Gig Checklist: Is this my best "Yes"?
June 16, 2023
As a developing trumpeter, it is natural to reach a place of notice. And as a student it is exciting when you start getting booked for gigs or asked to perform in different capacities in your music community. Some of my first high school performing opportunities were at my church growing up, where my dad was a Christian worship pastor. I then later started playing trumpet in a local Municipal Concert Band, playing marches, and music from broadway and patriotic songs in the summertime and getting a few gigs with a big band around my city.
As a high school student it was SO exiciting to get any gigs. And then later as I attended college at University of Missouri-Kansas City and met people in the Kansas City Jazz scene, I started playing more professional gigs. The rest is history...BUT it hasn't come easy.
I've learned a lot of HARD lessons while trying to make it as a gigging and freelance Trumpeter.
Students often wonder what to consider before saying "YES" to a gig, or music performing opportunity. When in an opportunity arises, it is exciting, but as you grow as a musician and more opportunities come around, there are things that you must consider so that others aren't deciding your career for you. Is this opportunity my best "Yes"? A "Yes" to something is a "no" to other things. And that No can sometimes unfortunately be our health, relationships and career direction. So here are some things to consider before taking a gig, a life lesson from the professional trumpet gigging world.
SHOULD I TAKE THE GIG?
-Before accepting or declining a gig, go through this checklist:
1.) Am I available at that time? Do I have enough margin for commuting and balance with other gigs, or am I compromising my other previous commitments?
2.) What would my role be? Do I have the right tools for the job?(ex. Lead trumpet vs. Section or Solo chairs…Is it a piccolo trumpet gig, do I have a piccolo available?)
3.) Will I be properly compensated for my time? If not, why would I say “yes” or “no”...i.e. Musical fulfillment or personal growth/Relationship Building/volunteering or personal fulfillment (like worship or supporting a cause I believe in).
4.) Details: Where is the gig? Are travel costs covered? What are we wearing? What additional things will I need for the gig? How long is the gig? Indoors or outdoors?
-Factor in all additional costs related to the gig (monetary and otherwise) (Ex. Do you have to buy a tux for the performance? Are the plane costs covered to Canada? Is it a very dark room where I will need a stand light? Etc…the gig may pay $300, but if it is a 6 hour unpaid drive away? And you're paying gas and additional costs both ways, it is probably not worth it…)
5.) Are there any additional responsibilities required for the preparation of the performance? Will there be rehearsals? How many?-How long?-Where? Paid or unpaid? Will I be composing or arranging music in addition to playing?-If so will I be properly compensated?-Are there charts to read or am I memorizing music from mp3’s? How many songs? Can I legibly read the charts?
6.) Bandleader reputation and working conditions: Is the person hiring me known for paying employees on time? Does the person hiring verbally abuse band members regularly or treat people terribly? What are the working conditions? (Ex. Is it outdoors in 105 degree heat with no tent? Will I wear a costume?) Is it worth it to undergo these things?
Who is on the gig? Will I enjoy working with the people on the gig? Or Will it musically fall apart not on account of me? Is it worth it?
7.) GUTCHECK: Will I complain about the gig or Regret participating? Or Am I genuinely excited for the opportunity? BE HONEST WITH YOURSELF. No one wants to work with someone who is complaining about the gig for the whole time, it brings the entire mood down. Don’t waste your and others time if you hate it!
8.) Is this gig in line with my personal musical/career Vision and Goals?
(Ex. I probably shouldn’t fill my calendar with only country music gigs if I want to be a symphony musician in the long term.) Remember, saying YES to one thing is saying NO to something else at the same time–OPPORTUNITY COST!
9.) Additional Considerations:
-Family Impact: How does taking this gig affect my family or significant other(s)?
(we are human beings first before musicians!)
-Community Impact: Does the rate of pay undercut or affect other musicians work in the area? What is the greater impact of my “yes”?
-Personal Impact: Do I have a moral objection to the gig? (Ex. Does the event I’m playing for support a cause I am very against? Does this compromise my values)
-Physical Impact: Do I have the physical/mental/emotional energy to prepare for the gig and fulfill my obligation successfully? (Ex. hired to play a hard piece of music tomorrow? Am I prepared to do this well? Do I have enough time for things that help me do the gig well, like opportunities to sleep and eat well? Can I realistically do 4 gigs in 1 day…maybe or maybe not?)
This gig checklist can help direct you as you begin to navigate the professional world.
If you have any questions, check out the Contact page to get in touch.