LIVE, BREATH and SLEEP music.  There will be some tough experiences along the way, but maintaining your passion while being “well rounded” will get you through the tough times.

Practice &  Discipline –   The competition in the music industry can be daunting, but if you truly love what you do, and take your playing seriously, it will show.   A good musician applies himself/herself and has a hunger to learn.   Great musicians are always learning, and aren’t afraid to learn from others.   They educate themselves in order to perform on all levels.   Whether taking a theory class or learning from a local music teacher,  be sure to educate yourself.

Support System – Having a support or network system in place is critical to every musician.  Talking to experienced musicians that have been in the business for a while, and networking with other musicians will prove to be beneficial in your journey.  You can’t do it alone.  You will need the help of others to refer you to various projects.   Learning how to avoid problematic situations by talking to those who have been on the road where you are,  may save you time and money.   As you build relationships, you will also build a strong reputation.  You will gain partners, close friends and colleagues in the music world that can turn into life long relationships.

Support others as well and you will always have great stories to share or listen to.  Most of all…don’t be afraid to ask questions.

Manage Your Time & Money – I’m sure all musicians struggle with managing their time and money properly.   We often get nice payoffs, but forget that there are slower seasons.   Learn to manage and put money away when things slow down.  There are also times when our pay is not received within a certain period of time.  Waiting to get paid, and in some unfortunate instances, not being paid at all.  Musicians should always have a back up plan.

Invest or find ways to make money when your not performing.. During your slow times keep the business mind and use your time to enhance your career goals.  Take some time to unwind,  and write down a plan of what you would like to accomplish.

Protect Yourself – Know what you are worth and stay on top of industry standards.  If the gig is with a major artist, be sure to carefully read your contract.  Know what to ask for and what’s expected of you.

  • Are They Providing Transportation or re-imbursement of gas/rental car if you drive ?
  • Will They Pay For Lodging ?
  • Will They Pay For Meals ?
  • What Is the Length of the Contract ?
  • If the Venue or Gig is cancelled due to circumstances you are not responsible for, will you still get PAID or at least be compensated a percentage ?
  • What equipment will be provided in your “Rider” ?  Are you responsible for bringing any equipment ?

Be Persistant And Don’t Give Up – So many musicians and artists have come and gone.   Although it takes tough skin to be in this business, you will learn that its like everything else.  There are Pro’s and Con’s to any job, but it’s important to keep positive people in your circles.

If a gig falls through, find another.  If a band or artist situation goes sour, find another band or unit to play with.  You simply can’t STOP.   Stay motivated.

If you see someone about to give up, encourage them to hang in there.  Offer solutions to help them along the way.  You’ll be surprised how helping someone else, will multiply your success. People will see something in you that they will love to be around.   Expressing that good energy on stage, can only take you higher.

Be Patient – Understand that it takes time.   I still work PT from time to time.  I was able to find a flexible job that allows me to travel when needed.   You may need to work long hours with a local band in order to land that tour gig, but keep pushing forward.  Continue to network and advertise your talent.  Use YouTube as a platform.   Generate a following and build your reputation.   The Internet is a great way to show what you have to offer.   Get your name in those internet SEARCH ENGINES !!   You’ll be surprised how it can help you along the way !

Don’t be afraid to make mistakes along the way….  Keep your eye on the prize….. and most of all …… Stay Grounded.

Rhythm Always… Denise

2 Comments on “How To Become A Full Time Musician

    • Beat of Her Drum by DJLadydrummer – A well-known drummer (Denise Commander Johnson) that has played in the MD,VA, DC area. I have played for many churches, jazz, rock & R&B artists. Was contracted to Nintendo to promote WiiMusic. I demonstrated the virtual drums, as well as 100 other instruments. Currently plays for many local artists as needed. Toured with well known hip hop artist and continues to share the gift of music. Being a musician can be rewarding, but its important to have good habits for success. Discipline and planning is also important when embarking on an unstable market like the music business. Follow your beat and always have constant learning in your schedule and daily routine. You can be successful as a business and do what you LOVE ! Create Music and Don't Miss a BEAT

      Thank you so much for reading my blog and I love your site. Very informative !!

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