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The Sub Mindset

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by twinjet, Jul 11, 2018.

  1. twinjet

    twinjet GE90-equipped Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Sep 23, 2008
    This one goes out to those guys and gals who make their coin as a sub. I want to pick your brains.

    How do you prioritize your work?
    How do you pick up new groups (who/what/why)?
    How do you agree on your fee?
    Do you "audition" who you're working with?
    What kinds of questions do you ask (gig details aside)?

    I'm slowly beginning to find sub work and am at the point where I may be able to pick and choose. Just want to make sure I am considering all factors when searching for work.

    Last edited: Jul 11, 2018
  2. You just have to dive in.

    Sorry, I will leave now. :speechless:
    bkbirge likes this.
  3. twinjet

    twinjet GE90-equipped Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Sep 23, 2008
  4. Wasnex


    Dec 25, 2011
    I used to occasionally sub for friends that played bass. Mostly corporate type gigs at hotels, musical support for church services, or pit work for musicals. I don't generally do bars and clubs.

    I got paid whatever my friends would have been paid. If the rate was within the rate I was willing to work for, I took the job. I interviewed the person who asked me to sub about the nature of the work, repertoire, and scale; and then spoke to the group leader to finalize the arrangement.

    Most of the groups had a book that I could read from if I didn't know all the tunes. When the repertoire was commercial, I usually knew about 60% of the tunes and read the rest. I took a job with one group that did not have a book, and 20% of the tunes I did not know were pretty uncomfortable, but I was candid with them before I took the work. The other 20% of tunes I didn't know were blue based or other easy types of progressions that were easily faked. Obviously knowing a lot of tunes is a great advantage.

    Usually these sort of groups work without rehearsals. When rehearsal do occur they are usually paid at about half the scale of the service.

    I was put into regular rotation in a few of the groups. I turned down invitations for repeated work with a few groups as well. I don't work unless it fun, lucrative, or both. And of course there were a few groups that I really didn't get along with.

    Usually there is a good deal of networking going on at these type of gigs. Also people from the audience will approach you during breaks or after the service to offer you work. Some people get work through entertainment agencies.

    Work should be managed using a calendar or calendar program. Prioritization varies on the type of work you take, the amount of prep that is required, and how much free time you have. Most of the work I did required little to no prep, so I only had to keep track of the gigs and a few rehearsals.
    twinjet likes this.
  5. twinjet

    twinjet GE90-equipped Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Sep 23, 2008
    This is the exact kind of answer I was wanting to hear. Thanks.

    I have an opportunity to take a gig on a night, but I would have to learn 50 songs for only $100. Four hour night and a month of study, for that? I instead reached out to another band I already work for, asked about that same night instead and did not commit to the new group.

    I think I'm doing it right.
  6. two fingers

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

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    I got into it sort of accidentally. There is a shortage of bass players around here willing to play multiple genres.

    I was playing pretty full time until maybe 9 years ago. Then I got married and became a dad. I wanted to see my family more so I rejoined the work force. But I wanted to play...

    So, I pretty much called a few friends who were still in bands and told them I would sub if they needed me. Also, a couple bands wanted me to joind and instead I offered to play a couple weekends to buy them some time. All of these guys gave out my number to others who inquired about a bass player and it kind of snowballed from there.

    There's no formula for my fee. It's just a gut feeling. I factor in who I am working with, how much material I have to learn, how much time I have to learn it, and the gig details. The more of a PITA I think the gig will be, the more I try to price myself out of it.

    So, an old friend calls and needs me for next Friday right here in town playing standard bar music with other guys I know and I might do it for $150.

    I total stranger calls and needs me for a wedding 200 miles away this weekend and I have to learn 20 songs I've never played before and I might quote him $500-$600. I really don't want the gig, but for that kind of money I'll make it work.

    Short version. Put your name out there. Tell your friends. When they ask how much you charge, the answer is "it depends".

    I would say keep a "book" of charts as you learn them. But these days go iPad or something similar. Get yourself one of those hip little mic stand mounts for it.

