Tag Archives: tips

Basics in Jazz Arranging

Basics in Jazz Arranging

Basics in Jazz ArrangingThis book is a must-have for anyone interested in learning about jazz arranging. Written by a renowned jazz educator and based on what he’s taught for more than 30 years, this book is a great tool for beginning arrangers, whether they are teaching themselves or taking a course. Basics in Jazz Arranging covers how to find the right song, how to adapt songs to the jazz style, how to set up your first small-group charts, and how to write for brass and woodwinds. Rutherford includes examples of his own original compositions and small group charts, along with a CD that features both full performances and rhythm section only tracks.

Basics in Jazz Arranging, by Paris Rutherford, Hal Leonard Corporation, www.halleonard.com.

Tips for Saving Money on Health Care in 2015

While the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has given more Americans access to health insurance, many of the plans come with high deductibles. The percentage of insured workers who face a deductible of $1,000 or more grew from 6% in 2006 to 32% in 2014. Today, consumers need to approach medical care as they do other purchases—shopping for both quality and price. Unfortunately, our health care system is not set up for easy comparison shopping. Here are some tips for saving money on health care in 2015.

Check Your Bills and Statements

Know your insurance policy and what it covers before you need to use it. Read the fine print to find out about preapprovals, emergency room visits, copays for doctor visits, and coinsurance for procedures, as well as “wellness” benefits like preventative care screening, gym membership, and weight loss programs.

Always ask for itemized bills and check them, as well as insurance company statements for errors. Was the same procedure covered for one member of your family and not another? Was it covered last time and not this time? Don’t be shy about asking your doctor’s billing office to resubmit a bill to your insurance company for an item you believe should have been covered.

The same goes for calling the insurance company to question why certain items were not covered. Even those with the best insurance policies often get bills for procedures that should be covered. A mistake in coding can mean a difference of hundreds of dollars.

Prescription Medications

Check prescription medications to see if any of them have gone off patent. For medications that are off patent there may be cheaper generic equivalents. Consult your prescribing physician before switching. When a doctor prescribes a new drug, ask if there are less expensive alternatives.

Many pharmacies extend special offers on certain prescription drugs. Shop around for the best discounts. Search web pharmacies and mail order pharmacies for even deeper discounts. Check the website GoodRX.com, which gives price comparisons based on your location.

Live Healthy

Probably the best way to be proactive about health care savings is to be proactive about your health. Eat well, exercise, and steer clear of unhealthy habits like smoking and excessive drinking. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) it costs 18% more to insure a smoker. Medical costs for people who are obese are also significantly higher.

Many insurance companies now offer good health incentives to clients to maintain or improve their healthy lifestyles. Sometimes they will provide a percentage off the cost of gym membership or weight loss programs.

Preventive care is another key to keeping health care costs down over time. Annual checkups give your doctor an opportunity to recommend screenings, provide medical advice, and identify health concerns before they become major issues. By law, ACA-compliant insurance plans offer a number of screenings with no copays. When possible, also take advantage of free screenings provided at health fairs.

Shop Around and Plan Ahead

If you need to see a doctor after hours, don’t visit an ER unless the condition is truly life-threatening. Consider an urgent care center or convenience-care clinic. You can save hundreds of dollars for relatively minor issues like stitches for minor cuts, a sprained ankle, or routine x-rays. Investigate the facilities near you before you need them so you can make the right choice when you do.

Items like flu shots, physicals, and cholesterol and blood tests may be cheaper at walk-in retail clinics. Blood can sometimes be drawn at a clinical laboratory service. Instead of paying for 20 sessions of physical therapy, pay for one and learn exercises to do at home. Get copies of all your medical test results and records. Bringing them to consultations can cut the number of tests and office visits required.

Be sure to compare prices. Don’t be afraid to ask about prices and discounts for cash payment and express the fact that cost is a concern to you. Ask a lot of questions: Is this test really necessary? Are there less expensive alternatives to this treatment? Is it possible to wait and see if the issue resolves before ordering an expensive test?

