What It Means To Be A (Music) Professional

The dictionary will tell you an amateur is someone ‘who engages in a pursuit, study, science, or sport as a pastime rather than as a profession.’ The origin of the term amateur stems from the Latin word amare, which means ‘to love.’ Amateurs are people who pursue things they love as a pastime rather than a profession. Being a professional, on the other hand, means pursuing the things you love as a profession.

Notice that definition did not mention money? Making money does not make you a professional. Money covers the cost of living and affords you the ability to further pursue your dreams, but it is only a means to an end. Professionals see money for what it is – a tool to aide them in furthering their efforts.

Everyone who chases a dream begins their journey as an amateur hoping to one day become a professional. Whether you long to be the frontman in the next great rock band, or you hope to one day work publicity for the biggest names in music, your journey and that of everyone else in the music industry begins as an amateur. Many, unfortunately, stay that way forever. To become a professional requires great risk and sacrifice, often over long periods of time, and for those that do see it through there is rarely any guarantee of sustainability.

To attempt to become a professional is a terrifying proposal. It requires you to abandon the safety nets you have built in case things don’t pan out and dive blindly into the often treacherous waters of life with your heart on your sleeve. It asks that you put friends and family aside in pursuit of something that is completely foolish and to some insanely selfish, but for whatever reason it is the exact course you have felt propelled towards your entire life. You know deep down you possess the ability to become a professional, but to take steps toward that reality you must change, and for most of us that is the hardest step of all.

We cannot make you into a professional. No one can do that except you, and even then it’s going to be an uphill battle that you will struggle with on a daily basis. What we can do is provide insight and advice on what you can do to become more professional, and with each new post we aim to do just that. Through editorials and list features we will equip you with the knowledge needed to become a professional. Taking steps to become one, however, is entirely up to you.

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James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the Director of Customer Engagement at Haulix and host of the company's podcast, Inside Music. He is also a public speaker known for promoting careers in the entertainment industry, as well as an entertainment journalist with over a decade of experience. His bylines include Rolling Stone, Alternative Press, Substream Magazine, Nu Sound, and Under The Gun Review, among other popular outlets.