The Ill Effects of Multitasking

When I was growing up, I learned that multitasking is a positive thing. The better at it you were, the more efficient you could be, and you would have more time for things you actually wanted to do.


Well, actually I don’t believe multitasking is that great for you and your musicianship.

I’ve done some investigating on the topic during my everyday routine, and I want to share some of my discoveries with you. I’ve found that the more stuff I try to pack into one short time period, the more scattered I feel and the less I get done, not to mention the quality of whatever I’m doing decreases. Can you relate?

Here’s an example:

The other day, I was cooking breakfast, and noticed that there was a heaping pile dishes in the sink from the night before. I figured it would be easy enough to cook and clean simultaneously, so I put food on the burners – grits, steamed kale, fried eggs, bacon, and toast. Then, I proceeded to clean the massive amount of dishes in the sink – oh, I had music playing as well.

I instantly got sucked into the task at hand, ignored the music completely, and forgot there was food on the hot stove. All of a sudden I heard sizzling, and smelt burning butter. I looked over and the stovetop had gone rogue! I sped up my dishwashing (I only had a couple bowls left!), hurried to the stove, turned the heat to the minimum, ferociously stirred the grits, flipped the bacon and eggs, and turned the toaster oven off.

It was a close call, but in the end, the breakfast was decent, and the dishes were mostly clean. Both jobs were poorly done, and I didn’t hear a single bit of the amazing music that was playing (Glenn Gould playing Bach’s English Suites, if you’re interested.

Though I completed all of my tasks that morning, the results were subpar and barely productive, all thanks to multitasking.

Check it out – This cooking example can be used as a metaphor for a practice routine, or really anything you do in life, such as your career or your health.

If you read a book with headphones on, chances are you aren’t fully receiving what either art forms are offering to you.

I even consider thinking randomly while you’re practicing or listening to music as multitasking.

The entire point of giving yourself to the moment is to fully concentrate (without extraneous thoughts) on the task at hand, whether it be taking a shower, listening to music, or washing dishes.

Try to receive every second of your life.

If you watch television while you practice, you wont be giving your full attention to your craft or T.V. show that’s playing. If you’re going to watch a show, do just that. Let yourself be completely taken by the task at hand, with no other distractions. This is a simple enough concept to try out in your everyday life, and after you try it, I guarantee your life will feel fuller, more invigorating, and more satisfying.

So why exactly is multitasking inefficient and a waste of time?

1. It takes you out of the moment.

When you musically improvise, it’s essential that your mind does not get in the way. True creative improvisation comes from the heart. Your logical, thought-based mind needs to step aside for pure creation to happen.

If you’re thinking about tempo, fingerings, chord voices, or playing in time, you wont be able to create at your fullest potential.

Stay in the moment – the moment where your unique creativity lives.

2. It scatters your mind.

A scattered mind is an untrained mind. The better your concentration skills are, the less likely you are to make mistakes when you’re playing your instrument. You’re ability to become immersed in the music with enhance, and you’ll enjoy yourself a lot more.

You have the ability to literally change your brain’s structure. If you can practice doing one thing at a time, your brain will shape to support that. Unfortunately, the opposite can occur when you multitask, so it’s important to practice mindfulness as much as possible.

The next time you notice your mind is in a frenzy, check yourself. Are you trying to do to much in one moment?

Close your eyes, breathe, and take a minute to relax.

3. It prevents you from seeing and feeling real, lasting improvement.

More time spent practicing is NOT always the answer.

The way in which you live your life in every moment can transform the way you perceive and play music.

I went through a period of time were I thought I need to practice 4 or 5 hours a day, just to “keep up” with the other musicians in my circles. My thoughts were competitive and ego-based, and ultimately, they weren’t supportive.

I learned that if I could change my everyday habits and start to shift my thinking to allow for more focus on a single thought, feeling, or action, being happier about my life and playing happened with little or no effort. Also, as a result of less multitasking, my musical abilities improved at a much faster rate.

The way you live your life and focus your thoughts is a direct reflection of your musicianship.

Do you notice that you multitask throughout your day?

Maybe you can see it, maybe you can’t, but now that you’ve read this post, you can make change happen.

The first step to changing anything is becoming aware. If you notice yourself multitasking at some point, take a moment to really feel what you should be doing in that given moment.

Chances are all you need to do is slow down, notice your breathe, and make a simple choice.

Try this, and leave a comment to let me know what you did and how it felt!

Flying With Musical Instruments: Know Your Rights

If you’re like me and will be traveling with a musical instrument this holiday season, you’ll be happy to know that by law, you have the right to bring your instrument onto the plane as carry-on baggage so long as the instrument can be safely stowed. The clause is part of Public Law 112-95, which was signed by the President and went into effect on February 14, 2012. Below is the section dedicated to musical instruments, copied verbatim (emphasis mine) from pages 74 and 75 of the law, which can be found on the Federal Aviation Administration”s (FAA) website right here.

PUBLIC LAW 112–95—FEB. 14, 2012

41724. Musical instruments

‘‘(a) IN GENERAL.—

‘‘(1) SMALL INSTRUMENTS AS CARRY-ON BAGGAGE.—An air carrier providing air transportation shall permit a passenger to carry a violin, guitar, or other musical instrument in the aircraft cabin, without charging the passenger a fee in addition to any standard fee that carrier may require for comparable carry-on baggage, if—

‘‘(A) the instrument can be stowed safely in a suitable baggage compartment in the aircraft cabin or under a passenger seat, in accordance with the requirements for carriage of carry-on baggage or cargo established by the Administrator; and

‘‘(B) there is space for such stowage at the time the passenger boards the aircraft.

‘‘(2) LARGER INSTRUMENTS AS CARRY-ON BAGGAGE.—An air carrier providing air transportation shall permit a passenger to carry a musical instrument that is too large to meet the requirements of paragraph (1) in the aircraft cabin, without charging the passenger a fee in addition to the cost of the additional ticket described in subparagraph (E), if—

‘‘(A) the instrument is contained in a case or covered so as to avoid injury to other passengers;

‘‘(B) the weight of the instrument, including the case or covering, does not exceed 165 pounds or the applicable weight restrictions for the aircraft;

‘‘(C) the instrument can be stowed in accordance with the requirements for carriage of carry-on baggage or cargo established by the Administrator;

‘‘(D) neither the instrument nor the case contains any object not otherwise permitted to be carried in an aircraft cabin because of a law or regulation of the United States; and

‘‘(E) the passenger wishing to carry the instrument in the aircraft cabin has purchased an additional seat to accommodate the instrument.

‘‘(3) LARGE INSTRUMENTS AS CHECKED BAGGAGE.—An air carrier shall transport as baggage a musical instrument that is the property of a passenger traveling in air transportation that may not be carried in the aircraft cabin if—

‘‘(A) the sum of the length, width, and height measured in inches of the outside linear dimensions of the instrument (including the case) does not exceed 150 inches or the applicable size restrictions for the aircraft;

‘‘(B) the weight of the instrument does not exceed 165 pounds or the applicable weight restrictions for the aircraft; and

‘‘(C) the instrument can be stowed in accordance with the requirements for carriage of carry-on baggage or cargo established by the Administrator.

‘‘(b) REGULATIONS.—Not later than 2 years after the date of enactment of this section, the Secretary shall issue final regulations to carry out subsection (a).
‘‘(c) EFFECTIVE DATE.—The requirements of this section shall become effective on the date of issuance of the final regulations under subsection (b).’’

What This Means

Your instrument will be treated exactly like comparable carry-on baggage. It does not get preferential treatment over another passenger’s roller bag just because it’s more fragile, but it’s no longer subject to any additional fees, as some airlines used to charge. If you have a larger instrument, that might fit safely in a seat, you may buy a ticket for it and may not be charged any additional fees as long as it meets the airline’s requirements. If you check your large instrument in a flight case, you are no longer subject to any additional fees as other checked baggage as long as it meets all checked baggage requirements.

Common sense still applies. If your instrument does not fit or somehow creates a safety risk to other passengers, you’ll have to check it. Be sure to plan ahead of time for the worst case scenario.

Best Practices for Flying with Musical Instruments

We have another article on this site called Airline Travel With Musical Instruments written by well-traveled multi-instrumentalist Nick Rosaci. He offers some great advice, and I highly recommend you read it as well.

Don’t Argue

In my experience, the most resistance I get from traveling with my guitar is from the gate agent, who will hand me a gate check tag and instruct me to drop of my guitar at the end of the jetway as he or she swipes my boarding pass. I never argue with the gate agent. This person is simply doing what they’re told to do and trying to make the flight attendants job easier by sending less carry-on baggage onto the plane.

Sometimes I get on a plane behind other passengers carrying a guitar. The gate agent hands them a gate check tag and the passenger immediately goes into a rant about how he has the right to carry his guitar onto the plane! How dare you tell him otherwise!

This really accomplishes nothing other than making people upset. If you argue, there’s no way that person is going to help you, and if you enter the plane upset, the flight attendants are going to pick up on it and be less likely to help you. They have to deal with enough crabby passengers, don’t be another.

Be Nice to The Flight Attendant

Instead, I make my way onto the plane with my guitar, smile at the first flight attendant I see, and ask them how they’re doing. “Is this your last flight of the day?” or “Heading home?” or any other question that tells them I’m not a completely self-centered jerk that wants them to solve my baggage problem. Then I motion to my guitar and politely ask if they think we can find it a safe place onboard.

In the summer, the first class coat closet is usually empty and they might be able to stow it there. Sometimes there’s also space behind the last row of seats in first class. Otherwise you’ll be looking for a spot in the overhead bins. That’s where it pays to be polite to other passengers, who might be able to help you by adjusting their bags to make room for yours. Again, a smile can go a long way when you’re boarding an airplane.

