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How easy is your bass career?

Discussion in 'Bassists [BG]' started by thepontif, Mar 25, 2009.

  1. thepontif


    Apr 24, 2004
    Designer Fodera Guitars/Michael Pope Design, Inc., Trickfish Amplification
    How many bass players here have careers that are easy?

    By easy I mean:

    1) You do whatever is in front of you and you make plenty of money and you don't have to ever consider the how or why of what you do.
    2) You don't really go looking for gigs...they just come to you in long supply...and you don't have to put any effort into promoting yourself and your music.
    3) Your voice fits well into whatever situation you're in without significant modification and most of the people you play with sincerely enjoy the experience.
  2. DanRJBrasil


    Jun 10, 2007
    I don't think I can answer that cause my bass career is very hard if you had asked how hard is, would be another history :O
  3. the engine

    the engine Guest

    I'm somewhat like that. I did it pro for about 20 years. These days I do fill-in gigs all the time. I turn down more than I take but the calls keep on coming. I can sing from bass to tenor (prefer backups but I do OK with a few leads). And I get along with the bands I play with. I've been very lucky. Is that what you had in mind?

    P.S. We are expecting our first baby so I'm semi-retiring from music and starting my own company. That's why I don't play as much.
  4. Ric5

    Ric5 Supporting Member

    Jan 29, 2008
    My real career makes enough money that I can afford some nice equipment. My skills as a bass player get me into bands with good musicians ...
  5. Ed Goode

    Ed Goode Jersey to Georgia Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Nov 4, 2004
    Acworth, GA
    Endorsing Artist: FBB Bass Works
    Guess a lot depends on what you're considering a "career" ... if it's a full time music-related gig my view will be dramatically different than it is as a less than full time musician.

    I did this full time for a very long time, so as a "professional" musician with no other income, my answers to the questions are:

    1) You do whatever is in front of you and you make plenty of money and you don't have to ever consider the how or why of what you do.
    I did what ever was put in front of me in the interest of feeding my family, but it was never "plenty of money" (some periods were great, others terrible) and I've always given serious consideration to the "how's and why's" of things

    2) You don't really go looking for gigs...they just come to you in long supply...and you don't have to put any effort into promoting yourself and your music.
    I was constantly promoting myself, even when I was fortunate enough to be very busy, primarily because I knew lean times were potentially just around the corner. For a long time I was very lucky to be getting good gigs that just seemed to fall in my lap, but inevitably things would slow down

    3) Your voice fits well into whatever situation you're in without significant modification and most of the people you play with sincerely enjoy the experience.
    I routinely adapted my playing to the situation I was facing ... had to do it many times in order to get paid. As I got older and had much more experience under my belt I was able to maintain my "voice' without sacrificing too much. And I like to believe that people I played with then (and in many cases still do) were satisfied.

    Today, as a fairly busy "semi-pro" my outlook on things is quite different. Having been blessed to enjoy a fruitful day job, I no longer need to "prostitute" myself (don't mean that to sound as harsh as it appears ;)) simply to make money. If I don't enjoy the musical experience, I don't take the gig. I also no longer need to heavily promote myself, although I do maintain an active presence in my little regional area that could be viewed by many as "promotion".

    And as far as a "voice" is concerned, I now rarely work as a mimic (again, not meant in a mean-spirited way ;)) simply to collect a check. Don't misunderstand, I still play to achieve the goal of the song/band in order to provide the best presentation possible, but I'm much less worried that my individual style might lose me the gig. Actually, just about every gig I do now is "my" gig ... it's much simpler being the band leader in that regard .... :cool:
  6. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Easy? EASY???? There isn't a single thing easy about a bass career unless you're McCartney or Sting. And even they don't have it so good sometimes.
  7. VroomVroom

    VroomVroom Supporting Member

    Jan 2, 2007
    SF Bay Area, CA
    Exactly what Ed said. Excellent post.
  8. CraigG


    Mar 14, 2006
    Mechanicsburg, PA
    My bass career (34 years worth) has been hard, financially unrewarding, spotty, inconvenient at times. Yet, I have had opportunity to play all sorts of styles of music, with many great people in hundreds of venues all over the USA. I wish I could have made enough money to live off it without having to do anything else for income, but I'm not sure I could even begin to put a price on what I have experienced. I have loved nearly every minute of it and would do it again in a heartbeat!
  9. NickyBass

    NickyBass Supporting Member

    Nov 28, 2005
    Southern New Jersey
    I was in that same boat.

