Advice on playing for a living?

Problems, how to get them, favorite songs to play, groupies, funky bar owners, etc. NO names of clubs, please.

Advice on playing for a living?

Postby lorilu » Fri May 26, 2006 4:09 am

I was asking recently how to play out and stay out late and still survive the rest of the week. Now, after listening a bit to Grady I was wondering what others who play for a living or who make money playing would advise. As in, whether you need to be really versatile, how to approach clubs and owners, what do you need to present yourself, better to be a single act or what if you are a band. Etc., etc. I was saying this would definitely be a dream come true for me to be able to play for a living. I did talk to Walter and he spoke of the realities of the road and things being booked close together that you didn't have time to sleep but just drive. He mentioned unhealthy food, money for rooms and all kinds of stuff. Of course, I tried to think optimistically and after hearing what he said, I thought it would be great if you could really plan differently. Grady spoke of the business and money side and sounds like he has a lot to offer in terms of living the life and succeeding as do many others here do. Can't wait to hear about this. Thanks in advance!
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Postby grady » Fri May 26, 2006 4:31 am

Thanks LL,

I would say that the definite #1 rule is "Don't be Beggar !!"

Deliver your Press Kit, dress nicely, Speak very Mannerly, Thank them and walk off.
Don't call them unless they have asked you to.

If a place doesn't want you, just scratch them off your list.
Don't take it personally.
In fact, never take anything about this Business personally.

You're gonna meet a LOT of Buttholes.
It's a BIG part of the Business.
You're also gonna meet way too many "Bullshit Artists"

Always show up early and load up and split as soon as you're finished.
I don't hang around after gigs because it leaves the impression that you're "looking" for something other than money.

I take absolutely no chances of giving my Wife the impression that I'm cheating on her.
It takes 20 minutes for me to tear down and load up.
If I'm playing a gig from 8pm-11pm and it's 2 Hours away from home.
I'll be home between 1:30am-2:00am

If you miss a gig, have something on paper that explains "why".
Dr.s Excuse, Car Repair Bill,etc.

Never forget that when you play Music for a Living, it's all about the MONEY.
Bottom Line = MONEY !!

Free gigs for "Exposure" are fine when you're first starting out but, after that,, NO FREAKIN' WAY !!!!!!

I charge $150.00 plus expenses for a "free" gig.

Now, here's something that is a hard-fast rule for me but, not everyone will agree with me on this, and that's fine..............Beware the Blues Societies !!!!

In my experience, most Blues Societies are very "clique-ish" and are full of Egotistical,Self-stroking Eggsuckers.
They'll want you to play for free just to "work you in" with their clique and offer no guarantee of anything in the future.
Well, screw that.
I know where there's a PAYING gig right down the road at a Sports Bar or Restaraunt.
Blues Societies will send Invitation after Invitation wanting you to come play for such & such benefit or Fund-raiser or even,,,,,,a chance to play in the IBC in Memphis !!!!

Whoop-de- freakin'-Doo!!!!

Screw all that, if it don't pay, I don't play.......PERIOD !!!

and don't forget the most "tempting" piece of Bait that a lot of places and Blues Societies will offer you..........EXPOSURE !!!!
"If you come and play at this event, we can't offer you any money but, you'll get great EXPOSURE"

If I want "Exposure",, I'll run thru the street naked.

Now, I do realize that everyone is different and what works for me may not work for someone and vice-versa.

But, sticking to these set of rules is what has allowed me to thrive & survive in the Music Business.

Remember,,,,BEWARE of the BULLSHIT Artists !!!!
They're everywhere and most of them have had way too much to Drink
and they sleep alone......LOL !!!
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Postby lorilu » Fri May 26, 2006 5:04 am

Cool. And the point being for those who want to earn a living playing music not those who are glad to play for free just to play. I have not been happy when I did not feel I was not being paid fairly. My friend, said I should be happy just to play and that I had better think about why I was doing it. Making a living for 15 years as an artist has changed the way I feel as there are so many people willing to exploit others love for what they do. When you think about how much work and money spent on equipment, practice time, travelling that goes into all of it.
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Postby grady » Fri May 26, 2006 5:18 am

That's EXACTLY right LL.

