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Notes_Norton

How to make a living playing music

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16 minutes ago, Karloff said:

 

theres been times I've taken a year or two off from playing out cuz I just got burnt out on it all, or fed up with unprofessional bandmates. but I'm closing in on 60 and I've only got so many days left on this earth. I kinda want to play as long as I'm physically able. my back is getting kinda bad.  by the last set it's so stiff I struggle to lean over to breakdown some of my gear. 

It's definitely a young mans Doug.   if you're still "in it"  stay there long as you can.

Once you stop, you probably won't want to do it again.  That was my experience. 

It's been 20+ years since I was gigging regularly.  

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I have learned that there is life after 60, I try to play for at least an hour everyday and attend an open jam session every Saturday, where all comers are welcome. We attract players of all levels an teach newbies what its like to fit in. In the end its a great learning experience for all of us. This takes place in a remote area called Eden Roc and the only requirement the host has is that we play loud enough for the neighborhood to hear. 

 Living on an Island the cover bands are considered professionals and that is their job. There is a group of maybe 25 or 30 regular musicians forming the core of about 5 bands that rotate players depending on who needs work. Of course there many other bands here that startup finding there are just not that many places to play on the Big Island and if successful usually migrate to Oahu.

My last working cover band was in the early 90's, since then I have focused on my own music, improv and playing anything that come to mind.

Edited by mihcmac

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2 hours ago, kidblast said:

It's cool that you can make enough dough to do this full time Notes.  But that's just not the reality most of us live in.

There's hardly enough venues that cater to live music in these parts to even keep a fraction of the bands and performers busy.

And the pay is generally insulting.  $500 on average, to split 4 or 5 ways in many cases..  we all know how much work goes into getting to and doing a gig.  Hardly worth the effort.

However I fully agree with "play the music that pleases the audience"  and "always be a pro"  Those two things alone are key.

 

I agree.  Come and live in the UK.   

When/if I can get a gig with either of my bands, the pay is the same as it was 30 years ago.

This year is going to be a 'crunch' year for me - I am considering jacking the whole thing in. 

I am fed up with risking my life driving long distances in atrocious weather every time I have to go and play music.  

The last gig I did I got paid comparatively well - £50, and that is good money - but as my car broke down, all the money and more was spent on repair. 

As for playing for myself/other musicians/the audience, I just try to play WELL and enjoy it.  I concede I am no great entertainer - or great musician.

There is a ridiculous number of bands/performers all competing for the same low-paid gigs in a comparatively small number of venues, most of which are struggling to stay open.  Many of the bands/artists will play for free as they are so desperate for exposure.  

Sorry about the moan but I've been playing live since 1977 in England, and it's an uphill labour of love. 

Edited by jdgm

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1 hour ago, kidblast said:

It's definitely a young mans Doug.   if you're still "in it"  stay there long as you can.

Once you stop, you probably won't want to do it again.  That was my experience. 

It's been 20+ years since I was gigging regularly.  

yea, as long as I can, I will. I'm already on the books for 27 gigs this year, so far. that # will probably increase a bit.  the biggest issue is my back. disc 1 - 4 are pretty jacked up ...  years of physical labor & motorcycles. just life I guess. 

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18 minutes ago, Karloff said:

yea, as long as I can, I will. I'm already on the books for 27 gigs this year, so far. that # will probably increase a bit.  the biggest issue is my back. disc 1 - 4 are pretty jacked up ...  years of physical labor & motorcycles. just life I guess. 

that sucks man,  I am lucky, 62 and pretty agile with no chronic issues like that.  My day will come, I'm pretty sure about that.  ~30 gigs is a lot for dinosaurs like me and you!! 🙂  we'll be doing good if we get 10...  In a trio just starting out, we're close to ready..  Drummer wants to gig every day, (also 62)  dude needs to calm the f down..  !LOL!

 

 

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4 hours ago, Notes_Norton said:

I like all kinds of music. If I wanted to be an "artist" I would probably go to jazz. I did that for a couple of years. The leader of the band taught jazz guitar at the University of Miami and also played for Ira Sullivan for a couple of years. Big stars came to sit in with us, people with chops so great they alternately either inspired me or made me want to give up 😉 But we worked on Sunday afternoons while I had that 'day gig' as a CATV field engineer.

