It happens over and over again. “How cool!”, “Wow, it’s awesome that you’re in a band.”, “You’re so lucky to get to do what you love.” These are all statements made by friends, relatives, and acquaintances. And honestly, they’re spot on. It is cool and awesome. It is fortunate that we get to play music professionally. And for that, we are so grateful. However, before you start thinking this is the “Life of Riley”, there are some sides of this life you may not know about.
When the idea pops into your head to start a band, it’s all great. You know that there will always be issues to deal with, but they seem so small in comparison to the rewards. You’ve been a professional musician for most of your life and you know how to work around any obstacle. “Besides, the guys I’ll be working with are just great. They’ll help out.” – that’s what you tell yourself. And truthfully, they do jump in and help as much as possible. But any time you deal with musicians and schedules, there will be conflicts. In reality, trying to keep a great band on the same schedule is like herding cats on a daily basis.
When a booking inquiry comes in, your juggling career starts anew. You must balance between seizing the opportunity and working around the other members’ schedules. Most musicians play with multiple bands these days. So, immediately after conversing with the potential client you must contact all members. Or, you can do as we do and have a central online calendar where everyone posts the dates which are already booked for them. As handy as this tool is, it doesn’t solve all the issues.
Fast forward to the point where the client hires the band. You’re looking at the calendar and one or two of your members are already booked for the same day or night of the gig. Now comes the scramble to find replacements. It’s not that you don’t know great players, it’s that everyone is already booked. And the cycle continues…
Another thing which always comes into play is dealing with differences within the band. This includes personalities, opinions on who should sing what songs, what new songs should be included in set lists, and much more. Most of the time, everyone will agree to do what’s best for the band. This is the healthiest attitude and the one shared by most upper level professionals. However, there are those rare occasions when conflicts will arise. In times like these, one must take emotions out of the equation and try to see all sides objectively. The most important thing is to reach resolution as soon as possible and to keep moving forward.
Being a professional musician requires having a thick skin while also being sensitive to others. This business is a full contact sport and you can take a hit at any moment. You have to remain businesslike at all times and be courteous, even when others don’t show the same respect for you. Remember, this is the music business, not the music friendship.
Being a professional musician is a great thing. Believe it or not, it’s actually hard work. That said, the rewards are there. Imagine the pleasure of providing music for someone’s wedding day and helping make it even more special. Or playing an important corporate event and watching a company’s employees get to let loose. These are the times that make all the hard work worth it. These are the rewards!