Board Early

If at all possible, be one of the first to board the plane. Overhead bins are first come, first served, and once your instrument is safely stowed, they cannot remove it from the plane without your permission (which you don’t have to grant).

If you travel on the same airline frequently, look into their premium membership programs. These always come with early boarding, and typically a little extra kindness from the airline staff. If you don’t fly that often, maybe one of your relatives belongs to one of these programs and can book your ticket, which sometimes transfers the benefits to you. And if all else fails, many airlines sell upgrades to your ticket, including early boarding. This is a way for the airline to make some extra money, but hey, it’s also a way for you to get your instrument on the plane safely.

Know Your Aircraft

The above law only works if the airplane is actually large enough to fit your instrument. Shorter flights often use regional jets, such as the Embraer 145 which is only 3 seats across plus a small aisle, require all passengers to gate check their carry-on baggage. Only coats and personal items are allowed onboard. My guitar would never fit on one of these jets so I try to avoid routes that use them. If that’s unavoidable, I make sure my guitar is packed well to avoid damage when checked at the gate.

You can usually find out the type of aircraft used when choosing your itinerary. Take a moment to look up that aircraft and you’ll have an idea of what to expect.

Safe travels!

An Update from Dave and Cameron

Over the last year, has experienced rapid growth in our readership–something for which both Dave and I are very grateful to all of you. With the increased traffic, however, comes an increased risk of hackers and security concerns.

Some of you may have seen a warning when visiting the site, or found the site to be loading too slow, or noticed the site was down all together. We received feedback from many of you and as always, have been addressing the issue.

This past week our site was down for several hours during which a complete security overhaul was performed. We can’t guarantee there will be no problems in the future, but we have a team constantly monitoring to help it run as securely as possible as we continue to grow.

Meanwhile, we’ve been continually adding valuable content to the site. You might have missed some of it during the outages, so here’s a recap:

The Working Musician Interview Series

We started interviewing musicians that we thought could offer some great advice and insight into the world of the working musician. So far we’ve interviewed these amazing musicians:

We’ll continue next Tuesday with an interview from touring guitarist Jesse Bond, and there will be more in the coming weeks.

Recent Articles

Dave recently changed his focus from music directing to songwriting, and wrote an article all about it, as only he could. Check out How I’m Building a Career As A Songwriter. He also wrote a great piece reflecting on one of his first songwriting projects: ringtones. Have a read at Half A Million Downloads and 500,000 Dilemmas.

We also received another great piece from SFC Joshua DiStefano, our expert Army musician. This time he focused on musicians that have recently joined the Army band. If that’s you, I highly suggest reading his Advice for New Army Musicians.

Finally, I’ve written a couple pieces as well. First I reflected on My Ever-Changing Career as a Musician and explored my changing streams of income over the last decade, and the effect it’s had on my approach to being a musician. I also wrote an editorial piece in response to some industry news, trying to answer the question: Why are there fewer working musicians in 2012 than 1999? Or 1989 for that matter.

Thanks again for reading, discussing, and sharing your experiences as musicians. Happy gigging!

Interview with Guitarist Alec Berlin

For this week’s working musician interview, I talked to guitarist Alec Berlin. I’ve gotten to know Alec while subbing for him on a show. He’s a fantastic guitarist and also a very humble and hardworking guy. I learned a lot from him through the show, so he was a natural choice for this interview series.

MW: When did you start playing music, and when did you realize it was something you wanted to do professionally?

AB: I started playing the guitar when I was 7. I didn’t really have a realization that I wanted to do it professionally – it just sort of happened, after I had invested a lot of time, energy, resources, interest, and passion in music for any number of years. The goal was just to keep doing it and keep doing it and keep doing it, etc.

Did you study music in school? How has that impacted your career?

I received a Master’s of Music in Jazz Studies from the New England Conservatory. Music school allowed me the opportunity to log in many, many hours on my instrument, under the guidance of some incredibly insightful and talented teachers.

Also – perhaps more importantly – it was the first time in my life that I was in such a big musical environment. In high school and college, musicians were few and far between, just a few random stragglers amidst a much larger population. Being surrounded by musicians all the time was invaluable – from a creative perspective, of course, but also in terms of thinking about and understanding what it meant to commit to a life as a professional musician.

Briefly describe your career today. What kinds of work do you do to make a living?

For the last several years I’ve done most of my playing in theater – ranging from grungy independent productions like The ATrain plays (a 24-hour theater project) to super high profile Broadway productions like Green Day’s American Idiot. And lots in between.

I’ve spent a lot of time subbing for any number of different shows, which has it’s joys and it’s annoyances. What most appealled to me about subbing in the first place was the instrumental challenge – it’s not a gig that values personal interpretation, and if you are okay with that, then the challenge becomes trying to own the music as thoroughly as possible – including being comfortable playing on the show guitar, with that particular conductor, on that particular rig (ie with that amp and those pedals), with that particular rhythm section, etc. At times I’ve subbed on as many as 6 shows at a time – so maintaining that much music, and that many different scenarios – it’s no mean feat!

I’ve always valued musical variety, so I appreciated situations where I’d be playing a matinee that consisted largely of acoustic blues and an evening show of disco music. Followed, the next day, by big band swing. And so on. It requires a lot of time, patience, and adherence to some very particular ground rules – but as I said, if you are okay with all of that, then subbing on shows can be very rewarding.

Having your own show, on the other hand, is a whole different matter. The challenge to that gig is to try to be as consistent as possible in your playing while still feeling enthused about your gig, your instrument, your time, your output. In my experience, this requires balance – musical and otherwise. I’ve found balance partly in outside, original music projects, and partly in trying to have a well-rounded life, trying to read and see movies and hear music and excercise and spend time with family and friends and generally engage with the world.

How do you find work as a musician?

Be visible. Be respectfully persistent – no one likes a nag, but you also can’t risk just being wall paper. Be excited and humble. As Joni Mitchell said, “Heart and humour and humility… will lighten up your heavy load.” Basic psychology – what you put out comes back – so put out good energy, enthusiasm, and sincerity.

What skills are necessary to be successful at your job (or jobs)?

For theater work – organization. Reading skills. Attention to detail. Thoroughness. Good nature. A good ear. Good hands. A sense of humor.

Finally, do you have any advice for younger musicians aspiring to be professionals?

Just to reiterate – follow your passion. There are ways to make money and there are ways to be creative. Ask yourself what role those two objectives will play in your life. Do you want to work in a wedding band? Play in Broadway pits? Write music for commercials? Play original music in a band?

Try to be as clear about your goals as possible – and then commit to it hugely. Don’t apologize for anything and don’t look back – just keep moving forward.


More about Alec:

Alec Berlin has released 2 albums of original rock music – 2007’s Beauty, Grazing at the Trough, and 2012’s Innocent Explanations, both available on iTunes, Spotify, Pandora, and His theater credits include Rent at New World Stages, Green Day’s American Idiot (at the Berkeley Repertory Theater and on Broadway), and Next To Normal at Second Stage. Subbing credits include: Lion King, Rent, Next To Normal, Billy Elliot, The Color Purple, Mamma Mia. He has performed with Green Day, Elton John, Rufus Wainwright, and James Taylor. He has appeared on The Late Show with David Letterman, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, Good Morning America, and the Tony Awards live from Radio City Music Hall. He appears on the Grammy-winning Soundtrack to Green Day’s American Idiot and A Colbert Christmas. Check out,, for performance information and music samples.

Why Are There Fewer Working Musicians in 2012 than 1999?

Every day I receive a few email newsletters, including the Digital Music News. As I sipped on a fresh cup of coffee this morning, one of their articles titled “Recording Sales Declines & Musician Employment, 1999 – 2011…” caught my attention. It was published on Saturday by DMN editor Paul Resnikoff. I enjoy Paul’s insight on the music industry. Digital Music News does a great job covering the changes in the music industry and I recommend all of you subscribe to their newsletter.

I was mostly interested in the article because of the “musician employment” part of the title–which is of course the primary topic of It’s also something DMN rarely discusses.

In this particular article, Paul writes:

There’s more music being created than ever before, but paradoxically, musicians are making less. Which means there are also fewer musicians and music professionals enjoying gainful employment, thanks to a deflated ecosystem once primed by major labels and marked-up CDs.

He also shares this graph overlaying statistics from the US Department of Labor and the RIAA.

The reddish orange bars represent the number of “musical groups and artists,” which is a classification used by the US Census Bureau. The white squares represent the amount of recorded music shipped, which basically means sold to retail stores (and includes digital sales even though nothing is actually shipping).

This graph is trying to draw a correlation between album sales and musician jobs, so it begs the question: Is the decline in album sales responsible for the decline in musician jobs?

I have a buddy that works for the US Department of Labor so I asked him for some help checking these employment statistics. I found that while there is a decline in the number of self-reported “musical groups and artists,” it is not as dramatic as this graph makes it appear. Paul wrote that there has been a 41% in paid musicians since 1999, but based on statistics I find from the Census Bureau, there has been a 15% decline. Perhaps there are other numbers in play? I’ve asked him about his source, so we shall see. For all intents and purposes, most people would agree that there has been a decline in jobs for musicians.

The decline in album sales has been well documented by the RIAA and through Nielsen Soundscan sales reports. I don’t think anyone will argue that there are far fewer albums being sold today than 10 years ago.

My wife is a professional researcher, so I asked her what a statistical analyst would think of this graph. She said it was a weak correlation, and suggested I look up this blog post about correlation and causation. Turns out statistical analysts have a sense of humor that is 63% better than expected. It also means that this data alone is not sufficient to explain a cause/effect scenario.

