This week I wanna talk about the actual job of a working musician.
What it takes to “make it” as a full-time player or hired gun.
I have seen so many aspiring musicians talk about how they want nothing more than to make a living playing their instrument and to quit their dead-end jobs to pursue music full-time.
And to be honest, most of them are full of shit.
Most aren’t willing to put the work in to get to the level of proficiency it takes to do this kind of work.
Or, they consider themselves “artists” who shouldn’t have to stoop to playing gigs they consider “beneath them.”
I feel like there is a divide in lots of musician circles that we, the cover band guys, are sellouts and lame for not writing/performing our own music.
It is thought that we are somehow “less than”because we lack “artistic integrity” they somehow possess.
I know that sentiment because I definitely felt that way as a younger musician.
I played in an original group for roughly 10 years.
We played a lot of shows, we made a few records and got to do some cool gigs with national acts like Garbage and Panic at the Disco.
Playing original music and touring was hard work and I didn’t make much money off of it
But I still looked down my nose at guys who “gave up” their dream and played in cover bands.
Here’s the thing though:
I was not a primary songwriter for that group. When we went into the studio, I didn’t play every guitar part.
When the record was done, odds are I ended up playing something the other guitar player or producer put down or singing a harmony someone else came up with.
When that band split up I went the route of hired gun. My job then was to play for other artists and play their songs.
They were not interested in my “interpretation” of their material. They were interested in my ability to replicate it.
I was playing someone else’s parts on someone else’s songs.
And that’s when it hit me, I was in a cover band.
It didn’t matter the paycheck or the size of the stage or the budget of the video, odds are as a musician your job is going to be playing someone else’s song or someone else’s licks.
Once I realized that, I also realized I was really wasting a lot of energy trying to prove to others that I was a “legit” player who took the “industry” seriously.
When I started doing cover bands at a corporate level, I was subbing for a group in Atlanta called Yacht Rock Revue. These guys were not messing around. They had a marketing apparatus, they were touring and making more money in a weekend that I was making in a year playing original music.
Oh yeah, and they were using that money to record their own stuff.
Both for the band and their own solo projects.
And they could hire legit producers in awesome studios.
I was working at the Apple store.
I was humbled by their musicianship and their business acumen, but I also learned a lot from that experience.
It really set me on the path that I’m on today.
So that begs the question: if all bands are cover bands to some extent, are you in a good one?
What can you do to make your band better?
Do all rules apply to all bands if the reality is that there isn’t much of a difference?
This is what I would call the manifesto of this entire website.
If you really want to pursue music as a money making venture you have to change your mindset and put the work in to be able to do this as a trade.
If you don’t, you won’t make it.
And I also want to acknowledge that that’s ok too.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with doing music as a hobby.
If you write & record your own songs and have no interest in marketing and selling them, that’s awesome. If your band is what we call a “man-cave” band
Or “she shed” band.
And it’s just an excuse to get together with your friends and blow off steam that’s awesome too.
But if you’ve made it this far into the post, I’m assuming you’re not those people.
If you regularly consume our content, you’re not one of those people.
You want to figure out how to do this job and do it well.
So be willing to put the effort in to be great, and the rest will follow.
Adam and Dan play in bands. They're pretty good.