music career tips

Shut yer pie hole: music career tips for the independent musician

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Just like any other job, being a musician requires you to handle your employers with respect and dignity. Since a lot of independent musicians don’t have a manager advising them, here are some simple music career tips to put you in the right direction.

Enjoying life as a full-time musician offers all kind of wonderful perks. What other occupation is there where you can earn a living simply telling people how you feel? Even if you aren’t feeling too good, there are songs for that and people will pay to hear them. And how many jobs hinge on one day in the office? In music, one great gig can change the trajectory of your music career, and perhaps even life itself.

OK… maybe that’s fantasy. Let’s get back to reality. Being a musician is a responsibility just like any other job and requires that you handle your employers with respect and dignity. Since a lot of independent musicians don’t have a manager hanging over their shoulders advising them with what to do and what NOT to do, we’re often left to our own judgement. Sometimes annoying a booking agent, fellow musicians, or your audience can have a serious negative impact which can affect your future work. Here are a few music career tips to help you avoid dismantling your career while keeping everyone alive.

1.­ Wait for your turn at sound check (AKA shut yer pie hole)

This rule applies to live performances as well as in the recording studio, so pay attention. Please, switch your amp off and stop playing while your fellow band members are given the OK from the sound engineer to try out their gear at sound check. You’ll get your turn, just be patient. The list of things you can do to improve your sound check and avoid annoying the soundman is long and worth doing. This is the person who at the flick of a wrist can make you sound like Nickleback, after all. I know! I’ve been there. Be accommodating and remember a house soundman deals with countless bands, many of whom are demanding and obnoxious. They’ll appreciate the professionalism a lot more than you think.

2. KISS (not the band – the acronym)

When performing, keep it simple (stupid). Remember, the song comes first. Overplaying never did any good for anybody. Keep it simple and shine when the music calls for it. You might think everyone is in awe of your abilities, but how many shows have you seen where you’re thinking, “Good band, but that drummer really tired me out.” Don’t be that band.

3. Avoid that awkward silence

How many of you out there face that awkward silence between songs at every gig hoping your singer will pick up the courage, magically channel Freddy Mercury, and have the audience eating out of his or her hands? Well let’s not blame the vocalist just yet. Fronting a band can be scarily tough to do right, which typically takes years of experience and trial and error. Why not make it easy on yourselves and rehearse what to do in between songs? If you have something to say, get it right before the show. If you don’t, figure out better ways of connecting musically with your audience. It makes you look more professional if everyone works together. With time and practice, the front man’s confidence will get there.

4. Be considerate

Here’s one based on a true story. My brother got a call a month in advance to play a gig as a replacement drummer – some pub thing, nothing major. On the day of the show, he was informed by the band that they didn’t need a replacement after all as their drummer could suddenly make the gig. Not cool at all! My brother could have booked another gig had he known, and it’s just plain inconsiderate. Just as you would expect to stay booked with your own gig, the same applies double to anyone going out of their way to assist you. Treat them badly, and they may not ever want to help you out again.

5. Always play like your music career depends on it

We’ve all been there, playing a gig to the bartender and the drunk guy in the corner who may actually be in a coma. Advice? Have fun with it, but be professional and put on a good show! Got a bartender? Then you’ve got an audience­. Remember, he’s a person, too and can just as easily recommend your band to friends and colleagues just like everybody else. And that guy in the corner could be connected. And who knows who might walk in in the middle of your set? As a music patron, would you want to barge into a bunch of musicians complaining to each other that no one came to their show? Remember, there are microphones, we can hear you. Just play! The worst thing that could happen is you get a round of shots from the waiter requesting a song or two. If the bartender’s gone, then, yeah, you’ve got problems…

This post originally appeared on Kwaver’s blog. Reposted with permission.

Kwaver is a music collaboration app that allows artists to create and jam using only their phone. Jimmy Bartolo is Kwaver’s voice for our community of musicians. He juggles between fretboard and keyboard and is the one reaching out to our users to improve our app or for a quick jam.

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