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Getting a Gig

September 9, 2010

Hello, my name is Walt, and I work in management at Centricity.  I’m also on the road full time, playing bass with an artist out of Nashville.  I thought I would write to some of the fellow musicians who want to find a paying gig.

So you wanna play music for a living?

Well, many people I know here in Nashville, hopelessly yet unintentionally jaded, would tell you to go to law school instead.  Not me! I actually love and cherish the opportunities I have been given since my move here, and my decision to pursue music.  I still feel like a  school kid on his last day before summer vacation every time I get on the bus to begin a tour or get handed a pay check for playing an instrument I love.  It has been an amazing experience to live this dream I’ve had since I was a child.  I try to keep that perspective whenever some little thing goes wrong on the road.  My worst day playing music for a living is someone’s best day at a job he (or she) hates.  I am blessed.  I am more than blessed.  Although not what I expected, this ride has turned out to be more than I could have ever dreamed.  I am grateful that God chose to give a wretched, undeserving kid his dream.  In this town, there are a thousand other players taking your order at any given restaurant that deserve your gig more than you do.  I make a point never to forget that!

At almost every show some starry eyed player will ask me “How do I get a gig?”.  I asked the same question before I moved.  This was the advice I was given, and it turned out to be gospel, in every way:

The single most important aspect of getting and keeping a gig:  THE HANG.  You have to be a team “player”;  pun completely intended.  You have to be easy to work with, easy to get along with, and trustworthy.  After all, you will be spending days and weeks with the people around you.  You will represent the artist that you play for.  You MUST be fun and easy to hang with.  The fastest and easiest way to get fired is the be a drag on the road!

Second, BE PREPARED.  Show up to rehearsal and the gig EARLY.  Not on time, but early.  Have your gear set up and ready by downbeat.  Have all your material learned, rehearsed and charted.  Chops are great, but they are six or seventh down the line.  You can be a killer player, with chops for days, but you will usually pound out eighth notes, chords or simple beats the majority of the set.  Playing with feel, character, tone, creativity, mood and time are what will keep you working and set you apart.  Being prepared and caring about your artist’s creation is key.  That’s what keeps your gig.  Remember this:  EVERY GIG IS AN AUDITION!!!!  Every gig, however large or small, is just audition for the next gig or call.

Third, MOVE.  If you want to play music for a living, you need to move where the work is.  The old rule applies here more than most: Out of site, out of mind.  You can be the best player in the world but if no one knows you then you will never get a call.  Relationships are the key.  Not just “connections” but relationships.  Getting out and meeting people, genuinely  meeting people without ulterior motives, is how you begin to get recognized.  Almost every gig I have been called for was due to a relationship I made outside of playing.  Typically I am hired without an audition or anyone hearing me play.  That’s the power of relationships and recommendations! So if you want to play for a living, move to a town that has a great music scene, or where tours base from, and meet some people.  Nashville, New York, Los Angeles…..take your pick!  (I’m partial to Nashville!)

There are several other aspects to the game, but these are some of the most important.

Well, that’s my two cents. Now you owe me a dollar.

So…..enough for now.  We will revisit the subject if there is any interest….

What are some ways you have found it easy to find work playing music?

One Comment leave one →
  1. September 10, 2010 10:29 AM

    Thanks for sharing your experience Walt. Maybe write an article on how to convince a wife to move to Nashville also. 😉

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