Here’s some of the top ways I’ve seen session/touring musicians unknowingly sabotage their careers:
1. Complaining/sharing super political posts online.
If you have people you work with on your social media account, don’t post stuff that might be offensive. I’ve stopped following very talented musicians who consistently complain or post offensive rants, which makes me less likely to think of them when a gig pops up. If you insist on ranting, create a subgroup of non-business related people and do it there.
2. Over networking.
It’s great to connect, but when someone is pushing really hard in a non-networking situation (i.e. the dressing room before a gig, band dinners, etc) it can be irritating. It’s totally fine to connect, but let it happen organically and don’t force it.
3. Being selfish at a gig.
There’s a lot of ways to be selfish at a gig, but my top 5 would include: leaving early before load out, eating so much that someone else doesn’t get enough to eat at dinner, being overly lewd onstage, monopolizing the sound engineer’s time, and talking/playing way too much. Be others centered, and you’ll be called back.
4. Drugs or drinking too much.
There was a time in music where it was possible for musicians to have a serious drug or drinking problem and still have a viable career. At least in Nashville, this has drastically changed. If you show up stoned or drunk to a van call, every band I’ve played with for the last three years would fire you on the spot.
If you have a substance abuse problem, please get yourself help LINK, and don’t take any gigs until you’re ready. The gigs will still be there for you when you get out of recovery.
5. Having unreliable gear.
Everybody’s equipment has a bad night every once in awhile, but if you consistently have your gear fail at a session or a gig, you might not get called back. Band leaders will cut slack for awhile, but consistently having tech problems is a sign that you’re not taking your job seriously.
6. Being late.
Every MD varies on how much of this he or she will allow. I would always err on the side of being on time- if your call time is 3 PM, be there and set up by 3 PM. If you’re early, answer email in the car or something.
7. Being overly sensitive.
We pour our souls into the music we make, and it’s easy to make it personal when someone requests a change in what you’re doing. Don’t take it hard when someone is giving you a critique- our job is to make the band leader’s vision come alive, not ours.