How to get gigs?
How To Get Gigs
The working musician.... In today's economy, it seems like an utter impossibility. However, there are ways of achieving a goal of being a professional musician. The purpose of this article is to outline the steps that are imperative to establishing a career. By no means, are the following a finite way to do so. I have compiled this information from personal experience, as well as, advice given to me by professional musicians over the years. This process takes time. Anything worth doing, is worth doing right......
Tip #1: Know Your Art!
Art... Such a broad term, but it works. In order to be a musician, especially a professional, you must know your instrument. Whether it's a bass, your voice, clarinet, tuba, or accordion, you must know it to the best of your abilities. There is always more to learn (see tip #7), but you must show a level of proficiency that makes you stand out from the rest. Be technically adept, and knowledgeable of the universal aspects of music (i.e. theory).
Tip #2: Jam Sessions
Jam sessions ore a great way of meeting other musicians interested in playing gigs. I'm not talking about the ones held in your best friend's basement. Those are great fun, but, honestly, probably won't get you many paid gigs. Many local clubs offer weekly jam sessions that are open to the public. Often, you may run into one of the local heavies sitting in after a gig. Seek out these clubs and people, strike up a conversation, and make your intentions known. Don't be afraid to ask questions! The advice I get from seasoned veterans is some of the best I have ever heard! Take advantage of your surroundings.
Tip #3: The Call....
These days it could be anything from a phone call, to an email, or even a text message... Either way, ANSWER IT!!!!! Many times, I have called a new contact for a gig, and they take forever to respond. If you don't get back to the bandleader in a reasonable amount of time, you will, more than likely, lose the gig. I have gotten into the habit of checking my email many times a day, as well as, my voicemail, and text messages. With advances in modern technology, this shouldn't be a problem at all. Laziness should be avoided at all times with regards to your career.
Always be professional when talking business. Get all the facts up front. Make sure you know everything about the gig: when you have to be there, what you need to bring, pay, etc. Keep your personal voicemail message simple and to the point. Try and avoid inappropriate humor and needless chatter in your message. Also, beware of your email addresses. The email address you came up with in high school that you thought was funny at the time, may not be the best choice when dealing with the pros. Keep it simple!
Tip #4: Play For Free? You Must Be Joking....
Hear me out on this one. Paying gigs will come, but each musician must pay his/her dues. I got my start playing rehearsals for my bass teacher for free. Seems like a drag, but it lead to my eventual goal. Don't worry about money in the beginning. No one makes enough money when they first start playing, so don't quit your day job just yet. Take every opportunity you get to play out. Whether it's a rehearsal, a jam session, a freebie gig for a friend, or a gig for a free dinner and a beverage of your choice, just play. It sure beats sitting at home watching an episode of your favorite prime-time animated television program. It's probably a re-run anyway....
Okay, You Got The Gig... Now What?
Tip #5: Look, And Act, The Part.
- Always dress professionally. Personal style is a must in the music business, but you must fit the environment. If you're playing a wedding, don't show up wearing ripped jeans, tennis shoes, and your soon-to-be-retired Led Zeppelin T-shirt.
- To be on time, is to be late. You must show up early, allowing plenty of time for set up, sound check, and any other pre-show events.
- Be yourself, but always have a good attitude. Personality is key, but sarcasm, pessimism, and many other -isms may not leave a good first impression on the other musicians. Be friendly and associate with the folks you'll be sharing the stage with.
Tip #6 Zero-Hour... 7pm.
The gig starts, and you're thinking, "What now?" A wise bandleader once told me, on my first gig with the big boys, "Dave, just do your thing. Do what you do, and the rest will happen." Comforting words before sight-reading three hours worth of tunes with a powerhouse, twenty-piece big band. He was right. Do your absolute best on the gig, impress, but not too flashy. Substance is much more impressive than someone trying too hard on a gig. Been there, done that, and it's a hard habit to break.
Tip #7: After The Gig Promotion
The gig is done. The umpire yelled "SAFE!" You survived... If you did your job, you're exhausted and musically satisfied. You're not out of the clear yet. There is a high probability that most of the musicians you had just played with are in other bands. Those other groups may need a sub, or even a replacement. You must have a way to let those people know you are available for those jobs.
Business cards are a must! Include all the necessary information: Name, phone number(s), email address, Instrument(s) you play, if you teach in addition to performing, etc. Buy them in bulk, make sure all information stays current, and pass them out to everyone you think could possibly help further your career.
Tip #8: What Now?
One of the most important bits of advice i can give, is to remember that learning never ceases in music, as well as other parts of life. You'll never know everything, and you'll never know just enough. You learn everyday, on every gig, everytime you pick up your instrument. Never stop studying. Always strive to learn more. The hunger for knowledge, skill, technique, pedagogy, etc. is what keeps musicians going. Don't let life, and other musicians, pass you by. Learn, and be able to compitently play, many styles of music. Do not limit your abilities as a musician to one particular genre. In doing so, you are essentially type-cast to fit a certain role throughout your career. Keep an open mind and appreciate even the harshest, most offensive arrangements of tones.
Becoming a professional musician takes time, practice, and a great deal of common sense. It is by no means easy; however, it is never an impossibility. Keep your head held high, your ears open, and yourself in the practice room, and prepare yourself for a whole new set of possibilities.