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Hiring sidemen for live gigs...

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by Bassnomer, Feb 4, 2014.

  1. Bassnomer

    Bassnomer Supporting Member

    Oct 16, 2013
    Lakewood, CA
    I've done some searching and couldn't find much info on this subject.

    If you were to hire a musician (be it a keyboardist, cellist, whatever) to perform with your group at gigs, how exactly does it work? If they have a large list of songs to learn, and need to rehearse, I would assume that they charge for this. Is there a certain way it's set up? When they get paid, how much, for what, etc. ?
  2. fmoore200


    Mar 22, 2011
    I would guess all activities outside of their own personal practice (rehearsals, performance) would have to be paid for. Limit all unnecessary expenses. Hiring a professional sideman should be something a professional act considers, meaning if the act can't just hit the stage and perform spotless, a sideman may be a waste of time and money.
  3. Not yet

    Not yet

    Mar 26, 2012
    We've replaced a drummer pulling us down with an in demand studio one.

    He knows just about everything and pulls off gigs w/o a practice. We're and established band and feedback is better than ever

    Downside is he's a mercenary and will take a significant higher paying gig on occasion. But we have backups

    Never so little drama. We saw this guy and asked him to do a HOB show and we haven't looked back
  4. fdeck

    fdeck Supporting Member Commercial User

    Mar 20, 2004
    Madison WI
    HPF Technology LLC
    I belong to a non-commercial band that performs once a month. All of my paid work is as a sideman, which is typically 2 - 3 gigs per month these days.

    Bands hire sidemen for a variety of reasons: 1) As a sub for a band member who gets sick or has a conflict. 2) Adding more players when a client wants a larger band. 3) Some bandleaders rely entirely on sidemen, and don't have a cohesive, rehearsing band. I have a friend who has a music act, travels by himself, and hires sidemen in every town that he works in.

    The way that this works in the genres that I play -- mostly jazz -- is that all of the players are comfortable sight-reading on the bandstand, or playing standards. There's little or no rehearsal. There's a long tradition of sideman work in jazz, so everybody understands the nuts and bolts of these gigs, and shows up ready to make it seem like the band has been together forever.

    If you have a rehearsing band and want to fill out a performance with some additional players, the best advice I can offer is to write out the parts. That will limit how much you need to spend on rehearsal time, and put a smile on the face of the sidemen. Good sidemen will take care of you. Most of them are known primarily through word of mouth.

    Now, different sidemen are more or less finicky about rehearsal time. I will typically rehearse with a band as a freebie, but I'm also not super busy, and it is rarely necessary. Of course I prefer well organized rehearsals where the rest of the band has already mastered their parts.

    Folks have a variety of reasons for doing the sideman thing. For one thing, it involves a somewhat different set of skills. Personally, I just enjoy the variety of music, and meeting new people. Also, I think a lot of jazz players -- even weekend warriors like myself -- enjoy experiencing how music was performed by the pro's in a bygone era.
  5. Bassnomer

    Bassnomer Supporting Member

    Oct 16, 2013
    Lakewood, CA

    My situation would be wanting to add a couple of musicians to my group's live performances to enhance them. Another question, if a musician charges for rehearsals with the full group, when are they usually paid that amount?
  6. lowfreq33


    Jan 27, 2010
    Endorsing Artist: Genz Benz Amplification
    It really depends. I'm kind of generous, I'll do ONE rehearsal for free if it makes someone feel more comfortable about the gig, or if it's heavy on original tunes. I do take into consideration what the gig pays. If it's a $50 one-off and they want to rehearse I'll probably just pass on the gig. I don't expect to be paid for working on songs at home, but again it depends on the gig pay how much work I'm willing to do.

    I'll be starting with a new project that's coming up, we'll be rehearsing a bit, and paid $10/hr for rehearsal. It's not a lot, but it does show that our time has value, and they'll be scheduled at our convenience so as not to interfere with other gigs.
  7. seanm

    seanm I'd kill for a Nobel Peace Prize! Supporting Member

    Feb 19, 2004
    Ottawa, Canada
    I used to do a lot of sideman work with old country bands. These where generally low paying gigs and most of the time I went in cold. But, like fdeck, I was not really busy so I was willing to do a rehearsal for free if they wanted.

