A touch of divergence here. In my former, i.e. healthy life I worked three careers, all arts related, and while I currently am only pursuing one of those – the one that lets me work from home, I still find myself frustrated when I see some neophyte or even allegedly experienced person struggling with what really should be fundamental.
Recently, I have been watching a very very talented musician fail epically at acquiring any gigs in our area.
So I’m going to write a few words here to help him and any of my other struggling musician friends.
But first, what right have I to comment on this…
Well, six years of band, three years of trumpet and french horn, two decades of working for the Asheville Lyric Opera and Asheville Symphony under conductor, Maestro Robert Hart Baker, two years as a conductor’s assistant -reading scores, rehearsing, sound checking, audio mixing and so forth, five years of working sound and lights for various community theaters, and eighteen years in a mostly successful relationship with a professional (recorded, cruise ship, street, for hire) musician.
Oh, and coming from a family that included six amateur and professional musicians.
All that duly noted here are my thoughts, in current parlance on how not to book a gig.
Hey, musicians. Here are fourteen ways to guarantee that you’ll be treated as you deserve to be treated, and still reserve the right to legitimately whine and complain about how your music scene sucks, and how other musicians all suck, and keep those weekends to yourself.
1. Whatever you do, don’t practice.
I mean obviously you are the greatest thing since buttered toast. So don’t worry about how long you are up at night eating and watching Youtube or surfing Facebook. Your instrument is safest in its case and so are we.
2. Always be tired or busy if someone asks you to come by the club to hear them.
Or to come down and jam, or drive out somewhere to rehearse. Or to meet someone who might have some tips or connections that could “further your career”. Because what could they -whoever they are – possibly know that you don’t already know. Booo-riing! All those movies, games, and Facebook posts don’t take care of themselves, you know.
3. Don’t ever play for free or for exposure.
Not even once. I mean you are God’s Gift and deserve to be paid what you are worth. And you are definitely worth more than any of the other stupid fools who actually did show up and make the event possible. Even if the guy offering you the job thinks you owe him one, just don’t. You were doing him a favor by letting him into your circles to begin with.
4. Don’t ever play for cheap or for tips.
I mean, see above, I mean d’oh right? A little money is not actually better than none, okay? You don’t want to sell yourself too cheap or you’ll be playing bars and bar mitzvahs forever for minimum wage.
5. Don’t neglect to point out your fellow players mistakes.
Let them know if they rush or are too loud or if you can’t hear yourself in the monitors. Let them know if the drink too much or circulate too much or spend too much time with the hot redhead in the audience. Make sure to keep them in their place in the group and try not to ever actually thank hem for coming or let them solo if you think they are not very good. They will thank you for this later.
6. And never ever let someone in your band convince you to go to them. And all bands are your band.
Never waste time and gas driving to the other guy/girl’s digs. You don’t work for them so why should you load up your gear, waste your fuel, waste your time, and sacrifice your convenience to go to their house where they have the upper hand. Remember they are not the star, you are. Make them come to you. Even if you live sixty miles or more from all of the other members of the band (who all live in one city), they need to make the effort to include you and come to your house.
7. Don’t ever waste money on professional business cards, posters, or flyers.
You will always have some brother, cousin or coworker who will be glad to hook you up for free, right? And so what if they are bothered that you want a freebie from them. They are not you. You are all that matters. And if their art is not the greatest so what? It has your name on it and that is all that matters.
8. Go really text heavy on those flyer and posters, too.
People need to know what you do and when and where and how much…and where you went to school and what your favorite color is and everything else about you. They are fans. They thrive on all that random trivia. Plus they have nothing better to do than listen to you. So fill those pages right up.
9. Never go with color or images on your flyers, posters, and business cards.
Waste of money, right? And shows just the right amount of cool, individual spirit. Nothing captures the essential you like a cute hand drawn poster reproduced in black and white.
10. Don’t bother to make appointments for interviews or auditions and don’t go to scheduled ones.
Too mainstream, too competitive. You want to be alone with the Man who pays and you don’t want him to be all distracted by all the corporate sellout losers who buy into the whole Establishment mess. You are special. You are an entertainer. Just show up whenever you please and they will be happy to accommodate someone like you.
But don’t ever go to an Open Mike night either.
I mean, seriously? A “for free” gig where just any dick or dumbass can get up on stage and bore you to tears while you are waiting for your turn to shine? No way. You only work with other professionals like yourself.
11. Make sure you have the latest and loudest of gear.
Someone will help you move it and set up. You’ll have plenty of roadies and groupies. You are you and they’ll fall over backward to help you on your path to stardom. And you want to make sure that your message is loud and clear. You don’t want to be drowned out by the crowd or distracted by eating noises or cellphones. You don’t want to be distracted by the other guys on the stage either. I mean, as long as they can hear your fabulous lead and follow along, there is no need for you to listen to them.
12. Speaking of roadies and groupies and hangers on
Never thank them and never tip them. That waitress or waiter gets paid to help you load in or load out. They are just doing their job when they brng you food or drinks. And don’t worry about taking up space, you’re the BAND and you come first.
13. Always go for as much of the freebies as you can.
You are providing a needed service and you deserve all the free food, drinks, condiments and other swag you can lay your hands on. It’s expected of you and the stuff will just go to waste if you don’t take it. Club owners will love you for asserting yourself and acting like the star you know you are.
14. Always walk the walk.
Go ahead. Go to Hot Topix. Or Abercrombie and Fitch. JackThreads, L.L.Bean, Wilson’s $600 leather? Go for it. Or with any of the name brands. You want all the latest and hottest in clothes and gear. Carvin, Peavey, Onkyo, Fender, Zildjin, Bass Player, let them know that you are a professional and that you are willing to spend money on yourself and on your career. Buy the Audio-Technica headphones or rock the Beats. Make sure you have the Converse drum shoes or guitar All-Stars on your feet. It’s all about getting it out there. Be sure you are seen on the scene doing, wearing, and saying all the right things.