How To Hire Freelance Musicians

How To Be A Classy Self-Promoter

Why Music Managers Just Don't Cut It (The NEW Team)

When Paying For Music Works

Why Are People (Not) Coming To Your Shows?

What Musicians Can Learn From The Olympics

Network Like A Music Pro At The First Ari's Take Meetup

What I Learned From My $12 Cup Of Coffee

How To Submit To Pandora (Without a CD)

Why I Hate Downloading Music

Don’t Be Late. Ever.

How To Copyright All of Your Songs For $35

How To Act Completely Unprofessionally

CD Baby, Tunecore, Ditto, Mondotunes or ReverbNation

8 Ways To Get The Best Deal For The Gig

How To Make A Killer Promo Video

Carry Your Instrument On The Plane - It's The LAW

10 Steps To Sell Out Your Show

Your Gear Will Get Stolen

Why Retweeting Compliments Is Not Bragging

Yes, You Need T-Shirts

How To Record Your Album

Network Like A (Music) Pro

My Response To An LA Promoter

Should You Pay To Play

Why You Have No Twitter Followers

You Don't Find A Manager, A Manager Finds You

CD Baby Pro vs. TuneCore Publishing (The Full Report)

Don't Try Out For A Singing Show...

It Is About Who You Know

The One Thing Musicians Should Never Admit

How To Kill a 30 Year Career in 5 Minutes

The Art of Asking

Skip The Party Tonight, Become a Rockstar Tomorrow

How To Pimp Out Your CD Release Show

You Should Try Out for American Idol (The Relatives)

Free Bird! (Covers vs. Originals)

What's a Publicist and Should I Get One?

Copyright Your Song or GLEE Will Steal It

How To Setup A Headlining Show

Don't Piss Off The Sound Guy

Interview with founder of Indie On The Move

Your Music Doesn't Matter

Booking Your Own Tour: A How-To Guide

Fuck Facebook... In the Face

Technical Difficulties ARE Your Fault

50 Is The Magic Number (Book a Headlining Tour)

Always Do This When Giving Your CD To Someone Important

How I Made $13,544 In A Month (on Kickstarter)

Smash Your Shitty Guitar

Are You In The Right City For Your Music

The Hardest Part About Being Your Own Manager

Buy My Music Dammit (Spotify vs iTunes)

The Opener

How To Get Songs Placed On TV (Rock Stars Are People Too)

What Do You Mean We Don't Get Paid? (The Confirmation Email)

Musicians Are Lazy (The Day Of)

How To Be A Better Performer

It Doesn't Take a Web Genius

Just Say Yes

Does This Mustache Make My Ass Look Fat?

Our Tour Page Is Totally Full (of empty shows)

Don't Be Afraid Of The Phone

I Think You're An Asshole, So I'm Going To Tell You, Asshole

Don't Be A Dick

How I Got 250 To My Debut CD Release (Getting Started)

Can I Open For You? Maybe. But Probably Not

Be a Supportive Member of Your Music Community

Double Your Income... No Really

Beauty School Drop Out (The Backup Plan)

Shows Sell, Events Sell Out

I'm A Tool and I Have Accepted That

Allocating the Duties

Friend Fatigue

Gatekeepers
Ari's Take

How To Hire Freelance Musicians

9

I originally wrote this for Digital Music News

I just released my new record at the Hotel Cafe in Hollywood with a 9 piece band. Over the course of my 600 shows I've hired 7 drummers, 7 bassists, 6 guitarists, 3 keyboardists, 5 singers, 3 trumpet players, 2 cellists and 3 violinists. Not to mention the various session players for recordings.

I've also been hired as a trumpet player on a few gigs. I've seen both sides. But as a singer/songwriter, I've primarily been the employer.

Here are some tips to help you get your band together:

Freelance musicians aren't playing your music for fun.


Sure, all musicians love the art. Love the craft. Have a passion that bleeds out of their eyeballs. It's the only reason they chose such an unstable career.

But musicians, like all other humans, need to eat. Just because they're holding a guitar instead of a hammer, you shouldn't treat their craft any less valuably. Just like a construction worker isn't going to build your fence for the love of the craft, don't expect a professional freelance musician to play your gig for free either.

