Last night’s 84th Annual Oscars paid tribute to the best of the best of the past year’s big screen efforts – and, of course, the music involved. Out of the two music categories, The Artist won for Best Original Score, and Bret McKenzie’s “Man or Muppet” won for Best Original Song.
So what can the Oscars, more prominently known for recognizing great films, actors and directors, teach the modern day musician? Lucky for you, as a musician there are several different paths to take. Whether you see yourself on lead guitar, behind the scenes in the recording studio, as concertmaster in the Philharmonic Orchestra, or penning an Oscar-winning film score, a passion for music can take you to many different careers.
For most, freelance work is part of the journey at some point. It’s a great way to establish a network, get your name out there and earn some extra cash. If you’re just getting started, check out these great tips from Ultimate-Guitar.com about surviving as a freelance musician:
1. At least in the beginning, you will need a day job: This is the part that nobody likes, but you will most likely not be able to support yourself by playing music alone. The thing about the music business is that it really is all about who you know. It’s such a tight-knit, close community, and a lot of your credibility will come from people you know and recommendations from your peers and other clients. When you’re first starting out, you have none of that credit, and may not be called about very many gigs. You may have to solicit yourself to play for things, not the other way around.
2. Make yourself marketable: As odd as it sounds, you are a product that your clients have to buy. Just like an advertising campaign makes a certain product stick in the minds of consumers, you have to work to stick in the minds of your potential clients. And the best way to do that is not through crazy costumes and ridiculous stage antics. Make business cards (you can do this at home with Microsoft Office and other programs) and hand them out any time you have a gig. That way, your name will always be available when people ask for a guitarist. Make sure people know that you’re available and willing to play gigs. Be polite, be reliable and work hard.
3. Professionalism, professionalism, professionalism!: This may be the most important aspect that will help your career. Just like with any other job, you will not be hired again if you make the experience an unpleasant one for your employer, nor will you be recommended for any other job. But make it a happy, comfortable experience, and you have a shot at more gigs. Always be on time, always have everything you’ll need for that day of playing, and always have your parts learned. If for some reason there is a part you can’t play at the first rehearsal, make sure that it’s flawless by the next rehearsal. Take criticism, don’t ever lose your temper, and always be the kind of person that people want to work with.
4. Never, ever complain about the check: This isn’t the marketplace. You don’t get to haggle. What you get paid is what you get paid. If you don’t think it’s fair, then just don’t take gigs from that person anymore. Making a scene burns a bridge, and someday, you might need that bridge to get jobs. Of course, if somebody says they’re going to pay you a certain amount, and then the check comes and you get shorted or not paid at all, then you have every right to (politely) discuss the discrepancy – just be careful not to lose your temper.
5. Be versatile: You might love to play metal, but if you can play rock, country and jazz, too, you’ve got a much better shot at getting gigs. The more things you can do, the more jobs you’re going to get. And never turn down a gig just because it isn’t your kind of style. When you’re making the big bucks, then you can be as picky as you want.
6. Be proactive: If you hear about a gig, pursue it. It is perfectly acceptable to call somebody and say “Hey, I heard you might need a musician on such and such a date. Well, my name is such and such, I’m very capable, and if you need somebody, here’s my number.” It can’t hurt, as long as you’re polite and professional.
7. Don’t give up: Even if you can’t make a full-time job out of being a musician, continue to take gigs and put yourself out there. You never know which gig could be the break you’ve been looking for!
What have you learned from your own experiences freelancing? Leave a comment below and share your tips and expertise with the community! Like these posts? Sign up to receive daily updates right to your inbox! Click here to subscribe.
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