Professionalism - What It Means And How To Achieve It
Why are you reading this magazine? No, seriously. Itís not just because youíre a musician Ė there are plenty of New Zealand musicians who donít read NZ Musician.
Iíll wager itís because you are either a professional musician, or you are interested in pursuing music as a profession. Underlying all these flash page layouts, glossy adverts, and thoughtful articles is the understanding that this is part of a long, always-changing and never-ending guidebook to a life path: music as an occupation, not just a hobby. So letís really examine what it means to be a professional, and not waste any words. ...more
The Gentle Art of B.S. Detection in the Music Business
There are some facts of life in this business, and one of the most annoying is that people lie. ...more
Starting From Square One: Part 6: Surviving Your First Gig
So letís say youíre a first-time band member, and as this series has been unfolding over the past five issues, youíve gotten serious, jammed around, auditioned, and formed or joined your first band. Now your very first gig is staring you in the face. How do you get through a set in front of a completely new audience without too many mess-ups? ...more
Starting From Square One: Part 5: Joining a New Band
So youíve rung up some numbers on the bulletin board, done a few auditions, and now youíve been invited to join your first band. Maybe youíve been in one or two bands before, but those were bands that you formed with people you knew. Or maybe youíve never been in a bands situation at all. Or possibly youíve joined a couple of bands in the past, and they both fell apart immediately. The question is: how do you make the most out of your new position as a band member, and help the band become a positive part of your musical development? ...more
Starting From Square One Part 4: Preparing For An Audition
When we musicians go through the audition process, in a way, we all become equal. Whether weíre experienced studio musicians, orchestra players, or high school newbies, we all have to face the uncertainty, hard work, nerves Ė and often, disappointment. Here are some tips to not only get you ready, but also to give you some perspective and keep you on track.
Starting From Square One Part 2: Developing Your Chops
Last issue covered the basics of being a dependable, righteous band musician if youíre just starting out. Letís now get past the philosophy and start practising. Sure, youíve always loved music Ė maybe you played it as a littlie and now youíre serious enough to join a band. But there is a world of difference between taking guitar lessons and playing in a band. This article will get you ready for that experience, and maybe give you some perspective and development goals if youíre already jamming with your mates.
Constructive Rehearsals Part 4: Making Rehearsals Work For You
Over the past few issues weíve examined the elements that make a good band great in the rehearsal room Ė the ability to make sacrifices and draw boundaries, as well as knowing how to crank the dial on your goals and teamwork. Weíve also defined the four basic forms of rock rehearsing: learning cover songs, songwriting, maintenance practice, and concert mode. Now, how does all of this fit into the schedule of a band with upcoming gigs and serious plans?
Starting From Square One - Part 1: Advice for the First-Time Band Member
In previous Building Blocks articles Iíve covered a variety of topics targeted at breakout bands trying to get established. Things like rehearsal technique, headlining, and what it takes to be a professional musician. In this next series, Iím going to dial things back to the beginning, for those readers who are really starting from Square One as band musicians. Upcoming articles will include such topics as forming your own band, preparing for an audition, and surviving your first gig. While geared towards the beginning musician, more accomplished players should definitely stay tuned, because this information cuts across all levels of experience.
Before jumping into all those issues, letís start with some basic advice, the kind I wished Iíd gotten when I took my first steps toward becoming a pro musician.
Constructive Rehearsals Part 3: Developing Your Band Skills
So letís say youíve been following my advice about rehearsing from the past two issues. Youíve found ways to make your practices focused and productive, and youíve got a healthy list of covers and originals. The next question is, how do you hold onto that material and keep it in shape? And just as important, how do you prepare it for performance in front of a live audience?
Constructive Rehearsals Part 2: Building Your Repertoire
Now that you have some ground rules and some firm goals (see last issueís Building Blocks Ė Learning to Be a Band), itís time build your repertoire. If just a beginning as a band, then itís likely youíll be both learning covers and writing original songs. So letís look at some pro band techniques for getting thosee jobs done with the minimum amount of wasted time and the maximum amount of accomplishment.
Constructive Rehearsals Part 1: Learning To Be A Band
Itís 8pm on a suburban Tuesday night, somewhere in the North Island. On a quiet side street, thereís a backyard bach with blacked-out windows and halfway decent soundproofing, inside which a band is trying to practise. Theyíve been working on a song written by their guitarist for about half an hour but getting nowhere. The lead singer keeps texting messages when he thinks no oneís looking and the drummer is thinking more about how he missed dinner than keeping down the beat. Suddenly the bassistís sister shows up with friends and a couple of six-packs. The band invites them in and quickly shifts gears to playing their old material, then socialising. The nightís work is effectively over.
Auditioning a New Band Member
When bands first start up players have a way of coming together spontaneously. You jam with friends, then start making plans. You invite more people into your circle, and after some come and go, you end up with a solid lineup. Thus a band is born.
Further down the track, though, there will come a time when one player may quit and this band will have to get down to the nuts and bolts of finding a new member Ė a process that can be anything but spontaneous. Here are some suggestions to help not only achieve your quest for that ideal replacement, but also make it a time in which your band can grow. ...more
Why Bands Break Up
As we start 2011 there are thousands of musicians in hundreds of bands across NZ. If you are one of those musicians, then the challenges that you face are enormous: a limping economy, a hit-and-miss pub/club scene, skyrocketing costs and where to rehearse are just the start of the list. Another problem that has faced bands throughout history remains possibly the biggest concern of all Ė how do you keep your band from breaking up? ...more
Making the Most of Being the Support
If your band is starting to play live you are much more likely to be an opener than a headliner. There is an art to being an opening act, supporting others is how bands gain valuable experience and in fact the way most music industry connections are first made. If you know a few ground rules, then you can avoid certain pitfalls like getting a bad rep that may follow you around for years.