Nailing down a price is difficult because there are multiple players involved in most procedures. One clinic’s fee may include the surgeon, anesthesiologist, and facility, while another may bill separately for each. Find out the specifics, make sure they’re all part of your insurance plan, and then compare prices.

Reassess Your Coverage

Hold onto all of your out of pocket health care receipts for the entire year. This includes all medications, deductibles, eyeglasses, and dental care. If you are the primary caregiver for an older relative keep receipts for those expenses as well. A tax preparer or accountant can advise you on possible deductions.

As the year winds to a close and the next open season arrives, it’s time to examine how your insurance policy is working for you. The coverage you selected last year may no longer be the best option. Information online can be incomplete or outdated, so call the your doctors to make sure they’re still participating in plans you’re considering.

AFM Updates “ Road Gig ” Assistance Policy

When musicians travel to perform they face a host of challenges—from transporting and setting up gear in a new space, to finding a great late-night eating spot, to getting their instruments across a border or in the cabin of an airplane. The last thing any traveling group wants to worry about is getting “stiffed” on a gig.

If that ever does happen, though, the AFM offers help through “Road Gig,” an AFM policy to assist traveling musicians in the event of contract defaults. But what exactly is Road Gig?

First, let’s talk about what it isn’t. Road Gig isn’t roadside assistance, help at the border with a missing visa or passport, nor help in the event of stolen instruments or equipment (instrument insurance is offered through Mercer in the US and HUB/Intact in Canada). It is assistance with contract enforcement, in cases where a venue or purchaser defaults on payment.


The AFM will assist with collecting on defaulted contracts, when the following criteria are in place:

  • The claim is for a traveling engagement.
  • The engagement is covered by a written AFM contract (for US engagements only, other written contracts may also be accepted).
  • The contract must have been filed with the appropriate union local, and must meet minimum scale.
  • Each instrumentalist and member vocalist who performed/would have performed, must be a member in good standing at the time the engagement was scheduled/performed.

The policy does not apply in cases where the venue/establishment is covered by an existing AFM Collective Bargaining Agreement, or in cases where musicians are acting as a backup unit for a traveling “name” artist/act.

Making a Claim

Claims can be made by calling 1-800-ROADGIG in the US, or 1-800-INFOFED in Canada. Claims can also be made via e-mail, to roadgig@afm.org. Any calls or e-mails received after normal business hours will be responded to on the next business day. Claimants should include a copy of the defaulted engagement contract, and all other pertinent information, such as venue and purchaser details, in their claims. Upon reviewing all this, the AFM will determine the appropriate course of action, and do everything it can to effect an equitable resolution to the claim.

Enforcement and Collections

When claims are made, the AFM’s Touring, Theatre, Booking and Immigration Division will determine how best to pursue the claim. This usually begins with an official letter to the purchaser/venue to demand payment. If there is no immediate resolution, the AFM will seek authorization from claimants to pursue a legal collection process. At a minimum, the AFM may elect to pay musicians the Traveling Scale, at $150 for leader and $100 for side musician, for the defaulted gig.

When it comes to road gigs, the AFM isn’t going to rush in and change a flat tire or keep a restaurant open past midnight. But we can help our AFM traveling members from being left out in the cold, when it comes to their gig contracts

Huh? You May Already Have Hearing Loss

Following a recent live music event, I interviewed a longtime musician who joked that his years of gigging have made it more difficult to carry on a normal conversation. I patiently repeated my questions, trying to speak in an abnormally loud voice. When I asked if he’d ever considered using musicians’ earplugs the man laughed at the absurdity of such an idea. Unfortunately, hearing loss really is no laughing matter, especially for musicians.

