Getting yourself out there makes the difference.
Pro or Amateur?
What makes someone a professional musician? Is it being a virtuoso, playing in a dingy bar, or traveling the country on a tour bus and hitting stadiums? The line between amateur and pro can seem fuzzy at times. And how do you cross that line once you recognize where it is? What even does it mean to get yourself out there?
Years ago I was attending a music school in L.A. One of my teachers there made the distinction seem so simple and straightforward that it felt almost ridiculous. He said, and I’m paraphrasing, “no matter how good you are, if you only play in your bedroom you’re a hobbyist. There are plenty of phenomenal players that are amateurs. Play in a crap band at a crap venue for crap pay and you’re already a pro.” The line is simple here: get yourself out there, play for people, get paid.
It’s intimidating. Yes, it is.
Unless you live without self-doubts of any kind, you will feel fear. You may find yourself in a room full of musicians who make you feel like a poser. Chances are good you’ll try to connect with other musicians at some point and feel unworthy. The truth is we all tend to see our own faults in a spotlight while that same spotlight will shine on someone else’s strengths. Then we do the worst thing we can do, we compare ourselves to them.
This may not be true for you, and if it isn’t then congratulations. But for those who do deal with similar thoughts and feelings, there is a simple solution. Let others be the judge of whether you’re good enough. Get yourself out there and just see what happens.
Dependability over skill.
I’ll start with a caveat: you have to be at least competent. With that out of the way, the truth is that you don’t need to be the best. This seems like a good spot for another little story.
There was an extremely talented musician. He intuitively understood any instrument he put his hands to and played at a virtuoso level on a couple. Initially, once his reputation spread, everyone wanted to hire him. A problem soon arose. He was often late, sometimes wouldn’t even bother to show up, and was never well-prepared. It wasn’t long before this new reputation spread out. People still knew he was a great player, but now they also knew he wouldn’t play great for them. At this point, opportunities stopped pouring in and nobody wanted to deal with him.
What’s the lesson here? Be good, be prepared, and show up on time. Build this reputation and the gigs will follow.
Walk the walk.
It’s great to say all this, but what do I really know? Well, full transparency, I’m in the middle of rebuilding myself up in a new place. I recently moved to a new city where I know almost no one and have no ‘ins’ to the industry. I’m still making my first steps and trying to find inroads to more opportunities. Basically, I’m exactly at the point of ‘getting yourself out there’.
I’ll keep you posted.