Original vs Cover Bands
Many young musicians develop their interest in rock music as a career based on the model of The Beatles: struggling young band hits it big due to charm, talent and great songwriting. Thatís certainly the dream of most unsigned rock musicians, whether theyíve ever played on stage or not. But it leaves out a harsh reality Ė The Beatles played for years as a working band wherever they could, and their repertoire was almost 100% covers until they were signed.
In fact, thousands of name rock musicians have paid the bills and sharpened their skills in working covers bands before becoming famous as original artists. To see why, letís compare the two types of bands side-by-side in a typical local pub/club scene. ...more
Headlining Signature Gigs Part Six: This Night Belongs to You
Tonight is your night, the culmination of sensible planning, practical choices, careful promotion and weeks of rehearsal. You booked this gig about 10 weeks ago, talked some good local talent into supporting you and put some posters around town. ...more
Headlining Signature Gigs Part Five: The Final Countdown
So letís just say you followed my advice from the last few issues and have booked a signature headlining gig at your local pub. Youíve lined up some great support bands and settled on a killer theme that captures the essence of what makes your band exciting and special. The promo poster is pasted up around town, at your uni, in some local businesses and popular hangouts. The band has built up to the event with an in-store appearance at the local CD shop, a couple of support slots with other bands, a live performance/interview on alternative radio and lots of word-of-mouth and internet promo. You are now one short week away from the big gig Ė time to relax?
Headlining Signature Gigs Part Four: Putting the Signature on your Signature Gig
So far in this series we have looked at the process of planning a signature gig, then kickstarting your plans. We also discussed budgets and promotion, but havenít yet touched on the definition of a Ďsignatureí gig. What makes this performance different from other gigs? Why is it so important to the long-term success of a band?
Headlining Signature Gigs Part Three: Budgets & Billboards
Over the past two issues, Iíve described the initial process of preparing for a headlining gig in which the band puts their personal signature on the concert. As I wrote in the last column, a gig plan has a definite beginning, middle, and end. If you have a date booked at a local club, the confirmed participation of all of your bandmates, and the solid commitment of the support bands, then you have accomplished the beginning of your gig plan.
Now you are in the middle of the plan. Youíve sorted the preliminary details, but a long road still lies ahead of you in preparing to make this gig a night to remember for you and your audience. Your biggest practical concerns are going to be budgeting and promotion. Letís talk about them side-by-side, as they are so intertwined. ...more
Headlining Signature Gigs Part Two: Kickstarting Your Concert Plans
Last issue we discussed the planning stages of a headlining gig for your originals band, with a guide to identifying a venue, support bands, promotional strategy, and level of financial commitment. Now letís put those plans into action.
Like any well-orchestrated activity, a gig plan has a definite beginning, middle, and end. Once you have a definite plan in mind, with most or all of the details worked out, then itís time for a kickstart. ...more
Headlining Signature Gigs Part One - Get Ready, Get Set, Plan!
Over the next few issues Building Blocks will be examining some techniques for creating a headlining gig that will showcase an originals band. Weíll cover promotion, preparation, booking, support acts, performance and long-term strategies for making your band stronger in your local scene. But first, letís talk about planning. ...more
Surviving The Tough Times
The whole world is reeling from some very bad financial decisions and economic approaches and the effects are likely to last for some time. If you have been working in the music business for a while, then you are going to have to rethink the way you do things, and adjust your expectations of success. ...more
Ready to Rock the Competition?
If you are a keen rock band, still in the start up phase, you are probably going to feel a degree of pressure to sign up for some contestor other Ė from your friends and followers if not bandmates. While these contests are not exactly professional opportunities, it still matters if a band is mature enough to take the professional approach and ask the right questions. Should we get involved? Are we ready? If weíre not ready, how do we prepare? Is this contest right for our band? And do we need to do it? ...more
Building a Musical Life, Part IV - Forging a Career
So you are doing everything right. You've got a great attitude about your work, good people skills and the talent needed to back up your dreams of success. You've got a few afternoons of students, frequent freelancing, a stage act with strong local support and sidelines that make a bit of extra cash. Where do you go from there? How does your current situation translate into a long and successful career? ...more
Building a Musical Life, Part III: A Day In The Life
Meet Chaz. Heís 27 years old, single, and a songwriter. He is also an experienced performer who has played every type of venue available, from little cafes to big festival stages, and guitar styles from classical to metal. His songwriting and session work have led to regular royalty checks and a good rep within the local recording scene. More than any of this though, Chaz is a classic go-getter, and thatís what it takes to make a living solely from being a musician. Letís spend the day with him and see how he does it. ...more
Building a Musical Life, Part II - Paying the Bills
Most people make their money working for others. They get some training and then go punch the clock at one job, working regular hours and tasks set for them by a company. On the other hand, most working musicians are self-employed. The typical artist whose main source of income is music gets to that point slowly, gradually becoming a more involved and more successful participant in some of the activities listed below. And just as typically they have several of these income streams going at once, to ensure that they can stay afloat even if one stream dries up. Letís look at the most common ways to pay the bills. ...more
Building Blocks: Gigging on a 10-Week Cycle
How to get the most out of your shows and grow as a band. ...more
Best Practices- Practising anywhere, anytime
Once upon a time there was a band... ...more