How to start making money as a bass player?

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by witward, Sep 20, 2016.

  1. witward


    Feb 7, 2008
    Louisville, KY
    A little back story first...I have been playing bass since i was 15, im 33 now. I have always played in church and have done an event every now and then but have only been payed for just a handful of small jazz gigs. I love the bass. Its apart of me. I can read and also play by ear. I can play most genres but i lean heavy on Jazz, R&B, Gospel and Funk. I've finally decided i would like to do what i love and get paid for it. This leads me to my question...

    Where do i even start? The only scene I've ever been apart of is the church scene and the churches I've played at don't pay. Really, i just need a starting point. I understand networking is a pretty big part but even then i'm not sure where to locate musicians in my city. What are some crucial steps to get me on my way. I really do appreciate the feedback. Thanks.
  2. fdeck

    fdeck Supporting Member Commercial User

    Mar 20, 2004
    Madison WI
    HPF Technology LLC
    I've lived in two towns where I've broken into the paid gig scene: Once when I was in graduate school, and most recently in Madison WI where I live right now. In both cases, I just started introducing myself to musicians. It's kind of awkward, but it's possible to meet players at their gigs and let it be known that you're looking, without seeming to threaten their existing bassist. Attending gigs is also a good way to make a mental note of what genres and tunes are the local favorites. Likewise for attending jam sessions and similar events. In one case, a bandleader found out about me because he was a friend of my office mate at my day job.

    Then, one day, I got a random call, played the gig, and got onto a bandleader's sub list. This led to a trickle of gigs. Some of the players on those gigs were subs themselves, or had their own bands, so I gradually built a reputation. I took whatever came along, with the intent of just being heard by other musicians, and proving that I'm easy to work with.

    Now, in my case, I never got up to the level of playing enough to quit my day job, and I wouldn't have wanted that. When it got up to 2+ gigs a week, that was too much, but things kind of tapered off naturally due to the ebb and flow of the local scene.

    Then I became a dad, which rearranged my schedule a bit. ;) Today, I play with a non commercial band that performs monthly, a jazz originals band, and other odd gigs as they come along. It's as much as I can manage without detracting from my family and my day job.

    There are certainly bassists in Madison who gig more frequently than I do. Bass seems to be somewhat of a meritocracy. The A-list upright players all have music degrees. I don't, but I'm still gigging. On the other hand, there's work that I won't get called for, such as professional pit gigs, famous players coming through town, etc. Many of the A-list players teach, either in the schools or privately.
    StayLow likes this.
  3. tangentmusic

    tangentmusic A figment of our exaggeration

    Aug 17, 2007
    If you want to make money being a bass player:
    Get a day job...
  4. johnpaulbass


    Nov 2, 2005
    Endorsing Artist: Gr Bass, Pyramid Strings, MPE Audio

    in my opinion there's not a "formula" on how to get payed or get money out from your talent.
    I suggest you read some columns on notreble (here's an example: Life as a Working Bassist: Where Does the Money Come From?).
    Damian Erskine has some really great tips on how to get money out of beying a bass player.

    Once again, there's no formula... some found the "job" by introducing themselves to musician directly, some by youtube videos, some by raccomendation, ecc ecc...

    I think that bottom line is the fact that you should be "noticed" somehow. How you achieve that is on your side.

    Good luck
  5. two fingers

    two fingers Opinionated blowhard. But not mad about it. Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    Plug into the scene. Go to open mic nights and get up and jam with some guys.

    Go see a couple of local covers bands to see what they are playing. Start now learning any songs that all bands play. Go up and talk to them during a set break.

    CraigsList ad couldn't hurt, but you'll have to weed through a lot of flakes. Keep the ad short. Details in an ad become like a filter. You want more people to contact you, even if they aren't a good fit. You're still making contacts.
  6. SanDiegoHarry

    SanDiegoHarry Inactive Supporting Member

    Aug 11, 2008
    San Diego, CA
    have a day job. That's about the only way.
    Richland123 and Nev375 like this.
  7. mongo2


    Feb 17, 2008
    Da Shaw
    Go to auditions, open mic nights, go to auditions, go to local gigs to get a feel for the music scene and introduce yourself maybe pass out come cards, go to auditions, test some basses in the local stick and strings (I got my longest lasting gig doing that), go to auditions, check craigslist.

    Did I mention auditions?
  8. Joe Nerve

    Joe Nerve Supporting Member

    Oct 7, 2000
    New York City
    Endorsing artist: Musicman basses
    Yep, that's where I was going with this one :).

