HOW NOT TO BE A SUCCESSFUL PRO MUSICIAN

I’ve worked with probably hundreds of professional and amateur musicians of every level. And it never ceases to amaze me the vast variation of personalities, professionalism, perspectives on what is and is not acceptable, professional, etc. So at least anyone who has any ambitions whatsoever of having a professional reputation where people are consistently happy to recommend you, pay you to work with them etc. Well here are some things you should do to make that Not happen. I just have a natural penchant for sarcasm, especially on contentious subjects such as this.Show up late. Club owners for the most part not busy at all attending to their patrons, staff, kitchen, inventory, payroll, rowdy clientele, juggling band schedules, etc. etc. The prefer that you keep them guessing when you will show up if at all to keep things interesting. They love having additional stress in their uneventful occupation. If they tell you load in is at 8 and the band hits at 10 that is a mere suggestion. He doesn’t mind if he looses a few hundred bucks on patrons that leave because they finished dinner and don’t want to wait another hour for the band to set up. I mean he does this for fun of getting to eventually hear you “jam out” and doesn’t care at all about he money.don’t do your homework. The bandleader is paying hourly for rehearsal space and 5 other band members have driven 40 minutes each, taken time away from their loved ones, are not getting paid a gig rate if anything at all, and all do this because they really want to watch you learn a song you’ve had the mp3 for weeks on their time. They really don’t have anything better to do and although they may have sat down and charted out all the changes, put the new tunes in their daily practice regimen and worked out all but the most minor nuances before they walked in the door, they are flattered that you follow their chart or watch them for the changes. It’s especially fun when before you do the song you go, what key is this in again? This reinforces the fact that you are so much more talented you have no need to “learn” a song like those other schmucks. They will be excited to work with such a virtuoso. And make sure you throw off the other players by going back into the chorus when the bridge is supposed to come in, then stop the song, and ask, wait where is the bridge again.Have a poor work ethic. When other band members are running ragged setting up the pa, loading in heavy equipment, show up when everything is pretty much done with mic in hand and say, hey where do I plug this in? Or if you are there on time, make sure you put your focus into what your drink or food order is, what the waitress is wearing, whether the club drinks are on the house, before worrying about incidentals like, sound check, set lists, etc.Overplay overplay overplay. Yes you spend many years stealing riffs off the likes of Steve Vai and Malmsteen, we are in awe of your chops. So much so that the bride of the wedding can’t wait to hear your 32nd note harmonic minor arpeggio solo in Brown Eyed Girl. Because if it is hard to play it must sound good. Musicianship isn’t about good taste, conveying emotion, and making music, it’s about showing off how many finger exercises you’ve practiced so all the other musicians can be in awe of your talent. Yes, play with Triple rectifier distortion on everything even if no record in that genre ever used distortion. Crank up that Marshall on Beatles, James Brown, Stray Cats, etc. Because why hear the actual notes being played, just fuzz everything out so that no playing nuances or dynamics can be heard. Who needs those.Be penny wise and pound foolish. The band leader asks you to do a favor and fill in at the last minute. He offers you the same pay as all the regulars are getting. But well he is obviously in a bad position and really needs you so why not take advantage. Tell him you want 15% more or you won’t do it. Even though you are available and it is well within your normal gig rate. Why do this, well because he’s gonna have to give it to you or will be stuck without a player. Band leaders love this and this will put you right to the top of his list of favorite players and people to recommend. I mean who doesn’t love to be taken advantage of by a colleague when in a stressful situation. If you used to get 30 gigs a year from this person and now get a call every 18 months or so. Don’t worry, you did make an extra 100 bucks and the $6000 you lost on those other gigs that mysteriously dried up, had absolutely nothing to do with your shortsighted opportunism. Do not be a team player and give those who get you long term consistent work the benefit of the doubt. Rake them over the coals. If a club cancels on them just say, hey not my problem, you booked me, pay me. they won’t mind, they already lost all the money they would have gotten from the gig, they love to double that hit by takin money out of their pockets to help ya out. I mean they only gave to 30 other gigs that year, make sure you squeeze that extra hundred outa them “on principle”. Who needs a team player, we’re all in it for ourselves and of course they won’t take it personally or book you less in fear of getting caught in that same situation again.Cancel your commitment at the last minute because you got a call for a better gig. I mean commitment schkamittment. I mean we’re only trying to run a business and we’re only dealing with crazy musicians so of course when I book a player and lock them in to a date I can’t expect them to hold to that. I mean if I