Imagine a world where you are making more money than you have spent on gear, various and sundry music related expenses etc. in a calendar year! That year when you show a profit on schedule C of your income tax return. There are various interpretations of the word ''professional'' depending on who you are talking to and their point of view.
For the purpose of of this discussion, I am defining a pro bassist as one who makes a living primarily as a musician. One can play on a pro level, have a pro work ethic and business sense, pro level gear, pro level attitude and still not make (or choose) a full time living at it.
I have been asked over the years by bassists everywhere who are aspiring to be full time pro players about '' what it takes'' to attain that goal. If you don't already live in a city that can support a full time musician.. move to a city that does. Granted, this is a bit easier when you are young and in your late teens or 20's, but don't let that stop you by all means if your heart is set on doing it. I am going to talk about Nashville specifically as I've been a resident and session bassist for many years and a full time professional since 1975. Of course, this can be applied in other cities where there is a viable music industry/scene.
Consider well these points:
* Preparation! Know how to read number charts on a level of competency with a minimal amount of time..sometimes you will be required to play on the spot!.. some gigs are like that, especially the sub gigs and demo sessions where time and money is at a premium.
I also want to impress upon you that knowing how to read notation and chord charts expands your opportunities to work and opens doors to a wider world:-) The basics of reading is not hard.. I know because I have taught hundreds this very basic skill over the years, and some are working pros now. many semi-pro or weekend gigging players. Have a working knowledge of chordal notes and how chords move in a progression is so very important .. your chordal notes form the backbone of your playing.. I've taught many this very necessary skill.. A bassist that knows his or her chords is an asset. Music is expressed in chords, not scales.. I've never been hired to play a scale .. this is a perspective that become evident in the pro world..
* Develop friendships/working relationships with upcoming artists, songwriters, producers, and musicians. You never will know if that that up and coming writer could be the next hot thing with a string of smash hits:-) In many cases the writer/artist pulled in from their relationships the the great bass player they knew personally over the months and years and hung out in a friendly ( not mercenary) manner... being confident and easy to work with is so very important.
* Take advantage of the networking and career building qualities of union membership. The music business IS a business.. and your continued success depends on getting paid fairly and having the resources of collective bargaining working for you.. also, the benefits of equipment insurance, health insurance, pension, and various services is so helpful in building your financial future. reuse and upgrade payments from demo to master
See the full details at: http://www.nashvillemusicians.org/
* View each gig you take as a networking opportunity and treat people respectfully.. it will come back to you:-) Be prepared, show up a little early for the downbeat ( start time) and be open and friendly... I can't express how extremely important it is to keep your commitments and work habits professional.. this one tip alone will save you so much grief, drama, and wasted time. Don't be reluctant to graciously turn down work if you are not being respected or the business end of things are promised and not delivered.
* Never get your entire sense of self worth from the ups and downs of the music business.. it is far too ephemeral and capricious to let circumstances dictate your value in the entirety of YOU as a creative musician and as a person.
Learn to fill your bucket from activities and interests from non music related sources.. I promise it will all flow into your creative bass playing!