Now, I have no doubt that the decline in album sales has had a negative effect on musician employment as we’ve known it over the last 70 years. Dave Hahn once pointed out that the recorded music industry isn’t responsible for creating the career of “professional musician.” For hundreds of years before recordings, people worked as musicians, and it’s reasonable to believe that will be the case even if recordings are no longer worth money.

However, I don’t believe that we can simply blame the decline in album sales, and to do so would be short-sighted for the musician industry. Let’s look at the bigger picture. What other factors could cause a decline in musician jobs?

1) Recording Technology

Without a doubt, technology has always been one of the most consistent disrupters of industry. Printed sheet music, player pianos, the phonograph, synthesizer, and mp3 are all examples of technology that impacted the musician industry.

Dave and I recently had a conversation with a veteran NYC drummer. He compared the scene of 30 years ago to the scene today. NYC used to have thousands of recording studios and employ tens of thousands of musicians, many of whom made very good money. Back then, he explained, every note of music you heard anywhere had to be played by a musician. Commercials, albums, demos, jingles, soundtracks, and anything else that required music required musicians.

By comparison, these days I can cut a demo and pitch a commercial in my living room, on my computer, by myself. Anybody can do that today. The technology is relatively affordable, and sample packs and plugins can take the place of other musicians and expensive studio gear. It’s not necessarily better, it’s just possible.

Furthermore, how many musicians does it take to record a hit album these days? I looked up the top album on iTunes today, and then looked up the album credits. There are a bunch of producers and writers, but I could only find one guitarist credited. Another guy was credited with “strings.” The rest of the music? Probably assembled by the various producers.

I also looked up the credits for Rihanna’s latest album. She is one of the biggest stars today, so how many musicians does she use on her albums? Two, covering the guitar and bass. No drummer. Somebody has a credit for “instrumentation,” and there are also credits for fluids and good vibrations, hair stylist (two of those), vocal engineer, and many, many more production credits.

Compare either of these to Michael Jackson’s Thriller which employed dozens musicians in the studio during the early ’80s and had only one producer.

Recording technology has replaced the need for musicians the same way robotics have replaced people on assembly lines, but there will always be a demand for high end, hand crafted product.

2) DJs (and DJ technology)

I realize that this might make me sound like a crotchety old man, but hear me out. I have nothing against DJs, but it is a fact that where there were once bands full of musicians, there is now a guy behind a computer. If we’re lucky, he or she is actually using turntables.

DJs exist because there is a demand for them. They cost less and take up less space. People like to dance to the music. In fact, sometimes the music they play isn’t even recorded by real musicians, so why would you hire real musicians to perform what a DJ spins?

Regardless, I think we need to agree that DJs are a cheap competitor to working musicians from here on out, and technology will continue to make DJing possible for anybody with a laptop and decent taste in music.

3) Greed/The Economy

Just as technology allows you to do more in a recording studio with fewer musicians, you can do more in live performance. Backing tracks, or “sweetener tracks” are more common on pop tours. Broadway pits have gotten smaller and smaller over the years, partially due to pop/rock musicals written for smaller orchestras, but also due to the never ending battle between the producers and the musician’s union. Producers will make more money if a show uses pre-recorded music. Sometimes it just boils down to somebody wanting to make more money by downsizing the band.

Additionally, maybe people just don’t have the disposable income to spend on entertainment like they used to. This is especially true with younger people, who might go out more frequently. There are numerous economic factors that could come into play, but the point is, people choose to spend their hard earned money elsewhere.

4) People’s Choice

Has the evolving aesthetic of popular music cost musician jobs?

Bob Lefsetz keeps saying electronic music is the new rock’n’roll. There’s something to that. Not everybody wants to go to the local symphony, jazz club, or blues bar. Some people, just prefer music that doesn’t require any musicians.

Also, can the audience really tell the difference between pre-recorded music and a live band? Even if they could, do they care? Pop stars have been lip synching or using autotune live for decades, and for the most part their fans don’t seem to care. Will those same people ever appreciate a great live band in the same way? It’s difficult to speculate, but it’s very possible that the market for live music is smaller than it used to be.

What can musicians do?

I don’t believe the failing recording industry is entirely to blame for a decline in musician jobs. Did it have an impact? Absolutely. But so have these other factors.

To succeed as a musician, it’s very important that you pay attention to the state of our industry. It’s foolish to think that because you studied at an elite music school you’re entitled to make a ton of money as a studio musician, or that you can form a band, get signed to a label, and be set for life. Sure, it’s possible those things can happen, but the probability is much smaller today than it was before 1999.

Learn how to adapt. I can not stress that enough. The way you make a living today might be very different in two years. The studio musicians of 20 years ago that are still working today figured out how to adapt. Along with being a great musician, learn how to use the internet to your advantage to help you network and be easily available to people that can hire you.

Understand what is in your control, and what is not in your control (hint: You cannot stop technology, avoid greedy people, or change people’s taste in music). The biggest lesson we can learn from the recording industry and the digital music revolution is that you cannot fight change.

Learn from other musicians. Dave and I try to share as much of our knowledge as we can on this site, but we also interview others and look for guest bloggers to cover topics we cannot write about ourselves. Many times it’s just an excuse to pick the brain of musicians smarter than us!

Finally, be a champion for the working musician. Support the arts and arts education and help kids appreciate music. Take pride in your work. You don’t have to be in the union to advocate for musician jobs, all you have to do is support industries that support musicians.

Interview with Drummer Travis Whitmore

For this week’s installment of our working musician interview series, I spoke with drummer Travis Whitmore. Currently settled in Virginia, Travis thrives as a studio drummer through online collaboration, built upon his experience as a working drummer in Nashville.

MW: When did you start playing music, and when did you realize it was something you wanted to do professionally?

TW: I was fortunate enough to be surrounded by music at a very young age. Whether it was listening to mom play piano or just playing along to records, music has always been a big part of who I am.

According to my parents, my first drum kit was given to me at around 4 or 5 years old. I remember it was soon after high school in 1995 that I realized I wanted to give this music thing a go professionally.

A couple of years later, I packed up and moved to Nashville and spent 5 years there working in the music business. I worked at Pearl Drums Corporation, toured North America and tried picking up as many studio sessions and live gigs that I could.

Being completely submerged in the music business was certainly challenging at times. However, I was able to improve not only as a drummer, but through all of the experiences I learned what it meant to be a professional musician.

Drummer Travis WhitmoreDid you study music in school? How has that impacted your career?

In High School, I was part of basically anything music related that was offered. Then in Nashville, I studied music theory and music business. I also studied with other professional drummers in the area and took courses on studio techniques.

Of course, any type of study related to something you love is always beneficial. That said, whether on the road or in a session, the experiences and interactions with other musicians, producers and engineers was (and still is) the most beneficial form of education. To this day, I still work hard to incorporate all of the things that impacted me early on.

Briefly describe your career today. What kinds of work do you do to make a living?

I’m currently settled back in my hometown in Virginia and I have a home studio where I offer onsite recording projects and custom drum tracks via online collaboration. I have always been a huge fan of studio work and love the creative process that comes from the studio environment and recording process. Essentially, I built a home drum studio in my basement where I can still offer studio sessions.

The great thing about online collaboration is that I can offer my services to anyone in the world who may need real drum tracks on their songs or projects and don’t have the resources or time to set up and track a drum kit. In addition to studio work, I also play in a local horn driven funk band and offer drum lessons and a blog on the studio site with recording tips and musician resources.

How do you find work as a musician?

In regards to studio collaboration, the social resources available today has had a huge impact on finding work. On my studio site, I offer a blog with tips and resources for fellow musicians and drummers. As a result, I have clients finding my services through not only the blog but other social resources such as Facebook and Twitter.

Aside from the online activity, I find work by simply working with other musicians, going to live shows, meeting like-minded musicians and just being available for anything that comes my way. Word of mouth has also been an important aspect of finding work.

What skills are necessary to be successful at your job (or jobs)?

First and foremost, I believe that consistent practice in your instrument is key, no matter your expertise. As a drummer, I am always striving to be better and am always mindful of finding quality time to practice.

Whether live or in the studio, a few key skills that are vital to be successful are:

  • Pro Tools (or your DAW of choice)
  • Microphone placement
  • Recording techniques
  • Playing along to a click track

Other skills that are often overlooked is:

  • Listening to the other musicians in the band
  • Playing what’s right for the song
  • Showing up on time to the gig
  • Doing your homework on the songs to be played or recorded

Finally, do you have any advice for younger musicians aspiring to be professionals?

There are a couple of major lessons that I learned early on that I continue to be mindful of to this day. As I stated above, make sure you find ample time to practice your instrument. Whether you are a beginner or expert, practicing will keep you sharp and on your toes.

Second, be careful to not spend all of your time with your own kind. In other words, if you are always spending your time meeting and hanging out with fellow drummers, you most likely won’t get a gig. Instead, thing of ways to meet and get to know other musicians (Keyboard players, singers, bass players). These are individuals that will call you the next time they need a drummer.

And last but not least – have a great attitude! Probably the most important lesson of all. It doesn’t matter how many chops you have, if you’re showing up to a show with a bad attitude or a negative demeanor, it will eventually cost you. On the other hand, showing up on time, doing your homework and having a positive attitude will keep those gigs coming and your reputation as a professional will spread like wildfire.


More about Travis:

Travis Whitmore is an experienced session and touring drummer/percussionist. Having worked as a Nashville session drummer, Travis has either played on the same stage or recorded with a variety of world-renown musicians and recording artists. Whether he’s playing a shaker, hand drums or a full drum kit, his main goal is to always serve the song. Based in Virginia and working out of his own SilverLake Studio, Travis offers recording services and custom drum tracks via online collaboration. Travis is also passport ready and available for live shows, studio sessions and lessons.

