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Music career

Discussion in 'Bassists [BG]' started by Jediskippy, Nov 6, 2013.

  1. Jediskippy


    Oct 15, 2013
    Looking to make a career out of music, any tips or suggestions to help me
  2. BrotherMister


    Nov 4, 2013
    PVG Membership
    This is a pretty open ended question since you haven't said anything about your own experiences or things like that. When a student asks me I usually say there are two ways. The first way is to write a bunch of songs and hope to god people like them enough that they will buy it en masse making you famous, that is an extremely difficult approach. The second way is a lot of hard work where you probably won't get famous. That is the approach I choose since I have no real interest in being famous.

    The most obvious thing to consider is being a great musician. If you want to make a career out music then you have make sure you have the skills. Are your ears together? Can you turn up to a recording session and your part down as quickly as possible? Can you read music? I mean read music. Not just a 'little bit' because you are going to get it handed to you. I mean if someone hands you a folder the width of a dictionary and counts to 4 are you ready to read those parts while sounding like you wrote them? There isn't much point in me going into depth about the music part of it since that is fairly obvious.

    Your job as a bass player is to lay the pavement so everyone else can walk on it. That is what you will be hired to do. If you aren't happy doing that or can't do that then you are heading for trouble. I can count in less than one hand the amount of times I have been asked to play a tapping part/solo or bring a wah pedal to the gig. On a side note I can count in the same amount of hands the amount of times I have been asked to play slap bass. I suggest learning it but don't get too hung up about it... your job is to make everyone else sound and feel good. If you can do that you'll be in work.

    I'm not a gear head in the slightest but I suggest having a single bass that can cover everything. I believe any bass can play any genre of music, so all basses are good for metal. What I mean is if you have a wedding gig or a pop session you don't turn up with a 6 string fretless bass. You'll be shown the door before the bass even gets out the case. Similarly you don't walk about with 4 or 5 basses and think 'this bass will work nicely in this song' no one is going to wait around for you to change basses. Get a bass that covers everything. It makes your life easy and saves you carrying unnecessary stuff, there is a lot of carrying to do anyway.

    Outside of the playing stuff here are a few more essentials:

    1. Time keeping. Get a watch, set alarms. I had a rehearsal with an orchestra once and it started at 7pm. I turned up at 7pm and got shouted at for being late. If the rehearsal is booked 7 - 9 then it starts at 7. Some of those orchestral players can turn up an hour before the rehearsal. This also applies to recording sessions. If you are booked for a session if you are on time you are late. If you are half an hour early you are on time.

    2. Keep a diary. I have 3, just make sure they are all synched. It turns out I was double booked for a New Years gig because I hadn't kept them all together. I use the one in my phone, a physical one and the one on my laptop.

    3. Learn how to do business. If you are freelancing then you are going to have to learn to write invoices, keep a record of your expenses and do your taxes. People are great at not paying and trying to get you to do work for free. Even with the most basic understanding of business that will help. Remember, you are your business. You have to realise that yes you are doing what you love but at that point it is a business.

    4. Network. This is probably the most important one if you want to make a career. Go and meet musicians. Go out to gigs, jam sessions, bars and clubs. Anywhere that has live music or musicians gather go there and meet people. Organise jam sessions with players you like. Take lessons from them so they can get to know what you are capable of. The best thing is to meet bass players, if they can't make a gig who are they going to call to fill the spot? The Drummer? No, a bass player. If you want theatre gigs then you should meet Musical Directors as well. Find the closest bar to the theatre and hang out there, you can bet they will make an appearance. Network until you hate the word.

    6. Learn how to do more than just play bass. To make an income based solely on the playing of your instrument is pretty tough. Find other music related things you can do that bring in money. You are going to need it. For example, I play bass, I compose, I arrange, I teach and I produce. None of them are incredibly high earners but when you throw it all together it starts to add up.

    7. Find a balance. Both musically and in real life. I go to jazz jam sessions once (or twice) a week if I have the night to do so. I organise my own jam sessions and I put groups together and book gigs so I can go out and play the music I have written. Or I'll take a bunch of gigs playing music for my friends. These gigs usually don't pay much, or at all, but I do them because I want to play and they tend to be the most challenging. Finding the balance between what you do to keep the roof over your head and what you do because you love it is a crucial thing. This applies to friends, girlfriends, boyfriends etc you have to make time for that as well.

    Basically, you really have to love music if you want to make a career out of it. I always heard people say that but I never understood it. Of course I love it, why else would I want to be a musician if I didn't love it? It wasn't until I started trying to make a career out of it until I realised what they meant. I haven't had a weekend in about 7 months, my next weekend off is in January 4th 2014. You have do sacrifice a lot of social life to work professionally. More often than not gigs happen at night, my friends work straight jobs during the day, you see where that is going?

    Sometimes the gig can be a 2 hour drive away, you might not finish till 1am. That's a long boring drive home alone that no one really wants to do but if you are working it's part of the gig. I've had gigs where I don't get home till 3/4am and have a rehearsal at 10 am the next morning in a city that is an hour drive away. You have to consider that a lot of unsociable/horrible hours are involved. Having said that, you are always on gigs with musicians and there is almost always good vibes and fun so while you are on the gig it's usually a lot of fun.

    Anyone can make a career out of music. It's a great career and a lot of fun, but you do have to accept that the reality of it isn't as glamourous as you think it will be. I don't want to sound negative but thought the realities of it are probably the more relevant things to take into consideration.

