Have you ever considered what it takes to be a professional musician in today’s music industry? Maybe you’ve had the opportunity to meet a famous band or musician that displayed a set of professionalism that you’d like to emulate. Well, if you want to become a professional musician, you need to act like one.
At Indie Rock Inc., after decades of combined experience working closely with independent artists, we think of ourselves as experts in the industry of artist development. What we have found is that all of our favorite musicians display a similar set of behaviors when “on-the-clock”.
In this article, we are going to break these habits down and explain why they are critical to your success as a professional musician. These behaviors have nothing to do with your creative or performance ability. However, the few musicians we know who exhibit all these behaviors are also among the most talented. Is there a correlation? You be the judge.
Since you’re reading this, it’s likely that you are looking to develop yourself and become a professional musician. To get you started with forming and tracking your new routine, click here to download our free “Habit-Forming Worksheet”
Now that you’ve got your worksheet printed out and a pen in hand, let’s break down the 10 habits of highly successful musicians.
To Become A Professional Musician You Must Show Up On-Time
Showing up on time is a no-brainer. Woody Allen famously once said that “80 percent of success is showing up”. If you are not at rehearsal on time, you are wasting not only your time, but the time of all of your band members. Let it be known that being on time necessitates getting to the location before the agreed upon time. By doing so, you ensure not only that you are prepared, but it also sets the example for the rest of the band members to show up early as well! There are some professional musicians that we call into our studio first just because they always show up on time. The only thing worse than showing up late is not showing up at all.
To Become A Professional Musician You Must Show Up Prepared
The only mistake that even comes close to not showing up is showing up unprepared! Forgetting your equipment, showing up under the influence, or leaving your band’s stage clothes at the last venue will not only piss off your fellow bandmates, it will hurt your band’s chances for success. Arriving at the show missing equipment or merchandise is also going to hurt your opportunity to delight your fans that night. If you are prone to being forgetful, step it up by bringing extra supplies or making a checklist.
To Become A Professional Musician You Must Develop a Strong Work Ethic
A strong work ethic will help your band in the short term, as you will accomplish more work quickly. Make a plan and stick to your schedule. Always complete the task at hand before moving onto the next. Accomplish each item on your list to the best of your ability. Taking action is the key to all success. You need to develop your own strong work ethic before you can influence others to do the same. If you are unable to do a certain task, find somebody you know who can. Which brings us to our next point…
To Become A Professional Musician You Must Be a Team Player
First who, then what. Team effort is a key element in a band’s success. It is important that the balance of effort is spread among all of the members of the team. If a few of the members are responsible for a large bulk of the effort, they will get tired of “carrying the band” – a problem I’ve seen far too many times in independent bands. Remember that you are starting a business, so it only makes sense that everyone takes the responsibility to create “jobs” for themselves within the band. By spreading the tasks between the team, every member will contribute and be a part of the organization.
To Become A Professional Musician You Must Display Confident Body Language
The way one carries themselves publicly is indicative of their sense of self-worth. Just by walking with your back straight and chin up, people will perceive you as a confident and put together individual. Compare this confidence with the body language of someone who is slouching and staring at the floor. If you display low-energy body language, you will find it difficult to convince people that you are an exciting emerging artist. Check out the Youtube channel “Charisma on Command” for tips and tricks about displaying confident body language.
To Become A Professional Musician You Must Bring Positive Energy
Energy is infectious. If you consistently bring positive energy to the band meetings, you will find that your bandmates will return the favor. It is also important to remember that people are sensitive to negative experiences. It takes 5 positive experiences to overwrite a single negative experience. All it takes is one sour apple to ruin the energy of the group. Don’t make every meeting about the band business. Occasionally, take the time to hang out and be friends instead of exclusively bandmates.
To Become A Professional Musician You Must Be Resilient
A resilient attitude will definitely help with getting through the daily tasks. Not everything is
roses. When you’re on the road, you will find that less and less of your time is performing in front of an audience. You need to keep a positive attitude and place your happiness on the tangible and the within reach. Stay focused on your goal, take steps every day, and it will be realized before you know it. If you’d like more information about becoming resilient, check out the book check out the book The War Of Art by Steven Pressfield.
To Become A Professional Musician You Must Be Passionate
Being passionate about your music and performing is a necessity to surviving as an
independent musician. You should be obsessive about your ability, sound, and appearance in order to stand out from the rest of the artists. Studies have shown that passionate musicians were much more likely to achieve mastery in their craft. Take pride in your genre, stylistic approach, and performance ability. If you are not your own number one fan, how will anyone else like your music?
To Become A Professional Musician You Must Listen To Others
Especially when you start out, you should learn how to take advice and criticism from people within the music industry. If a professional gives you their opinion, you should be gracious and respectfully take it into consideration. IT IS NOT PERSONAL. YOU ARE A LOVELY PERSON. JUST PLAY THE DAMN NOTES RIGHT. Not all advice will be helpful, but in general, the people who have experience likely have the know-how on what it takes to succeed. Listen to them now, and you will most likely experience fewer mistakes first hand later. Here is an article about the book The No Excuse Guide to Success where author Jim “Mr. Energy” Smith Jr. talks about the “9 Steps to Becoming A Better Listener”.
Go The Extra Mile To Become A Professional Musician You Must
It takes a certain type of person to consistently go the extra mile. This type of person is extremely self-motivated and will never stop trying to achieve their goal. Build a team of a few individuals who make a considerable effort to achieve and strive for greatness. Then, mix it with time and action and you will have a recipe for success. Remember; everyone else who is trying to become a professional musician is likely practicing more than you are. To get better, you’ve got to work harder and smarter than them or you will fall behind. Malcolm Gladwell discusses how it takes 10,000 hours to become a master in your field and that is just the benchmark. To become truly excellent, you have got to put in even more work than everyone else.
There you have it; 10 habits of highly successful musicians. Did any of you notice something curious about all of these habits? Absolutely none of them require any talent, musical or otherwise. That means that all of you can display and demonstrate these abilities, starting today! If you consistently demonstrate these behaviors, you will find that you will get called more often for gigs and opportunities.
And that’s the most important part about the Indie Journey - seeing that the impossible is actually very possible. You just need to begin by mastering yourself and your abilities as a musician. If you haven’t done so yet, download the habit-forming worksheet here to begin working on and cultivating your professional self.