The auditory system is one of the body’s most delicate sensory systems, and when you are frequently exposed to excessive sound levels, the system can be easily damaged. Though many people associate musician hearing loss with rockers (20% of whom have some hearing loss according to one Norwegian Institutt for Klinisk Medisin study), any type of musician is at risk. Often, only when noticeable hearing loss has already occurred, do musicians take the problem seriously.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) sets guidelines for the maximum time you can safely be exposed to various sound pressures measured in decibels (dB). Below is a table with approximate ranges of safe exposure for various instruments.

Hearing Loss chart


As you can see from the table, the dangers are real and occur with a wide range of instruments and genres of music. Following are some tips to reduce the danger of hearing loss.

  •   Purchase and wear musicians’ earplugs. They are superior to traditional earplugs because they offer “flat” attenuation, while traditional earplugs tend to filter more sound from higher frequencies, resulting in a muffled sound.
  •   As you can see from the table, each instrument has a wide volume range. When possible, practice more softly, or play your electrified instrument “unplugged.”
  •   To reduce your overall exposure to sound, take precautions in your daily life. Avoid any environment where you need to raise your voice to be heard. Wear earplugs or earmuffs when mowing the lawn or operating other loud machinery, and turn down the volume on your television and iPod.
  •   During rehearsals take frequent, 15-minute silence breaks.
  •   When you have a break during your gig, take a moment to step outside and give your ears a rest.
  •   Spread out so you are not being blasted by the musician next to you. Also, move away from on-stage monitors and amplifiers.

For more information on musician hearing loss and additional tips visit House Research Institute at www.hei.org or Hearing Education and Awareness for Rockers (HEAR) at www.hearnet.com.

Preparing For a Gig: 3 Lessons Learned the Hard Way

Thanks to Gig Salad for sharing some wisdom on three lessons learned the hard way when it comes to a gig. You can read the original article here

So you’ve landed a gig. Awesome! Maybe it’s your first one, or maybe you’ve been at it for years. Either way, there are few things to remember when preparing to head off into the gig unknown. Our resident musicians and booking agents, Joey and Devin, put their heads together and came up with some lessons they learned the hard way. Now you don’t have to! (We’ll keep the lessons anonymous so as not to embarrass the contributors.)

#1: I Forgot to Sign a Contract & Get a Deposit

Sometimes in the midst of booking a gig, the most important part can be forgotten. You show up, do your thing…and then the excuses start. Maybe someone forgot the checkbook, or someone else was supposed to pay you. Bottom line is, you don’t get paid. Unfortunately, if you don’t have a contract or a deposit, there’s not much you can do. So we can’t stress enough: Get those in order before the gig. To help you avoid performing for free, we offer a handy booking tool to take care of all of that for you. One more thing you don’t have to worry about!

#2: My String Broke During the Show

Equipment malfunction is always a risk at performances. You know it, we know it. So to avoid stopping the show altogether, make sure you have some backups on hand. Whether this is strings, batteries, cables, extension cords, or clown noses, it’s always better to be over-prepared than under. Don’t assume that the venue or client will provide the things you may need. Make yourself accountable for everything. Use a checklist to make sure you have everything you need for each gig.

#3: I Drank A Protein Shake Before the Show

We can’t help but laugh a little at this “lesson learned” but it does have some truth behind it. Think ahead to how long you’ll be in the spotlight, and plan accordingly. You may not get a bathroom break for awhile! Read your contract carefully and check out when and where to load in, start time, breaks, end time, etc. Nothing is more miserable than being physically uncomfortable during a gig! So plan ahead, don’t drink a gallon of lemonade beforehand, put on deodorant (thanks, Devin!), and you should be fine.

Happy Gigging!

Avoid Border-Crossing Gear Glitches with an ATA Carnet

by Anya Craig, Membership Services Administrator, Canadian Federation of Musicians

It’s the stuff of nightmares for the travelling musician: you’re headed out of the country for a big show, your precious instrument in hand, but when you get to the border, you’re gruffly told that you can’t bring your gear across—not without a bunch of hassle and some hefty fees, if at all!

