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Are you a professional musician yet?

At what point does someone call himself a professional musician? When he or she is getting paid to make music? When they are only making and playing their music on the road, and nor working another job? When someone is making enough money to support a family? Well, those reasons may qualify someone as a professional, but it takes a little more to make it as a pro. There is one key element that a professional musician must have to succeed in the business - professionalism. If you can't carry yourself as a professional, you can't be a professional.
So what does that mean, exactly? Well, there is a lot that goes into acting like a professional. Little things from treating club owners with respect, to not trashing band rooms, will go a long way in not only helping you play certain rooms and markets again, but also give you the reputation of a professional artist. Probably the first rule of professionalism is BE ON TIME! I can not stress this enough. It is imperative to show up when you are scheduled to perform a show, conduct an interview, sign autographs, or whatever you may be contracted to do. Tardiness is never appreciated buy anyone in the industry. How do you feel when your time slots are pushed back because a soundman is having problems rigging your drums, or an opening act is running over their set time. Club owners are particularly upset when performers arrive to their venue late. Many time this forces a rushed job by the sound man, and often customers need to be held up before coming in, so a sound check can be completed. Make sure when you advance a show, you find out the load-in time. Is it really that hard to show up when you are supposed to? And if for some reason you know you are running late, give the venue a call, so they don't get worried that a band just stiffed them.
The next rule is respect. When we were all little kids, we learned the saying "Do onto others as you would have them do onto you." Well that holds true in this business as well. If you are not respecting talent buyers, club owners, and soundmen, don't expect them to respect you. This rule should be fairly self-explanatory. These people are the real gatekeepers in the business. If you piss off any one of these key people, they can make it very difficult for you in the future. You don't have to like any of them to treat them with respect. Even if you happen to hate a particular owner, if you want to play his venue, you are going to have to respect him. You don't have to have your lips surgically planted on his rear, but be polite when you are forced to speak to him, and always say "thank you for having us". We all know some owners are not even deserving of that, but there are times when you will have to put your feelings and attitude aside, if you want to play that room again.
One thing I can't stress enough is; do not forget about the soundman! After all, this is the one person who has the power to make you sound like a high caliber rock star, or a crappy garage band. Make sure you talk with the soundman prior to setting up your gear, and let him know what specifications you will need to prevent any last minute hassles and confusion. Respect his workspace. Don't go fiddling around with the board while he is rigging some wires behind stage. If it is a house guy, try to give him a set list, so he will know when you are finished, and not just taking a breather between songs. Let him know as early as possible what you will need from him, whether it is a DI box, extra microphone, or anything else. Probably the most important thing I can recommend, is to request things from him, and not demand them. That is one of the easiest ways to get on an engineer's bad side. These guys are taken for granted for a living. If a band plays great, and sounds awesome, fans do not go to the sound guy, and say, "Nice job. The mix was really clean and tight." They commend the band, and assume there was no one else behind the sound. It's the whole pay no attention to the man behind the curtain syndrome. If no one else, you should be thanking your soundman at the end of each of your performances, for he (or she) is the one who truly can make or break you as a performer.
Another thing to keep in mind is to be respectful of the venue itself. There is absolutely no reason to go on a rampage and destroy things in the club. Band rooms are provided as a luxury, not a right. There is no reason, no matter how lousy a crowd is, or how much frustration you may have, to put your hand through a wall backstage. That is a sure way to not get invited back. This goes for even the biggest stars as well. Last winter, Green Day had an in-store performance at New York's Virgin Mega Store. After the show, the band decided they were in the market for some new equipment, so they subsequently started throwing their instruments around, in the store. Their drum kit was not only destroyed, but also took out some store displays, as it was launched off the performance platform. In all, the band racked up a pretty hefty damage bill, and was forever banned from playing a Virgin store again. And believe you me, their label was none to happy about that little fiasco.
Probably the last thing I can say about acting professional is not to burn any of your bridges. There is no need to curse out a promoter, or soundman for doing a lousy job, or an owner for shorting you at the door. While you may have no intention of ever playing at that venue again, you never know whom that person may know. If you think about it, this business is a small world. Many important people know other important people. And believe you me, we all talk to each other about artists we like to work with, and those we do not like to work with. You never know, but perhaps the bar owner you just pissed off is a close friend of a major promoter in the market you are trying to break into. You just blew that lead as well. Even if you are certain one person can do nothing for your career, most likely they know someone else who can. By burning that one contact, you may have inadvertently burned a whole lot more. Just say thank you, and walk away. It is not worth it to make a whole big scene. That is a sure way to be branded a troublemaker. And we all know that will get you nowhere in this industry. If you never want to play that venue, or work with that person again, so be it. The choice is yours.
No one likes working with a "hot-head", so don't be one. Now some of you may say, but that is who we are - rebellious punk rockers, not some pansies, with our tails between our legs. And that is fine, as long as that is your image, and not your true personality. There is nothing wrong for head banging, guitar smashing, stage diving, mosh pit-starting musicians to be polite and courteous once the show is over. I understand that you may have an image that portrays you as a bad mutha-fu**** (see last month's article), but leave it on stage. It is possible to have one identity to the audience, and another for doing business. This is show business. It's called acting. Act like a professional, and people will treat you as a professional.