    But I do know pros that require payment for rehearsals. Makes sense; they make their living off playing and a rehearsal is a night not gigging.
  8. Your best bet is probably to just ask these questions to whatever side musicians you are considering hiring. If you can provide enough details about the work required, a pro will be able to give you a pretty specific idea of what it would cost. I play bass for a living and I'm a member of my local musician's union. When I'm hired for sideman work, I find out exactly how much work the gig will entail and provide the client with a contract that includes a cost breakdown. The same goes for when I'm band leading, writing charts, recording, whatever… My union has a price book that suggests minimum wages for all sorts of work.
    Keep in mind that sideman rates can vary depending on the musician, their level of experience, how busy they are, etc.
  9. ggunn


    Aug 30, 2006
    Austin, TX
    That's the way Chuck Berry traveled much of the time. The upside is that it's far cheaper to travel that way. The downside is that no one you play with really knows your songs. Chuck even had some trouble with that, even though everyone knows his songs.
  10. Bassnomer

    Bassnomer Supporting Member

    Oct 16, 2013
    Lakewood, CA
    Thanks for all the great info guys! I feel like I'll be a bit more comfortable now when it comes time to contact some musicians.
  11. BurningSkies

    BurningSkies CRAZY BALDHEAD

    Feb 20, 2005
    Seweracuse, NY
    We've called people in for gigs if someone can't make it. I've done it with drummers, keyboard players and occasionally a guitar player. One gig that came through while I was away on a week long trip was too good to miss and the band hired in a player for the night although they were really dubious about it.

    It depends upon the quality of players you've got. One guy who's a pro keys player, I can call a few weeks in advance to make sure he can do it, then about a week before he asks for recordings of the material. From there, if he has questions he lets me know. He really doesn't work the material until a couple days before the gig.

    I prefer to do a practice with a hired player before hitting the stage (earlier that week if possible). Like with a drummer, not usually to go over everything, but to do beginnings, endings and any breaks, changes or other particulars. Make sure he's got the 'feel' of the stuff.

    Make sure your band is ready to play 'heads up'. To cover for any stuff that doesn't quite go as planned...you may have to work a feel you're not used to to make it work on stage. I usually have to play on stage 'traffic cop' cuing changes, solos, hits, etc. Make sure that you're giving the person on stage visuals (usually they can read hand position of bass or guitar players), make sure your singer knows that the may need to cue a player into a solo, or to a bridge, etc.
  12. When I want a sub/side to rehearse, I will usually try to make it as easy for them as possible. I'll provide pizza, some beers, waters, offer to pick them up/take them home, use my gear, etc.
    Usually when they hear an offer like that, they are happy to do a couple practices before the $100 gig.
    If they want to get paid for practice, then I will offer a few bucks, but usually I can find folks that are happy to practice for food & beer for a gig they know will be cool.

    When you do get the folks you want, pay them in cash, right before the set, in a white envelope, so they can be comfortable with some cash in pocket.

    That's how I retain a small fleet of horn players for special gigs. They know I'll take care of them and that they will have a great time playing fun music.
  13. BrotherMister


    Nov 4, 2013
    As a mercenary myself (I have never heard session folk called that before, I love it!) I would suggest listening to Stereo_Joe. Speak to the people you want to hire, there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to this stuff and there are a billion variables for each musician so the best way is to speak to the person you after.

    I'll be more lenient and not charge for things where other players will and vice versa. It just depends on the person you are hiring.
  14. nukes_da_bass

    nukes_da_bass Banned

    Feb 19, 2006
    west suburban boston
    My band occasionally hires a "gun". We expect one rehearsal, we hand him a stack of charts, and we cash him out the night of the gig. We have done it without the rehearsal and in my experience it doesn't go as smoothly.
  15. Session1969

    Session1969 Supporting Member

    Dec 2, 2010
    You have class, bro, and great management skills. It's those little extra things that others don't do that'll seperate you from the pack in such a good way. It's just good business.
  16. indeed!

    I've learned from some really cool folks and some really bad ones, and I know how it is to be the hired gun. When I was in my early 20's, I drove and played bass for an old timer blues guy. I watched everything and learned a lot about how to do this stuff.

    If I want some player to be mine for a night, that person is gonna remember, "man, I got paid up front, ate a hot meal, had some good drinks, and PLAYED MY ASS OFF!!!"

    If I am paying for it, then I get the players who are gonna step out and solo when I start pointing fingers. I don't really do that unless it's in the budget for the particular gig. But when I do get the corporate gig and can afford a couple horns and a fancy singer, I treat them right and everyone has a good time. If the band is smokin' hot, the crowd is happy, the promoter is happy, the band is happy, everyone makes a bit or cash, and we always come back to the one.
  17. Steve


    Aug 10, 2001
    "Hey can you cover a gig for me next weekend 9 to close for $100? Great. Thanks. Let me know if you need anything."

    They will have to deal with 4 hours of southern bar music and whatever the audience feels like yelling out that they feel like paying for tip wise. There won't be any rehearsal, You gotta know the song or know how to fake, either one will work.

    you'll get paid at the end of the night like everyone else. If there is any money problem what-so-ever I will backstop it. You WILL get paid even if no one else does.
  18. Bassnomer

    Bassnomer Supporting Member

    Oct 16, 2013
    Lakewood, CA
    Thanks for the response. The only part I didn't understand was the part about 4 hours of southern bar music. Why would anyone involved have to deal with that?