    My musical career was easy until I had other people to support. I was playing one off jazz gigs quite often, and I got alot of calls. My weekends were full from cover bands or pit gigs. When I was living by myself, I was doing great. But, it didn't provide for health insurance, a retiremtent plan, a college fund, etc. etc.

    Now, I am very picky about what gigs I take---which is good and bad. I don't have to do crappy gigs...but at the same time I miss them. Odd how that works.

    I'm going to focus on my day gig for 5 more years, then start gigging full time again. That's the plan anyway. In the meantime, I'm still progressing as a musician and as a person.
  10. Buskman


    Apr 13, 2007
    Jersey Shore, USA
    Hey, Mike -

    To start off, I approach my "career" as a 2nd job of sorts - I have a regular 9-5 :rolleyes: :D, and I'm also married (to a great wife who pretty much "gets it") w/ two awesome kids.

    That being said, I have a pretty good musical stuation. I play in a very busy cover band with anywhere from 10 to 20(!) gigs per month. We also do quite a few weddings ($$$) during a given year as well. We're currently booked until the end of 2010, so gigs are in no short supply.

    Thankfully, all of the gigs I play are local to me - the furthest being about 45 minutes from my home, the closest about 3 blocks!

    Plus I always seem to get compliments from bandmates (they're not my bandmates - right, JimmyM? ;)), fellow musicians and audience members alike, so I guess I'm not stinkin' up the room too bad! :D

    So from my perspective I think I have it pretty "easy"! :cool:
  11. iamthebassman


    Feb 24, 2004
    Endorsing Artist: Phantom Guitars, Eastwood Guitars
    1) You do whatever is in front of you and you make plenty of money and you don't have to ever consider the how or why of what you do.
    Cover band's been together since 1992, gig heavily.

    2) You don't really go looking for gigs...they just come to you in long supply...and you don't have to put any effort into promoting yourself and your music.
    We have a booking agent who really just answers the phone, the gigs come to him, he never has to go looking.

    3) Your voice fits well into whatever situation you're in without significant modification and most of the people you play with sincerely enjoy the experience.
    As in my singing voice? Yeah I sing fairly well if I may say so, and I've had no complaints from bandmates. I guess I don't get this question.
  12. El Bajo

    El Bajo

    Apr 12, 2006
    Easy? Nah, I put career first meaning bass was always a hobby. I've never got paid, played very few gigs and blame my self for being to loyal. I'm loyal to my band, who never get their finger out meaning my "bass" career has been in limbo for 5 years. Now I have a kid on the way I think it will only get worse (though it will always come secong to my son of course, actually scrub that, 3rd, I have a woman). Playing? I suck.

    Regards from a washed up bass player that has allowed his "bass career" to pass him by. And I'm only 28 :(
  13. Smooth_bass88

    Smooth_bass88 Groove it

    For me it's as easy as I make it. The calls keep coming in & I try to have a "don't say no attitude". I've definitely stepped it up since I've had kids. I can play R&B just as well as I can play country so my "voice" sits well in jst about any situation. Some gigs are awesome, while others are so-so. If I had my way I'd probably do more studio work than live playing, but I cannot complain. I've worked with some great artists as well as producers & played in places like nyc, L.A. & nashville. Been a fun ride so far!!!
  14. I am not currently a career bass player but when I was it was never easy. There were times I made crazy money for playing bass and other times when i had to do other things like drive a truck, tech and roadie work. Very often those "other" gigs eventually led to me playing bass when the main bass player needed a break, needed out, got hurt, fired or flaked out. I never really promoted myself as much or as well as other players, probably to my downfall. I was mainly relying on my experience and reputation (which was not always the most positive) and mainly got work thru referrals, past relationships or happenstance. While I could fit in almost any gig, lots of touring and show work, I was struggleing to find and express my own voice as a player.
    Now I have my voice and a small community of musicians I have the pleasure to play with. While I may wish in some ways I could go back, but I now have commitments that do not allow the gypsy existance.
  15. Mine has waxed and waned as much as anyone else's i suppose.

