sub gigs with no charts drive me NUTS

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by sleeplessknight, Aug 1, 2009.

  1. sleeplessknight

    sleeplessknight Supporting Member

    Mar 8, 2002
    Montana Mountainside
    Do bands even bother to write charts any more? I've been doing a ton of sub work this year, and the following conversation has been a pattern I've experienced over and over again:

    Them: "ZOMG, our bassist had an unfortunate gardening accident! We need you to be at location X in 5 days, we'll drop a stack of CDs in the mail to you stat, learn the 40+ tunes on there, we'll rehearse the night before the gig, and all will be well!"
    Me: "Great, no problem. Do you have charts for the songs? I don't need written-out basslines, just the chords will be fine..."
    Them: "They're just simple pop/blues/zydeco/standard jazz form/native-american-folk tunes! What could be easier!"
    Me: "So... you have no charts, is what I'm hearing"
    Them: "Unfortunately, no."
    Me: *headdesk*

    Then begins the days of sorrow and hitting of the woodshed (once the CDs arrive in the MAIL), to make a $50 bar gig. What happened to the halcyon days of the "prepared bandleader", where folks actually took 5 minutes out of their day to, y'know, write down changes? Hell, this is 2009, why not "Here's a subdirectory on our web server that has all the MP3s for the set. THIS directory has all the PDF charts, now you don't have to wait for the post office to drop off a stack of CDs..."?

    Having done this over and over again (and stressing over a gig that I've got *tonight* where I've had, mmm, maybe four days with the tunes), I just want to slap and/or throttle some sense into John Q. Bandleader and yell "Its cheap insurance, you yutz! It might not make sense when your regular members have the tune memorized cold, but trust me on this - **** happens!" :mad:

    Anyone else feelin' frustrated when doin' the sub thing?
  2. OH YEAH brother, all the time. But I'll tell you what, I ain't going anywhere to sit in, for $50.00. 40 songs, with chord charts= $250.00 minimum.With out charts $^$^ per song...
    These cats have to realize, and understand that getting a musician @ the last minute, that can improvise WELL for 40 songs, ain't cheap.
  3. Hector_G


    Apr 6, 2009
    El Paso, Texas
    I've never been in that situation. Ever.

    But what xgator4u said makes a hell of a lot of sense.

    Your talents shouldn't come cheap. Especially under those conditions.
  4. dannster


    Aug 20, 2000
    I past on such a gig recently.
  5. sobie18


    May 5, 2002
    Shaw AFB, SC
    I love those types of opportunities. Makes you learn/retain and think on your feet.

    Good for the mind.
  6. sleeplessknight

    sleeplessknight Supporting Member

    Mar 8, 2002
    Montana Mountainside
    Oh, my mind is plenty nimble, thanks. :smug: The first couple are a lot of fun, akin to "omg, I can't believe I just did that, and did it well!" Now load up on couple dozen of 'em over a six month period, and after about the fifth or sixth one when you hear "...yeah man, we just learn 'em all by ear. Why can't you?", it starts to make a man get stabby... :p

    At times like this, I ask "What would Ed Friedland do?" Unfortunately for me, the answer is most likely "Take the gig anyway!" :)
  7. Those days are over!...I did a sub gig with a 15 pc horn lead corp R&B dance band made up of experienced touring/studio players...$350/night plus hotel and option to ride van to next state gig....40 plus songs on the set list and when I asked for charts..I got a little less than 1/3 and CDs of their show...I was able to find chord/bass charts availabe on the internet...
    and no reheasal before the first show...the most prepaird gig was for a country female vocalist....she gave me a whole notebook ....

  8. SteveC

    SteveC Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Nov 12, 2004
    NE ND
    I got a call to fill in for a cover band. They said $50. I said $100. They called me at 5:00 for a 9:00 gig. I played the gig, they were thrilled, I got $100, and have never been called by them again. I don't know if it was because of that or what. Whatever. If you want a competent player (which I am) with short notice, you better be ready to pay for it....and $100 was cheap.
  9. KeithPas


    May 16, 2000
    Practically speaking if the pay is $50.00 a person then the bandleader is not even getting enough money to make it worth his/her time to make charts. I do feel your pain though.
    I recently filled in for a bassist in a country western band and got a 4 CD's with completely inaudible bass and a few charts that I decided not to use because they were not accurate enough to help me. I had to learn 45+ tunes in a little over a week and I wrote my own scratch charts based on nothing but the vocal line and the ever present pedal steel guitar since that was the only thing I could hear on the CD's that would help me determine chord changes. The gig ended up fine; no train wrecks and it cooked a good deal of the time. I only asked the leader to position his amp so I could hear his guitar and that didn't happen either. Also, no pedal steel guitar, electric instead so the tunes didn't even sound the same as the ones on the CD's. I would do it again, I ended up having a good time.
  10. Yeah, I turn down sub gigs a lot. They rarely are worth the effort.