My Ever-Changing Career as a Musician

When I was in college, I held several part time jobs to make ends meet. One of those part time jobs was playing guitar at a few restaurants every month. Nothing glamorous, but I was happy to be playing guitar. I started keeping track of how much money I made on those gigs to see if I could justify quitting one of the other part time jobs.

It turns out keeping a detailed list of my music income has served me well over the last 10 years. I was eventually able to justify quitting all of my day jobs and become a full time musician, and since being a full time musician, I’m able to keep a finger on the pulse of my various streams of musician income. Just as a shop owner keeps track of her inventory and carries whatever products are in demand, I’ve been able to assess and adjust my inventory of music jobs that keep me in business.

Over the last 10 years the way I make a living has changed dramatically. I’ve never made a lot of money, but I’ve been able to make more each year despite the changes in the music industry and economy in general. Here’s my method and what I’ve learned along the way.

Multiple Streams of Income

One thing I learned early on was to diversify my income. If one stream hits a drought, you can lean on the others to get by. Here’s how I categorize my income:

  1. Non-Union Gigs
  2. Union Gigs
  3. Recorded Music Sales/Streams
  4. Royalties
  5. Miscellaneous

Anything that pays me to be playing guitar falls under one of the gig categories. Performances, rehearsals, recording sessions, etc. Additionally, I separate my gigs between non-union and union, mainly because my accountant tells me to (taxes are withheld from my union paychecks), but it also gives me a good understanding of where I make more money. Currently, that’d be non-union gigs.

My recorded music income is essentially anything I make from my distributor: CD and download sales, streams, ringtones and whatever other formats exist today.

Royalty income is earned through BMI. There are other avenues to earn royalties, but for now, I’m only earning money through BMI. This income is also reported in a separate space on my tax return, so I keep strict records for my accountant.

The miscellaneous category covers a lot of ground, but none of it is significant or regular enough to warrant tracking under it’s own category. Some of this income includes:

  • Licensing
  • Commissions
  • Teaching lessons/masterclasses/clinics
  • Revenue from websites (MusicianWages and my own)
  • Transcriptions/charts
  • Arranging/orchestrating
  • Backend earnings that don’t qualify as royalties

Broad Categories for Musician Income

Dave Hahn and I have often discussed musician income in two broad categories: Active/Passive and Yours/Others. Naturally, I think of my earnings in this way as well.

Active Income / Passive Income

Active Income, also known as Earned Income, is a finite amount of money paid for specific time or services. Everything under the Gig categories and about half of the jobs under Miscellaneous count as Active Income. Every month I try to make sure there are enough jobs that create Active Income to at least cover my expenses.

Passive Income is the money I make from my recorded music, royalties, website revenue, and various other backend percentage agreements. I usually have an idea of about how much Passive Income I’ll earn each month, but experience tells me that you can’t count on the check arriving before rent is due. Nonetheless, this money is vital in rounding out my income, especially when there are holes in my calendar for Active Income jobs.

Your Music / Other People’s Music

This broad category is pretty easy to understand:

Your Music is basically anything you create as an artist or songwriter. If you have your own original band and play shows and sell CDs, then you’re making money from your own music.

Everything else is Other People’s Music. If you work as a sideman, play in a cover band, in a church, in musical theatre, teach, or any other type of musician job we’ve ever discussed on this site that you can’t call your own music, then you’re making money from other people’s music.

How My Streams of Income Have Changed

Creating Passive Income with my Original Music

In 2007 I was working a full time job at a major record label, a job I’d somewhat fallen into through temp work a couple years earlier. Meanwhile I was playing a few times a month with my own jazz trio, performing mostly original music from an album I’d independently released earlier in the year.

The day job helped me cover rent and bills, which freed up most of my music income to be reinvested. In other words, I could use my music income for things like paying my band, saving up to make a new album, or buying new gear–all things I felt would have long term benefits to my career as a musician. I was my own patron, supporting myself as my art developed.

At this time, most of my music income came from music sales, and most of that was through iTunes. You see, for a brief period of time I figured out a way to use iMixes in the iTunes Store to help people discover my music. I started making enough money that in early 2008 I quit my day job and took a pay cut to become a full time musician.

Because I was making most of my money as passive income with my own music, the logical thing to do was create more content–or write and record more music. In 2008 and 2009 I wrote and recorded a new album for my trio while also creating several DIY albums with friends under various monikers. I figured each recording was a new asset that could potentially earn more passive income down the road. And for a time it did.

By the end of 2009, however, it was clear that the decline in music sales that had been decimating record stores since 2001 was finally catching up to the small, independent artist and DIY scene that had gained some footing a few years earlier. Despite having three times as many albums (for a total of nine) available on iTunes and other online stores, my distributor was paying me a quarter of what I had been making on average the year before. It’s even less today, and unless I wanted to get a day job again, I needed to beef up my other streams of income.

Generating Active Income with Other People’s Music

Having worked for a record label, I knew that a decline in my record sales was inevitable. Once I quit my day job, I had a lot more time to start playing with other people. I began networking with other musicians and gradually started playing as a sideman.

Playing other people’s music is a much different gig than playing your own music.

When you write and perform your own music, it’s easy to cater to your strengths. When your job is to play other people’s music, you really can’t have any weaknesses.

To become a well rounded guitarist, I started transcribing players from all genres, especially genres in which I had less experience, like country. Gradually I felt confident copping the styles of many major guitarists. You never know when the person hiring you will ask for a David Gilmour lick in one song and a Vince Gill lick in another. You don’t have to play like every guitarist all the time, but you have to convincingly play like any guitarist some of the time.

I also had to think about earning active income, which meant playing a lot more gigs. One of my goals was to play 100 shows in a year, and doing whatever was necessary to make that happen.

In New York City, original bands play about once a month locally, more if they tour. Cover bands might play once or twice a week. Broadway and Off-Broadway shows run 8 times a week, and as a sub you can usually count on at least a few gigs a month. In order to reach 100 shows, it was clear I needed to play a lot of different gigs as a sideman.

This was a lot easier to do without a day job. Learning music can be a full time job in itself, and for every band you play with you can expect at least one rehearsal each month. Networking also takes time. I spent many late nights going to friends shows trying to meet other musicians.

Eventually I began playing with singer/songwriters, rock bands, pop singers, a bluegrass band, jazz vocalists, and occasionally playing private events and club dates. At first I didn’t ask for much money, but as I got busier it was easier to value my time. I found that if a gig wasn’t paying much, and especially if I wasn’t that into the music, it was best to walk away amicably because a better gig was always around the corner.

In 2012 I’m on pace to play about 125 shows. The active income I’ll earn from playing other people’s music this year will more than make up for passive income I’ve stopped earning with my own music.

Nurturing the Odd Jobs

Along with playing and recording, there are many types of musician jobs to supplement your income. These jobs help round out your days and can often get you through sales droughts and slow months for gigs.

The first job that comes to mind is teaching private lessons. Now, for many musicians, this is actually their main gig. I enjoy teaching motivated students, but for the most part I never have more than a couple weekly students at a time. Most of the time I’ll teach a few lessons to intermediate to advanced level students that want to work on something very specific. I’ve attracted many of my students by posting semi-regular free guitar lessons on my website. Currently I have one Skype student and one local student.

Other services I offer include recording demo tracks for songwriters, writing easy to read charts for bands, and arranging horn or string parts. These are all active income jobs.

Although recorded music sales are dwindling, there is still money to be made from recordings. Licensing your music is an incredibly viable way to keep some passive income flowing. I’ve delivered most of my music to various music libraries and fostered relationships with people in music supervision. The music I’ve recorded so far has been licensed more and more frequently, and I’m also earning quarterly royalty checks through BMI. The big money, however, is in exclusive custom jobs, and I’ve submitted several demos for commercials. I haven’t landed anything yet, but eventually I will.

I also earn some money through my websites. was created as a passion, but Dave and I have built it up to a point where we can make a little bit of money each month.

Looking Ahead

There are limitations to the work I’m doing now, and I’m constantly thinking of solutions.

There’s only one Friday and Saturday night a week, and as I get busier I get more calls to play those nights. Eventually some of those bands are going to have to replace me with somebody that’s more available. The only way to make more money is to land gigs that pay more. These gigs are higher pressure and have more competition, so I try to play all of my current gigs as perfectly as possible. You never know who’s listening. I sometimes tell people who ask me about my career that I’m no rockstar, but if a rockstar called and needed me for a tour, I could get the job done.

Another option is to find gigs earlier in the week. Most of these gigs pay less, with the notable exceptions of tours and Broadway gigs. This year I started subbing on a couple shows off Broadway, including the revival of Rent, and I believe I’m well equipped to play more of these highly competitive gigs.

I also see the importance of writing music. All kinds of music. Publishing is still a viable source of income for musicians, and if you have a writer credit on a few successful songs, you can make decent money. I try to write something every day–even if it’s just four bars of melody–and am always open to collaborate with other musicians.

And finally, I’d like to keep developing my own music and create art for the sake of art. After all, that’s the reason I started playing music in the first place!

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from the music industry, it’s that these days nothing stays the same for long. Multiple streams of income makes it easier to adapt. Owning the rights to my albums means I can exploit them however I see fit in the future. Playing a lot of gigs with a lot of different bands prepares me for bigger, higher paying gigs. If any of these miscellaneous jobs turn into a bigger gig, I’ll be prepared for that, too. I can’t control when opportunity will knock, but I know I’ll be ready.

Interview with Freelance Musician Tony Maceli

At Musician Wages, we’ve always believed there are as many ways to be a freelance musician as there are freelance musicians. Every musician we’ve talked to has their own combination of jobs that, combined, make up their career. We’d like to share the experiences and advice of more working musicians on our site through a series of interviews. Each musician will be asked the same questions, but their answers will reflect their unique career.