    Otherwise (since you say you can already read) learn as many covers as you possibly can inside out, show up on time, always be prepared, never complain, play with as many people as possible, smile lots, don't be an eye sore on stage, and make sure everyone thinks you're the greatest person in the world to be around.

    And when you go on auditions make absolutely certain you get the gig. You do that by learning the material as though you were learning it for a a show that was paying $10,000, and the audition WAS that show. The biggest complaint I hear about people auditioning bass players is that nowadays they all show up thinking they're great and can wing the gig no problem, but don't bother to learn the material they're asked to learn. That's not limited to bass players. I've auditioned lots of drummers and guitar players who do the same. They're proficient players, and therefore think the band is going to be wowwed by what they can do. Doesn't work that way. If ya want the gig, know the material they're doing better than the band themselves do. That gives you the confidence edge over anyone else auditioning. There's a HUGE difference when someone is playing with the mindset of "I hope I don't mess this up" as opposed to "I got this, it's great to be playing it with other musicians, and it's sounding freaking awesome!"
    jacoman, TheBear, StayLow and 2 others like this.
  9. MrLenny1

    MrLenny1 Supporting Member

    Jan 17, 2009
    New England
    Go to Jam sessions, meet the players who gig regularly.
    Lear a lot of popular songs.
    Pass out cards.
    Repeat, be patient.
    Good luck.
  10. witward


    Feb 7, 2008
    Louisville, KY
    Thanks everyone for the incredible feedback. So what I gather from the comments so far is it's going to take a lot of discipline, patience, and networking to get where I want to go. I'm up for that challenge. @Joe Nerve I really appreciate your extremely detailed reply. That kind of information is great to have for someone just getting into this.
    Joe Nerve likes this.
  11. beaglesandbass

    beaglesandbass Think first, then post? Staff Member Supporting Member

    Aug 14, 2001
    Philly Suburbs
    Join a cover band, they seem to make quicker (and better) money than originals
    nolezmaj likes this.
  12. Jloch86


    Aug 1, 2016
    Start giving lessons.
  13. RattleSnack


    Sep 22, 2011
    Lots of great advice here! Once you get to know local musicians and start getting fill-in calls, you'll be under scope, so:
    1. Start with genres you are familiar with, but expand as soon as you can. Jazz, Funk, Gospel are great, but RnR, Soul, Pop are even better (in financial terms, of course). Allways be expanding.
    2. Don't shy away from micro-gigs, i.e. duo with guitarist/singer. No reason to stay at home Tuesday evening.
    3. Get a mic and practise backing vocals. You don't need much, just add your voice for the chorus. Even better if you can sing lead.
    4. Have reliable equipment and keep it working. I've seen people show up as a temp. replacement with faulty instrument. Needless to say, they won't get called again. Important: you don't need anything fancy, just reliable working horse and backup.
    5. Be organized - have all your repertoars and set lists (also lyrics if you sing) on your tablet, ready to play anything and everything.
    6. Kind and friendly attitude helps a lot.

    Good luck!
  14. sissy kathy

    sissy kathy Back to Bass-ics Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2014
    Arbutus, MD
    Use your gig money to get a high quality scanner and color laser printer. Only scan crisp new bills. DO NOT store the images on your hard drive.
    twinjet, Herbal, witward and 2 others like this.
  15. RoadRanger

    RoadRanger Supporting Member

    Feb 18, 2004
    NE CT
    I'm dying here LOL. Playing in an original band is the best way to hemorrhage money, maybe 1/10th of one percent ever break even? Probably not even that.
  16. RoadRanger

    RoadRanger Supporting Member

    Feb 18, 2004
    NE CT
    The only gigs I've had this year that paid me over $100 were duos. Definitely practice with a metronome for those! I also play Cajon to keep up my timing chops...
    nolezmaj likes this.
  17. kesslari

    kesslari Groovin' with the Fusion Cats Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 21, 2007
    Santa Cruz Mtns, California
    Lark in the Morning Instructional Videos; Audix Microphones
    Printing press...
    jacoman likes this.
  18. georgiagoodie

    georgiagoodie The winged monkeys showed up

    Jan 8, 2008
    Sell all your gear?
  19. lz4005


    Oct 22, 2013
    Stop playing for free. Today. Start taking every paying job you can find. It builds from there.
    jazznut, TheBear and witward like this.