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Playing for a living

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by LiquidMidnight, Dec 23, 2001.

  1. LiquidMidnight


    Dec 25, 2000
    Hello all. I wanted to post this to get everyone's thoughts/advice/warnings ect. I remember someone posting something similar earlier.

    I'm a qualified Network Administrator.....but I can't find a job where I live. :( (I'm sure a lot of you know where I'm coming from) I'm probaly going to have to move to find a job. Well, I love the feeling I get when I play with my band on a Saturday Night and make 50 or 75 bucks. Then I think, that would be great if I could do this 5 or 6 times a week. I was thinking, if I move, move to a larger area than I am, and hook up with a band to play full time.

    I know some of you have done this before, and I just want to ask some questions. All of your thoughts and advice are welcome.

    Just how hard is it to hook up with a band and do this? Are full time gigs in a given area, only allowed for a few "Higher Up" bands, or can any good band do this?

    Though I think I'm a fairly decent bass player, I know I'll be moving to a higher populated area, higher population means more bass players, more bass players means some of those bass players are Berklee Trained and Jazz/Classical trained musicians. Should I take this competition into consideration? I have expierence with Rock, Metal, Country, Rockabilly, Blues, Latin, Jump Swing, Du Wop, Alternative, and Punk music. Still I'm not much of a slapper, and I don't really have any vocal abilities. These two drawbacks bother me cause I think that they would be the factors determining if I wouldn't get a gig?

    Should I join the Musician's Union? (Is it still even around)

    I'm not a great sight reader, but if It called for it. I could nail it down if I needed it. I have chart expierence, should I learn the Nashville Number System and any other forms of notation?

    What are some classified websites that cover a large amount of musicians needed/wanted? (I was going to check out Farmclub.com but it looks like the website is no more)

    What do you think of Circuits and Tours, such as going on the Holiday Inn tour. (I know that being on the road full time gets to be a drag, but I would try it for a year or two if the opputunity struck)

    Do you think it would be worth checking out Labels for session/tour work to back their artists?

    Thank you for all your input. I'm still unsure if I'm going to do this. I'm still going to search out computer work here where I live for a while. I just feel that I would be most happy playing for my life. I don't expect to get rich off this, but be able to play to support myself and a family if I have one. If I do this, I plan on putting some of the money I make into retirement.

    Thank you for your answers/advice. Please tell me about anything you think I should know about, that I didn't mention. Thank you. :)
  2. Joshua Pickenpaugh

    Joshua Pickenpaugh Supporting Member

    Apr 16, 2001
    The Midwest of USA
    What's that quote that goes something like "the music business is a harsh, bitter, scolding, dowtrodden mistress...then there's the bad side'? Was it Fripp?

    Anyway, I'd suggest just go out and try it out. It's the only real way you'll be able to answer all those questions for yourself. You never can really plan on what could happen in this crazy business. You can set goals...be ready to change them. Also, have a nice wad of cash in your hand so you don't have to immediatly scrape for any "ify" gigs. Ugh.

    Shoot, I was going to be a computer science major at college.

  3. Bassdadto2


    Dec 3, 2001
    It is difficult, but poossible. Be patient, and realize that you will not get rich right away. Work on your groove, reading, and learn EVERY SONG AVAILABLE. go to jam sessions.

    Unless you are moving to Nashville, Atlanta, Las Vegas, or New York, The Union cannot hurt, but is not necessary.

    Get good gear (Looks like you have that covered), and show up on time when you get a call. Go to lots of Jam sessions, pass out a zillion business cards. Inquire about the bass chair anywhere you go. Talk to the bassist playing in any band you see, make friends with him (or her) and make sure they know who you are. Sit in whenever possible.

    I can't advise you on sessions or tours, cause I am trying to break there myself, but I walked out of a Broadway Dept. store 4 years ago, and have never looked back. I support myself with my bass alone.
  4. LiquidMidnight


    Dec 25, 2000
    Thank you very much for your advice.
  5. cassanova


    Sep 4, 2000
  6. Hategear

    Hategear Workin' hard at hardly workin'.