Too much Money and time invested in Gear & Practicing to just give your Music away for free.
Some Club Owners and Blues Societies think you should feel "privileged" just to be able to play in their Establishment.

I say "Phooey" on that.

Whenever I'm approached by someone who offers me a "free" gig, I laugh and tell them exactly what I think of their "free" gig.

I always say something to the effect of,
"Now why in the World would I want to come to your Event and play a "free" gig when I could be at home watching a Baseball game or playing with my kid??"

They always look at me like I just pissed in their Breakfast cereal and I just laugh.

I never played anywhere that I liked better than sitting in my Living Room playing Video Games or watching movies with my Son.
If I'm not getting paid to play, I've got a HUGE list of things that are way more important to me that I could be doing.

Hell, I'd rather be sitting at Home during a Thunderstorm with no Electricity than to be playing at Madison Square Garden,Radio City Music Hall,the Hollywood Bowl or anywhere for free.

There's been times when I've arrived at a gig and learned that there's a great Minor League BaseBall game, Hockey Game or even a cool Softball game going on and I alwats wish I were there instead of playing a gig.

But, that's just me and my priorities.

and to be honest with you, if I were to quit playing Music for a living tomorrow, I wouldn't be a bit upset about it.
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Postby ricochet » Fri May 26, 2006 3:36 pm

Hey Grady, you could always show 'em the "Southern Exposure."
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Postby lorilu » Fri May 26, 2006 5:00 pm

Let me just ask you this. You have mentioned giving up playing for a living before and that it wouldn't bother you, why? It would help me to know as I am trying to head into playing for a living.
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Postby watertore » Fri May 26, 2006 5:35 pm

Hi LoriLu: I made my living at music from the age of 15-40. There will be a lot of people sharing their way of doing it, but there is no right or wrong way. It all has to do with following your heart. You will have to do this, and it will take on a journey that is out of your control.

Here is my story in brief:

Playing harp on the street corner, wilbert Harrison (kansas city hit in the 50's) picked me up in his caddy

played with him, learned the 1man band, met louisiana red, moved in with him

played the nyc blues scene for a few years, backing up the old bluesmen like lightning hopkins, champion jack dupree.....

always had my own band on the side, playing NJ working class bars.

moved to ohio, played in the Athens area, with no one in particular except Robert Jr Lockwood.

It wasn't enough stuff there for me, moved to Pheonix AZ, played around there a bit, still not enough

moved to SF, played with the bay area blues guys like sonny rhodes, lowell fulsom, troyce keys, jj malone, mark naftlin, etc, and formed my own band up in the north bay.

while backing johnny b good at the deluxe inn, in oakland, the guitar god of scandinavia heard me, and brought me over to norwary for a tour. Lived there for about 6 months, then moved to brussels belgium for 3 years, and played throughout europe and scandinavia

then moved back to nyc, and couldn't get a gig

moved to houston tx, on the recc of lightning. The scene there was not the same. He had passed.

moved to austin, tx, and spent 12 years there. It was great.

tired of tx heat, and moved up here to santa rosa.

within all this moving, my wife and I have had over 35 residences, in 3 countries, in the past 30 years.

during my playing for a living days, I did 300-330 shows a year, traveled all over, was broke all the time, never owned a home( a death sentence because you are stuck), stranded too many times to count, saw very little of my wife because I was traveling so much, was tired most of the time, had no health insurance, owned just 1 guitar, amp, harps, and my suits, went through over 200 drummers, and a dozen bass players, had many offers to stop sponotbeat and become a "name", said no to them all, including doing the color of money soundtrack with robbie robertson/eric clapton, had some of the best musicians in the world in my band, played with lots of the blues greats, got to see the world, meet very interesting people, came out of the whole experience in debt, and loved every minute!!!!

now that I don't play for a living, we own a home, have health insurance, all the guitars I want, my own recording studio, 3 vehicles........

