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growth and learning to recognize red flags

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by hernameisrio, Jun 29, 2014.

  1. hernameisrio


    Sep 27, 2011
    Berkeley, CA
    So, I've been experiencing some pretty significant changes in my life within the past month or so, all on an upward swing. One of these changes has included a mind-blowingly awesome job opportunity which came up at a time when I was looking for a slightly different direction and a more structured environment in which to grow.

    To get this job, as much as I had to prepare for it and naturally possess certain instincts, I knew that this company would either take me or not…I'd either vibe with them or I wouldn't…and I knew that statistically, it was VERY rare that I'd get in the door. I also knew that when asking the people around me explicitly for help in improving myself and in changing for the better, I was taking a risk. The risk that I would feel uncomfortable…on the spot…intimidated….caught off-guard…overwhelmed…or simply like I suck. But I knew it would be good for me so I kept pushing and saying to myself, "No. What do you really want out of this? Do better. Be better."

    I took this same attitude with bass when I found myself, as many of you on this forum have witnessed, UNBELIEVABLY FRUSTRATED!!! with band after band, unpaid project after unpaid project. For a little while I kept thinking, "Well maybe if I just keep beating my head against this brick wall, it will magically turn into a memory-foam wall instead. And rainbow Skittles will come out."

    It did not. It will not. Nope. So I looked to the core of who I really am as a bassist and realized that UNLESS- and this is a big and very specific conditional- they are making money which rivals what I make at my Day/Dream Job™ and UNLESS they have a solid background and sustainable future? I….don't want to be in a band. At least not right now.

    I don't. Everyone's been asking me, "Are you in a band?" Yeah, kinda…? I play with this cover band when they get a gig, but they aren't making much money so it's nothing serious, which they've acknowledged as well. Right now, I've been exclusively looking for gigs that 1) pay and 2) require a shorter and more flexible commitment.

    The weekly drain on my checking account for chipping in on rehearsals, is gone. The weird sense of helplessness at doing something for free that I know others are doing for pay, is gone. The frustration that the people I'm playing with are not on the same page as me because to them it's a hobby and to me it's a job, is gone. My calendar is not totally flooded per se, but I feel like I've dialed in a better direction for myself now that I'm no longer on the same radar as the people who don't mind playing for free and don't mind pooling their money to contribute to the growth of a band. Unless it's something really, really special involving an opportunity for me to write MY songs, I am simply not interested in this endeavor at this point in my life.


    I know how offended I got a couple of years ago when people on this forum tried to tell me that maybe I shouldn't be in a band, but now I see what they were getting at….the simple fact that everybody has different needs and goals.

    Having said this, I'm astonished at how it's also gotten a little easier for me to now spot red flags when looking for gigs. Even when I read through the Musicians classifieds on Craigslist, it's amazing to me how so many bands use such negative language which alienates so many potential bandmates, and how blatantly they disrespect other people's time and money. So now, between my schedule at the new job and my own standards finally getting to where they should be, it's like I have a built-in filter, and I no longer have any shame in being selective of who I decide to work with. I appreciate the privilege I have in being able to make steady money doing other things, so that I can cherry-pick which gigs I take.

    I realize not everybody has this financial/lifestyle privilege but I think it's important that we respect ourselves as musicians and be honest with ourselves about what we want and deserve. When I skim the threads in this forum, I'm honestly kinda amazed at the level of b.s. that so many of us put up with. I used to do it too, up until very recently, and it sucks! I think it's really critical to talk about when you should STOP putting up with certain conflicts, and to learn how to establish boundaries as a musician. It's okay to not like people. It's not okay to sell yourself short. Ask for what you need. Be flexible and likable and always smiling. But you should present those qualities with enough confidence to be able to gracefully decline gigs too.

    This is just what's worked for me. If you come across an ad on Craigslist or another classifieds board looking for a bassist and they use a lot of negative language, i.e. "no metal/drama," "we don't have a lot of money," and sugarcoat the fact that they're a startup band (I just think this is really inconsiderate…don't inflate the band to make it sound like they're "established" if they're not!)…if they are unreasonably picky and judgmental about styles, "looks" or lifestyle….if they have excessive demands as an unpaid gig (i.e. "must be available to rehearse every night of the week")….just stay away if any of those things raise questions for you. If they don't listen to you when you tell them to turn down, walk away…it's not worth your hearing.