    Me: "How much does the gig pay? And What's the time line? No thank you..."
  11. Exactly, that is what I'm talkin about. $350.00 per night + hotel, and trans. ( if needed), I will play what ever you want. $ 50.00 with no charts = pi$$ off. It is not worth my time. I have played thousands, and thousands of gigs, and for $50.00 I would rather sit on the couch, and watch T.V. I don't NEED $50.00 , nor do I NEED to play that gig . However these people NEED to recognize the fact that if they want someone that they can count on, to pull it off, at short notice , they can call a professional. You do not offer a professional $50.00, as that is an insult.
  12. derrico1

    derrico1 Supporting Member

    Apr 12, 2005
    Charlottesville, VA
    I've taken sub gigs like that for between $100-200, just to play with musicians that I've wanted to work with.

    The real fun is when it's a sub gig with a bandleader who not only doesn't have charts, but the leader's versions are significantly different from the recorded versions, are part of oddly byzantine medleys, and/or are never played the same way twice ("just listen for the changes, and you'll anticipate the segue from 'St. James Infirmary' into "Bodhisatva.' Ya can't miss it!")

    Good times.
  13. OH yeah, " You can't miss it " I love those. Also, if it were with musicians that I just "wanted to play with", that would be a different story. Then I am doing the gig for fun/R&R, and it is no longer "work". That changes the whole dynamic of the situation.
    Then $$$ is not an issue. However, I obviously have expenses, and my time is worth money.
  14. Bassist4Life


    Dec 17, 2004
    Buffalo, NY
    I feel your pain.

    I've spent an entire weekends working out charts based on the recording to find out that the band did the tunes in different keys and with their own arrangement...

    It's frustrating for sure. And you're right, it doesn't take all that much time to write out the form of the tune with the chord changes. What can ya' do?
  15. Zureta


    Nov 25, 2008
    Curitiba, Brazil
    Just wanted to tell the OP I dug the subtle Spinal Tap reference.

    That is all.
  16. RustyAxe


    Jul 8, 2008
    Yeah, but it seems to be the rule. I make charts for everything we do ... just lyrics and chords changes (could be MANY for the jazz numbers!). We often have musician friend sit in now and then and they appreciate the charts for sure. We're normally just an acoustic duo, but we can gear up five pieces (guitars, bass, fiddle, mandolin, pedal steel, whatever fits the gig).
  17. RustyAxe


    Jul 8, 2008
    Now THAT's funny! Good times, indeed!
  18. two fingers

    two fingers Opinionated blowhard. But not mad about it. Inactive

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    AMEN! All I do is sub stuff these days (hit the road for 20 years but a new new amazing wife and baby has a way of keeping you close to home). And there is NO WAY I would learn that many songs for $50! I do four or more sub gigs a month. If I already know most of the material, and the band has charts (or somebody is willing to come to MY HOUSE and help me write out charts) it's $100. If I have to spend MY time writing out stuff and learning a bunch of songs, you can expect to pay me at LEAST $200 (sometimes it creeps up towards $300). And THAT'S only if I don't have to drive more than an hour or so. You are getting ripped off my friend. I'm not saying that you have to take advantage of people in a tough spot, but if you add up the hours you're spending on learning songs, writing out charts, driving to the gig, setting up, playing the gig, packing up at the end, and then driving home, you make about $1 an hour at $50 for a show (and that's BEFORE you take out your expenses). THEY are taking advantage of YOUR good nature. Next time charge at LEAST $100 AND require that they at least HELP with the charts. Good luck!

    P.S. Sub gigs can be FUN! They really keep you on your toes and most of the musicians I work with are good at what they do and good guys too.

    P.S.S. I just noticed you're in Boston. I LOVE that town! A good friend of mine just moved back up there after being gone for several years. He is a really good drummer! If you need one, hit me up and I'll put you in touch with him.
  19. cassanova


    Sep 4, 2000
    I won't sit in for that kinda coin either. I won't even consider joining a band that only pays $50 per person. $125 is what gets me outta bed. I never thought to up the anty for material without charts. How's that working out for you? I might have to do that to bump up the minimum I'm willing to take.

    I've got fed up with people never having charts that I started to just dictate my own.
  20. sleeplessknight

    sleeplessknight Supporting Member

    Mar 8, 2002
    Montana Mountainside
    Well, the gig went surprisingly well. Only two clusterf*cks, the latin tunes that I just could NOT figure out the changes to (that and my latin feel is weak anyway. Time to break out The Latin Bass Book again...) and had to ask the accordion player to write the changes out on a napkin for me. He was cool about it, the audience definitely had a good time, and a fight even broke out right in the middle of one of the aforementioned latin tunes, so... SAVED by the drunken brawlers! :p

    I should really start implementing a policy like that, the whole "charging more if you don't have charts". I've run my own jazz band, and I *always* make sure there's charts (if the tune isn't in one of the Real Books). I'm starting a GB/funk cover band too, and I'm paying some kid to write out detailed charts for bass, guitar/keys, and horns. IMHO if you're trying to do a professional job, you need to make it easy as possible for professionals to work with you, and that means CHARTS.

    The end-game of all of this, is that I get to quit my day job and do music full-time. If that means I'm on the road for 20 years, so be it. If it means I gotta be a musical chameleon, so be it. Right now, it means I haven't turned down a gig in any style that pays me at least gas money :p I have a sneaking suspicion that I'm gonna look back on this in 40 years and go "Bahhh, I was just bitchin' about payin' my dues. God, what a p*ssy I was back then!" :D