Performing outside of Canada can be a headache; securing work permits and negotiating with purchasers abroad isn’t always a picnic. The last thing a musician needs, after wading through the process, is to be barred from entering your destination country with your gear.

This sort of gear-related border issue is becoming more common, unfortunately, and although veteran border-crossers know to bring a detailed manifest of all their instruments and accessories, some border agents will only accept one kind of gear documentation: the ATA carnet.

The ATA carnet is an internationally recognized customs document that acts as a sort of passport for all your professional tools. It is your best defense against the stickiest of border officers, who are typically trained to assume that anyone entering their country with gear intends to sell it and abscond with the profits. The carnet proves that your instruments and gear are the tools of your trade, and that they will be brought back to Canada with you after your gigs.

The ATA carnet program was established in 1961 by the World Customs Organization, and is accepted in 71 countries worldwide, including the US. Here in Canada, the carnet is issued by the Canadian Chamber of Commerce. When you travel with a carnet, your goods are inspected every time you leave or enter a country and you escape the potential hassle of having to pay duties or temporary importation bonds on your professional gear. In some cases, travellers have been denied entry until a valid carnet could be produced.

Getting the carnet is not particularly difficult or time-consuming as long as you are able to provide detailed information about the instruments and gear you intend to travel with. Along with the application, certain fees are required, which are based on the total value of your tools. The Chamber of Commerce asks applicants to allow five business days for processing, but three-day or even same-day service can be had for an extra fee. After the carnet is issued, it must be validated by Canadian customs, which can be done any time prior to your travel date or on the day you cross the border—just be sure to leave home extra early if you choose the latter option. Once you’ve got the carnet, it’s valid for a year. After a year, you will need to reapply.

You may grumble at the prospect of having to fill out yet another application in order to perform outside of Canada. You may wonder if an ATA carnet is really necessary, especially if you’ve taken your gear across borders successfully without one. Your best bet, if you’re planning on travelling across the border, is to call up the foreign port of entry where you intend to enter and ask them what their policy is. Different border stations have different ways of dealing with gear and goods. If the agent you speak to is not clear about their expectations, or if you’re in any doubt, obtaining a carnet is your best option to avoid disappointment. Keep in mind that the border agent you encounter when crossing may not abide by what you were told over the phone by another officer; another agent may insist on a carnet, regardless of what their colleague told you.

However you choose to document your gear when crossing the border, make sure you’re confident in your choice, and err on the side of caution. Doing paperwork and paying fees may be a hassle, but it’s vastly preferable to missing your gigs because it was barred entry, or spending hours at customs tied up in red tape. As a musician, you’ve got better things to do!

If you’re interested in obtaining an ATA carnet for future travel, visit the Canadian Chamber of Commerce’s Carnet Services site: http://www.chamber.ca/carnet. A list of countries that accept the ATA carnet can be found at: http://www.chamber.ca/carnet/carnet-countries/. To get the contact information for US ports of entry, visit the US Customs and Border Protection site:  http://www.cbp.gov/contact/ports.

Steve Gadd: Secrets for a Successful Freelance Career

Gadd2If there is one drummer you could say has literally kept the beat for “everyone,” that drummer would likely be Steve Gadd, a member of Local 802 (New York City). And when asked about all the different genres of music he’s played, and diverse acts he’s worked with, he approaches the topic very matter-of-factly.

“I’ve been a freelance player my whole life,” he explains. “I love to play music with people who love to play music, so that’s the way I approach it.”

From his earliest days of drumming, Gadd took an eclectic approach to learning. “I listened to a lot of different drummers and copied them—Gene Krupa, Buddy Rich, Louie Bellson, Art Blakey, Max Roach, Jimmy Cobb, Elvin Jones, Tony Williams, and Jack DeJohnette [of Local 802]. To this day, when I hear someone play something I like, I copy them,” he says.

