Goals, gigs and rehearsals

Posted on December 23, 2011

It has been an educating 6 months.

Last year at this time I made up a six month goal of gigging every month, and then promptly proceeded to do nothing to try to accomplish that goal (at least in terms of hustling gigs). Going through a busy last semester of college and generally being unconfident about my gigworthiness kept me from really going all out and pursuing this “goal.”

Somehow soon after graduating, a little past the six month deadline I found myself playing somewhere every weekend. Starting two bands during my last semester, and learning the ropes as a bandleader for the first time, prepared me for the organizational challenges of bringing musicians together for a gig (and, unfortunately not as often, rehearsal). So when a combination of an overzealous friend who would send me every relevant link on craigslist, and a willingness to work for little or no money resulted in gigs (I think the little or no money part was the clincher), I was not at all overwhelmed by my new schedule.

I am happy I accomplished this goal, but looking back it does not seem like much anymore. I had made up a new goal of getting better gigs (unfortunately vague, not surprisingly it has not resulted in anything), and a possibly overzealous goal of not taking any work that would make me unhappy (which may become a reality – see: willingness to work for little or no money). Not much has been done for those to except a lot of thinking of what these things might be and how to get them.

I mentioned above that rehearsals have not been a huge part of this journey. Asking my friends to play with me for little more than a free beer or enough tips to boost their wage to $3/hour seems like a stretch enough to me. I know that it is not about the money, and at this point they are glad to be able to make music with me (and most of the time it is music we actually enjoy playing), but it just feels unsustainable when I know there are better gigs and everyone has a busy schedule. Asking to do an unpaid rehearsal on top just seems unreasonable.

I may just have to suck it up. My current trio lineup has never rehearsed together and I am feeling the limitations more and more. There are things that you just cannot workout on the bandstand (at least at the level at which I play. More on Bill Evans later). There are arrangements that do not get tried, ideas that are just half-baked, and communication issues that do not get worked out. Basically as it is right now, any new kind of idea must be executed well on the first try, or the performance suffers a little bit for it. I also keep forgetting that the super tight lineup I recorded with rehearsed for a whole year to get to that point.

The unrehearsed band right now is good enough for the gig. I think the rehearsed band has a shot at really wowing people. Maybe that is the ticket to gaining the following, which in turn will unlock the door to better gigs (once I can guarantee more than a few people at the door, that means revenue for the venue and revenue for me and the band), which will then begin to pay for the time commitment I ask (who’s up for $4/hour not including travel and other expenses?).

Or maybe it is not just about the music, but something wrong with the way I am marketing. Right now there is not an easy way for me to access the random person who happens to see me play and enjoy it. I can give them a cd for free, give them a card, ask them to like me on facebook, but if I want to get in touch, I am depending on them to go home and find me again. It might be time to print out the mailing list sheets and see if people bite when I pass it around. Or prettier business cards.