Our first interview is with New York bassist (and multi-instrumentalist) Tony Maceli. You can often find Tony playing or hanging out in Manhattan’s Lower East Side, an area known for it’s music scene.

MW: When did you start playing music, and when did you realize it was something you wanted to do professionally?

TM: I started playing trumpet when I was 10 years old. I loved it right away. My band director featured me in a piece in the spring concert and I told my parents, “I want to be a musician!” To which they answered, “That’s nice.” I knew right away I wanted music and it’s been with me ever since.

From there, I picked up the electric bass at 15 years old, but never really got serious with it till later. I played in different rock bands and used the bass as a tool to meet girls–even the least coolest kid has a chance playing in a band. Trumpet was my bag for my early years, though.

Tony MaceliDid you study music in school? How has that impacted your career?

I went to the Crane School of Music for my undergraduate degree in music education with a concentration in trumpet performance. After I graduated, I taught for a few years to save some money.

It was at 25 years old that I bought an upright bass and really began my bass playing career. I took a few lessons with Cecil McBee and went off to pursue my Masters of Music at Indiana University in jazz studies. Once I finished at IU, I came to NYC and have been here ever since, finishing a doctorate in music education at Teachers College Columbia University.

Studying music is a lifelong endeavor, one you can hone in college, or by practicing and learning on the scene via the school of Hard Knocks. Sometimes I look back and wonder whether or not I should have saved the money I spent on my education and come straight to New York to learn from the school of hard knocks, instead of taking the over-educated route.

For me, balance has been the key. At times, when I feel like getting out of the music rat race, I know I have other options, so I can investigate my options and not feel trapped. Ultimately, my music career prevails, but it helps knowing that I can try other things and am making the choice to live the life I am living.

Briefly describe your career today. What kinds of work do you do to make a living?

Cellist Dave Eggar (someone everyone should know about and can learn a lot from) once told me that your music career is a portfolio. I think that’s the best description for what my career looks like.

I’ve performed on broadway (as a sub), in the studio, orchestras, club dates, cover gigs, indie band gigs, tours or anything I’ve been called for. I’ve played on electric bass, upright bass, electric guitar, trumpet, keyboards, and even banjo for a gig. Also, I’ve done several arrangements, be it big band, string or wind parts for a studio record, or something simple for a rock band. I’ve been a musical director for benefits, rock bands/ensembles, and large productions. I’ve even been on the road playing bass, tour managing, and driving (sometimes all at once).

Lately, I’ve been really learning Pro Tools and Logic and getting into the production end of things. I’ve submitted music for commercials (nothing’s stuck yet, but I’m trying to get my foot in the door, just like everyone else), and been working with artists to produce records. I’m always looking for new ways to broaden my portfolio.

Any one of these skills, by themselves would not be enough to sustain my living, but put together, it fits who I am and how I like to go about my business.

How do you find work as a musician?

Generally speaking, finding work is all about the hang.

I was a school teacher for 15 years before I really became a musician (I was 36 when I quit my job). I didn’t realize that finding work as a musician was a full time job and I was trying to do it part time.

Once I quit my job, I realized that I didn’t know anyone, so I ended up going out every night to meet people. Money was an issue, so I had to get to know the bouncers at clubs that charged a cove or go to places that didn’t charge a cover. From there, I’d start noticing a lot of the same musicians playing most of these gigs. I got to know these folks and eventually, someone recommended me to play a gig. I did my best (which probably wasn’t great) and they called me back because I was a nice guy and had the right attitude. The gig didn’t pay much (maybe $75 for a gig and a rehearsal) and I went from there.

Without a doubt, the amount I hang is directly correlated to how much work I get. Go support good music and you’ll eventually get asked to play. Don’t be pushy or a professional hand shaker. Hang loose, keep supporting and you’ll eventually get a shot.

Also, people talk a lot about your network and I think that’s a key. It’s simple math. If you know 3 bands/songwriters that you play with and they all play once a month, you have 3 gigs a month. That’s not going to cut it. If you know 30 folks and they play once a month, that’s roughly one gig a night. That’s if you’re everyone’s first call.

That’s why it’s best to know thousands of folks. That math always works in your favor. Finished playing a gig, you’re part of the hang, stick around. Not working that night, go out and support your colleagues. It can feel overwhelming, but start small and eventually you’ll meet more and more folks. Be patient and know it takes time.

What skills are necessary to be successful at your job (or jobs)?

This is different for everyone. Figure out what you love to do and make that your focus.

For me, I like being completely ADHD and doing as many things as possible. I make sure I’m completely focused on the project at hand and do my best to nail it. If I have a pop gig that requires bowing on the upright, I’m all about practicing my classical chops. If I have a gig that’s a jazz gig, I do my best to play standards that week, and so forth. There are friends of mine that just love playing jazz and that’s all they do with a focus and purpose and that’s cool too. That’s for the music.

I know this might sound like common sense, but don’t be late, and know the material (memorized-avoid charts). If you don’t do this 100 other people will. Think of that bumper sticker, “Don’t be a Dick” – stick to that.

I imagine this post is for folks that are not established, so I recommend memorizing music and being on time, always. If someone like Will Lee or Mike Visceglia are reading this, then it doesn’t matter for them. They’ve been around and are completely established and can do what they want because they are in demand. I would venture to say, however, those guys still come on time and super prepared (just a hunch- that’s why they work a lot).

For me, I make a living, but don’t feel that I am established enough to be slacking off – we’re only on this planet for a short time, make it count, no matter what you’re doing.

Finally, do you have any advice for younger musicians aspiring to be professionals?

First, try not to get involved in a situation asking what you are going to get out of it. Ask instead what you are going to give to it. Sometimes, you are needed to be an audience member. Sometimes it’s to be a guitarist. Other times a background vocalist, and the list goes on. Figure out what you are contributing and people will feed off that positive energy.

Second, think of being a musician as opening a business. That’s what you are – a one person business.

I think of it like a coffee shop (who doesn’t love coffee?). Let’s say I can make the best coffee and only do coffee, but is that enough? Is my coffee that good? Do I need the cup holders that make sure my customers don’t burn their hands when holding a hot cup of joe? How about pastries? Do I want to sell music in my coffee shop like starbucks? etc, etc, etc.

You play an instrument – that’s obviously the coffee. How much do you charge for coffee? The price changes by the pound (gig), you offer other frills such as pastries (background vocals), cup holders (instrument doubling), and the list goes on. Make conscious decisions about what you want to be so you have a focus.

This is how you create your brand. I know this part is so unmusical and it kinda is something I’m terrible at, but I acknowledge it’s existence and my shortcomings in it. At present, I choose my brand to be unfocused because I’m kinda all over the place. I realize that limits the type of work I can get, but for now it makes me happy. When it’s time for a change, I’ll change.

Third, try to divide your day up so that you can hit what you need to hit. I don’t write this down everyday, but I have an idea of what I’m going to do. Maybe something like this:

  • 11am-12pm – Internet time/coffee/breakfast
  • 12pm-1pm – Upright warmup/bowing exercises
  • 1pm-3pm – Learn tunes for Friday gig
  • 3pm-3:30pm – walk around park
  • 3:30pm-6:30pm – rehearsal for friday gig
  • 6:30-7pm – Dinner
  • 7pm-9pm – Rockwood Music Hall to watch two shows
  • 10pm – 12am – Living Room for a show
  • 12am – 2:00am – Back to Rockwood for late hang

Fourth, be in it for the long haul. If you have the proverbial, “If I don’t make it by the time I’m (a certain age),” attitude, don’t bother trying to be a musician. A musical career takes years to establish. Being short sighted will come across and no one will want to play with you. They’ll see the stars in your eyes and run the other way. Besides, if you wake up in the morning and your job is to make music, and that’s all you do, you’ve made it. Regardless of how much money you make.

Finally, for anyone new to New York, I have a musician hang/community night once a month at Rockwood Music Hall. It’s called Full Vinyl ( The night is populated by performing songwriters and working musicians in New York City. It’s like our office holiday party once a month. We pick a theme (i.e. – Stevie Wonder night, 80’s Movie Music themes) and everyone performs a song relating to the theme. No rehearsal, just throw down and know your part. I try to involve everyone in the night in some way, shape or form, but can’t get everyone in due to limited slots. It’s a great place to meet folks and support the music community. I try my best to help connect folks, so stop by.

Thanks for reading and I wish anyone pursuing a career in music the best.


Tony Maceli has performed with many artists including Dave Egger, Jenny Own Youngs, Elizabeth and the Catapult, Elizaveta, Ian Axel, Bob Kinkel, Vienna Teng, and many more. He has also subbed on Broadway shows, including the original production of Rent. Connect with Tony at the next Full Vinyl show at Rockwood.

Introducing the Working Musician Interview Series is dedicated to helping the musician industry thrive. We’ve offered advice and tips to help working musicians make the most of their careers. Along the way we’ve also spoken to many of our peers and learned about how they make their living. We really believe that there are as many ways to be a freelance musician as there are freelance musicians.

To help illustrate that point, we’re going to start posting more interviews with working musicians. You may not recognize all of these musicians’ names, but you are probably familiar with their work, or can relate to the types of gigs they play.

We’ll start tomorrow with an interview of New York’s Tony Maceli, a multi-instrumentalist that’s done just about every type of musician job imaginable. Meanwhile you can read some of the past interviews on our site, including keyboardist Brad Whiteley, producer Steve Migliore (aka Mr. Mig), guitarist Lance Seymour, indie artist Allison Weiss, music director Tom Carradine, and more.

Freelance Musician Profile: Guitarist Lance Seymour

Several months ago I was looking for a specific piece of gear. I couldn’t find it on all the usual places you go to shop for used items, but then I saw a friend post something in a Facebook group called Gear Talk: Classifieds. I promptly joined the group and found the pedal I wanted, er, needed (as I explained to my wife).

