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October 19, 2013 · 


TIPS TO SHOW YOU ARE A PROFESSIONAL MUSICIAN; Or what to do to be taken seriously and make more money in this industry.

By Suzanne Swanson   Sept 2013   copyright


What is about to be shared here are simple, easy to follow steps to assist all musicians. Whether you are a single, or a band, there are certain aspects in our industry that never change. Nothing new is shared here. What I have complied comes from my years of observations judging at the International Blues Challenge, held in Memphis every year, managing bands, holding an agents license, as well as filming thousands of music acts over the course of my life. Having cut my first single when I was fourteen and more of less growing up in this business, I have a certain perspective. Not all of what is given here may apply to you. The bottom-line, for me, is that I would really like to give some basic ideas that I honestly hope will generate more income for musician and, in some cases, a different way to polish your act so you get more gigs.

In no particular order, here are the suggestions.

Do not be afraid to appear successful. Go see and hear popular acts in your area. You will find their production refined and as a unit, not individuals. They engage the audience, do not look at their feet, chew gum, and look as if they wish they were anywhere else. They “work” the crowd.

When you take the stage do not wander in separately, take your instrument, and play a few riffs. That wastes the benefit of surprise. Do your sound check beforehand, enter quietly and together. Count the song in, hitting the lights at the same time, and be prepared to begin showing high energy thus making audience conversations stop. It gives a dynamic first impression that lasts.

It is a given that you cannot control stages when you are travelling place to place. It is recommended that you invest in a black backdrop, making what lights are there far more effective. It can be very distracting to an audience to play in front of glass or gaming panels. You want to be the centre of attention.

If you carry your own gear, make sure you notice the condition they are in. If your speaker bins or horns look tired and worn, repair them or replace them. If you have props to hold your gear up cover them with black cloth.

Speaking of gear, make sure your personal instruments are in good repair. Make sure all connections are secure and soldered correctly. There is nothing worse than to have an amp, monitor, or peddles malfunction when you least expect it.

If you carry a lighting system with you, have everything in A-1 condition. For a non-LED system, make sure the gels are clean or new, the PAR cans should be knocked out of any dents if aluminum. Black cans can be painted should be painted if they are dirty or scratched. Keep the stage as orderly as possible.

Stage clothes are important. You do not have to look like an act from Las Vegas show lounges but you do have to look as if there was care and thought put into how you separate yourself from the audience. The clothes do not have to be expensive either but coordinating them with your fellow band mates is important. Color draws attention to you. You do not want to appear to have just fallen out of bed or been out working on vehicles all day… even if you have. Dress pants are preferable over jeans any day. The successful blues/gospel/country acts always wear suits and look as if they have already achieved success in their genre.

In pacing your set, think about using psychology when writing up your set list to be shared with everyone in the band. Audiences cannot endure music for an hour that is presented ‘at full tilt’. Your response will be greatly improved if you begin strong and end strong, using an emotional dip in the middle.

It does not matter what style of music you play it is preferable to have a least most of it danceable. Music is enjoyed in a social setting or event most of the time; give the audience a reason to socialize.

A last word, please be positive and up-beat. A smile and looking like you are enjoying what you do does wonders for both band members and the audience.

Unfortunately I was asked to judge a band this past year that I would like to take as an example. The leader/vocalist was dressed in a bright colored suit with matching hat. His energy was infectious, positive, and charming. The sidemen appeared to have just tumbled onto the stage from sleeping on a sidewalk somewhere. They never looked at the leader for direction. They did not seem to care when each of the other members were playing. It was a sad state of affairs as the leader was so good and they were so lacking. If you have been hired to play, or have garnered a position to compete, or even performing a benefit, remember you are being watched and listened to. You do not know who will be in your audience that might be keen on hiring you or even wishing to take you to the next level. Be smart; play and present yourself as if you are performing for royalty…. be it president or king.

There will be further commenting articles on how to secure those much needed gigs if there is sufficient interest shown.......  

Copyright 2013  The Blues And Nothing But The Blues -  Suzanne Swanson