    I hope something in this is useful to you and I wish you all the best if you decide this what you want to do. There is no other job I would rather be doing in my life!
  3. Smooth_bass88

    Smooth_bass88 Groove it

    Learn to read music. Practice like 5 hours a day minimum. Say yes to every gig under the sun. Learn, no MASTER, every style there is on Earth. Take out loan for $10,000 and buy gear. Yeah, LOTS of gear.
  4. Learn to read. Ideally you will learn all the bass voices (string bass, electric, and tuba). Play in every possible setting. Above all, LISTEN.

    While they still exist, consider joining a military band. No spending all your "spare" time scraping for gigs and students. Good medical, vacation, and retirement. Lots of off-duty gigging if you want it. I played electric bass for 28 years in Air Force bands (what a blast, it went by in a flash).

    Speaking of medical, it paid for my 6 kids to be born, and after retirement, it paid $86,000 for open heart surgery and nearly that much for ICU and surgery after a little old lady T-boned me off my motorcycle. I didn't pay a dime. You don't think about stuff like that when you're young.

    I wish it could have lasted forever.
  5. BrotherMister


    Nov 4, 2013
    PVG Membership
    I would also like to add that none of this happens over night. You have to pay a lot of dues and it can take years to get to a position where you are somewhat stable. Even then you have to live a little beneath your means because if you freelance there will be a lot of rainy days.

    Learn to read treble clef as well! It's a really useful skill, if you are really hardcore you can learn the alto and tenor clefs as well. None of them crop up much for electric but if you are reading a cello part of a double bass part then the tenor makes an appearance.

    The military band and cruise ship is a good route to go down. You have to make sure you can read like it's nothing, and play with a click track.

    I think what we are all trying to say is learn as much as you can, internalise it!
  6. rapidfirerob

    rapidfirerob Fusion rules!

    Go to college and study music.
  7. sowilson


    Jul 5, 2013
    learn to enjoy Raman noodles and marry a nurse (good income, has health insurance)
  8. EricssonB


    Apr 5, 2011
    CoSpgs, CO.
    "Join the Air Force to become a career musician!"

    Just got a bit of a laugh out of this. I did consider applying for Tops in Blue before I decided to go other ways.
  9. Jediskippy


    Oct 15, 2013
    Music is the only thing that I am interested in, I have been playing for 4 years now and am currently in a HS jazz and concert bands
  10. AaronVonRock


    Feb 22, 2013
    Practical advice. If you can't marry a nurse, marry a teacher.
  11. Plucky The Bassist

    Plucky The Bassist ZOMG! I'm back from the dead! Supporting Member

    Jul 30, 2010
    Houston, TX
    Hard to top what BrotherMister wrote in, but you have to ask yourself a few things before knowing what direction you WANT to go in:

    1) What does the term "success" or "making it" mean to you? For some guys it's dive bars playing cover tunes and living off that. Other people want to sell out stadiums playing their originals to thousands of screaming fans. Some people just want to play music no matter what it is. Be honest with yourself and don't compromise, aim for what YOU want to do, or at least set it as a goal for yourself in time.

    2) What are you willing to do/compromise on to get there? Largely depends on what you want, some people might say that playing bass for Miley Cyrus or Bieber is selling out (ehh, hired guns get a pass IMO...most of those guys playing for them are solid cats). Others may say that selling your soul to the major label and losing creative control is. If you want to make a living in anything, you'll have to make SOME compromises, it's up to you to figure out where the line is there. Play for Bieber on the road for a few months? I'm sure I'll run into some people with connections who could help my band take off much easier than just playing local clubs and hoping for the best. I'd take that opportunity all day long.

    3) What are you willing to lose time on? Family, friends, and sleep will all be things you'll see less of as a full-time musician who tours. My best friends are my bandmates so there is companionship if things took off quickly. Being a single male makes that prospect much more lucrative to me since I have no real ties.
  12. Jediskippy


    Oct 15, 2013
    Thx for the advise guys
  13. Take your shirt off, rub peanut butter all over yourself, scream like an animal and jump around the stage, then break a bottle and cut yourself, all in front of an audience.

    Well, it worked for Iggy Pop.
  14. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Then you're on the right track. But it's not easy to establish a good career. There are a lot of factors, and talent is only one of them. Networking is important. So is being able to bring something else to the table. I get as many gigs because I can sing backgrounds and some leads as I get for playing bass. I also get gigs producing musical projects for hire and writing horn and occasional string arrangements. The best skill of all to have, which I lack, is being able to sell a band. It really helps to have some sales ability, especially when dealing with so many FOS people in the business. But anything you can do to increase your hireability is a good thing.
  15. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    LOL! I'm married to a nurse. Works for me.

  16. bass12

    bass12 Say "Ahhh"... Supporting Member

    Jun 8, 2008
    Montreal, Canada
    Make sure you have training in something outside music that makes you employable. It's always been tough to make it as a musician but it's a lot worse now than it was even fifteen years ago. Very few people can make a living playing alone. There is virtually no studio work left, very few paying bar/club gigs and not a lot of tours with decent budgets. By all means, pursue your passion but realize that in terms of employability a musician today is only a few steps up from a blacksmith.
  17. marcray


    Nov 28, 2006
    Englishman in Oyster Bay, NY
    Aging Former Bass Player
    Practice, and when you're not practicing, go to the centre of your city's music world and network, just be there and be a solid person. If you're city has no music world worth talking about, get thru school (if you're that young) with solid qualifications and move to a city that does have a music scene, and network.

    Write songs, get a mac and some gear and write. Write lyrics and melodies, everyone is a "track" guy, someone like Bob Daisley will strongly testify to this. As much money as he ever made as a fantastic player is dwarfed by his lyrical input to Ozzy's albums.

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