Connections may be everything in the music industry, but they don't mean anything if none of your connections actually likes working with you. The majority of personality traits that make you easy to work with are the same qualities that make you enjoyable to hang out with on a personal level.
Common niceness isn't too complicated, but it's something that people overlook at times when working in a professional setting. Personality traits that are positive are the most common reason why certain musicians are always working in this business.
Great Ability to Focus
This is one of the many qualities that applies equally on a musical level as on a personal level. Music is a service industry. Whatever it is that you're doing, you're providing a service to a client or customer and also need to be providing excellent customer service. How are you supposed to provide good customer service if you aren’t listening 100 percent of the time?
In a musical context, it goes a little like this. Have you ever zoned out and missed a cue to the next part of a song? Have you ever had somebody stare you down onstage and not know what the problem was? You probably weren't listening! The reason that we spend so much time in the practice room by ourselves as musicians is so that we can learn all of our material and concepts so well that we can get onstage and not even have to think about it.
If you aren't thinking about what you’re playing, it becomes very easy to just zone out onstage. Don't fall into that trap! Spend your time listening to all of the other members of the band. Separate yourself from your playing and try to listen to the entire group as if you were standing in the audience. That’s good listening, and that’s the only way you'll be able to really accurately judge your playing (and understand if you’re playing too much/too little, if you're too loud, if you’re sloppy, etc.).
Listening in the personal sense is simple. Just shut up and be a good listener. You'll be able to catch lots of things, such as what you could be doing better, what you do really well, and much more. Plus, people will like you more, and when people like you, they hire you.
Nobody wants to be around a miserable downer all the time. Life gets crazy sometimes, of course. Sorrow and other negative feelings are a natural part of being human. But if you're constantly feeling down, even when hanging out with other great people, you may want to consider seeing a professional so you don’t have to feel that way all of the time. Negative and positive feelings are both contagious, and if you're feeling down all of the time, you won't be as fun to hang out with, and thus won’t be as fun to work with.
So chin up! Get out and do some self-healing, or see somebody who can help you with your feelings. You'll enjoy life more, and also have a better time interacting with others, who will in turn want to work with you more. There's nothing to lose!
Being a credible and reliable person
I have a few players I know that I'm always a little nervous to call for gigs. That nervousness is due to uncertainty, and uncertainty is a very bad thing, as it makes me much less likely to call these players when I need somebody.
This uncertainty springs from a number of different sources. Some of them can't be trusted to show up on time. For others, it's questionable if they'll remember to show up at all, or if they'll be able to find the transportation. For others, it's uncertain whether or not they'll actually learn the material. All of these examples represent different levels of unreliability.
Don't be unreliable. When somebody is looking through their book to call a player for a gig, you want them to see your name and say to themselves, "Yes, I know with utmost certainty that they will be here on time with all of the material learned.” That kind of certainty comes from example. Basically, the more often you show up on time with all of the material together, the more people will think that that's how you are all the time. If you slip up here and there, people will start knowing you for that, too. So treat every gig like it's the biggest gig ever, because your reputation is everything.
Accepting of realistic criticism
Constant improvement is the name of the game for musicians. If you aren't continually practicing and improving your skills, you'll eventually be overtaken by the folks who are, and you may very well be out of a job.
That said, some of the best learning opportunities you'll come across will come in the form of criticism from your peers. There will almost always be things that you could do better, and these things may be pointed out to you from time to time. This isn't because these musicians dislike you; on the contrary, they'll likely tell you so that you can get better and thus get more work.
However, it's common to be uncomfortable with criticism. Music is likely something that you've worked very hard at, and to hear somebody tell you what you're doing wrong is easy to take personally. Try to see it as a positive thing, because it is! The thing is is that if you can take criticism and improve your approach based on somebody's suggestion, you're much more likely to meet the needs of the song or group. Plus, you'll be seen as being easy to work with for taking the criticism graciously rather than whining about it.
Highly musically competent and 100% talented
This is something that bears mentioning. We've already discussed that your personality and attitude play the largest part in your success, and as long as you're a good hang, you can be successful. Well, that advice is assuming that you're already really good at what you do.
If you're a freelance guitarist, make sure that you're really, really freakin' good at the guitar above all else. If you're a band that's looking to work with other bands and industry pros, make sure that your music is really top notch, and that your band has worked to be one of the tightest and most solid live groups around.
As important as your personality is, it won't matter much if you aren't good at your chosen skill set. I have plenty of friends who are really great and super reliable people, but aren't really at a professional level on their instrument. I'm not going to start calling them for gigs; that's a no-brainer. So be a good person, but don't forget to practice and develop your skills.