Considering a Professional Career in Music

My heart is steadfast, O God; I will sing, I will sing praises, even with my soul. Psalm 108:1

So much has been said about how great Filipino musicians are. Entertaining almost in every renowned cruise ship, hotel bar, restaurant, theme park, and other venues, Filipino bands surprises its audience with their cover performances in any language. They perform with such precision so close to the original artist’s version. This observation is reinforced by the recent success stories of Arnel Pineda as he fronted the band Journey and the Pinoy reality show finalists in America, Europe, and Australia. Filipino musicians are truly world class to fill the demands of the creative industries worldwide [Stephanie Sook-Lynn Ng].

We are inspired with a sense of national pride by this news. However, what we must look at deeply is how these musicians gain the skills to command respect and accolades. Practically, nothing more than countless practice, training, rehearsals, performances, and auditions made them who they are. These are people who polished their acts and realized their rightful place.

Not everyone can become a musician. An aspirant must have the talent or gift in music such as knowing and keeping in tune, a sense of tempo, and decisive listening skills, even if one has the determination, persistence, and passion for music. This reminds me of my mom who loves music, was very good at dancing but can’t carry a tune even by singing the National Anthem.

Before considering a music career, it is important to assess one’s musicality and personality.

Offhand, remember that there are no shortcuts to success. You have to reflect and find the reasons why you want to play music. Although you might be great at playing an instrument or in singing, these do not assure instant success. One must find joy playing music, realize one’s uniqueness to highlight and rise above the rest. Simple musical pieces should not be overlooked for simplicity may not mean it is easy. Musicians learn from experience, peers and superiors. While musicians are critical listeners, they know what to imbibe and what to trash. [10 steps to being the musician]

Musicians may either have fulfilled formal musical training or self-taught. An aspiring musician who wants to take a music course in college may go through auditions, interviews, and music proficiency tests. Universities and music colleges have exclusive entry requirements.

A musician may either be a singer or an instrumentalist. Furthermore, one should choose whether to specialize in classical or pop music. Regardless of the kind of musician one would be, developing one’s skill demand constant practice and a good teacher. As we enjoy listening to professional musicians sing and play instruments live or from recordings, we must understand how much time these guys have spent to practice, prepare, and audition regularly. Musicians have to meet some standards to be at par with or above the competition so they continuously study and interpret music.

Musicians perform as solo acts, as part of bands, choirs, orchestras or other musical groups. The pop music scene does not demand formal education but most aspiring musicians begin taking music or voice lessons at an early age. To improve one’s musical skills, taking part-time classes at performing arts schools or colleges or with a private music teacher helps a lot. The career to become a musician is very popular. Consequently, employment opportunities are highly competitive. Salary or talent fee varies according to the musician’s caliber or reputation. They get paid per gig, session recording and royalties from record and merchandise sales. [How to Become a Professional Musician]

Personal Requirements to Become a Musician

Musicianship. Just like actors, musicians entertain by expressing emotions. Instead of acting, the musician interprets his/her piece at a good level of musical ability as a singer or instrumentalist. Musicians have a good sense of timing and rhythm.  They possess the so-called musical ear which is simply the ability to intuitively learn or appreciate music and distinguish off-key and off-pitch sounds. A musical ear is developed by training the ear to distinguish the different musical intervals and chords, including the aspects of acoustics and tuning. Successful musicians usually know how to read music, but there are some who were born with extraordinary talent honing their musicianship by inspiration and found fulfillment by relentlessly playing music. In mastering musical styles be it classical, jazz or pop, there is nothing that could replace a dedication to practice expressing or interpreting a piece of music whether it is read or played “by ear” with feelings.

Patience and endurance. Musicians do not stop practicing a piece of music because they already know it. A passage through the verse to chorus of a song may be repeated countless times by a musician who aims at perfecting that intricate but beautiful part. Doing so one develops the stamina to perform well.  Patience enables musicians to concentrate for long periods. While a dedicated musician is able to work well under pressure, he/she should understand and accept criticism as areas for improvements. Patience also applies to understanding fellow musicians’ limitation as they work as a band while rehearsing and performing together.

Self-discipline. Continuous practice produces self-confidence. A musician needs motivation, dedication, and determination to learn and express a piece of music. He/she gets to a point of confidence where performing in front of an audience is the self-actualization. Such passion to articulate a musical piece excellently fuels determination and performance at its best. Musicians get excited instead of getting nervous to deliver their goods.

