What Does a General Business Musician (Freelance Musician) Do?

General business musicians are professional musicians who specialize in performing "general business" gigs: private events such as conferences, weddings, religious events, birthday parties, dances, and corporate functions. To do so, they must cultivate a wide repertoire of recognizable popular music in a variety of musical genres, and alter their style and playlist to suit their audience. This could mean playing peppy oldies for a middle-aged wedding reception one night and mellow jazz for a lounge setting the next.

General business musicians must understand that they aren’t the stars of the show—their job is to support the event and make sure everyone has a good time, not to push their own art. 

Some general business musicians are solo performers, but more commonly they perform with a band, often called a floor or show band. They might also play with a cover band. While performing is their primary job, being a freelance musician also means being—and running—a business. Marketing the band, booking gigs, meeting with clients to discuss needs, updating social media, and networking to develop a consistent client base all come with the territory. General business musicians who lead their own show bands must also select playlists, craft arrangements, and schedule and lead rehearsals.

General Business Musician (Freelance Musician) at a Glance

Career Path

Alongside session and touring work, general business gigs represent a major porition of the freelance work available for professional musicians who haven't broken through as recording artists. While some make playing general business gigs their career and life's work, for most it's simply another way to make a living while pursuing another angle, like auditioning for orchestras, playing with an original band, or writing songs.

General business musicians can secure more consistent work by partnering with event planning companies and more lucrative work by developing a reputation in higher-class and corporate circles. Some general business musicians use their knowledge of the field to start their own booking or event planning agencies.

Finding Work

While many find their first general business gigs by doing favors for friends who need a band to play their nephew's bar mitzvah or their company's holiday mixer, this isn't a sustainable model for finding work. If one is interested in a long-term career in this field, finding a booking agency or events planning company to partner with is the first step—but be advised that they may take a cut. It's also beneficial to seek out professional partnerships with wedding planners and party planners, as well as recurring gigs at restaurants, clubs, and bars.

Professional Skills
  • Excellent instrumental proficiency
  • Wide musical repertoire
  • Live performance
  • Arranging
  • Public speaking
  • Flexibility
Interpersonal Skills

General business musicians are skilled performers with excellent people skills. They must understand that they aren’t the stars of the show—their job is to support the event and make sure everyone has a good time, not to push their own art. Charisma, sensitivity, and public speaking skills all help in that regard. Additionally, leaders of show bands must be excellent organizers, negotiators, and networkers.

Work Life

Most general business musicians are freelancers who travel to play gigs, which often last from late afternoon to late evening. As such, it's best when paired with some kind of day job.