Over the years I’ve worked all varieties of music gigs. I’ve produced original music, assisted composers, musical-directed shows, rehearsed choirs, played in recording sessions and more. In order to understand and continue doing what’s worked for myself and others (and avoid repeating mistakes), I’ve thought back and discovered patterns, common threads, and habits. I would like to share all of this with you because it’s not immediately obvious, nor is it what most people would initially assume. You don't need to be the best player to be a successful musician, but you do need to be the sort of person that others want to be around.
Here are 3 simple ways to ensure you get consistent work.
1 - BE EARLY
No one has any patience for the late. Regardless of how good your reasons are, no one cares. At the end of the day, there is someone who is worried about a big thing, of which you are a small component. They are stressed about keeping it all together, and want more than anything else to know that all the little pieces (including you) are going to show up where they’re supposed to, when they’re supposed to, with the stuff they need, ready & able to do what they need to do. If you are late, you are immediately marked as “unreliable”, which is quite possibly the worst thing to be marked as.
2 - BE NICE
In other words, be easy to get along with, be positive, be fun to be around, or as we used to say, be “a good hang”. At the end of the day, we are all just people who want to enjoy the time we spend being alive. If you bring good energy, are fun and lighthearted, people will want to be around you. On the other hand, no one wants a downer, pessimist, or otherwise negative person around. Disputes and disagreements are inevitable in any work setting, but kindness, understanding, and compromise, will always win over correctness. Life and work are stressful enough as is - the least we can do is enjoy our time together.
3 - BE ON PEOPLE’S MINDS
If I asked you to recommend a drummer for a recording session, who would come to mind? If I told you I needed a singer for a jazz gig, who would you put me in touch with? Go through a few more scenarios like this, and think of who you’d recommend. Now figure out why you’d recommend them, and you may be in for a surprise. Maybe the first person who comes to mind isn’t even a friend of yours, or anyone you’ve even met in person. Why is this?
The people who come to mind are the those who have worked to keep themselves relevant in their field (and on your mind). Whether through excellent social media activity, or through bringing their best to sessions and gigs, they are always making sure their network stays aware of them. Sometimes it’s as simple as occasionally “reaching out” to share updates.
Now ask yourself - if someone out there was looking for a person who does what you do, who’s going to think to recommend you? Why or why not? Get to work!
Notice throughout this article I’ve mentioned nothing about practicing your skills, being the best at what you do, being competitive, going to industry meetups, or kissing ass. Because believe it or not, in my experience the qualities I’ve listed above are by far the most important factors when employers are deciding who gets a gig. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen an objectively worse player get picked over the better player simply because they were a great team player. It comes down to the fact that we’re all just people, who simply want to enjoy life and each other.
What are some other techniques being used by musicians to stay relevant and working? What's worked (or not worked) for you, or someone you know?
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