Would I change anything? Not on your life. My adventure is still unfolding. We are moving again..........
I was never one to think worldly. I follow my heart-follow yours and you will always be making it! Walter

http://www.soundclick.com/bands/pageart ... dID=157137
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Postby bluesrules » Fri May 26, 2006 6:46 pm

Just another point of view on playing for free. If you've got a good show and a good CD to sell you can make good cash selling said CD(s). Often times better than the roadhouse gig down the street. It's not guaranteed but neither is playing for the door and that is not uncommon.

One thing I've learned over the years is that there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to playing music for a living.

I don't do it for a living any longer but I do suppliment my income with it.

Mark,
http://www.gryffyn.net
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Postby grady » Fri May 26, 2006 7:32 pm

lorilu wrote:Let me just ask you this. You have mentioned giving up playing for a living before and that it wouldn't bother you, why? It would help me to know as I am trying to head into playing for a living.


Well, at this point in my Life (39 years old on June 9) I have everything I ever wanted.
House is paid for, so are the Cars,etc.
I've done everything I ever wanted to do.
I've been way more successful with my Music than I ever thought I would be and like Walter, I have enough Music gear for 3 people, Health Insurance and everything else a Person needs.

But, this is what it all boils down to, I would rather spend my time with my Son than out playing 2-4 gigs a week.

These are the best years of my Life.
I know a lot of people feel differently when they're approaching 40 years old but, I'm loving it.
This is EXACTLY where I always wanted to be.
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Postby watertore » Fri May 26, 2006 7:37 pm

lorilu wrote:Let me just ask you this. You have mentioned giving up playing for a living before and that it wouldn't bother you, why? It would help me to know as I am trying to head into playing for a living.


Here is my take. You give your heart and soul, and get stomped a good part of the time. Let it be bad pay, bad audience, deals for recording, touring that fall through, constantly broke, traveling around in poverty level accomodaitions/vehicles, being lied to almost everynight by somebody who is going to make you a star, not fitting in the established cliches, living your entire life for a few hours on stage, trouble maintaining a mate because of travel/lifestyle/$, moving all the time-you never fit in because you will be gone before you know it, traveling with a band in unbelivably tight quaters, getting into $ issues with bandmates, being dumped by a band/label/booking agent regularly with no explanation even though the day before everything was fine, eating crummy road food, getting sick on the road(the worst thing), jet lag, struggling to communicate with different cultures as travel different countries, seeing drunks and drug addicts and generally maladjusted people everynight, getting ripped off while on the road by clubs-you can't do much other than beat it out of them and then you are blackballed, breakdowns with no $, stranded in forgien countries with no ticket home, and the list goes on.

People that have dabled with making a living at music, and really haven't encountered the above, day after day, for decades, really don't know the real deal. These things I mentioned happened to no name me, and many of the greats I played with, regularly. I remember playing with albert collins, at rockefellers, in houston, tx. He had just won the grammy award, and after the gig (rockefellers is a high end club), the owner, coked out of his mind, gave albert $600 instead of 2,000. He also said the hotel was canceled. I wanted to beat it out of him, but albert took me aside, and told me this happens a lot, and there is nothing to do about it. If he did, he would be blackballed. that night the band slept in his 1950ish funky bus, and ate sardines. Several of the band members were in their 60's. Clifford antone, the blues guru of texas, did the same stuff. I lived with luther Tucker in belguim and texas. He got deported from belguim because he had no work permit. I had none either for the time I lived there. The stress of not having one, was the reason we returned to the states. If I was legal, I would never had left. Luther was put in a rat infested, non airconditioned apt, with just a matress on the floor. These were the accomodations clifford gave luther, when he hired him to be the blues legend in residence, at antones. Luther lasted a month or so, and packed up his funky vw bus, and drove back to california, with barely gas money. Walter

You want to hear more????? But, like I said, it was a great trip to be able to do what I did. Now, if you are going to play the current pop hits, you can buy a home, play local clubs/parties/weddings/corporate events/beach boy like summer festivals,, and the odds of making a living at it, are a zillion times higher than being a famous bluesman.

