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Sub or Backup. Do You Have One?

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by Baer, Oct 10, 2013.

  1. Baer


    Jul 8, 2008
    I play cover songs in a dance/party band in San Francisco and have been wondering lately about how bands manage their backups for the band members.

    Do you have an identified sub? That is, do you have an agreement with another bass player to sub for you if you can’t make it to a specific gig, assuming he/she is available? Maybe a reciprocal arrangement under which you are each other’s backup? If so ….

    How did you find this person? Does he/she know all your band’s material? Does he/she periodically attend your band’s rehearsals? Any pre-defined financial requirements or expectations? Any advice you could give regarding finding an on-call sub?

    Or do you just hop onto the “Wanted: Bass Players” forum and hope for the best?
  2. xabicho

    xabicho Supporting Member

    Jan 9, 2009
    Long Beach, California
    Roger Guitars
    Basically is your responsibility to find a sub if you are planning to be absent. You need to sk your band members if that is o.k. The style of music will also have an impact of availability of subs. For example if there is a Jazz trio and they read charts from the real book any bass player that reads will cover. If your band's specific material of covers has a wide variety of styles from Blues - Current Alternative passing thru Funk and Motown that will be a difficult to find a sub.
  3. Baer


    Jul 8, 2008
    Xabicho, thanks. I’m fully aware of the typical way it works. I’m more interested to hear if anyone has a single person who has agreed to be your go-to, on-call, I’ll-be-there-if-you-need-me backup that the band already knows (and has accepted) and who already knows your material.
  4. If you can find someone (preferably a good friend) that would be ideal. Good luck.
  5. two fingers

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

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    With me it is more "zone defense" than subbing for one guy. I do only sub gigs these days (too busy to commit to a band). But my years of playing have resulted in many contacts across the country. So, I get calls from all kinds of acts coming through here. I take the gigs I want and turn down the ones I don't. But even when I played in bands I never had "one guy". If a player is good, odds are they are already in a band. So that one guy won't be available every time you need him. So, if I were you, I would network and get to know several guys who could fill in.

    (By the way, get ready for the full on barrage of guys who will hit you in the face with "You should NEVER get a fill-in. I would NEVER allow a fill-in in my band. Unless your mother or wife dies you will be at the gig or you are fired. Yes, it's a ridiculous notion. I have literally filled in for a guy who wanted to hike a section of the Appalachian Trail for a few days and the weather worked out for that particular weekend. And everything went GREAT.)

    Anyway...... What was I saying. Yeah, I cover this area for a lot of fill-in gigs. Perhaps there are guys in your area who have the chops, gear, and professional attitude but who aren't able to commit to a band. Network BEFORE you need a fill in. Get some numbers to call in the event that you should need one.
  6. deathsdj


    Sep 18, 2010
    Wichita, KS
    I wouldn't miss a gig. Just like I never miss work, dropping off or picking up my kids from school, or paying my bills.

    Some stuff you just have to be there for. I schedule everything else around that.

    But to answer your question, I have no idea what I would do to get a sub. Maybe I would record my parts and let them Milli Vanilli it...


  7. FretNoMore

    FretNoMore * Cooking with GAS *

    Jan 25, 2002
    The frozen north
    No sub, either the band plays with all members or we cancel. I'm sure someone could easily sub for me as we play covers and blues standards; just skip a few of the less known songs.

    Not making a gig has only happened once though, when our previous guitarist was suddenly very ill and diagnosed with terminal cancer - noone had anything to say about cancelling that and all his future gigs ...

    Other than that we have played with fevers and running noses, and in my case really bad back pains a couple of times. It would actually not be that much of a catastrophe to cancel a gig since we're not exactly playing arenas. Embarrassing and unprofessional to have to, but not the end of the world.
  8. mellowinman

    mellowinman Free Man

    Oct 19, 2011
    So I need to find a guy who plays keyboards, bass, 12-string, harp and can sing lead on about 1/2 our songs, and backup vocals on some others?

    I guess I better just make the gig.
  9. fdeck

    fdeck Supporting Member Commercial User

    Mar 20, 2004
    Madison WI
    HPF Technology LLC
    I belong to one band that's non-commercial, and has a fixed schedule of rehearsals and gigs (three Thursdays a month). Other than that, it would be hard for me to play if I was committed to a working band. So, all of my paid work is as a hired gun. It's mostly jazz, and the jazz scene has evolved so that bands can use subs with minimal commotion.

    In my view, subs are just a tool of the trade, like sheet music. Most pop bands aren't even prepared to use subs, so there's no point getting on a high horse about it.
  10. nojj

    nojj Guest

    May 20, 2013
    In my main band, they have a sub list when I can't make it.
    They don't like to use it.

    I play lead and sing in one band, they have a couple gtr players to call, but somebody else has to sing.

    The project (*my* band) doesn't want to work if I'm not there,
    but we will go out with subs for the other guys.

