You lay in bed. It’s past midnight. You can’t sleep but you must; you have to get up early to go to that job you don’t want to do, to be able to finance the thing you really want to do: Music. It occurs to you (not for the first time), that even though your playing skills are good enough (or are they?), somehow your career is not where you think it should be. That scenario, or something very much like it, is something that every musician I’ve ever talked to went through at least once in his or her life. Self-doubt is something that follows most of us throughout our whole careers, so get used to it! But let’s have a look at your situation. Let’s sit down and make a list. I love “list making”; it simplifies things. It makes hills out of unclimbable mountains. But, before you carry on reading, let’s quickly check if you should even bother: Which of the following statements describes you best? I want to make music because:
A) I want the girls (or boys) to think I’m cool
B) Learning how to rollerblade well enough to impress anyone takes way too much time
C) I have to. It’s the only thing that makes me happy
D) I’ve tried cooking but I managed to burn the water
If your answer is A or C, carry on! If your answer is B or D, carry on anyway, who am I to judge your motives.
OK, list making! I call our list “Shopping List For Things You Need To Have To Be A Successful Musician”.
- 5 pounds of determination. You have to want this so bad, you literally spend every free minute practising your instrument or listening to music. Your friends are going to the pub at 1pm, you tell them you’ll get there at 4pm ’cause you want the extra three hours to play that new groove you’ve been messing around with. You miss the only victory of your local football team this season because you had to go see that guitar player everybody was talking about. You get invited to your aunt’s 70th birthday… Sorry, can’t get out of this one!
- 1 large bag of likability. There are a lot of good musicians out there! The thing is, some of them have, shall we say, a bit of an ego problem. Have you ever worked with people who think the solar system, wait, the UNIVERSE revolves around them. Very annoying and tiring! If you had the choice between working with a good musician who is rude and is not making you feel good, or someone who is as good a musician but also fun to be with, which one would you hire? So work on your people skills, it will pay off!
- 1 car. Be it your own, a car club or your mom’s she never uses on the weekends, you need to be able to get to gigs and back home. Don’t be the “I need someone to give me a lift” guy/girl!
- 1 good (looking) instrument. While your spray painted drum kit (various colours and anarchy signs, yeah!) would be an excellent choice for a punk band, don’t bring it to a function gig… Will the guys in said punk band give you a hard time if you showed up with a good looking plain black drum kit with shiny hardware? Maybe. Would the bandleader of the function band give you a hard time if you brought the anarchy kit to the gig? Definitely! You’ll probably be leaving early, wearing the bass drum on your way home. Of course, all your instruments have to sound great too!
- 1 handful of visibility. People need to hear and hang out with you before they hire you. Go to that jam session, in fact, go to as many jam sessions as you can!
It all really comes down to common sense. If you were a bandleader or a producer, what qualities would you look for in a musician? Be that musician and all will be well!
Now, turn off the lights and dream about all those amazing gigs you’ll get!
For questions, comments or anything else: tweet to @rothdrums