    Apr 6, 2001
    Appleton, Swissconsin
    Hey LM, I know a band that's looking for a bassist right now, if you don't mind the cold-ass weather up here in Wisconsin! http://hometown.aol.com/salsacondiments. You stand to make about $20 on every gig you play with them (about once per month/month-and-a-half), you'd be expected to be the best guy in that band (help the guitarist learn his solos and such, help the drummer keep his place, provide the singer with lyrics) and best of all -- free beer at every gig!

    Let me know how your audition goes! ;)
  7. LiquidMidnight


    Dec 25, 2000
    Hey Hategear, I take it that's your old gig huh? :D Hey how, the party band thing going so far, are you going to do any Gwar covers. ;)
  8. Bassdadto2 and Cassanova have the idea - jump in, woodshed, network, and let things come to you from there.

    Chops are not the ultimate answer - musicianship and a good attitude are key. Although I am by no means a bass wizard I still get called before a guy who happens to be a UNT-trained bass freak. He can comp or solo over pratically anything. I have and know my limitations. He is difficult to work with. I am easy-going yet not a pushover. I get calls before him. People realize that while I am not a bass wizard, I am easy to work with and enjoy working in a supporting role - understanding this cannot be overstated.

    Get a good and consistent sound. Be punctual. Be genuine and easy to work with. Be open-minded. Never make excuses - just groove. I'm not perfect in any of these categories, but I work towards it on every gig. If you do the same, people will notice.
  9. This is absolutely right. I too have taken gigs from a guy with stupendous ability and musical knowledge, all because he played like he was soloing...ALL THE TIME!
    As far as a living goes, I think that's the wrong attitude. I believe that if you look at making music as a money-making venture, that's a recipe for failure. If you look at it as something you absolutely love above all else, you MAY succeed.
    I currently am playing 3-5 gigs a week in a latin band, and I dont care about the money because I have a good day job. I have friends who moan about the money, and always are pushing for more, but they dont work near as much as I do.
    Studio musicians are seldom picked by the methods you are thinking of. If this is your area of interest, your best bet is to befriend some guys who are studio musos. Find out who they are, and hang with them, get to know them. Be natural, dont be pushy, but do be determined. Most studio work comes from contacts like this, it is called networking. If you get offered a chance to play on some tinpot session in a garage with a 4 track and no possibility of payment, take it anyway. You will learn a lot about recording, and who knows? Someone may hear it someday and think you're just the person for a good project. Above all else, do it because you love it.
  10. mchildree

    mchildree Supporting Member

    Sep 4, 2000
    I guess somebody should present the negatives:

    You also need to be aware that, at the moment you begin to depend on music to put food on the table, your options are much more limited. Unless you are really lucky and busy, you won't have the luxury of turning down gigs because something about it sucks and makes it less than enjoyable for you. Money is money, and frequently the highest-paying gigs are the ones with the most "cooties", in terms of cheesy material, Hitler-esque band leaders, and nit-picky clients. You have to be prepared to move a lot, because musical markets dry up quite frequently.

    I made a good living for many years as a pro, but I'm actually having much, much more fun now (with a good paying day job). There's was just too much lost in the conversion from hobby to profession for me and the grind wore me down after a while. I wanted to OWN things...