Versatile. Most musicians can play multiple types of instruments. However, musicians’ practical versatility lies in his/her ability to adapt to the different musical styles. This is very important when a musician opts for a freelance career as a session musician for live performances and recording engagements.

Reliable and punctual. As musicians are hired based on their reliability as entertainers, they are always mindful not to lose one’s credibility for not keeping agreements, especially on matters of time and schedules.

Good communicator. Musicians promote themselves not only to bar owners and agents, but even to their peers to discover opportunities, get gigs and render other services like teaching music, writing songs or jingles for business establishments, and even manage a music business. Musicians, therefore, should positively communicate or promote themselves at any given opportunity.

Intuitive. A musician cannot please everyone all the time. Even the most respected and admired receive hostile reviews. It is crucial for musicians know who to listen to and what to accept as criticisms come blowing their self-esteem. The great musicians have learned to take these blows to their advantage. They may have been knocked out at some point in time but were victorious to rise again.

Musician’s working situation. Employees usually work during office hours but musicians work at irregular but predetermined hours. Work is irregular in such a way that musicians work on evenings, weekends and holidays, indoors or outdoors in places such as theatres, studios, gardens, bars, hotels, restaurants, clubs and halls, and may travel locally or overseas. Musicians work on changing schedules where engagements are committed according to their availability. Managing one’s own time, work may be booked as gigs, tours, recording sessions, rehearsals, production meetings, including commissioned work like songwriting or jingle writing, film scoring, musical directing or arranging, and other music-related jobs. With this flexibility, some musicians take so-called day jobs which may be unrelated to music to further support themselves. Professional musicians even become endorsers of musical products performing and teaching how to play or improve playing their specialized instrument.

Musician’s Employment Opportunities. Musicians are generally self-employed, freelance, or gig economist who gets hired for events such as parties, festivals, or weddings. However, there are those engaged with agents getting employment at hotel bars, cruise ships, television productions and entertainment venues locally or overseas. The distinguished and sought after musicians become teachers and set up their own curriculum or hired as part-time teachers in primary or secondary schools, colleges or universities. There are musicians in the Armed Forces too playing for marching bands, orchestras, or pop bands. Looking at the rising level of activity in the hospitality industry, the need for more musical entertainment would increase musicians’ employment opportunities.

Finding Work as a Musician. Musicians are self-managed who confidently network and develop contacts in their fields of interest. Music business as part of the creative industry is characterized by constant competition.  There is a great number of talented musicians out there but successful musicians market themselves effectively. Musicians deal with as many clients as possible and play with a variety of bands or music groups. The musicians’ increasing performances improve their musicianship thereby developing their profile and network which will provide them better gigs and breaks. It may take years before a musician builds up a good reputation and respectable career.

The Musicians’ Talent Fee (TF). There are no set pay rates for musicians in the Philippines. Talent fees vary according to the prominence of the musician, band, or orchestra. Musicians and bands usually negotiate with clients, bar managers or owners for gigs or offered a price for the group to share. Earning will depend on one’s ability, how often the performances are and the extent of the expected musical entertainment.

Be an Artist. If you are determined to become a professional musician, you must believe in yourself and start working that dream to fulfillment. As you strive to become the musician you aspire to be, it will be more rewarding to contemplate at becoming an artist. True artists in the field of music reinvent and reload themselves continually so their audience sees these as reasons to follow them loyally. Analyze the life and work of the great artists that you emulate and get inspiration. Be a fan and realize what it takes to grow and bloom as the artist you will become.

Be creative. Get into the creative industry. Write original compositions, have them arranged with your group or negotiate with a professional arranger, record your music, and learn the trades of the music business. [We will discuss this matter in the succeeding articles]

The competition in the music industry while very stiff and unending has its biggest rewards. Musicians rank among the happiest careers. When the aspects of salary, meaning, personality fit, work environment, and skill utilization were considered, musicians in the overall ranking belong to the 95th percentile of careers for satisfaction scores. [How to become a Musician]

If you still want to proceed with a music career in the Philippines, remember that it’s not about what you must do that should hold you to go on, it’s about who you want to become in your life that matters most.


Let us sing Hesus Ng Buhay Ko together





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