Young musicians will tend to take gigs for free, however. For experience. Some friends might even agree to play your gig as a favor. Or because they believe in you. They may even say "for fun." But be very cautious about getting a volunteer band together. If they get offered a last minute paid gig the same night as your show, you may be left without a drummer hours before you hit the stage.

By paying your musicians (regardless of the amount), you can demand (politely) a level of professionalism. If they're playing 'for fun' or as a favor, prepare yourself for flakiness.

Sitting In

However, "sitting in" is an honored tradition and many artists sit in with friends all the time - for, of course, no pay. If you want your singer/songwriter friend to sing backup vocals on a couple songs for free, that's totally kosher. Just make sure to plug her from the stage.

Discuss all details up front


You can't just ask someone to play the gig for $100 and then spring 3 rehearsals on them the week of the show and assume they'll be ok with this. Make sure you discuss all details up front: rate, rehearsals, show date(s), per diems and sleeping arrangements (if it's a tour), how many songs you want them to learn, rehearsal length (2-3 hours is typical), show length, and anything else you'd like from your musicians.

Get The Scene's Going Rate


In LA, the typical going rate is $100 for the gig and about $50 per rehearsal. This varies depending on the musician's demand and experience. Some ask for more and some will accept less. If you've never hired musicians before, ask other singer/songwriters in your scene what they pay their players.

Don't be afraid to ask what their rate is. But their "typical rate" might actually be their "ideal rate" and would accept less. Make sure you set your own budget before getting into these discussions.

And remember, just like every contract agreement, you can always negotiate. But be respectful. If you ask them to play the gig and two rehearsals for $50 and they reply saying they need $150 for that, try to make it work, or pass. Don't tell him his mother only goes for half that.

Send songs as Soundcloud files and mp3 downloads.


I hate downloading music. When I freelance, I want practice tracks sent as streamable links. Preferably on Soundcloud. I want to listen to them when I'm driving. I want to dedicate a few minutes here and there to run them in my home studio. I DON'T want to spend 15 minutes downloading, importing, labeling and syncing to my iPhone.

Give your players options. Send mp3s, Dropbox download links and Soundcloud links.

Be a leader


You need to lead your rehearsals. Your players have agreed to play YOUR gig with YOUR name on the bill. They may be the lead songwriter and front person of their main project, but for this gig, they defer to you.

Make sure you show up to rehearsals prepared. Know what songs you want to rehearse in the order you want to rehearse them. Don't spend 10 minutes in between each song deliberating over the setlist. This is your responsibility. You can ask their opinions if you want, but you know your audience, act and songs best.

You should be familiar with every player's part. Be able to answer every player's question decidedly. Confidently. Don't say "I don't know. Do whatever you think." Yes, you can trust their talent, expertise and craft, but it's your gig and your songs. Know your songs and know your show.

Set expectations


In addition to discussing all details up front, make sure you let your players know what you expect from them. Will you have charts available or do you want them to learn the parts on their own?

Let the players know what to wear to the show. I once forgot to mention this to my players and my bassist showed up to my festival show wearing cargo shorts and Birkinstocks.

+Does This Mustache Make My Ass Look Fat?

It's your responsibility to lock in a rehearsal space, but feel free to ask if they have suggestions.

Are you religiously against alcohol? Make it known that the tour will be dry. Don't wait for show #3 on a 50 date tour to bring that up.

Discussing everything up front will save you a lot of stress down the line.


Have the check at the gig


This is the #1 rule. Don't make them hunt this down from you. If you become known as someone who never pays (or delays payment), you're going to have a very difficult time finding players. Hand them the check BEFORE they hit the stage.

If you can't afford to hire a band, you can't afford to have a band


I never recommend singer/songwriters split the door with their freelance players because it's a slippery slope. If you somehow get your musicians to agree to split the shitty door cuts with you, they're going to expect the same when you get the huge check.

It's your name. Your image. Your reputation. You are making all of the management decisions and you are setting the shows up. If you get a $2,000 check then you should pay your players a fair wage, and then invest the rest into the career. If you get a $100 check, then you take a loss and pay your players the same, fair wage.

You're the entrepreneur. It's your project. And your career.

Early on, your gigs will not pay for your band and you'll have to take losses. But those early investments into your career will payoff when you're selling out venues with the same players who have felt respected and cherished from day one.


Photo is by Chris Pan
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