Today I’m going to be sharing my top ten tips for musicians. I’ve picked these up from many years of touring, as well as working in the music education and management industries, so I’d like to think this is some pretty sage advice. Let’s get into it!
TIP #1: Learn to Drive
Being able to drive is an incredibly valuable tool for a musician. You need to be able to get to gigs! Public transport isn’t always reliable, and once you can drive you’ll find that you’re a whole lot more employable. Quite often in conversations with bands and artists, they’ll say to me “if I get the gigs, I’ll get a car / learn to drive”. Nope – it’s the other way round! If you can drive, you’re making yourself more valuable, so you’ll get the gigs.
TIP #2: Learn how to Set up a PA and do Sound
Being able to get a good sound, no matter what venue you’re playing in, is so crucial. If you’re just passing that responsibility along to someone else, eventually you’re going to turn up to a gig where no one is that great at it, and then you’re going to come unstuck. This stuff is not that hard to learn! Some time spent on YouTube and fiddling around with the mixer in rehearsal rooms will make all the difference – and I promise that in turn it’ll make a huge, huge difference to your music career.
TIP #3: Get Good at Gigging
I see so many people who put a lot of time and effort into rehearsing, into their social media, but not into gigging. And it’s easy to tell apart the bands who are actively trying to be great at playing gigs, not just great at playing. For the first few years of your music career, if you’re not gigging 2, 3, 4 times a week, you need to be asking why. It might mean playing for free, or at open mics or jam nights, but the gigs are always out there if you look for them!
TIP #4: Time
Organising and maximising your time is hugely important for a musician. You need to make sure you’re being punctual and professional. It is truly amazing the amount of times I have had a meeting, a rehearsal, or a gig, and the band have turned up late enough to make a bad impression. We’ve all got phones with alarms, reminders, maps – there’s no excuse! Plus, it also means you’re losing out on valuable time you could be spending on your music.
TIP #5: Learn Songs Until you Cannot Play Them Wrong
If you’re going to learn a song, you shouldn’t be learning it roughly, you should be learning it exactly. You should be able to play it in your sleep. Go through every detail with a fine tooth comb and make sure you have it all memorised so at gigs, auditions, etc. you can prove just how good you are.
TIP #6: Learn a Second Instrument
And preferably a third! You don’t have to perfect it, but you should know enough to be able to step in if needed. I also believe if you want to be as employable as you can be, you should be able to sing and not be afraid to get involved with either backing or lead vocals. I spent ten years as a bass player and after getting frustrated with one too many singers, me and my best mate decided to lock ourselves in a rehearsal room a couple of times a week and really persevere with our singing. Once we got to the point that we could cover vocals not just for practicing but for gigs too, our lives became so much easier!
TIP #7: Conquer your Town or City
You need to be the go-to musician where you live. If someone asks anyone to recommend a guitarist/ bassist/ drummer/ whatever you are, you need to be the person they think of! This is an art form, but it starts with being visible – be at every gig you can be at, be on stage as much as you can, get good at networking, say yes to everything.
TIP #8: Take YouTube Seriously
Are you taking YouTube seriously? No, but really? Posting once every month, every few months, isn’t taking it seriously. YouTube is a platform that people will use to hunt you down and learn about you. So take advantage of it! Put yourself out there – music, covers, live performances, vlogs – let people know who you are and what you do.
TIP #9: Move
Okay, this one’s a big one, and it might sound harsh. But, if you live somewhere where the music scene is not that great, you’re hampering your career if you’re not trying to get somewhere with more opportunities. It’s obviously a huge sacrifice, but if you’re serious about this, then it’s one you might have to make.
TIP #10: Don’t be a Dick
This might just be the most important one on this list. The thing that has got me more gigs than anything else is not only not being a dick, but actually going out of my way to help people – whether it’s carrying equipment, driving, helping to set up or pack up. Playing is the easiest (and most enjoyable) part of the job – it’s all the other stuff that you’re really getting paid for. It makes other peoples lives easier – if you do it well, you’ll make a good impression, and you’ll increase your chances of getting to play again.
Speaking of going the extra mile, here’s a bonus tip:
Be Ready at all Times
If you’re the person who jumps in when someone bails / gets sick / ghosts at the last minute, you’re going to gain some brownie points and be owed a huge favour. Ask for people’s set lists, learn them, and be ready to jump on any gig when you’re needed, and you’ll see more opportunities come knocking at your door.
Let me know what your number one tip for musicians would be in the comments below!