Booking professional musicians: Part 1

Professional orchestra

Following on from my previous blog post: Why should you use an agency to book event musicians? I am going to write a selection of blogs on why you might choose to book professional musicians and how to make sure you're getting the very best in the business!

What makes a professional musician?

A professional musician is essentially someone who makes their living from music, rather than having it as a hobby. This might sound obvious, but the word 'professional' means so much more than that.

Being a professional musician is a tough career which on top of actual performances requires hours of rehearsals and personal practice to maintain the highest standards. It also involves enormous amounts of time and money spent on instrument maintenance, often a lot of travelling, and if the musician is self-employed (as most are), all the usual administrative tasks that come with that. It takes an incredible amount of dedication and discipline, which usually starts at an early age, continues through an intense music college education and is maintained for the musician’s entire life and career. How an excellent professional musician continually delights their audiences with each stunning performance reminds me of the old saying, about a swan being calm and beautiful on the surface but paddling frantically under water!

What else?

Being professional is also about how an artist presents themselves, how they behave, and how they react to different situations. A professional musician’s reputation is at stake every time they perform so you can expect that they will turn up on time and be fully prepared, well presented and well mannered. They will adapt their performance to suit the audience in front of them and won't allow nerves to affect them negatively. A professional musician will use all their many years of training and experience to handle any situation and to ensure the quality of their performance never slips.

professional jazz band

What is a portfolio career?

You might have seen the term 'portfolio career' mentioned here on the About Us page of our website, but what does that actually mean? Well, a portfolio career is one that encompasses many different aspects of musical performance and activity.

For example, one of our harpists spends some of her time performing and preparing for solo classical recitals at music festivals across Europe. At other times she will be found rehearsing and playing with professional orchestras. Occasionally she works with well-known pop music acts in concerts and on tours. These types of projects come and go, so she contrasts them with more regular and predictable work such as teaching and playing for weddings and events. Another of our harpists does less pop and solo work but spends a lot of time playing in the pit orchestras for West End shows. Some of our artists are also composers, whereas others do a lot of educational and community projects with groups such as primary school children, dementia patients or refugees. These are just a few examples!

Having a mixture of different types of work makes sure a musician is always busy and earning a steady income. More importantly, though, the variety provided by this type of career is what keeps a musician inspired and their performances vibrant and fresh!

What benefits does a portfolio career bring to musicians doing event bookings?

I have seen from my career working in the classical music industry that the best musicians are the ones that have a variety of projects on the go. Even when I worked for the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, whose musicians are on a full-time salary, I noted that they were permitted to take occasional leave or to have flexible working arrangements which enabled them to pursue other artistic endeavours. This was because the orchestra’s musical directors recognised the benefits this brought to their musicianship and the skills they brought back to the orchestra.

This is particularly important for musicians who play for weddings and events. Although they do take requests and tailor their set to each individual event, these types of events do risk becoming repetitive, with the same pieces being played and requested over and over. A full-time event musician doing this night after night might struggle to maintain enthusiasm and passion for their music over time, and their performances might become stale. Imagine the difference between this and a musician who has played with a world-class orchestra the day before your wedding, coming back to Pachelbel’s Canon in D with a fresh perspective and a new vigour! Or a jazz saxophonist who gigged at Ronnie Scott’s the night before your Christmas party and is inspired to come up with an original, never-heard-before improvisation on Take the 'A' Train especially for your event!

This constant stimulation from working with different people, performing in different settings and in various styles and genres, is what keeps our artists at the top of their game.

professional composer

So, what should I look for when booking professional musicians?

If you are looking for the very best performers for your event, take a good look at their biography to see what other types of performances they have been involved with. Tailor Made Music Agency sends every client a selection of Artist Profiles to browse and to choose from based on the requirements of their event, each one containing a brief biography of the artist. The purpose of these Artist Profiles is not just so you can compare repertoire lists and prices, but so that you can get a feel for who that artist is and whether they would be a good fit for you. If you are a musical theatre enthusiast, perhaps you might choose someone who has played in the West End? If you are someone with social and ethical concerns, maybe you might want someone who has done a lot of charitable or community work? The choice is yours!

Enquire with us for your event to receive Artist Profiles personally recommended for you.

In Part 2 of this miniseries, I will be explaining all about what a music college education entails.