    In short, stand up for yourself and trust your gut. If I'd done that a year or two ago, I would've seriously saved myself so much grief and I would've had an easier time of things. It's literally taken me almost half my life to learn how to ask for what I deserve and I'm STILL learning. Incidentally, it seems that in life I'm finally GETTING it, and it's basically blowing my goddamn mind in case you couldn't have guessed. :p (I'll add that I really wish that artists would stop working for free but I know that everyone has their opinions about this idea…it's just frustrating that when none of us "mind" working for free, nobody makes a dime because all the "interns" have lowered the bar for everyone else, whether intentionally or not. It sounds harsh but it's true…and that's another discussion for another time!)

    Anyway, I know this is a loaded topic, but I hope that my experience helps somebody else out there in regards to figuring out expectations and setting boundaries.
  2. PauFerro


    Jun 8, 2008
    United States
    I hear you exactly. I reached that point as a band leader. It seems it goes all the way around -- from band leaders, to musicians themselves.

    Just be prepared to put up with BS and opposition from other people for drawing your line in the sand -- here, or maybe in the physical world where you interact with real people.

    I just want to say, I respect your decision, because I've made exactly the same kinds of decisions myself as a Band leader.

    There's nothing like busting yourself silly trying to make music work for long periods of time, only to find people don't come through, waste your time, create setbacks, or expect you to work for free ad naseum.

    Congrats on joining me and others who have set the boundaries. And join with me in chanting the mantra:

    "Music is a lot of fun, until it isn't. At that point, we draw boundaries to make it fun again."
  3. hernameisrio


    Sep 27, 2011
    Berkeley, CA
    Sounds like a plan! Of course now the eternal question...how do I find paying/awesome/fulfilling gigs in New York City?

    I started a separate thread to try and find out!
  4. Thanks for the post @hernameisrio I am in the process of drawing the line for myself. It is about time I do what I want as a musician and not persuing someone else's dream. It is very easy to just go with the flow of others ideas, but in the long run it will become frustrating. I am going to start going out and getting what I want without being so sensitive.
  5. Go to the clubs/venues that you want to work at when they have live music and meet the musicians there. Good luck and cheers.
  6. hernameisrio


    Sep 27, 2011
    Berkeley, CA
    As a result of some of the current thoughts I've had on the idea of getting paid as a musician and finding the right people to play with, I've started quite the discussion on my Facebook page. If I have time, I'll transcribe some of it because it's brought up some pretty interesting points and has actually gotten me thinking a little bit more flexibly. It's admittedly a little strange to arrive at this point after about four years of such intense frustration and so many dead ends. It kinda bothers me…? :/ But I'm trying to be positive about it and see this as an incentive to try different styles, pick up lessons again, go hear live music that I love, talk to other musicians, and start figuring out how to get to the next level of things. I guess I wonder if I'm being realistic. I know so much of this depends on experience/skill level, style, and location though, so I don't know...
  7. tangentmusic

    tangentmusic A figment of our exaggeration

    Aug 17, 2007
    hernameisrio: Glad things are on an upswing for you.
    It's nice to have a steady income doing something you like, even if it's not music.
    Affording shelter and food is real nice.
    Being able to afford a car and put gas into it is cool.
    Maybe even having a little "mad money" every once in a while is comforting.
    A savings account? What a novel idea.
    Music should be fun, pleasurable and satisfying - not painful- economically or emotionally.
    You will have enjoyable musical times ahead.
    I too realized long ago the starving artist/musician thing was not workin' for me.
    I can relate. I've been there too.
    fdeck and hernameisrio like this.
  8. Growing up in NY, i used to do some drawing every once in a while, late teens, early twenties, till i start selling them to the local Tattoo Studios, nothing serious, whatever they wanted, i was a kid, making a few bucks, i used to love it. However, When my passions of drawing became an everyday thing with a somewhat big demand, i saw my hobby slipping away, turn into some kind of obligation, which i didn't want. Professional musicians, who make a living out of music, should get paid for what they do, they earned their chevrons. Play bass is a huge thing for me, i am glad i can play the bass, i'm sure there are a lotta people out there with no ways of making it happen, i would play for free with real friends, parties, small venues, having a blast knowing that those people out there, watching you with a smile on their faces, singing along, for sure, are glad you showed up! Live up! Money is just Money!

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