    I do a fair amount of sub work, myself.
  11. Lloyd on bass

    Lloyd on bass

    Mar 1, 2007
    In most cities bass players all know each other .Finding a sub who can read well ,or one who can play upright with a bow .or a rocker who likes to play until 3 am ,should not be a problem.
  12. Wesley R

    Wesley R Gold Supporting Member

    "Do you have an identified sub? That is, do you have an agreement with another bass player to sub for you if you can’t make it to a specific gig, assuming he/she is available?"

    When I was gigging for the money, and juggling multiple scenarios, heck yeas I did. When things settled down to a steady pace, nope, no need.

    Later when I was just a weekend warrior, I still did. It was more of a luxury then a necessity.
  13. Baer


    Jul 8, 2008
    Thanks for the replies. A little more background …

    I’ve been playing for over 40 years and have been with this band for a little over a year. The band has been around for about ten years. It’s a great band, and I feel fortunate to be well accepted by them. It is a weekend warrior band playing once, sometimes twice a month, but we’re reasonably good and make about $1K for a party gig. But more importantly, the band enjoys playing together.

    I’ve never missed a gig or practice. But I am 60, and it’s just a matter of time before a health problem conflicts with the gig schedule. I don’t know a lot of other SF bassists, and I’d feel bad if the band had to forego a show because I couldn’t make it. I know it’s primarily my responsibility to find a sub if needed.

    The band does about 80 songs from the 60’s to the present. I’ve got to believe there are a few bass players in the area who

    - already know at least half of the 80 songs
    - are also currently in a gigging weekend warrior band also playing once or twice a month
    - would like to have the opportunity to play with other good people when needed (and available)

    I like the idea of a reciprocal arrangement. We become each other’s go-to backup for the few, infrequent times it may be necessary. Schedules may conflict, but we’d both be in better situations than if the arrangement didn’t exist. I guess it’s time to start looking.
  14. RustyAxe


    Jul 8, 2008
    Or call ME ... ;)
  15. I used to have a really good sub guy....he was a great player, tall, good looking, good gear, everything. Plus he was hardcore into his day job, so I knew he would never take over any of my gigs. He learned whatever I asked him to, always showed up on time, etc.

    This was back when I was doing a lot of blues or dance gigs. Mostly covers of popular songs, so it was easy for him to learn them.

    I found him by playing at a club near his home with a jam band project I was doing at the time on the side. I was playing drums in this project, and he said he liked my playing, so I told him to sit in on the next set so the bass player could get a beer break. We had a good time, and I got his number, and the rest was really easy.

    At this point, I could not bring a sub for any of my bands without paying a lot of $$$. Mostly original material, and/or I am the BL, which I would not farm out at all.
  16. Johnny Crab

    Johnny Crab HELIX user & BOSE Abuser

    Feb 11, 2004
    My sub is the bass player I replaced.
    This has only happened(so far) a few times in the past 6 years:
    1) Son's high school graduation(missed a trip to California)
    2) Benefit shows(2?) that were middle of the week(I'm 100 miles one-way from most shows)
  17. jaywa


    May 5, 2008
    Iowa City, IA
    I split time between three different bands.

    In my "main" band the point of a sub is moot because they get priority on my time. I have only had to be subbed for one time in 3 years (~ 120 gigs), and that was when they put a gig on the schedule with very late notice that I couldn't play due to a family commitment I had already made. The BL asked a friend of his to fill in for me and that was completely cool for everyone involved.

    In my other two bands they each have a guy they go to if I can't play a gig with them (which usually is because I'm already committed to my main band). I didn't "choose" either of those guys to be my sub, they are guys the respective bandleaders have used in the past and are comfortable with. They also are bassists who aren't super committed to any other project so they are usually available. One band does your basic bar band cover fare and the other is a jazz combo that does everything out of a book so it's not like either of them loses a lot when I'm not there.

    There's a 4th band for whom I used to sub pretty regularly but as their "original" player has become more accomplished and had more time to give to that band, my calls to work with them have gone way down. Funny thing is, though, I am now picking up jobs with that band as their soundman.
  18. jazzbill


    Jun 4, 2010
    Richardson, TX
    With my originals band I have missed three gigs out of about 200 in two years. They were all during the same 10 day period when I was out of town on vacation. I gave the sub our CD that contained 10 of our songs, and made MP3s of live recordings of another 18 of our songs.
  19. We are a 5 piece cover band. Lead Singer, 2 Guitarist, Bass and Drums. The point of a sub is so that you don't cancel gigs and lose your spot in the club rotations. In our neck of the woods....cancelling gigs is really frowned on even if your mother just died. Lots of competition and clubs are booked many months in advance. We already have bookings up to July 2014. We have a sub on board that can cover for either guitarist and have bassists and drummers that can sit in on short notice. The lead singer is not as expendable unfortunately.....we had to use a sub for him once and it did not work out as well as subbing for the other musicians.
  20. bassbully

    bassbully Endorsed by The PHALEX CORN BASS..mmm...corn!

    Sep 7, 2006
    Blimp City USA
    In the almost 11 years of playing until I stop this spring I have never had a back up.

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