Want to land that top flight gig? Here are 5 things you have to do to get ready:
1. Be ready.
Always act like you’ve already landed the pro gig, even before you do. Take your practicing seriously, keep your gear up, and finesse the daylights out of your stage presence and personal look.
When I got the call to play with Meredith Andrews about 6 weeks ago, I had been practicing intensely about 2-3 hours a day, working out every day and eating a strict diet, and playing as many shows around town as I could pick up. The result was that despite a ton of mishaps, the show itself went awesome.
2. Do great work, not just good work.
Don’t get sucked into putting out average work. If you consistently settle for putting out unremarkable and boring work, you will forever get stuck working with average musicians.
A few years ago I was a piano player of a small church. The people at the church were absolutely wonderful, but most of them were blue collar workers who didn’t have much time for practicing at home. Despite supposedly being a pro musician, I found myself regressing musically. It wasn’t the church’s fault: I just wasn’t disciplining myself. I’d gotten sloppy, and I was in an environment where nobody noticed.
There’s no excuse for this behavior. It’s career suicide, and can cripple your chances of ever landing that top flight gig. Don't let yourself slip.
3. Make meaningful, others-centered connections.
Networking is important in the music industry, but developing long-term mutually helpful biz relationships is the key to success.
A few years ago I met a Nashville keyboardist for coffee. We had a great conversation about life, music, and working in a town that is surprisingly low on talented keyboardists. We kept in touch via text for the next year, swapping gear tips and anecdotes from the road. In that time, Luke has been kind enough to throw me a handful of the best gig opportunities I’ve ever had.
Remember, you’re building relationships. And healthy relationships are based on generosity, kindness, and honesty.
4. Put out your best work often.
Musicians often forget that most people don’t pay enough attention to know what you’re doing. Keeping people posted about your best music, what you’re doing, etc is essential for keeping “mindshare” with the people that might hire you.
A few years ago I was sitting across from one of Nashville’s best worship guitarists. We were having coffee (a common theme in Nashville), and he kept getting interrupted mid conversation with texts. After a few responses, he apologized for the interruptions and told me he was part of a band looking for a keyboard player who specialized in playing synths (my exact job description). He hadn’t thought of me because the only thing he’d ever seen me do was a solo piano concert on youtube.
Don't assume everyone knows who you are and what you do. Keep producing great work and sharing it to define what you can add to gigs, or you may run into what I faced last year.
5. Have a killer website.
I know what you’re thinking- what does having a website have to do with landing an awesome opportunity? I’ll be the first to admit, you’ll probably never get a top flight gig from just having a kicking awesome website. But a website that showcases your best work, links to your social networks, and keeps people up to date with what you’re doing can help your career a lot.
I have had dozens of people hire me, and during the course of a session or tour they reference something about me from my website. Most often it’s from the short bio about me at the bottom of my home page.
Someone is going to tell your story- why not you? Take the time to define who you are in a non-arrogant way can help you start talking to the right people.