But, while watching, learning, copying, and taking lessons from a lot of different teachers, Gadd was also developing his own style. “The last teacher that I had, John Beck, always encouraged me to do things in a way that felt comfortable for me. I think that’s very important for young people. It’s okay to copy, but they have to find a way to make it feel comfortable for them. That’s what will make the most sense musically.”

However, he explains, becoming a successful session drummer is not just about learning your chops and developing your own style. “You’ve got to be able to fit what you are doing with other people; it’s not about feeling like your way is the only way,” he says. “It’s about making your way work with whoever you are playing with and making the music feel the best you can. It’s a give and take thing.”

Gadd takes on each job with the professionalism of an experienced musician whose focus is keenly on the end product. “For me, before anyone starts talking about the music, I would rather hear the demo or have them play the song; until you hear the song, there is nothing to talk about,” he says quite simply. “I think that listening before talking is important because then you’ve got something you can relate the words to.”

50 Ways to Groove on 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover

His humble, patient, and accepting approach to music leaves Gadd’s mind open to try many different possibilities, until everyone is pleased with the result. For example, one of Gadd’s most talked about and well-recognized grooves happens in the intro to Local 802 member Paul Simon’s “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover.” Gadd explains how he was just noodling when he happened upon it.

“We had been working on that song for a while, and the chorus part fell into place easily, but the first part wasn’t really feeling the way it should and we tried a few different things,” he says. “A lot of times I would stay in the drum booth while Paul and Phil [Ramone] were discussing what they wanted to do and I practiced different things. I was practicing a little military beat and Phil heard it and thought we should try it for the first part of the song. We just sort of stumbled on it by chance.”

Among the other “pinnacle” Gadd recordings are his solo work with Steely Dan on Aja, and recordings he’s done with Local 802 members Chick Corea and Bob James. “I feel very fortunate to have been able to have done what I’ve done with as many people as I’ve been able to play with; on a certain level, they are all special,” he says. “When I go in with everything I’ve got and it has an effect on the industry, I’m proud of it.”

However, Gadd explains that he isn’t one to look back on his accomplishments, however remarkable. He is more affected by when something he’s done has meant something to other people, especially other drummers. “Those are the things that are special to me,” he concludes.

From the early days of his career, Gadd made it a point to not get pigeonholed into one specific genre, but rather to take on new and diverse projects as they came along. “I like variety; I am challenged by that,” he says. “When I first got into recording there were certain things that I wasn’t comfortable with, but I kept trying and I was able to find a comfort level in a lot of different styles.”

Another Gadd key to building your freelance career: be reliable. “When you accept something, you give your word that you are going to do it, if something else comes up that you would have rather done, you have to stick with your word and your honor,” he says. “That is a basic rule. However, business-wise, you can’t afford to say ‘no’ to certain things. If you are a person of your word, then people understand when things happen and you can work it out.”

Have the Right Gadditude

Steve-GaddAnd then there’s attitude. “If you are in the studio and you want people to call you back, a lot of that has to do with your attitude,” he continues. “If you are on the road, you are playing the show, you might be playing for two or three hours, but you are spending the other 20 hours of the day traveling with people. All of that enters into it: how you get along with people, how much of a team player you are, and if people start to get tired and things get dark, shine some light on it because, in the long run, that’s going to affect the music.”

“It’s not just about the playing; it’s about showing up on time, doing your best, and trying to understand what people, like the producer, are verbally trying to get you to do on the instrument. That takes a lot of energy. If you try something and it’s not really the right thing and they want you to try something different, after that happens a couple of times, you can start to get a little paranoid. You have to remember why you are there and remember that the guy who is talking to you about the music is not a drummer, so it’s not easy for him to explain what he wants,” he says. “Just give 110%.”

Throughout his entire career Gadd has had the AFM by his side. “All the guys I work with are in the union,” he says. “I am happily a member and will continue to be. And a testament to that is that I’ve gone through my whole career and not really had any problems. I can’t imagine not being in the union.”

