Ever wonder why you’re not getting the gigs you want?
Or you’re not staying with the project for very long before they’ve “decided to go in another direction”?
Wonder why some cats are getting the gigs you dream of, and are able to keep them for years — even decades?
The answer is probably simpler than you think.
The truth is, there are a million people that are groovier, faster, skinnier, better looking, yada yada yada…but none of that stuff really helps you keep the gig.
On the whole, most up and coming musicians focus too much on the wrong things and not enough on the right things.
5 Reasons You’re Not Getting (or Keeping) the Gig
1. You live in Chops City.
Sure, you need to be able to play at a certain level – let’s assume that’s a given. But that level is probably a lower bar than you might think.
A lot of great players spend time perfecting that last 5% of their playing, shedding for hours on the latest flashy tricks they saw on YouTube.
The truth is, a band leader and/or musical director wants you to make THEM look good, and play for the song.
Sounds obvious, but on most gigs, you probably won’t use 99% of your chops (if you’re doing it right.) Sure, when it’s time to shine, let loose — but know when to hold ’em. Lock in a groove and stay out of the way. If you’re using all those flashy licks on stage, chances are you’re not keeping the gig.
Doesn’t matter what instrument you play: Drums? Play along to some old Parliament records. Guitar? Work on your blues chords. Bass? Try some Reggae. Keys? Jerry Lee Lewis.
Learn to play to a click. Learn to be disciplined enough to stay out of the way and support the band.
And most of all, focus on #2 – 5 on this list at least as much as you practice (if not more.)
2. You Don’t Think Like a Business Person
It’s called the “Music Business” for a reason. Don’t neglect the “Business” part.
Answer calls and reply to texts and emails promptly. Even if you’re unavailable, a quick “I’m booked that day, but I appreciate you reaching out. I hope you’ll keep me in mind for your next opening” goes a long way. Watch the typos. Know your audience.
Spend some time on your personal “brand”. Sure, sounds cliche these days, but it matters. Be careful what you post online. Have a professional designer make you a cool logo, and have them design some cool business cards you can hand out when it’s appropriate. Consider a 1-page portfolio website with some basic info, tracks you’ve recorded, bands you’re gigging with, photos, etc. so you look pro.
3. You Only Know Your Tiny World.
Step outside of your comfort zone here.
For instance, if you’re a drummer, stop hanging out with drummers exclusively. Make friends with bass players, guitarists, and singers — those are the people who will hire you and recommend you, after all. Learn a little music theory so you can have a conversation about key, chord changes, etc.
Learn how to maintain and TUNE your instrument properly.
Learn a little about how the booking process works. Learn about branding and marketing. Learn a little about copyright law and other music-related legal stuff. Learn about merch and sales. Learn how to balance your bank account, pay bills on time, and file taxes.
Make yourself a part of the larger team and a more valuable part of the organization.
4. You’re Just Not Consistent.
Always be consistent.
Your “brand” is what people say about you when you’re not in the room. For that reason, you need to level up, AND you need to do so consistently. Band leaders, tour managers…hell, any boss wants to know exactly what they’re getting, and will bet on you if they can make a safe bet if they know what they’re getting.
Make sure you look and act professional in every aspect. Take care of your gear, your body, wear the right stuff on stage so you look professional. Carry yourself with confidence without being an ass.
Be there on time or early, every time. Return every call. Return every email and text. Learn your tunes and come to rehearsal over-prepared. Keep the pre- and post-show partying to a reasonable level (read the room.)
5. You’re Not a Good Hang.
This is a tough one, but true. If you’re in a touring band, you spend the VAST majority of your time in the van or bus, backstage, or just generally hanging around. That means a lot of time to be annoying or to be a good hang.
There’s a ton of down time. At a certain level, it’s expected that you can cut the gig playing-wise without question. It’s the guys who are genuinely good people, and who are an all-around good hang, who keep the gig long-term.
Be present (not buried in your phone), hold a conversation. Learn when to shut up. Learn to read the room. Learn how to tell a good joke. Pick up after yourself. Use deodorant. Don’t make anyone else’s life more difficult. Be cool. Be genuine.
Consider these things when you’re wondering why you’re not keeping the gig.
Hopefully this was what you needed to hear. (Maybe not wanted to hear, but needed to hear.)
Either way, we want to know — so share your thoughts below.