Oh, and if you are a sideman, be prepared to be fired at anytime, and more likely than not, when the band get signed to a established label. Many record industry people like to do this. Then they got you all alone, and nobody who knows you will play with you, and they get to pick and choose what you play, and who you play it with. I am talking blues labels as well as pop labels. Then you watch them drive off, and you go look for another gig, in a dive, playing for pennies, and look in the help wanted adds for a day job.
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Postby bluesrules » Fri May 26, 2006 8:18 pm

Here is my take. You give your heart and soul, and get stomped a good part of the time. Let it be bad pay, bad audience, deals for recording, touring that fall through, constantly broke, traveling around in poverty level accomodaitions/vehicles, being lied to almost everynight by somebody who is going to make you a star, not fitting in the established cliches, living your entire life for a few hours on stage, trouble maintaining a mate because of travel/lifestyle/$, moving all the time-you never fit in because you will be gone before you know it, traveling with a band in unbelivably tight quaters, getting into $ issues with bandmates, being dumped by a band/label/booking agent regularly with no explanation even though the day before everything was fine, eating crummy road food, getting sick on the road(the worst thing), jet lag, struggling to communicate with different cultures as travel different countries, seeing drunks and drug addicts and generally maladjusted people everynight, getting ripped off while on the road by clubs-you can't do much other than beat it out of them and then you are blackballed, breakdowns with no $, stranded in forgien countries with no ticket home, and the list goes on.


Amen.
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Postby lorilu » Fri May 26, 2006 8:27 pm

I appreciate you so much, Walter. You are a gem. After all you have been through you are still such an awesome and kind hearted person. And you have the youthful spirit of a very old soul if that makes sense to you. Once a wanderer, always a wanderer. I will follow my heart. That is good advice. I DO find it hard to do anything else.

This is really interesting to hear of people's experiences. There are sure a lot of crooked shittty people in the music business. It is weird how some people show no respect for the hard work and love and pain that an artist puts in to their work. Maybe a lot of the downhill path so many musicians and artists take is due to the environment and lack of respect. Maybe that will change someday. I wonder what it would take.
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Postby grady » Fri May 26, 2006 8:33 pm

My take is different than Walter's is.

I'm far from broke at this point.
I make damn good money.

I don't have the hassles of deals falling thru either.
In fact, nothing in Walter's latest post applies to me or my situation.

I stay heavily booked and every gig pays well.

I'm just tired of playing Music, plain & simple.
I just wanna have fun and hang out with my Kid.

This latest thing with my Elbow and left hand is aggravating me too.
I'm probably going to end up having Surgery on it.
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Postby stratman_27 » Sat May 27, 2006 11:20 am

Now let me start by saying that I never tried to make a living as a musician but my band back in the early 90's did some minor touring during the summers. Looking back we were treated good by some club owners and like dogs by others. We traveled in a car and a van and several nights that car and van was our hotel room in some state park or rest area. All in all by the end of the summer my band mates and I had made exactly nothing but memories but we had a great time overall. Would I do it again? If I were single and had no children, maybe. In my current situation no way. I don't want to discourage anyone from trying to make a living doing what they love but try to be realistic about it. Music is a passion for me and I love to play when I can but if your trying to make a living at it you must also be a wise business person about it . If your in "Business" your in business to make money. Whether its the music business or any other that is the bottom line. These days I don't want to ruin the fun and passion of playing music by turning it into a "job" If I have weekend gigs great if I don't the boys and I will fish. Anyone that would want to put me and my band on the road better have deep pockets and a ton of upfront money to make me quit my day job. Most of you that have been in the music biz know very well that doesn't happen unless your a pop star with gold records so I'm content with where I am.

Follow your heart LoriLu but don't let your passions empty your wallet.
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Postby lorilu » Sat May 27, 2006 2:59 pm

Thanks, Stratman, but my wallet's already quite empty. I really appreciate all the experience you share. And you are right. I have worked as an artist doing what I can for the past 15 years and have always lived hand to mouth. I think I have been blessed to be where I am right now, with a place to live and a running vehicle as that has not always been the case. I know no other way. One thing I don't want to ever do is ruin the passion I have for music by turning it into a job. I just don't know...
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