I later learned that Gear Talk: Classifieds was an extension of a Gear Talk group where musicians, mostly guitarists, just chatted about gear. You see, guitarists can have vastly different ideas about politics, religion, and even different tastes in music, but we all see eye to eye when it comes to a sweet rig.

It turned out the Gear Talk groups were started by Atlanta based guitarist Lance Seymour. As the original group continued to grow, Lance saw the need for smaller regional groups, and groups for bassists, drummers, pro players, praise and worship guitarists, acoustic instruments, and more. Collectively these groups have become an enormous network for guitarists and other musicians all over the world.

Over the last several months I’ve gotten to know Lance. Before he started Gear Talk, he built a career as an in-demand freelance guitar player in the Southeast. On a recent visit to Atlanta, I got together with Lance, played some guitar, and talked to him about his career and what he’s learned about building online communities with Gear Talk.

Guitarist Lance SeymourCM: Tell us about your career. How long would you say you’ve been playing professionally?

LS: I have been playing professionally for about 10 years in Atlanta. I started doing gigs quite a few years before. Small bar, cover band type stuff. I also played in church almost immediately after starting to play music, 13 years ago, or so.

What kinds of gigs are you doing these days, not just playing, but any sort of musician job that puts bread on the table?

You could say playing guitar has been my main source of income for the last 10 years.

I definitely have been playing the ‘jack of all trades’ role as a professional musician. My gigs are so spread across the board, playing everything from Rock and Pop gigs, to Classic country, and new country and of course playing gospel and contemporary Christian music all the time. Atlanta is really as diverse as it can be, music-wise. But I think that’s a good thing. I love one night getting to play classic country and then the next night play RnB, and get up the morning after that and play at a church somewhere. Makes for A LOT of music to learn.

As for other things that put bread on the table, I teach several instruments. I just started teaching Skype lessons, which has been incredibly rewarding. I am also the band leader for a few different artists. I write charts for them, which I’m paid for.

How do you find your gigs? Or how do they find you?

Typically gigs find me. Fortunately I have been able to play with so many musicians in the last 10 years, that my number gets passed around. I get calls constantly where the conversation starts with “Hi, I got your number from ….so and so. I’m looking for a guitarist.”

The key is being a professional when you’re on a gig. I often say “the gig you’re on right now is an audition for your next gig.” If you do your job and are a great hang at the same time, it’s impossible not to get called for work.

What advice would you give specifically to young guitarists that want to make a living playing music?

HA! Why would anyone want to make a living playing music? No, I think being a professional musician is awesome and I would not trade it for another job.

I think it’s important for young musicians to learn the type of things that really get you work:

Knowing tons and tons of songs and playing them all authentically is huge for getting gigs. Constantly be adding to your repertoire.

Learn musicians’ language, terms and phrases so you know what people are talking about in rehearsals and on stage.

Also LEARN NUMBER CHORDS. It’s so important for musicians to be able to recognize chords by their numerical name. No excuse for not knowing them and being able to read them.

I think for guitarists in general, need to be able to able to tailor their tone to whatever style they happen to be playing at the time. Guitarists have so many choices when it comes to gear and effects, in general. It’s important to know how to dial it in and make it feel right for the song.

One piece of advice I give to younger players all time comes from that saying “dress for the job you want, not the job you have.” Meaning basically to do every gig like it’s your dream gig. Just because you’re doing what you consider a ‘less than stellar’ gig, you have no excuse to give less than 100% to it. It’s disrespectful to the people you’re working with and to yourself. That attitude will lead to the gigs you actually want to be doing.

Changing directions a little bit, you’ve also been actively building a community of musicians on Facebook with the Gear Talk groups. What made you start the first Gear Talk group?

Gear Talk started for a couple of reasons. First being, I wanted a place for me and my friends could go and talk about guitar gear. Pedals and amps and all that sort of stuff. I found myself on the phone constantly with my gear head friends, having two hour long conversations about guitar pedals. Like really passionate debates. I wanted there to be a network online where all my gear head friends would talk and debate and learn.

Also, just over a year ago, when I started Gear Talk, I had several guitar pedals I wanted to sell. I posted them on my newsfeed on Facebook and got zero responses. I thought it was strange considering the majority of my friends are musicians. Did my post just go down Facebook’s timeline and hardly anyone saw it? I figured I’d create a group and add all the guitarists I knew might be interested in buying my pedals! The whole thing kind of snowballed from there.

Why did you decide to do it on Facebook, verses a different online platform?

Facebook seemed like the ultimate platform. Everyone is on it and are using it all day. They know how it works, there’s not much of a learning curve. It has a great mobile app that’s easy to use.

I could not have invited all my friends to join some random gear forum somewhere else online and expect them to join it. The members were already built in to the network. Seemed like a perfect place for gear nerds to commune.

Also, one of the big advantages of Facebook over traditional forums is that there’s no anonymity. People tend to be friendlier and more honest because they are using their real names and you can see their picture. Nobody is hiding behind screen names.

Do you have any plans to create a website for the group outside of Facebook?

Yes. As a matter of fact, I am about to launch It’s a site that will cater to Gear Talk members’ interests. It’ll have articles, gear reviews, interviews with professionals in the industry and lessons.

So essentially, it’s not a forum to try and take Gear Talk members off of Facebook, but a site that offers them more options than Facebook groups allow and is custom tailored specifically for already existing Gear Talk members.

What are you learning about building communities online?

I am constantly learning. My goal was not to start a forum and get a ton of members in it. There’s really no reason to have tens of thousands of members in these groups if they’re not passionate about gear.

What was great about Gear Talk as it started with me and a bunch of full-time working musicians. It was not something I started to create a business. It’s been really organic from the get go and I think that’s what people find cool about it. It’s not sponsored by some company trying to sell you anything. It’s a great hang for gear heads from all over the world now.

I think as the groups have grown, I am able to spot things that need to be fixed and improved, so things in the group evolve. Sometimes rules are made. Sometimes I have to re-direct to focus of the group/groups.

One thing I have learned, is people love to feel part of a community. Not part of this massive monster forum of anonymous people. This is why I started Gear Talk regional groups, in order to help people network in their own regions and also make buying/selling/trading much easier.

Last March you hosted the Gear Talk Expo 2012 in Atlanta, which turned out to be a big success. Tell us a little about why you decided to put that together and how it’s effected the online community.

Yeah, GTE2012 was amazing! It was also an idea that snowballed into this huge thing.

Several months ago, we were talking about having a get-together for Gear Talk members in Atlanta. It started as a backyard BBQ sort of idea. Bring your gear, hang out, eat some food.

A friend of mine, Damon Breeland, works for Avatar Events Group in Atlanta suggested we host it there. Seemed like a perfect location. Right in the center of Atlanta and a venue that is quite comfortable with guitar geeks cranking up their amps. Since Avatar has a stage, I booked Damon’s band, Nigredo to play. They’re a terrific instrumental band. Sort of an amazing wall of sound created by dozens and dozens of amps and guitar pedals.

Iconic guitarist/Co-Founder of 65 Amps/producer/sideman, Peter Stroud has been an active member on Gear Talk, and also lives in Atlanta. I emailed him and asked him if he’d be interested in doing a clinic at the get together. There really was not a better choice. Peter was incredibly cool and agreed to come out.

After Peter/65 Amps were on board, it seemed like a good idea to invite other builders in the area to bring their stuff to show off. I asked Richard Goodsell of Goodsell amps and he was in. Then Fuchs amplifiers, thanks to Bryan Akers who works for Avatar. After that, companies from all over the country started contacting me asking me if they could come.

I had about 40 days to organize and promote GTE2012. It ended up exceeding my expectations with number guests and amazing networking. The cool thing about it was, it was not corporate at all. It was grassroots. It was not sponsored by some corporation. I financed the entire thing myself! It came off exactly how I wanted it. A get together among gear heads with a bunch of special guests and some truly amazing gear.

What’s next for Lance Seymour?

Tons of gigs. I am pretty slammed right now and working on Been one of the busiest years of my life. I am already planning GTE2013. I can’t wait for it. I am working on ways to develop Gear Talk for members and companies. Just recently, i started the group Gear Talk: Marketplace as a way for companies to promote their products for free to Gear Talk members without coming off like they’re trying to post a commercial on one of the Gear Talk groups. It’s been really successful so far.


Visit guitarist Lance Seymour’s website and Facebook page to learn more.

If you’re interested in being a part of the Gear Talk community, join one or more of the groups below!

How to Set Up & Grow Your Music-Teaching Business

If you’re reading this article I assume you are currently a music teacher—or would like to be. And if you want to become a music teacher, we’ll assume that you can already play.  However, if you’re still practicing to get to that point, then hopefully this article will be all the incentive you need to reach your goals!  Assuming that you can already play rather proficiently in most of the popular styles, the real question is how do you translate your skill into an income?  This article shows you how.

Taking Steps to Become a Full-Time Music Teacher

If you’re lucky enough to be able to do this full-time—because you’ve already established a regular roster of students, or have some money saved up—working as a full-time music teacher can be a great gig.  However, if you can’t do this full-time, you might want to consider switching jobs, if feasible.

Before I was teaching full-time I worked at my local music store.  The store was a great place to meet new students and get my name “out there.”

I strongly suggest that once you have some money saved up—make the switch to teaching full-time, even if your schedule isn’t completely filled yet.  When you do this, you’ll be at a considerable advantage: you can accommodate potential students on any day of the week.  For example, I work Monday thru Saturday, 10AM to 9PM, so I can fit in even the most demanding student.

Along those lines, I’ve found Microsoft Outlook to be great for scheduling.  I even use the iCloud Calendar inside of Outlook because it syncs via Bluetooth with my iPhone.  For invoicing, I use Excel spreadsheets.

