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Terre Haute Federation of Musicians
The Business of Music 10

THE SIDEMAN

            Being a sideman can be a groovy gig. It can also keep you going through the lean times. You might think that any paying gig is hard to turn down. But to really further your career here are some things to consider when someone calls to ask you to play.

1)      Be honest. Be up-front about your skills. It will show anyway, and at the wrong time. If you know the material, it is a no-brainer. If the gig is a style you are unfamiliar with, or you must perform from charts and you dont play by sight, dont even think about it. Youll sound incompetent! And you WILL be.

2)      If you get a call from a band leader, ask where they got your name. This might give you some idea about the caliber of player they are seeking. Also you will want to thank this musician later for the referral.

3)      Get the payment terms up-front. Ask for an e-mail confirmation. If you are unfamiliar with the person hiring, ask about their union affiliation and whether there is a contract filed.

4)      Show up early. Make sure your equipment is righ, and working properly. Nobody wants someone who shows up at the last minute, putting everyone on-edge wondering where you are, stepping on their gear or tripping over their cords.

5)      Focus. You want the other musicians to respect your playing so you can get more calls.

6)      Dont try to be the star. Try to fit in. Dont overplay. Play whats required ONLY.

7)      Hand out your card at the end of the gig. Get the phone #s of the other musicians and make sure to thank the leader for using you.

8)      No drugsno booze. Dont be an idiot. Bad reputation=no work.

9)      Know when to turn down a gig.

10)  There are more non-working musicians than working ones. Youre an AFM member. You are a professional. Butyou are only as good as your last gig. Ask yourself if playing this gig will advance your career or hurt it.

If you get good at filling-in at the last minute, youll get a reputation for being available, dependable, and a musician who can adapt easily. Your name will get around quickly.