Not living in a big recording center like L.A., these days Gadd, a resident of Phoenix, Arizona, is not involved in recording as much as he once was and this has allowed him time to create a few of his own projects. The Steve Gadd Band (with Local 47 members Michael Landau, Larry Goldings, Walt Fowler, and Jimmy Johnson) released its first album, Gadditude, in 2013 and just finished recording its second album, 70 Strong, scheduled for release April 2015. “I’ll be 70, so that’s where that comes from,” he explains.

Gadd has also been putting together his third album as the Gaddabouts with Edie Brickell. “That was her idea and it’s with Pino Palladino [of Local 47] and [Welsh guitarist] Andy Fairweather Low. It’s all Edie’s songs,” he says. Other 2015 projects will have him working with Local 802 member James Taylor during March and April and Eric Clapton later in the year.

Regardless of whether it’s his project or someone else’s, Gadd says his approach is the same. “If I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing, then people around me sound good. It’s not about drawing attention to me, it’s about playing in such a way that everything flows and everybody feels comfortable,” he concludes.

The Singing Season: Avoiding Hoarseness During the Holidays

The holiday season is a time for numerous music events, late nights and celebrations. Unfortunately, it is also the time a year when your voice is at greatest risk due to cold weather, excessive talking over crowds and loud music, and the many active viruses that are circulating. Damage that occurs in December can last weeks into the new year.

“Many of the voice patients whom I see in early spring trace their problems back to holiday jams, having pushed themselves through a choral concert with bronchitis, too many talk-fests with must-visit buddies or sibs, or travel circumstances that turned a simple cold into an unshakable cough right before January auditions,” says speech pathologist and vocal wellness advocate Joanna Cazden, author of Everyday Voice Care: The Lifestyle Guide for Singers and Talkers (Hal Leonard Corporation, 2012).

Here are some tips to help keep your voice in tip-top shape:

1. Keep your throat warm. Wear a warm scarf around your neck, and if it’s a particularly cold day, pull it up to cover your mouth while you are outdoors. Always breathe through your nose, not your mouth. The hairs in your nose actually filter germs and irritants from entering your throat and lungs.

2. Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water—up to eight glasses per day. Caffeine dries out vocal folds, so for every caffeinated beverage, drink one additional glass of water. Furnaces and other heating systems can be very drying. Consider setting up a humidifier to eliminate this problem. Another option is to purchase a steamer with a face mask and use it frequently, especially before and after singing engagements.

3. Pay attention to your casual conversations. When you are in a voice lesson or practicing for a performance you are very aware of how you use your voice. It’s when you are having casual conversations that you may fall into bad habits, like not supporting your voice with enough breath and speaking too loudly, which cause your voice to tire more quickly. “Party as a listener,” suggests Cazden. “Especially in loud settings: immerse yourself in the ‘season’ by appreciating others’ year-end tales; save most of your own voice for gigs waiting ’round the corner in 2014.”

4. It’s the same with posture. You are probably acutely aware of your posture while on stage. Check your posture throughout the day. You may be inadvertently collapsing your chest while carrying gear or sitting in front of a computer.

5. Take care of your overall health during the holidays. Make time to exercise at least 20 minutes a day and get proper rest. Everyone’s need for sleep is different so listen to your body and take naps to catch up on sleep if you have to. According to Cazden, getting proper sleep boosts your immune system, mood, and vocal resilience. If possible schedule days of complete vocal rest.

6. Watch what you eat and drink, especially late at night. This may be one of the hardest rules to follow this time of year. Both overeating and over drinking can result in increased acid reflux. Acids from your stomach can irritate and inflame both your throat and larynx.

7. Get in the habit of swallowing instead of clearing your throat. Throat clearing actually makes your vocal folds smack together in an abrasive fashion, setting you up for a repetitive stress injury to the larynx (or voicebox).

