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Home » Music Business » Success Could Be Just One Gig Away

Success Could Be Just One Gig Away

  -  Member Local 78 (Syracuse, NY)

It’s not always easy. We all have bad days, sometimes bad weeks. Maybe the gigs aren’t coming in as fast as you want. Maybe your calendar is full, but the gigs suck. Maybe you feel your career should be at a higher level, but you’re still stuck playing for just over scale at a place that just doesn’t appreciate you. Maybe your piano sounds “like a carnival” and “the microphone smells like a beer,” but in deference to Billy Joel, that “bread in your jar” adds up, even though no one says, “Man, what are you doing here?” C’mon, lighten up. You could be working at Taco Bell or McDonald’s. Success, or a decent break, could just be a couple of choruses away.

Just when you think you’re stuck in a rut, and you think you’re serving a sentence of Saturday afternoon weddings and scale work at one of the local gin mills, you never know who’s going to hear you and help take you or your group to a higher level. You always have to be on top of your game if you have any aspirations of getting to a higher level. Don’t make the mistake of playing less than your best, just because the gig is the pits.

In life, difficulty and adversity are good for you. They make you stronger and help you grow. I think it’s especially true in the music business. The problem is that, as musicians, we start to be prophets of our own destiny. How many times have these negative words and “weasel” phrases come out of your mouth:

  • “Nobody wants to hire live musicians anymore”
  • “You can’t make a living playing music in this town”
  • “We’re lucky to get scale”
  • “I hate playing this crap”
  • “Nobody wants to hear good music anymore”
  • “Clubs can’t pay musicians what they’re worth”
  • “DJs are getting all the work”
  • “This is a weekend town, musicians can’t make a living here”

If you believe it, it must be so.

Therefore, if this is starting to sound familiar, you have two options: either quit or do something about it. Quitting is your prerogative, but if you’d rather do something about it, then don’t just sit around waiting for the phone to ring. Forget the self-pity, the negativeness, and the whining. Get yourself a better website, up-to-date demo video, and a quality promotional package. Start using the phone for a little outbound telemarketing and ask for referrals.

Ask yourself how bad do you want more work, or better work? What are you willing to give up for it? Nothing comes easy. You get what you give. Are you willing to play more cover songs, even if you like just doing originals? Are you willing to travel a little more, or even move if it’s necessary? Have you checked the AFM list of agents in your area to get better representation? Are you networking with other people in your local? Have you done a recent recording that shows your best talents? Do you have a separate brochure just for corporate work? Have you made friends with the media? Do the guys who do the morning drive on your local radio stations know you, mention you once in awhile, or even play your stuff? Do you add to your e-mail and snail mail list database regularly? Do you even have those mailing lists?

What can you do this week to get more work or better work next week? Do a little soul-searching. Are you using the Musicians Performance Fund to your advantage so you can get more exposure and be a public service to your community as well? Are you getting PR in your local paper on a regular basis? Are your chops as good as they could be? Do you run circles around most of the other musicians in your area, or could you stand a little woodshedding to polish up your talent? Is your library of tunes current, or do you rely on what you’ve already got in the can?

You are what you believe. Attitude is important. Keep trying something new until success starts to smack you in the face. You’re an AFM member, a professional musician, and you have the inside track. Maybe it’s time to reshuffle and expand your horizons beyond the next block. Remember, if you do what you’ve always done, nothing’s going to change. How bad do you want to take your career to the next level? Do you want it bad enough to actually do something about it right away? Those big breaks don’t just come out of nowhere. You have to make them happen. It’s your choice.

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