6 Tips for Singer Songwriters Hiring Freelance Musicians
Mike and I have worked in the singer/songwriter scene in LA for quite some time. Many young, new artists don’t really understand the protocol when putting a professional band together to play their material. Many think pro musicians should work for free. I’m here to say that that is certainly not the case. I just wanted to impart some wisdom on the subject having been the very young singer/songwriter in LA myself.
Here are some important and helpful rules and tools of this trade on how to hire your backing band:
1. Freelance musicians don’t work for free!
Please don’t insult the pros and ask them to work for free. These people spend their lives honing their craft. This is what they do for a living. This is their 9-5 and beyond. They are studio cats, live musicians, and music educators.
Do you have anything worthwhile to barter? When I was a singer songwriter, I was also an avid photographer. Some of the pro musicians needed photos and promo material. I was able to barter my photography services with some of the cats and had to use actual currency with the rest. If you can’t afford to pay the pros, play your music solo until you can.
The going rate here in Los Angeles is typically $100 for the gig and $50 for each rehearsal.
2. Be clear about what they can expect.
Be sure to make a check list of all the promises you will keep to hold up your end of the bargain. Gig Rate, Rehearsal Rate, Date of the show(s). If the gig is out of town, how much is the per diem? Where is everyone sleeping?
Is your gig local? What is the venue like … meaning what is the sound system like? Is there a back line. What do we need to bring to your gig other that our axes and cables? Do the singers need to bring their mics/mic stands and monitors? Contact the location and ask all these questions ahead of time. The Mint & Hotel Cafe have great sound systems, but call and ask for specifics.
Side Note: Always be nice to the sound person. They can make or break you!
3. Send a link to your MP3s and Charts
FYI: Many musician do not like downloading materials … they prefer a link. Give the musicians an option to download from Dropbox or go to your Soundcloud link. And one more thing … CHARTS! Yes, charts! If you can’t write them up, hire someone who can. Here’s an amazing guy I know who works with The Replicas Music … He’s the “Chart King”. Contact Tim Butterworth. Charts will make your rehearsal go a lot faster, a lot more efficient, and smooth. Oh, and you will look like a pro!
4. Know how to lead a band?
Ok. Don’t stress if you don’t know how to lead the band. If you choose one of the pros to help you, you may have to pay her/him an extra $50 to lead at rehearsal and an extra $50 at the gig, but it’s worth it in the end!
5. Pre-write the checks to pay the band!
Don’t make your musician wait to get paid. Hand them a check RIGHT AFTER THE GIG! They worked hard for you, so show them the money.
6. Invest in yourself. It’s worth it, I promise!
In the beginning of your career, your shows will more than likely not pull in enough money to pay for your band and you will take a loss. Being an artist/entrepreneur is not easy, but you have to invest in yourself and make great first impressions in the industry. The investments will payoff when you respect your musicians who are doing right by your music. You will get noticed and those musicians will stay loyal.