The Problem with Teaching at Students’ Homes

When I first began teaching full-time, I made one mistake that most teachers make: I agreed to teach students at their homes.  While it was convenient for them, I didn’t realize that I was shooting myself in the foot.

In the end, I was spending hours stuck in traffic, way too much money on gas—and ultimately, stressing myself out—because I wasn’t maximizing my time.  Once I made the decision to only teach in my own home studio, however, I never looked back!

I strongly encourage you to teach from your own home—even if that means less work at first.  If you can take bookings back-to-back in your home office you can make more money—and use your downtime to promote your business, too.

Looking back, it’s unbelievable how much time I wasted teaching at my students’ homes!  I’d spend about 10 minutes finding a wall plug, getting situated in a chair, tuning up, perhaps taking a few moments for a bathroom break. After that, the student would often make an impromptu request to be taught a new song—if I didn’t know the tune I’d spend another 5-10 minutes learning it on the fly.  Before I looked up, half the lesson would be over!  Meanwhile, I was being graded by how much they could learn in that hour.  It didn’t take me long to realize: I give much better lessons at my place—where all these hassles are under control!

Get Your Gear in Order

Now is a good time to get your home office rockin’.  When I started years ago, I made the mistake of not having all the right gear—and ended up wasting time, money and energy.

To start, you’ll need a computer with high-speed internet access to download, stream and play audio files.  Also, you’ll need a professional-quality computer sound system (I use the Bose Companion 5).

Additionally, you’ll need to have some additional instrument-specific equipment.  For guitarists, for example, it’s important to have a good teaching amplifier: I like Peavey’s Vypyr 15-watt model amp because it doesn’t disturb my neighbors too much, yet the sound is still top-notch.  Tuners and any other pedals are great; they make the entire experience more professional and accommodating for students.

A great website for buying top-flight gear is  They sell quality equipment, ship anywhere and are really affordable.

Get Your Studio in Order

Nothing screams out amateur-hour more than having a messy, unorganized place of business.  People judge you for how you keep your place, and this impacts your business.  Don’t make this mistake.

Always make sure your home office is always clean and orderly.  Additionally, it always helps to protect yourself—particularly if you are a guy teaching women and / or children.  If students are coming to your place alone, it is absolutely essential to set-up a video camera and record all lessons on a DVR.  (In most states, it is legal to record only visual—but not audio records—without the other party’s consent).

I installed a 24-hr camera recording in my teaching office and a monitor that reminds students that they are always on camera: they are constantly reminded to be on their best behavior.  If there is ever an accusation of inappropriate behavior, it’s comforting to know that you have a true version of events recorded and saved on the DVR.

Money & Payments

When I first started, I was really flexible with payment terms—trying to be a nice guy, and make it easier for my students.  Big mistake.

Before all else: make sure that your lessons are paid in advance.  Today I ask students to buy prepaid packages of 5, 10 or 20 lessons.  I also use a staggered pricing system that gives a greater discount for larger packages. Before each last ‘paid’ lesson, I email my student and remind them to bring a renewal check to their next lesson.

Also, always enact a cancelation policy.  Sad to say, but some people will try to see what they can get away with—particularly when they sense that you need their business.  They might cancel at the last moment, and then beg & plead not to be charged for it: never mind that you kept their lesson time and turned down other bookings.  While it’s not always fun to be the ‘tough guy,’ stick to your policy. Personally-speaking, I have a strict 48-hour cancelation policy.  If a student cancels within 48 hours they will be charged for the full lesson price.

Be sure to type and print out your policy for all students to see.  I have my new sign-ups sign the agreement and initial my 48-hr cancelation policy.  I retain the signed copy for my records, hand them a hard copy, and even email them a version. Remember, the more professional you are, the better you will be treated by your students.

Always do your best to book your lessons back-to-back.  It’s good business for your students to see you teaching other students.  Doing so helps enforce the idea that they are not the only student you have—and will do much to improve their attitude.  If your student senses that you are an extremely-popular, heavily-booked teacher, they will be more respectful of you and your time—and more diligent in keeping up with their payments!  If they don’t have that respect for you, your bottom line will suffer.

I can’t repeat it enough: Excel is a great program for invoicing & billing.  I can get specific breakdowns on different billing plans, attendance (if they were a no-show and got charged for it, etc.) and more. It’s not something that I liked doing initially—but now that I’ve gotten serious about my billing & invoicing, I actually make more money, and enjoy teaching even more!

Promote Your Business

For many music teachers, this is the difficult part…for years, I was a great teacher—with lots of students, but was having problems growing my business.  That’s when I realized that teaching music lessons is a two-part process: you have to work as a teacher AND on growing your business.

With that in mind, start getting proactive about growing your business.  Print business cards, flyers and posters.  Book a photo-shoot for yourself.  Create a website.  Film a few YouTube videos of your playing.  When a new student is inquiring about your lessons (and comparing you to other teachers), you want to put your best foot forward.  Make the decision easier for them by showing them how much you have it together.

Also, always think one step ahead: type up directions to your home, and put them in document form, which you can easily attach to an email.  Also, the YouTube videos you’ve made that showcase your talents can easily be included in an email—and will hopefully seal the deal (!)  Include a picture of yourself or a link to your website, blog, or social media site (Twitter, Facebook, etc.)  The more information you can give potential students, the better the results.

Leverage Free Online Resources to Promote Yourself

When I was first starting out, I was a little intimated by the web.  I had no idea how to start a blog, or upload videos.  But trust me, these things are easy to do—and if you’re not doing them, you’re losing money!  Google, YouTube, and WordPress are three great places to start.

At Google, create a business address and immediately get some friends to review your lessons.  This helps tremendously, and costs nothing.  Get at least one new review per month, so your page is always current.

Start a blog at WordPress and update it regularly.  It’s a great way to stay in touch with potential students, grow your business and present yourself as expert.

Check out YouTube and create a video of yourself—and then upload it.  Embed some YouTube videos of your playing, and upload new YouTube videos regularly.  Check out other teachers: figure out what makes a good video, and do the same.

Creating regular videos makes you a better teacher—doing so forces you to make your ideas more understandable and teachable.  Also, your teaching improves when you have a repertoire of preplanned lessons / videos for a range of students: if you’re having an uninspired teaching-day you can switch on ‘autopilot’ and rely on video (use the lesson verbatim, and email the student a copy, too).  Videos inspire students, and that’s good for business:  when they improve faster because of the video, they’ll stick with you longer, and refer friends.

Always use a good camera: I use a Logitech 9000 in HD, and it is relatively cheap.  This little bit of investment goes a long way.

Get Offline & Get Outdoors!

The powers of the internet may make some teachers focus on online marketing.  It also helps to shut off your computer and get out in the real world to promote yourself!

Network at your local music store: sit down, try out a few instruments, and let everyone that works there hear how good you are. Always be polite and professional to everyone so that your reputation remains stellar.  Don’t be shy: set up a commission system with sales associates, rewarding them each time they refer you a new student.

As a side note, I give almost 100% of the money from my first lesson with a new student to the salesman who referred me (a lot more than most teachers give).  It pays to be generous.  In fact, most teachers have NO reward system for referrals—and they suffer for it (!)

What’s Next: Making the Move

If you’re like me and you love playing & teaching music, you’ve probably already asked yourself: why not get paid to do it all day?  With some dedication—and by using this article as a guide—there’s no reason why you, too, can’t become a full-time professional music teacher.

Remember, there’ll always be people out there who want to learn how to play—so there’ll always be a need for talented teachers—just like you.

Start Your Own Wedding Band

Finding a safe, viable career performing music is no easy task. While it might not be the first choice for every aspiring musician, one way to make a decent bit of money from gigging is to start your own wedding band.

It takes a bit of time to get your wedding band off the ground, but for me it was an obvious choice–starting up a professional gigging band, such as a wedding band, offers a better guarantee of regular income than you might have with your original music.

Why do most musicians start or join wedding bands? The money. Unlike an original band, you don’t have to worry about how many people are coming through the door or how well you promoted the show. Once a wedding band has established itself it can have gigs booked a year out, all with guaranteed money.

And the money is good! As a wedding band you can expect to charge anything from $1250 upwards per show. Even in times of economic downturn there are still a lot of people willing to spend big money making their special day a memorable experience.

To run your own wedding band, you need to think of it as a business enterprise that will need a little bit of time and money invested up front before it pays off. It is, however, a rewarding career choice both in terms of the money and the people you meet. Finishing a night’s work knowing that you’ve helped make someone’s big day an especially memorable experience is rewarding in itself.

This article aims to help you set up your own wedding band and give you advice on how to run it as a successful, rewarding business.

Step 1: Putting together the band.

Like any band it is important you have a group of people that you work well with together musically but what is hugely important in this field is having a group of professional minded people that can look and act the part and not jeopardise future bookings (see 5 Traits of a Professional Musician).

All of you will be representing the band on and off stage so having a group of people that look and act accordingly is key to your success. From my experience the two biggest pitfalls that wedding bands face are having someone that feels they are above manual work or having members that you would be worried about talking to wedding guests.

As well as being able to play well together it is worth considering how each member can contribute outside of their duties as a musician. Think about what everyone can bring to the table to cut down paying additional crew – is someone in the band quite business minded? Do you have a marketing wizard that could make your self-promotion stand out? Can someone act as a sound engineer? Do you have enough drivers/cars or someone with a van? Without these, the journey ahead will be a lot harder if not impossible.

You will be expected to be a self contained unit so can’t rely on crew that a venue might ordinarily provide. It will make all of your jobs a lot easier if everyone pitches in on unloading gear and setting up.

The best wedding band jobs I’ve had in are when everyone contributes in their own unique ways and gets along. Having a group of people you actually like spending time with is important and avoiding infighting can be the difference between this being a rewarding lifestyle career and another day at the office.