    Good luck with it. I really enjoy fill-in gigs.
    pcake and twinjet like this.
  7. twinjet

    twinjet GE90-equipped Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Sep 23, 2008
    Thanks for swinging by. I figured you'd have something useful to add.
    two fingers likes this.
  8. Wasnex


    Dec 25, 2011
    I saw the other thread, but didn't read all of it...it's quite long. I wouldn't have a problem learning 50 songs for a genre I like; especially if I thought the gig would lead to desirable work....but I don't generally work 4 hours for $100. The fact that you indicated you don't care for country is just nails in the coffin. My advice, don't do it.

    The last time I did pay gigs was about 2006. If I remember, my normal scale was $75 for two hours and something like $125 or $150 for four hours. I usually wouldn't work for much less than this. The bandleader also liked to buy us well drinks, but it had to appear as if we were drinking coke, so we could keep up appearances ;). The market was San Antonio TX. No idea what the going rate is now.

    The typical corporate gig was either two hours of jazz combo, or four hours split between jazz and commercial music. The music was sometimes a bit cheesy, but the guy was well organized, hired good players, and wrote out checks while we packed up.
  9. fdeck

    fdeck Supporting Member Commercial User

    Mar 20, 2004
    Madison WI
    HPF Technology LLC
    Virtually all of my paid work is subbing, or with bandleaders who book a gig and then start calling players. In fact, for a long time I wondered if I'd ever actually want to be a member of a band.

    Most of this work has been with jazz groups, along with a few pits and "legit" gigs. The jazz scene seems more oriented towards handling subs -- every player is expected to read, and there's a standard repertoire that can be drawn from as a fallback. In fact, subbing is often the entry point into the scene. When groups are formed, it's usually from players who have made themselves known as subs.

    I don't really have a selection process. I let the first gig with any particular band be the audition. I find it awkward to haggle over pay, but a low paying band will identify itself pretty quickly, and I can afford to make an occasional mistake. Often, I find that the pay rate is less important than the organization and quality of a band -- after all, pay is just one dimension of how you measure the value of your time and effort.

    As a part-timer with a good day job, I'm conscious of not wanting to undercut the pro's. So I tend to observe how they conduct their business, and try to work by the same rules. This also helps me avoid getting dumped with the worst gigs.

    There was certainly a period of several years when I was turning down work. Things have slowed down, but it's still the case that the better bandleaders get the better players, and get more work as a result.
    Wasnex and twinjet like this.
  10. MrLenny1


    Jan 17, 2009
    I got going with Craigslist. Passed audition and thought
    the band was good enough to gig with. First gig will give you a good idea of how the new band is.
    Found band #2 by connecting with a bass player at a Jam session. He did not want the gig, I took it and it lead to 5 more gigs. Band #1 drummer recommended me to his other band which has lead to 21 gigs so far.
    It's all about connections and word of mouth.
    Fee wise, it's all pre determined by the area and venues. Bar gigs pay $100,sometimes more.
    Festival gigs $200 or more.
    twinjet likes this.
  11. Paulabass

    Paulabass Supporting Member

    Sep 18, 2017
    I got subbing just thru friends bands who needed me for club dates. When a bunch of people discovered I could sub without rehearsing, the phone started ringing.
    - most of the bands do not have charts. I'm ok with a set list.
    - I ask for the right to drop a song of two if I'm having trouble with it, specially if I've only been given a few days.
    -If it's an emergency call- my bass player can't make tonite, I work with the BL to build a set list we're all comfortable with.
    -I charge $200, whether it's three sets in a club, or forty minutes at a county fair. Wedding to be negotiated. This fee is fair with the quality of the acts I work with- they are not international acts, but good quality regional/ a-list room acts. I'm sure sometimes I make more than they do.
    - I do use an ipad, but I NEVER read it during a song. A quick study before count in, and I don't look at it again.
    - Tell the BL what cues you need!
    twinjet likes this.
  12. ONYX


    Apr 14, 2000
    I do it for a set group of bands, all of which I have been a member of at one time. They know what I'll work for, and they know that I won't put up with any ridiculous demands. I don't take jobs from people I don't know or have no playing experience with.

    Technically, I "retired" around 2004 from full time band work--but occasionally I would get calls from a former band asking me if I could fill in. It got to be a habit after a while.

    I like it because it leaves most of my weekends free and I don't get involved with band politics.
    twinjet likes this.

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