dropped them at the last minute because I got a better player that wouldn’t be the same thing at all. I mean just book everything ya get and just show up to the gig ya feel like goin to. I mean after a while it will get much easier to coordinate cuz after a while of this you will only get a gig or 2 a year anyway so it all works out in the long run. I mean if someone leaves me in a position of not having a keyboard player day before the gig, why not hire them again, we could all use more stress in our lives wondering whether or not we can honor our professional commitment to our agent and club that we rely on for a living. If band members don’t show up leaving us a member short or with a last minute sub who isn’t familiar with the material, we don’t mind at all you messing with our decades earned professional reputation. And I’m sure the extra $200 you made on that higher payin $350 gig will make up for the 30 “low paying” $150 gigs=($4,500) we’ll give to the slightly less talented guy that we know we can count on. Math anyone?All sarcasm aside. A real life example. I had a friend who was a professional session player with a sterling reputation who got most of his work from his reputation of being always early, always prepared, easy to work with (you don’t want it that way, no problem what about this way?), and reliable. If you booked him in Jan for a gig in November and didn’t call to confirm, he would call you to reconfirm, time place, setup, setlist, dress code, etc. Anyway on the way back from a gig we were talkin about all this stuff and he told me a cool story. He said, yea one time I was booked with this original band in some hole in the wall for $75 bucks. which was low but they have given them tons of work overall and it was a week night and he already knew the material and it was a fun gig so why not. So he has them on the books for that night. He gets a call about a month before the gig from a national signed act he has toured with. They have a TV show appearance in LA and will fly him to LA, put him up in a nice hotel, pay all his expenses, and pay him close to a grand to play about 2 songs on national TV. But he was already committed to the other band. So he does Not cancel on the other band. He makes them an offer. He says, hey I will find a sub for myself, chart out all the tunes for them, sit with them and make sure they will nail the material as well if not better then myself and if their rate is higher than mine I will pay them out of my pocket. But if you still are not comfortable with that I made a commitment to you and will honor it no questions asked, no hard feelings, I will be there for you. Long story short he did the $75 gig. Afterwards the band leader came up to him and was like, I gotta hand it to ya, you honored your commitment and came here did a great performance, smiled, had a blast with us on stage and didn’t make a single mention of the other gig you had to give up and had no attitude or negativity whatsoever. Some musicians I know what think he was crazy for not taking the cool opportunity. But Hmmm, question. Based on that story alone how much credibility, word of mouth, references and work do you think might have resulted. Even the national act that he had to turn down was impressed with his professionalism when told why he couldn’t do the gig. Do ya think they valued him that much more after that? In the grand scheme of things, your reputation is what people are hiring, not a player for a gig.Anyway, hey if it’s your hobby that’s one thing, but if you want to be considered a professional, meaning you want people to pay your for your services, as a performer, then you must have the same perspective as any other professional. Would you have your taxes done with someone who showed up drunk to a meeting, if a contractor canceled your appointment cuz he got a bigger job would you recommend him when you brother needs to put an addition on his house? If you want people to pay you for your services than you must provide a service, just like any service if they are unreliable, inconsistent, misrepresent what they offer, give you something different than what you ask for, would you rehire them or go elsewhere. No where is this more true than in one of the most competitive industries there is. You need to not just be more talented but provide a better overall service to your customer, be it a club owner, fan, agent, band leader, etc. And word of mouth and reputation is the #1 way to get work. If every gig you show up to you are early, set up, prepared, cordial, open to direction, I guarantee you will get more work. What happens is a year later the drummer is in some other project and their bassist broke his hand the day of the gig and the 2 backups were not ava. Then he remembers you did a good job so you get the call, can you learn 30 tunes by tonight, well I’ll do my best. You spend 6 hours working on it and the gig with drive time is about 6 hours for $100, which works out to less than minimum wage. But you nail it better than the guy in the band. Guess who they call to replace the regular when he moves or is just being difficult. Who do you think they recommend when another band on their agency needs someone. Gettin the picture. Always leave Everyone you ever work with more than satisfied professionally and you can make a living doing what you love. But those who think that by being a professional musician they get to be less professional than a doctor, or accountant, are the ones who don’t get it and don’t make it. 

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