    My bass carrear is HEAVILY influenced by other things: work, school, girlfriend, shelter, food... etc...

    I can say that the easiest i ever had it was when i was jobless and lived out of a car and couches. My bandmates were in the same boat.. er... van. So, we just toured constantly. Used gig money for gas and food and just lived and played.

    Now that "real" life has kicked in and i am giving the college thing a go again, things are SO much more difficult.

    Balancing and multitasking suck :spit:
  16. rabassaf


    Jan 1, 2007
    well, it does come in periods.
    moreover, by now more of us understand (in our own expirience) that one's freedom/peace/sutisfaction is not dependent on how we define them (and also our idea of what are "quality gigs"/"good money"/"more work"/"career").

    with this understanding, we are much better at providing any service which is requierd in that moment.
  17. Baron Von Vik

    Baron Von Vik

    Jun 11, 2010
    Somewhere in Arizona
    Mojo FunkBasses
    I play for fun, don't think I could live off gigging by any stroke of the imagination. Everything I make goes into equipment and beer anyway, soooo...

    Plus, I'm not so good. Imagine a bass player with toes where his fingers should be. That's me. Toefinger.

    (I'm loud though)
  18. Hey Mike.

    Your three points describe the first 20 years of my 'career' when I played full time from about 1973 through the mid 90's. While I, of course, am not in your skill and gig universe, at that time, if you were living in a major city (I was in St. Louis), could read charts perfectly by sight, and read lines reasonably well, had a good work ethic, and could play multiple styles, it was VERY easy to work 300+ gigs a year with very good players in very good venues (i.e., 6 night a week gigs in nice restaurants, relatively good pay in clubs, lots of 'society casual work', and pay that was actually higher than today (adjusting for inflation).

    I was also helped at that time greatly by the emergence of the EB in the jazz world. Even the straight ahead guys at that time wanted an electric bassist, so they could cover the 'light fusion and smooth jazz' tunes on the jazz gigs. If you were an EB player who could swing, life was VERY good!

    Now, I see the music business changing so much that it has become very difficult. The days of younger players coming out of music schools with good skill levels and good attitudes (by that, I mean playing every type of music well) seems to be over. Very few good paying club gigs out there, and the younger audiences seem to be more interested in hip hop mixes and DJ's than live performance (nothing wrong with that... some of these DJ's are SMOKING.... things change!).

    Since I went part time in the mid 90's, this doesn't really impact my pocket book much (I have a good day gig), but I weep for the highly skilled young players now. If you are starting out a music career as a skilled sideperson at this time, you are really screwed. Even doing casuals now, it is harder and harder for the typical guitar/bass/keyboard/drum oriented bands to cover the music that 20-35 year olds like. It reminds me a lot of when the big bands finally died for the society/casual gigs in the 70's. They tried to do the current material, but it just sounded awful. Then, they hired smaller, electric groups to 'play the breaks for the young people'. Finally, the 'young people' bypassed them all together and just hired the contemporary guys. Same thing today. Many casuals that I do now have a hip hop DJ in the band, or play tracks on breaks. That is the beginning of the end for the 'classic' 70's-90's band format IMO.

    Finally, BMI and ASCAP are getting very aggressive with even the smaller contractors with regards to paying fees for performing covers. Since most of these agencies and bands have shoestring margins, that will also serve as another nail in the coffin for professional sidemen playing live music for a living.

    IMO, being a skilled sideperson on the bass guitar is no longer a valid career unless you are already VERY established and getting close to the end of your career. Not much left out there.

    Not sure about your situation (being at the very upper tip of the 'skilled sideman' mountain), but in talking to my buddy Tommy Kennedy, things aren't that great at the top either right now.
  19. cnltb


    May 28, 2005
    Is yours easy ,according to the three points?
    Mine isn't most of the time.
    Plenty of money does not really happen(how would you define "plenty of money?) and I do consider the how and why. :)

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