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Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by LiquidMidnight, May 13, 2004.

  1. LiquidMidnight


    Dec 25, 2000
    After my last band became defunct, I found myself filling in with another band who recently lost their fill-in bass player. (long story short, they had a bassist but he quit last September, so they had this cat from Virginia filling in, but he had to quit do to a job promotion) I'm not an official member, and I really dig it. I don't get all of the normal band headaches of making decisions and booking shows; I just have to learn the material, show up at the gigs, and collect my paycheck at the end of the night. They have two more shows coming up, and then they don't play until next fall, which means I don't have any gigs for the second half of the summer. But I also recieved offers to fill in for other missing bass players in bands.

    My point is, I've been seriously thinking of taking the freelancing route for a little bit. Whenever one of my bands didn't have a gig on a weekend, I always thought, "Man, I wish I were playing this Saturday", but with freelancing, chances are, I will be playing. There are a few problems though. One is, it's mostly gig work. Central PA doesn't have a bustling recording scene, though there may be some recording gigs out there. I don't know if guys would really like the idea of hiring someone to record. (I would probaly charge 10 bucks an hour for sessions) The other problem is, I wouldn't want to cause bad blood because I couldn't commit to certain gigs. Bass players seem to be in low abundance around here and I wouldn't want to cost a band a gig because I couldn't commit.

    I was wondering if anyone could give me their opinion on freelancing. What has your experience been? How did you operate it? What are the pros and cons?

    Thanks in advance.
  2. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    I freelance a lot. Right now I am officially in a string band (Irish, bluegrass, etc.), am host bassist at two jam sessions but the rest of my gigs are freelance. It varies month to month but overall 1/3 to 1/2 of all my gigs are freelance.

    My experience has been excellent. Often those jobs pay better than my regular gigs! Plus you get to meet more players in your area, play a wider variety of music and simply play more often.

    How I operate is simple: word of mouth. People call, I take the gigs. It involves networking and schmoozing all the time so that bandleaders will think of calling me when they need a bassist instead of one of the (many) monster players here in the Boston area. I have business cards with me at all times and am not shy about handing them out.

    Being dependable and musically flexible goes a long way, that's how you get to be a particular bandleader's "first call". You also have to know when to turn down gigs that are over your head; I've gotten a few calls for heavy jazz things or jobs involving sight reading where I knew I would just stink up the room so I declined them.

    You need to religiously keep your calendar up to date to avoid double bookings. Once you accept a gig you can't cancel it later just because something better came up. You need to set a policy with your regular band(s) about how far out you can book freelance work (my own rule has been to not commit to weekend work that's more than two months out) . It also helps to be able to be out the door on a moment's notice, I have gotten calls from frantic leaders who are at the gig already with the show starting in five minutes.

    You should have both the gear and the wardrobe appropriate to cover a wide range of gigs.

    The pros are good money and low overhead. Cons are you never know when your phone will stop ringing (right now my June calendar is empty after two months in a row averaging one freelance job a week) and you have to be able to prepare 30-40 tunes off a tape/CD with only a few days notice (getting charts is a luxury).
  3. bmc


    Nov 15, 2003
    That's all I have been doing for the past three years. Since doing it, the thought of joining a band, rehearsing, etc has les and less appeal. Like most musicians, I get my highs from playing music in front of an audience. Freelancing keeps it fresh.

    There is a circle of roughly 10-12 english speaking musicians here in Geneva. There are three bass players, 3 drummers, 4 guitarists. We mix and match when gigs come up. The music is all covers from the 60's on up. The calibre of players is such that rehearsing doesn't happen. Most of the guys are playing every night, so there are no free evenings to get together.

    I like freelancing. Every gig is fresh. You have stay on top of what you're doing to avoid clams.

    I made up business cards that simply have my name, "electric bass" written underneath it, an email address and a phone number. I keep a handful in my gig bags at all time.

    Being open to anything, and comfortable in all styles of music is a strong advantage.

    I am a big fan of fretless and have been for about 10 years. Just this year, I picked up a fretted bass because one of my regular customers prefers it. I have a pedal board that I use for three piece rock gigs. It stays home when I'm doing softer covers.

    I also sing harmony. I love harmony. That has helped me get gigs as well.

    Equipment wise, I have three basses. Two fretless and the fretted. Two amps: both combos, one small, one bigger. Lots of cables, at least two of everything. All cables color coded for fast teardown. One thing I have found with freelancing is I am re-examining my amp set up. Small, powerful and even more portable seems more appealing. I have been toying with going the EA or Acoustic Image head with some small-ish bottom or bottoms.

    Staying in regular contact is important. Dropping in on gigs where I'm not playing is important. People know I'm in town and available. When I do play, I always try to drag friends along as it sends the right signals to club owners or even the folks hiring you.

    I Brianrost, I have only one gig lined up and that's for Swiss national day on 01 August. My business card found it's way to a woman who is looking to record a demo cd. I'm steering her towards a drummer friend who has a nice small studio. He is also someone who has hired me to sub in the past.

    Networking, positive attitude, willingness to play a variety of styles, and having good functioning reliable gear. It's a different way to do it, but I find it gives me more control. I'm gigging when I want to gig, and I don't have to commit to a rehearsal schedule. My life is too consumed with family and work pressures that my music has to be structured to satisfy all requirements. Freelancing, so far, helps me acheive that balance. Good luck.

    Brian (aka bmc)
  4. LiquidMidnight


    Dec 25, 2000
    Thank you both for the excellent information.

    I agree, networking and building a reputation by performance seems to be the quickest route. My name seems to be getting around the Cambria and Indiana counties of Pa. A jam is being scheduled for this summer, and I would really like to attend it to get my name out in Blair county.

    I have experience in just about every major music style, so that's not a problem. I've been wanting to learn how to sing and maybe this should push me to actually do it.

    Again, thanks for all of the info.