 

 

 

 

The University of Miami has some outstanding names associated with it, as I'm sure you know... plenty of great guitarists- Jaco Pastorius, Pat Metheny, Hiram Bullock, Steve Morse... just to name a few, and all of those at the same time. Also other musicians: Grace Slick, Mark Egan, Ben Folds, Bruce Hornsby, Will Lee, Gloria Estefan, to name a few.

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My last outdoor gig in 2008 was pretty dangerous. We were setup in a pavilion on the Hilo Bay Front pulling lots of juice as I was using a Marshall AVT full stack going through a very large Mackie system, when a storm hit. The rain started coming down sideways on my side of the stage, in shock we kept playing and our audience was still standing there with no cover from the storm. Fortunately our engineer wasn't suffering the endorphins that we were and shut down the main power boxes.. Sometimes we go to extremes to play. The rain stopped we dried out, checked everything and about an hour later started playing again..

Edited by mihcmac

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17 hours ago, kidblast said:

that sucks man,  I am lucky, 62 and pretty agile with no chronic issues like that.  My day will come, I'm pretty sure about that.  ~30 gigs is a lot for dinosaurs like me and you!! 🙂  we'll be doing good if we get 10...  In a trio just starting out, we're close to ready..  Drummer wants to gig every day, (also 62)  dude needs to calm the f down..  !LOL!

 

 

lol,  drummers ...

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I realize gigging for a living is not for everyone. But there are some of us who have no choice. Being a musician is what I am, not what I do.

The up side is doing what I love and making a living at it. I'm free, I'm happy, and I love my life.

Downsides for some is schlepping the gear. Many people pay big bucks to go the the gym and lift heavy weights. I get paid for it (and as mentioned, play for free). The heaviest piece of gear ar my EV speakers. 40lbs each.

The biggest downside for me is being the band salesman, but I have so much business and referrals that I haven't made cold calls since the early 1990s.

A** hole other musicians, agents, and club owners. My partner has the same intense work ethics as I do so since I went duo, I haven't had the other musician problem. -- The agencies that acted unprofessionally to me are ones I won't work for any more. -- Club owners and managers who make the job less then fun I simply raise my price on. That way if the do hire me, I get paid for the hassle, but 99% of them won't pay the price. Fortunately I have the luxury of having loyal repeat clients. Some of them have been hiring us for over 25 years now.

You definitely don't get paid as much as some other professions. If I stayed in electronics I would have made more money. On the other hand many other jobs pay less. And what do we spend most of our money on? Enjoyment. I get that on the gig. I call all that a fair trade.

I made enough to pay off a mortgage in one of the best parts of town, and I've taken a vacation every year:  49 US states, Puerto Rico, St. Thomas, St. Croix & St John (USVI), more than half the Canadian provinces, 7 Mexican states, Bahama Islands, Bermuda Islands, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Saint-Martin/Sint Maarten, Jamaica, Cayman Islands, England, Scotland, Wales, Gibraltar, The Netherlands, Hungary, Spain, Italy, Morocco, Czech Republic, Austria, Australia, Russia, Japan and China (From the Great Wall down to Hong Kong). (Nicaragua, Japan and Russia were very short visits.) On the other hand I buy Dodge priced cars instead of Benz priced cars, only have enough instruments to gig with plus a spare, and I live modestly (midway between extravagantly and poorly).

There is more than one right way to go through life.

Continuing:

2.    Pace the audience. Play the right songs at the right time so the audience has the best possible time

Don't do set lists unless you are clairvoyant enough to know what the audience will need at any given time. Instead appoint one person to call the songs. That person has to watch the audience and look for cues. Are they looking tired? Perhaps a slow song. Are there ballroom or other dancers (look at their shoes) that might want to dance by won't fill the floor? Give them something before the slow song. Is the dance floor still full of energy? Give them more at an identical or faster tempo. Is the kitchen starting to serve food? Back off the volume and play gentle music. Do the patrons have those shirts with pointed yokes on? Play some country. Are they responding to a particular style or decade of music? Give them more. Did a style bomb? Don't do similar songs.

This list goes on and on and there is no way to cover everything here. You build your skills as you do it, learn from your bad calls and your good calls, and if you pay attention, eventually you will pace the majority of the audience playing the right songs at the right time. They will stay longer, talk to others including the person who hired you and also their friends, and they will come back to see you again.

If you want to make a living doing music and nothing but music, this skill is worth its weight in gold.

Insights and incites by Notes

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