    I'm not discouraging you, just presenting a realistic side. Should you go forward, I'd advise a move to a city with a good local music scene, but avoid places like L.A., Nashville, NY, Austin, etc. They're already crawling with musicians looking for work. A smaller, up-n-coming market like Atlanta would be a better bet. The Nashville numbering system will indeed serve you well...I'd get that down cold (it's not difficult), and then worry about reading standard notation. Get your finances in order so that you can live on a minimal income if needed...that takes the pressure off.
  11. You beat me to the negatives mchildree! lol There really has been great advise given here. Alot too depends on your family situation. If your a younger single guy, why not go for it for awhile? It'll give you a lifetimes worth of stories if nothing else. If you already have a wife/kids, think about it real hard cuz playing bass isn't the way to make $ in the music business. It's going to be a hand to mouth exsistance, at least that's what it was for me for 10 years or so. I think it's even worse now because so many clubs have going to karoake or DJ's. Esp during the week. Used to be there were alot of clubs that had music 5 or 6 days a week, that's not really the case anymore. Of course there's always casinos, which tend to pay fairly well, and the food is free, but artistically speaking, they are 100% musical death gigs. That "Saturday night feeling" you speak of will quickly dissapate after doing 6 months straight of casinos. Uggg
    Like the guys said, don't sweat the comp. Bands don't like guys that play "Lead bass", and of course they don't want to live with psycotic **&&^^'s on the road 24 hours a day. I've joined several bands where they said, hey, you actually play bass! Duhh. But, just know that if you move to say Nashville like me, that there's tons of bass players around, and alot of them might even be better, but just be yourself, and you'll be fine.
    Studio work is an option, and networking is the way to go, but it's real, real tough to get into the bigger sessions. Alot of that stuff is "locked up". But, if that's the way you want to go, getting to be friends with the guys who have those gigs is the way to go.
    Like mchildree said, if you want to play for a living, your going to be playing tons of crap you may hate, in front of people who could care less. That really got to me after awhile. Playing stuff i thought was total garbage to idiots, and trying to "sell" it as something great on stage, like i loved it. Made me real jaded, and my relativly thin wallet made it harder to justify after awhile, it's like i was a "sellout" in my own head or something, and i was a cheap whore at that. One thing i kinda learned the hard way, your not going to be able to change the club scene or casino world by yourself, make anyone "see the musical light" to fit your standards or anything.
    I also think i stagnated musically playing full time, i mean i learned tons of songs, and gained tons of experience, but the playing itself was just going thru the motions, esp my least few years of full time stuff. I guess playing music i hated in empty clubs from Monday-Thursday did that to me.
    I also don't know what kind of morality you have, but alot of the "road dogs" in bands are some pretty rude and rough characters. It's a hard way to live, and as a result attracts some "interesting" characters to say the least.
    If your into it though, get ready for those 800 mile trips in the van! Yippie! lol Trent
  12. LiquidMidnight


    Dec 25, 2000
    Again, thanks for all of your advice. :)
  13. Hategear

    Hategear Workin' hard at hardly workin'.

    Apr 6, 2001
    Appleton, Swissconsin
    Yeah, that's my old gig -- what a joke! Did you happen to catch my last update in the other thread you responded to? Not only was I threatened with physical harm twice by my ex-singer, but my ex-drummer told my ex-guitarist that if he ever ran into me again, he'd, "Probably end up going to jail." What a couple of tough-guys, eh?

    The party-type band is still in the beginning stages. I have a meeting with a drummer this weekend. I think we're just gonna bond over a couple of beers and discuss my proposed setlist. Yes, you'll be happy to know that there is one GWAR song on there! ;)

    EDIT: If you're serious about moving, just to better your chances of finding a decent gig, I'd say you should have it made. You seem like a cool guy and moving certainly shows dedication to your craft. Plus, if you sucked, you would know it and probably wouldn't even be thinking about a move in the first place, right? I know it could be scary, but it could be very invigorating as well. If that's what you really want to do -- then I say, "Good luck and don't let anything stand in your way!"
  14. mchildree

    mchildree Supporting Member

    Sep 4, 2000
    Ugghhh...I remember those! The Midwest in a van... North Texas today, Nebraska tomorrow, Louisiana by the weekend. You'll find that there ain't an agent on the planet that actually looks at a map when booking gigs.