8. Lower your risk of developing illness. Get your flu shot. Washing your hands frequently and running a vaporizer at night will make you less susceptible to colds. Avoid using over-the-counter decongestants. They may make you feel better temporarily, but they dry your airways and actually make them more susceptible to infection.

9. If your voice does become irritated, stop talking. When you hear a change of any kind in your voice, you should contact an otolaryngologist (an ear/nose throat doctor). Avoid whispering. It is actually very stressful for your voice. Vocal problems will only become worse if they are ignored.

last gig go

How Did Your Last Gig Go?

The now defunct Eastern Airlines used to have a slogan: “We’re only as good as your last flight.” Maybe the airline is gone, but that slogan had a lot of truth in it. You’re only as good as your last gig in the mind of the people who heard you the last time you played. Not all gigs live up to your expectations. It could be a club or a private party that doesn’t come off exactly as planned. Maybe there was a crappy venue-provided sound system. Maybe weather, or any number of other circumstances, kept people away, and the attendance was far less than expected. We’ve all played gigs where we can’t wait for the night to be over or played gigs where the booker just wanted “background music,” and  no one pays any attention to you or your band. It’s tough playing for a small crowd in a huge room, particularly when hardly anyone knows you’re there.

We hear all the motivational hype about putting your best foot forward, thinking positively,  and when life hands you lemons, make lemonade, etc. It’s easy to preach these things when you’re on the outside looking in. It’s not that easy if you’re in the middle of a gig that’s the absolute pits.

Some time back, AFM Secretary-Treasurer Sam Folio was in town. Now, even though we’re not in a major metro market, there’s a casino, many musical theaters, off-Broadway productions, quite a few concerts, and some decent club work, especially for younger groups. There’s work, if you want to go after it. We got talking about various local musical talent and I wanted him to hear a group at a well-known club, on a night where it was snowing like crazy. Not only that, there was little promo that the band would even be there. Few people showed.

The problem, however, was that one of the people who actually did show was a concert promoter who brings in major acts to one of the local theaters. He had verbally committed to using the band as a warm-up act for a national band where the pay was over scale and the exposure was significant. He was there less than an hour.  The band was on a break for half of that time. No one in the band figured out who he was, and they didn’t know he was coming. When the band did play, it was obvious that the drummer had more than enough to drink. The band simply did not have their hearts in it and they were goofing around more than actually playing their best charts. I was embarrassed for my AFM guest. It got worse. The concert promoter left the club and found another band.

And there lies the moral to this little episode: “You’re only as good as your last gig.” We are musicians. We play live music—we don’t push a button and let recorded music play. We are entertainers, professionals, and musicians who have spent years learning our craft. We want to get paid decent bucks for our talents and skill, and we want our clients to get what they pay for. Actually, more than what they pay for.

Don’t cheat the person who hired you, or the audience in front of you, no matter what the size. Play like your next gig depends on it. Play for the hotel staff; play for whoever is in your audience. Play for yourself. You never know who might be talking about you long after the chairs are piled on the tables and the lights are turned out. It could be an agent, a meeting planner, a club owner, a corporate exec, the manager of the hotel who books groups, someone who’s getting married and looking for a band, a record producer, or maybe just the person who hired you. One dissatisfied person will tell 20 others. Those 20 will tell 100 … and on it goes.

But whether you believe it or not, someone is always listening. Not only that, social media can spread their thoughts in a hurry. You never know if that one person could advance your career or put it into a holding pattern.

If you work a single, a little self-discipline can go a long way. If the room is sparse, make friends with every person in the room. If you’re in a band, don’t let one irritated musician in your group bring down the whole affair, just because it wasn’t what you expected. You’re an AFM member; you are a union musician. You get paid to play to the best of your ability to a crowd of 1,000, 100, or maybe just one. Make it a stellar performance, like your career depended on it. Who knows? Your next gig and your income might depend on it as well.