By Grant Norsworthy
I received an email the other day from a sincere, determined and capable young Church musician who asked some big questions:
“What advice do you have for me as a bass player who would love to play bass for a living some day? Is that possible? I want to play worship music. Is it possible to make a living glorifying God through music?”
These are questions that I too struggled with before my years as a pro bassist. I’m not sure I have them all fully answered yet.
I responded to the email to the best of my ability – not in a way that’s specific to bass players – but for any musician who is following Jesus but aspires to be professional. I hope you may find this helpful too:
You asked “Is it possible to make a living glorifying God through music?” I did for quite a few years … although (in good conscience) I should say that it was my – not necessarily humble – assessment of whether or not I was truly glorifying God. I have learned more recently to be more intentional about seeing God as the final authority there.
Glorifying to God? To some extent, yes, I hope so. That was the intention. I can say that the songs were primarily about Jesus and the intended audience was the Christian Church.
In Melbourne Australia (prior to 2002) I was able to eat and pay my bills (just) playing in a Christian band and also playing in bar bands. I would not suggest bar bands for everyone.
After 2002 I was living in Nashville and played bass as a band member in a couple of pro Christian bands and also recorded and toured as a backing musician behind established artists. It was easier to survive financially in the US, but still not easy. It became more difficult since I was now married and then, in 2007, had a baby son. The pro bass thing ended for me in late 2007.
Quite a few bassists who are sincere followers of Jesus are playing professionally. There’s no reason that I know of that would tell me that you shouldn’t go for it – although I do not know you well. It’ll cost. And there are dangers. It’d be best if you’re at least aware of the potential costs and dangers going in.
My first and biggest piece of advice is contained in this short video.
I would also say that, if there’s anything else (and I mean ANYTHING else that isn’t being a pro musician) you can do and still have a sense that you are responding to God’s call on your life, do that. It’s a tough road you’re asking about – and full of often hidden potholes.
If you’re going to go for it, I would also suggest that you:
- Make a big effort to get established while you’re single and young.
- Be ready to relocate to a bigger city. Maybe even Nashville – which is the Christian music capital of the world. I imagine opportunities to go pro are slim in your part of the world, especially if you want to be involved in music for the Church exclusively.
- Decide if you’re an “artist bassist” (band member with importance on self-expression and being part of the creative process) or a “technician bassist” (extremely accomplished on your instrument in a wide variety of settings and styles and ready to adapt to play whatever you are told to play … and be happy that way).
- Add to your musical abilities things like playing other instruments, singing, arranging and song writing. Especially song writing.
Talent and ability are important ingredients. But I would rate persistence as even more important.
I hope that’s helpful.