If I could wish one thing for all of my talented musicians friends…it would be that, one day, they would be able to work with a truly professional musician at least once before they died. Technically, anyone that is paid to do something is a professional. So I guess what I really mean is that they would get to work with a good, organized, serious professional. An ex-musician brought it to my attention recently that, during his stint as a musician, he never had a manager, a booking agent, been on tour, had a record deal or worked with anyone even remotely famous on stage. In a drunken slur of words this ex-musician accused me of having taken these experiences for granted. I tried in vain to assure him such was not the case. I appreciate every word blurb, gig (in or out of town), praise, criticism, management, record deal, and every famous and infamous musician that allowed me to share the stage with them. It's an honor, a treat and (as this ex-musician kept reiterating) not everyone gets to have those experiences.
Working With Professionals
Working with professionals in general is a treat no matter what their profession is. For me, working with professionals is both good and bad. Once you have the professional experience and soon afterwards have to cross paths with the unprofessional, you find yourself ruined in the worst of ways. If I had to describe working with unprofessional people in one word, that word would be "excruciating". When working with a professional, you not only enjoy the person's presence, but you are likely to learn something new to improve your own level of professionalism. Working with amateurs is like watching a little kid repeatedly write down on paper, "5+5=11" and scratching his head as to why he keeps getting an "F" but at no point asking for the right answer. Eventually some of you will get to the point that if you can't work with professionals then you'd rather not work at all. It's not worth the grief and aggravation. Most amateurs work harder and not smarter…thus wasting your time and theirs.
When I was a teenager, my uncle, Fred, taught me to do basic maintenance on my first car (the car was a 16th birthday present from my mom, uncle Fred's sister). Uncle Fred didn't teach me anything too outrageous…just basic stuff like changing a tire, changing and gapping spark plugs, changing my oil & filter, air filter replacement, putting on new brake shoes and the fine art of junkyard scavenging for modest cosmetic fixes on my car. Besides saving me a lot of money on auto repairs during my high school years, my uncle taught me to appreciate the work and complexity of what professional mechanics do. Nothing was ever done for me…I was instructed and allowed to either get it right the first time or make mistakes. This point was brought home even more when I almost tore my knuckles off in the process of changing the front brakes on my car one day. My uncle just stood there with his arms folded and said, "Hurts doesn't it?" Professionals have special training, tools and techniques. Nothing makes you realize the aforementioned fact like getting cuts, bruises and dirty fingernails while trying to do a job that's better left to professionals. These days, I do what I can do and pay professionals for what I can't do. While this story was about appreciating professional mechanics, the experience had a huge impact on how I interacted with musicians both professional and amateur afterwards. It gave me a clear understanding that all professionals go through pain and anguish to get from amateur to pro and some appreciation of this fact is in order.
Being a Professional
As a musician, its better for someone to say they can't afford you and move on than to be lowballed to the point that you feel mildly humiliated doing the gig.
Life is short and while you try to convince yourself that you have nothing better to do than perform at a crappy, low paying gig…you probably do have something better to do. For starters you could be practicing until a worth while gig pops up. Being a DJ is pretty much the same. Being professional is about respect, money, contracts and being on time. It's that simple. Being professional isn't just about how you treat yourself but also about how you treat people that work with and for you as well as the people that hire you. Some people think that if they throw money at you they can treat you any way they want to. Every person has a price, but if someone is going to disrespect you on a gig…make sure the pay is one mile from the moon. Don't let people buy a cheap ticket to ride you. I'll end this with a much-used-by-me Scotty Hard quote, "One of the things I love about my job is that I don't have to work with anybody that I don't like".