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A Word With Willie

Welcome to Willie Oteri's Blog about his life and lessons as a musician. From here you can browse the full articles on each topic covered in this series.

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Making the Decision to be a Professional Musician

Watch Making the Decision to be a Professional Musician
Willie Oteri shares his experience about making the decision to be a professional musician and how that has influenced his decisions in lifestyle.  

So, making the decision to be a Professional Musician and what that means to your life, how your life is going to be effected by that. It's not easy to make a living as a musician. In my experience it's been quite a struggle off and on; periods of being flush with money and periods of no money, and sacrificing a lot of things in order to keep that rolling.

In order to be able to afford to be a professional musician, sacrifices mainly are things like: transportation, maybe never owning a new car, maybe never having a nice big house, maybe not having the most expensive instruments. But, you can be happy. I've been a professional musician off and on for over forty years, and making my living at it. It's been really really nice to be able to just not have a lot of things other people have, but to have my music because that's what I've wanted to do since I was a little kid.

You can do it. You can decide if you want to be a part time professional and have a day job. You have to get a day job that's pretty flexible, maybe not the best paying career, and doesn't really effect you when you go to a gig. Not the kind of work you bring home with you. The other way to go is do you want to be a star? Do you want to be a a band leader? Do you want to be out there on your own? That's the top one as far as that's going to take some money or some backing from somebody who's going to loan you a lot of money, basically, which is what labels do. They sort of just loan you money. Then you're going to need a band. You have to be the one who hires people.

Me, for example, as far as other lifestyles, how it's effected me is I've never owned a new car for one thing. That's just an expense that can be used for promotion. I don't have kids. I've made a lot of sacrifices down the road in order to be a full time musician. Another way is to be a professional Side Man which means really having a lot of knowledge of music, being able to read music well, understanding music theory, and knowing where you fit in; knowing what styles you can play the best and being willing to be just in the background a lot. That's pretty much what you have to figure out.

So, it's either full time professional, part time, side man, and bandleader. You can do them all really, I've done them. So there's a lot of sacrifices you make, but it's worth it if music is the love of your life. It's what you're going to do. It's what you're born to do. I wanted to be a musician since I was four years old. I wanted to be a jazz singer when I was seven years old, and off and on, I've been doing it for over forty years now. I've been fortunate in a lot of ways, I have a very supportive spouse who helps. I've been lucky enough that the things I record people like and it actually sells. Not great, but I'm living in a humble abode in Austin Texas, a really great city, I'm doing ok. So, if you're willing to make sacrifices and not have a normal American lifestyle, then, that's a way you can do it.

Last modified onFriday, 11 December 2015 04:15
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Thanks to KD Neeley of ZiADiA for putting this series together!

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