Step 2: What will you need?


One of the biggest problems you will face on setting up a wedding band is having the capital to get all of the equipment you’ll need to go out and gig. One solution to this is going out and playing some bars as a cover band when you’ve got a set together and using some of this money to fund it. Not everyone has the money up-front to cover these costs and if you want to avoid using a credit card / loan this is a good solution that will mean you won’t have to worry about debt before you’ve even started.

As a basic set-up you will need professional quality instruments and gear, a PA system capable of handling large venues and enough lighting to make sure you’re well lit when a venue doesn’t have these facilities.

Often the places you play aren’t designed for bands or will be located far away from any music hardware stores so remember to bring a spare of everything you can and plenty of power extension cables and multi-sockets with a decent fuse on them in case there aren’t sufficient power supplies at the venue.

Think about your set up as a mobile stage that can be easily transportable and can set up in as minimal time as possible. In this line of work I have played venues from teepee’s to large scale halls and often you won’t know what to expect until you arrive so it really doesn’t hurt to be over prepared.

A lot of venues (especially at corporate events or though booking agents) will want to know that all of your electrical equipment has undergone all of the necessary safety checks and that you are covered for public liability insurance so it’s best to get this sorted as soon as possible to avoid losing bookings.


Depending on what sort of music you are playing and how you want to put yourselves across as a band this will differ in each wedding band but it is important to dress right for the gig. Just look smart and try to look like you all belong together.

You will be expected to look the part and it is your choice whether you choose to go for matching outfits or try to fit into a visual theme. It is important that you are dressed formally but set yourselves apart from wedding guests/waiting staff.

A lot of wedding bands opt for matching colour themes, but there is no rule of thumb. Check out what other bands are wearing and think about bands that stand out in your mind for how they look (Temptations, Bruno Mars etc…).

Picking a visual theme that works for your band can make all the difference, especially on agency sites where people are browsing a variety of groups.

Step 3: Coming up with a repertoire.

Choosing your repertoire will depend on what sort of band you want to be. There are a huge variety of bands that people book for weddings such as jazz trio’s, big bands, pop covers.. so it is up to you to decide whether to want to cover a niche market or try to cater for everyone.

Unless your wedding band is playing a specific genre and you feel that your set will meet the expectations of this you are going to want to try and cover all of the bases. Most wedding bands will have a style that they play in but try to keep everyone happy. There will be a broad age range so it helps to have a few from each popular genre – 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, disco,some light rock classics and try to throw in a few recent chart hits for the kids!

You will be booked largely on the basis of what type of music you play so be careful to monitor which songs go down well with crowds and consider learning songs that are popularly requested.

If you’re largely out of touch with pop music, try asking a younger friend/relative or keep an eye on the charts for songs you think your band could do a good job of.

What some bands do is offer the client a song request of their choice if booked far enough in advance. This can be really useful for first dances or for songs that hold a sentiment to the newly weds and can make quite an impact if played right and make it all the more memorable for the client.

When it comes to learning the songs it is rare that the band will follow charts so being able to improvise and have a good rapport with the rest of your band will make your lives a lot easier and cut down on practice time. Considering how many songs you’ll need to learn, especially in the first few months before you’ve got a set, you’ll probably want to spend as little time in practice room as possible.

Successful, well functioning wedding bands I have been in in the past have discussed songs together, picked a key that works best for the singer and then learnt the songs in our own time. Practice time can then be spent productively once everyone knows the songs and is largely time to try out putting songs into medleys or adding exciting motifs to the music to make the show memorable.

If you have a prominent musical director type in the band they might have their own ideas for arrangements and each band will play songs in a unique style to themselves as you are trying to make a wide spectrum of music sound good with one set-up.

Some bands choose to learn songs exactly as they are on record while others favour fitting them into medley’s with other songs or doing their own thing with them. How you decide to approach this will affect the product you’re trying to sell, as some bands rely on authentic and true-to-record versions as a unique selling point.

It is unlikely that you are going to be passionate about every song you play so it might help to try leaving your personal feelings towards music at the door. By the hundredth time you’ve played any song you will feel relatively indifferent to it but it is important from the audience perspective that it looks like you’re enjoying every moment like it’s your favourite song.

Step 4: Booking gigs.

First and foremost, when you’re up and running and ready to get gigs, you need to think about booking from the perspective of somebody planning a wedding.. typically the bride. While I often pick up weddings from playing bars and club nights, many brides-to-be don’t want to dedicate a lot of their time to watching different bands as they have a lot of other things to think about and entertainment might not be on the top of their list of priorities.

You might consider paying money for advertising in wedding magazines, websites or wedding planning phone app’s. Some of these will cost you so are worth waiting for later down the line when you have the dollar to fork out.

There are booking agents that you can audition for / apply for but from personal experience these are not to be relied upon for consistent work. They will also take a generous commission and you may find that it is better to think of these as a way to fill the occasional date rather than use them as a long term solution.

Wedding expo’s are another route to take although again, will depend on some money up front to be there. This can take a few different forms from playing occasional slots during the day to sitting at a table with a display talking to potential customers. This is where a full on charm offensive can be of utmost importance and often serves as a fantastic opportunity to network with other wedding related businesses who may choose to promote your wedding band through their own work (e.g.- recommending your band in bridal wear shops or putting a link to you on their website in return for the same).

This is a huge industry to itself though, and while it will cost you to be there it is a rare opportunity for a captive audience of wedding planners to take an interest so use each second you’re there to push yourself and chat with people. Even if you don’t get as many bookings as you’d hope for it will help you get into the mindset of your client and understand what people are looking for in a band.

Having a strong online presence is important as many people will do the majority of their wedding planning online. So get yourself a website made, don’t overwhelm the viewer with information just tell them what package you offer, what sort of music you play and try to provide some pictures/audio clips of you playing, any other media is an added bonus.

Equally, social networking sites and free ad sites can be a useful tool for directing people towards your band. There are plenty of sites out there that will advertise on your behalf for little to no money so try and be creative when you’re writing the description for your band to make you stand out.

You should try and get a testimonial from each gig you play and put these on your website and it is useful for clients to see whether paying customers feel that they got their moneys worth.

Generally, wedding bands are booked far in advance of the day itself so when you start out you shouldn’t expect to be playing any high paying gigs for a while. It is important to manage your diary effectively and plan up to 2 years in advance but putting in the time will pay off in the future. Use this time to play more immediate gigs, it will help strengthen you as a band and make sure you’re well practiced in a live scenario before you’re asking for serious money.

Step 5: Managing the business.

While there are obvious benefits to playing music that people already know and love and a decent wage at the end of a night, it’s important to remember that like any other business you are going to need to give it a lot of attention to keep bookings coming in.

Be prepared

When you have some gigs booked, there are a few things to think about and plan ahead to make sure the day goes smoothly. Think about how long will it take to get to the gig and when you are going to be able to set up and sound check. You might be left with a tight schedule to do this if guests are arriving early or the venue is being used earlier in the day so don’t turn up a few hours before you’re due to go on and expect that people can work around you.

It’s worth taking into consideration that there are also additional things to budget for like new gear, food costs and transport costs.. all of these things mount up so try and keep some money in the bank if you can and always try to keep some money free in case of emergency. If an expensive piece of equipment breaks down you will need to be able to cover hiring gear if you aren’t otherwise able to borrow any.

When you are negotiating a price with the client it is best to have a clear price structure in mind beforehand; often people will try to get away with charging as much as possible and the client will smell the BS a mile away.. look at how much other people are charging for what you’re offering and try to give a fair price for what you offer.

Offering a range of packages to suit the clients needs

As well as the wedding band itself, you might want to consider offering a range of different packages in different price ranges; these can include:

  • Offering a DJ service in addition to a band – often the client will want to book the evening’s entertainment in one package rather than pay for a band and a DJ separately so if this is something you can provide then it’s seriously worth considering. Even if it’s just a laptop with a good range of music some people will be more than happy with this, just be honest about what you’re offering up front.
  • Incentives for booking early – this will help to encourage clients not to hold off until the last minute and secure you bookings for the future.
  • An acoustic set for reception/meal – this can be a really nice extra touch if you want to provide some light dining music before your main set and can make you a talking point before the evening begins

Setting aside a marketing budget and using it wisely

To be more efficient with your marketing budget it’s best to keep track in the first year of how you’re getting each booking which will help you determine what is the most effective way that works for you. You can analyse this in your second year and help you plan a more focussed strategy with minimum waste.

One way to do this is by keeping a spreadsheet so that you have a clear record of what’s working for you and what you could spend less on in the future. It’s all about figuring out what works for you best but once you have a more refined strategy you will find it this a lot easier.


Playing in a wedding band is all about delivering a great experience for the client. It is natural for a lot of wedding band musicians to feel like they are selling their soul a bit by playing cheesy pop covers but you are aiming to provide an evenings entertainment that will cater for as many people in the room as possible.

Keeping your ego in check is important as well, as nobody wants to hear a rip-roaring guitar solo and the focus is going to be very much on the bride and groom. It’s not to say that you can’t stand out or offer something truly memorable but bear there are limits ( so do what you are paid to do.

Word travels fast in this businesses and it is often the case that when someone is getting married, they will have friends doing the same before too long. Making a good impression at one gig can lead to further bookings so it is important, even if you’re just playing a bar, to look like you’re having the time of your life. Reputation is everything.

Finally, I’d say that the most important tool you can have in playing in a wedding band is a good attitude. Try to approach the band from a customer perspective and find creative ways to showcase what you do. Being a solid, exciting band that people will remember is important but you will find that the relationships you build by being a professional and reliable character will go a long way to ensuring your success.

And smile, always smile. It’s their special day.