Top 10 Things Every Serious Musician Needs to Have
To be clear you can have ZERO things mentioned on this list and still be a highly skilled or beast of musician but how bad do you want to get to that next level? Take a look at the list below and ask yourself what do you need to re-evaluate. Now this checklist is not for the new comers to the world of music but more so for the seasoned musicians. How do you stack up?
So you have been playing in a band, in church or have been on multiple gigs as a mercenary musician but now you get the call that you have been waiting for, someone wants to put you on to a major gig. You know all the music and as a matter of fact it was your friend that suggested this gig to you everything looks great but then the manager tells you the first tour date is overseas. Guess what you just get passed on because the artists does not have the 3 months you need to wait for you to get your passport. This is one of the easiest items on this checklist that you can knock off and guess what your passport would be good for 10 years!
2. Own a vehicle
How can owning a vehicle be a necessity for being a serious musician? This is the exact type of question that someone who does not own a vehicle asks, it truly is. Trust us fellow car having musicians when we tell you that NO ONE likes having to go out of their way to pick you up, perhaps you non car having self realizes this. If you got called for 6 gig this month I can guarantee that you missed out on at least 4 gigs because you do not have any wheels. Do not let factors that have nothing to do with your ability to play determine whether or not you get called for opportunities. Again this how comfortable are you with the fact that if the only way that you can get to a rehearsal or a gig is by relying on someone else? Now one thing is needing a ride to the gig a whole separate topic is showing coming out late for your ride that is there to pick you up. In all honestly you should get paid less for the gig if 1) you need a ride and 2) If you are late or take super long to come out and get into said ride. This can be a whole other topic but we do address this character issue later on in this article. If you do not think this is a big deal congrats you are probably a gifted musician or have the fortune of being naive and not caring but once you get your own wheels the world of opportunity will open up to you and its amazing.
3. Own full gear
If you are confused by this topic, my friend you probably do not own full gear. How can you know what your true sound is that is unique to you if where ever you go or play its on some else gear? The same way how you can tell the difference between the voice of Marvin Gaye and Al Green you should be able to have a sound that is distinct beyond technical skill. You will take your musicianship to the next level when you invest in your sound. A guitarist should own a practice amp, pedals if that is their twist and gear for a the road. A bass player should own a bass cabinet and have a bass head, drummers should own a full drum set and so forth.
4. Paid gigs
Know your worth, when people take you serious they pay you for your time. You should know the worth of your ability be able to command it as a price and receive it. One thing is saying that you only play for $300 a Sunday as a musician plus $50 each rehearsal but do you actually get that in compensation? Did you ever get that in compensation? Do you even get paid for your gigs and if so to what ratio?
5. Audio resume
So you get paid gigs, great gear, own a car, got a passport all that fun stuff but if someone that wanted to hear you play to get a sense of your style without auditioning can you produce? Do you have any instrumentals of you in your elements where its not you playing on someone else's album? I want to hear how you solo, play funk, R&B, rock, latin can you send me a file in 30min with those different stylings? If not time to bust out GarageBand and get the recording.
6. Social media presence
How would you research an artist that has asked you to play for them? Most people will get there google finger out and try to see if they have some clips on YouTube, how many Instagram and Twitter followers...etc. What does your social media presence say about you? If one were to view your social media feed including Facebook would they know that you are a musician? Of course everyone loves selfies or sharing with the world how great their meal is from their favorite restaurant but if you are a serious musician producer or artist your social media is your resume, keep it clean and keep it relevant.
7. Own/Play multiple instruments
This is a really easy one. Take your biggest influence and I guarantee they not only own more than one instrument they also reference and listen to instruments beyond their primary one to shape and mold their sound. In my experience the top tier musicians play multiple instruments, not saying that you need to be on the level of Prince but if you are a bass player at minimum you should learn keys to play key bass, a drummers should learn percussion, a keyboard player that can also play the organ (which is not as easy as one would think #notranspose).
8. Musician friends
You would be surprised how many musician can not piece together their own band for a gig. Imagine an artist or contact requests you to perform but would pay you to out a house band together, who do you call? If you do not have the back up to the back up you need to really get out more. You can have all the skill in the world but if the majority of the musicians that you hang around just so happens to be via YouTube video clips you are seriously limiting yourself despite how great your guitar sweeping technique has become.
9. Reading skills
The majority of musicians have the ability to play by ear but you will never fully master your instrument until you learn how to read. Learning how to read will get you out of a tight jam when you have to learn multiple songs. Imagine being an actor where the only way you can learn your lines is by someone else reading them to you and you have to remember verbatim what was said with all the breaks and transitions. That would be pretty difficult right? It would be way easier to be able to read the lines, practice and then commit to memory. Now imagine to have the safety net that if you forget a line all you have to do is look up a see the cue cards to get you back on track. That same concept applies to being able to read music, if you forget the starting the key, a break, a certain riff all you have to do is just look up and read the "cue cards". Beyond the obvious being able to read will allow you to get even more gigs! Want to play a steady gig where they consistently switch up the music, my friend you need to learn how to read.
In closing it does not matter if you have a passport, car, gear, play multiple instruments if you have poor character you will go no where. Anyone can play a few notes but once the gig is over are you pleasant to be around? Yeah it may be cool to be the guy that like to get wasted for some reason but if someone is looking for a musician to be in their touring band do you turn into a liability? Can you be trusted? Are you one of those musicians that comes late to everything? Even for the ride that is picking you up? Please believe that this does not go unnoticed and there have been plenty of gigs that you were not even considered for because of your character. If you ever see someone on stage and think that they are "corny" or you play better than they do, there is nothing wrong with a little competitiveness but you should check yourself because it might not be you because of how you carry yourself. Major touring musicians will tell you that a character will carry you way further than skill in this music business. Unless you are a music prodigy and even if you arent there is always someone that is technically better than you on your instrument. The difference is if you can hone in on the uniqueness that makes you be you it can be replicated and that is what will sell.