Curious as to what do you believe separates the professional drummer from the average joe drummer ? I'm not talking about luck being at the right place right time. I'm talking playing wise. What are the essential playing elements that are superior in the professional?
I think that most professional drummers know how to get along with others. They exercise diplomacy and know that business and art sometimes require personal "sacrifices" in order to put the band, the artist and the music in the best possible light. Work ethic is a huge plus also. That's not to say your Average Joe doesn't have any of those qualities, but knowing how to be part of a team and bringing something constructive to the table is essential.
I'd say a lot of what many consider professionals is partly skill and yes being in the right place at the right time. Once you get "in" the networking possibilities are endless as long as you get along well with others and don't upset the apple cart if you will.
Many records and gigs one only needs to know a handful of beats and a few fills to play what is required. Most anyone beyond a beginner could technically play the required beats in many musical situations.
But the pros bring that level of confidence and swagger that they can walk into a session, and lay it down in just a few takes. Or walk on stage with little to no rehearsal and nail the parts. It seems to be more of a mental ability to just perform, and perform well, no matter the circumstance. And as noted, be able to get along with everyone while doing so, even in difficult situations.
To me it's the same difference that separates the "professional" in any special skills group. Professional athlete, musician, singer, lawyer, doctor ... The signs of a true professional (to me) is someone who- possesses the training, knowledge, skills, equipment, drive, ability - and then does it. Going to law school doesn't make you a lawyer - practicing law makes you a lawyer. Doing your job, and getting paid for it, makes you a professional.
Obviously plenty of overlap between the two groups.
Pros need good time and tone, understand song forms and be able to to put their ego and impulses aside for the sake of the total performance. Others must want to play with you, and these are the qualities many look for. For hobbyists, these qualities are optional, depending on whatever ratbag peers you can rustle up
I've known and worked with too many average Joe's who have possessed too many of the traits listed here as being purely the domain of the professional, to believe that it comes down to a lack of ability, willingness, desire or pay that separate the two groups. Too many of those traits are shared so often that the lines between the two groups are blurred. The musical skillset, understanding, knowledge, expectation, application and above all, attitude of many average Joe's that I know, can definitely rival those of a professional.
The difference between them is necessity. The average Joe isn't relying on those traits to pay the bills. The necessity to survive and thrive isn't nearly as paramount. The stakes aren't nearly as high, even if all else happens to be equal.
The ability to know what needs to be done and the generosity to give the other musicians, and the song, what they/it needs. Being authentic to whatever style you're playing, and flawless execution is expected.