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backing up a solo pop artist?

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by silentstranger, Apr 9, 2004.

  1. This is a two-pronged thread, I'm not entirely sure if it belongs here or in Misc...

    First off, has anyone ever done any work in a band backing up a solo pop artist (a la Britney, Justin, Christina Aguilera and the like)? How does it compare to playing in a regular band, specifically the business aspects? Obviously the guys playing for famous artists (those that don't use a backing track) have a pretty high-profile gig, but what about playing for an unknown?

    I'm planning to audition for a management company that needs a touring/studio band for a solo pop/dance artist. Since this is obviously a different situation than being in a typical band, what should I be expecting in terms of pay (touring and studio) if I get the gig? Is there any standard to consider at all? Also, is it appropriate to ask about the pay and proposed touring schedule on the phone before even setting up an audition, or is that the sort of thing best left until after the audition?

    Finally, is there anything I should keep in mind for the audition itself?

    Advice from those with more experience in this corner of the biz would be appreciated... :help:
  2. Bump. Come on, anybody? Maybe I should've put this in Misc so people would actually read it... :bag:
  3. Make sure you dress the part!
  4. ZonPlyr


    Apr 29, 2003
    Pasadena, CA
    The best advice I ever got in a situation like this was, look, act and play like a professional. You are there to back-up the soloist, not blow through 15 choruses of donna lee showing off your chops. It's your job to make them sound great, so you have to play only what the song needs. You can ask just about anything before an audition but they don't have to tell you.
    As for the audition, that's kind of hard. I can relate one story though; I went for an audition with a moderately well known country singer. There were probably 50 people auditioning for the part. I was 2nd to the last to audition and all of the people before me had amazing chops, machine gun slap riffs, crazy scalar runs and lighting fast stuff. I was really worried because I don't have those kind of chops. I finally figured out that this was a country singer, I don't need all that flash, I walked up, plugged in and started to do a nice country 2 beat with just little tasty things thrown in. They cut me off saying, "you're hired, be at the auditorium tomorrow at noon".
    The audition is the time to sell yourself to the company and singer, you wouldn't show a family looking for transportation a new corvette, nor would you show a young guy with lots of money a minivan.
    hmm, this post ran somewhat longer than i intended.

    just my $.02
  5. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    Just be aware that they call them "slave bands" for a reason. The money ain't that great. The label/management company is there for the artist, not you. You get to be too much trouble, they will get one of the 200 bass players in line after you.

    I would probably wait until the "OK, you've passed the audition" before you start talking money. Unless your calendar is so full that it's not worth your while to show up unless the tour is going to pay $X. Then you just say that up front, " I need to find out the salary range and the time commitment before I wuill audition." And they'll either hang up on you or tell you, depending on your reputation, how much they want you (or the group you work with, if they're hiring an existing band to back up the singer) and how many bass players they've already set up auditions with.

    I would decide ahead of time how much you're going to be willing to do this for. How much are you going to need a week to say yes, then multiply by how many weeks. Do you get meals, do you get a per diem, do you sleep on the bus, do you fly, how much downtime between dates, how much road time between dates, you on salary or paid by the hit, etc etc etc.
  6. Well, I just auditioned a few hours ago. Played two songs, No Doubt's "Hella Good" and Savage Garden's "Chained to You"...pretty much nailed it except for a stupid mistake in "Chained", which apparently didn't matter. The guy said I was the best of the three bassists that auditioned, which sounds encouraging to me :cool:

    Unfortunately, the situation wasn't quite what I expected; the management company seems to consist solely of the artist who needs a band, and he runs it out of his house (which is where the audition took place as well, to my initial surprise). It sounds like this gig would be much more like a normal band than I originally thought. It also seems that the aforementioned touring is much more speculative than previously alluded, but that may be just as well. I didn't find out anything useful about pay (didn't seem appropriate at the time), I'll be asking about that at the callback.

    Thanks for the advice, y'all. This gig definitely isn't what I expected so my questions didn't apply as much to reality as I imagined, but I've got things to think about now...and the job could still be interesting anyway. I've also got a tentative audition with a rock band pretty soon and it sounds like that might be a better gig, but if scheduling works out optimally I may actually be able to do both (in addition to my current hobby band). That would be sweet :hyper:

    I'm getting rambley now...
  7. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    That's what they call "promotion and band management" :D

    On one hand it's kind of bullsh~t, but on the other hand it meant you took it very seriously and obviously did a good job, which is what they wanted. It's almost a "only serious musicians need apply" I guess.
    It also means that if you took it that seriously, others will, and that's the sort of confidence and organisation you need to get good gigs and go places. I cant do it myself, so I try to play for bands who can do it!!

    To be honest, one of those major label bands, supporting a 'big star', well, I doubt anyone would get the call unless they were already 'in there'.
    The drummers in both my bands get their work through their sponsonship deals and through working with certain artists in a certain studio... a few producers saying "you need drums, give this guy a call" type thing. You might be that person already of course, I'm just sayin y'know :)

  8. ....And now when you get called for the "Big Job", you'll know that you can handle it. Even if this turned out to be a small time thing, think of it as the "Audition before the audition" and keep cruising in your career. The next one will be the one! And as far as being a hired gun, and not mattering to the exec's....Id rather be touring with Steve Morse than sitting home playing to some puke smelling dive bar for 40$ Hahaha! (Oh but I still do...lol) Plus it all looks real good on a resume, I havent played for any big names, but I have toured with some big names as the opening act, and it's fun as hell! And now, there's not a day goes by I dont get a call or an email from someone asking me to do session work, sit in as a temp, or flat out join their band. So keep track of everyone you meet and play for/with it'll build that resume!
    Much Luck To You!! :bassist:
  9. ZuluFunk

    ZuluFunk Supporting Member

    Apr 14, 2001
    Best support I ever got was through being very cool with some of the recording studios.

    I also ask them to recommend me to artists working on projects, and I do the same for them.

    It sounds so much better to be referred by a studio than to get in through musician classified ads...though I still do that sometimes.

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