    And then there's THE BAND HOUSE.... :D That's worth a whole 'nuther thread right there!
  15. LOL! Yeah, i was thinking of adding after the 800 mile trip in the van will be the weeks worth of fun filled days in the hotel room, or worse yet the dreaded BAND HOUSE!! I always liked the hotels better, but some of them were horrible as as well, and the ones with designated "band rooms" lookout! As far as band houses go, i don't know about you, but i always flipped the mattress over and brought my own sheets. I was never with a band where we worked on music during the day, unless a rehersal to learn something new was called. Bring stuff you like to do on the road with you, video games, laptop, movies, or whatever because it can get real boring.
    Then there's always the fun moment of meeting the club owner/manager or whosever in charge of music at the casino. Always an adventure. Was told upon enterting a casino in South Dakota that bass amps are not permitted on "his" stage. Had to play direct, then he barely even put me in the monitors. The guy who ran the band stood up for me, and i b!tched about it, but this guys mind was made up. Trent
  16. LiquidMidnight


    Dec 25, 2000
    Thanks bro. Of course, I know a lot of people who suck donkey balls, but think they are great. :rolleyes: :D I think I'm a more than competent bass player, and people usually compliment me. (espcially because of my age)

    Of course, the saying is true, you are your own worst critic. I know my limitations and the people listening to me don't. I just smile and say "Thank you" but I wish I could slap like a mofo, or do some awesome Billy Sheehan double tap routine. Oh well, I guess it's better to be humble and likable, then be arrogant and an *******. *cough* Yngwie Malmsteen *cough*

    You got physically threatened. *LMAO* That's halirous. I kind of got physically threated to. I guess before I came alone, the current band I'm in had a guitar player, who really couldn't play. (I guess it took him over a year to learn "Comfortably Numb" by Pink Floyd) Well, they kind of quit playing together with him, and eventually found me to take their old bass players place. We went and form our band 4 piece and he caught us playing at a local fair type event. Well, guess he was ticked off and said "You watch when I get a hold of that bass player" For some reason, he thinks me being in the band is the reason he isn't. Doesn't really make sense since I have no idea who the cat is. :rolleyes:
  17. LiquidMidnight


    Dec 25, 2000
    Oh Trent, with the risk of sounding ignorant, What's a Band house. Is it like a house that all the band members live at?
  18. Yeah, on the road some clubs will buy/rent a house/trailer/shack/lean to for the bands that come thru to stay in. In fairness, a few of the band houses are decent, but Animal house is a good description for alot of them. Some are downright scary. I always prefered clubs that provided hotel rooms instead of a band house, but it was often seedy hotels too. Once in awhile you'll score a real nice place to stay, and it happens more often when your doing one nighters with an artist, but don't think that most venues put the band up in glamourous surroundings. The one advantage to a band house is it has a kitchen, so it saves you money if you buy groceries for the week instead of having to eat out every day. You'll always find some food in them the last band(s) left behind too. Eat it at your own risk! heh Trent
  19. mchildree

    mchildree Supporting Member

    Sep 4, 2000
    You'll usually find a few things they left behind in the beds too! Eat at your own risk there also :D

    My advice would be, in the event that you gig with bands staying in Band Houses, would be to carry a sleeping bag and sleep on the floor. I've seen a guy have to go get crabs outta his eyebrows...
  20. Great points, Ed. :D

    To clarify, I didn't mean to imply that someone can get good work just by being a swell guy. I've never gotten a first call for being nice, but being nice, flexible, and reliable in addition to being a good player is the best way to ensure follow-up calls. The emphasis must always be on the playing, and the best players work to challenge themselves and avoid stagnation (a big challenge for me right now).

    Ed is also dead-on with the training thing - virtually nobody hires players based on their alma mater. Anybody who hires me because of my UNT degree does so at their own peril - I have a finance degree. Schools do offer the "automatic network" and a very foggy idea of what you've been through, which can be helpful when a person doesn't know you and hasn't heard you.

    To the original point, I also feel that the best way to make a living with music is to have a day job of some sort. Music is an incredibly tough way to make a living, and I've seen pros lose all love of music, which is beyond tragic, IMHO. As long as you can find a tolerable day job that is flexible and can fully support you independently, music can be more fun and you can pick your gigs. To this end, a varied education is key. The 2.5 years of music school education helped me hone my skills so that I can land gigs. The 2.5 years of finance + good grades helped me land a great day job. As a result, I've spent the last two years enjoying my career and my music! :D

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