A Drummers Life in the music business

Bigg T

New member
So ive been here or there and experianced alot of careers but nuthing makes me as happy as music! Music is my passion and im dedicated 100% but I have a question for the pros out there. What do you have too do to get into the music business? and What does it take to become "noticed" or a professional drummer? Im trying as hard as I can but I have this doubt ill never make it. I need some advise.
 

TamaBoy22690

New member
Well, the music business is a hit or miss kinda thing. You have to be in the right place at the right time. I've been playing a few years and only recently started to get money for shows. You have to have a good band and know people. I have an uncle in the music business that has been booking me shows for awhile, but even with that there has to be that person looking to sign.

If you want my true advice, just keep playing to your highest ability and if your good enough you will eventually get a chance to hit it big.
 

Gaddabout

New member
There's two ways to be a successful (i.e. gainfully employed) professional musician:

- Be a member of a band with lots of good gigs, which means you're surviving on the talents of the best songwriter of the group.

- Be a contractor who gets paid per gig.

The hardest way is the first and you have little control over your career. I'm going to let you figure the rest of that scenario out yourself.

The more common way is to be competent at multiple styles and become a master of networking. You know, those guys who are easy to work with, and they're always passing their number on to you for no stated reason. Then you get a call from them out of the blue a few months down the road just to see what you're up to, where you're playing. And they get your e-mail address and forward you all the lame jokes they hear? They're not just being friendly. They want you to refer them for work.

It's really about being professional and personal. That's what gets you in the door. There's a dividing line of skill -- and it's not a high bar -- and after that it's a competition for who can make the most friends in the business. You don't even have to be a music reader. It definitely helps because there will be a few gigs that demand it, but if you're just a great groove player you'll be getting call back after call back.

That's the big secret, I guess. It amazes me how many musicians don't get it yet.

One other thing: Pay attention to details, like the quality of your sound. Getting a good sound is vital to being a working pro. If you've never put a lot of serious thought into how to tune your drums, put down your sticks, put away the educational DVDs, and go learn everything you can about the way your drums can sound. Call your friend over and have him play them while you stand out front. Take your tom off the rack and see how much range it has before flopping or buzzing. Experiment with different reso head settings.

That's one thing that I think maybe less than 20 percent of the working drummer crowd understands. It's not how much you paid for the gear. I promise you I can make a Pearl Export sound like a Yamaha Recording Custom with good heads and about 30 minutes to tune them. That only comes with experience though!
 

sp4zium

New member
haha that's my dream job too... i wouldn't be able to stand a desk job for more than 20 minutes before i would go Office Space on the management... :twisted: anywho... what has a higher payoff? orchestral or small band work? currently im attempting to major in both... but not quite sure if i should start putting more time into one or the other...
 

twisteddrummer

New member
You have to go where the food is. You must realisticly live in an urban area so there are lots of venues for you to play. If you go to New York, LA or Nashville your chances of picking up studio work increase greatly. Of course you will also be dealing with some serious bad ass players if you want to compete for studio work.

The other thing you need to consider is how "artistic" you want to be. It's a lot more fun writing and performing your own music, however trying to sell a band that doesn't play covers to a booking agent is a struggle. If you get in a good cover band you can make some money, but your going to have to travel at least a bit. I don't think there is anywhere you can live, play 4-5 times a week and not burn out your audience. And honestly the stability of income from a cover band is shaky at best.

Good luck
 

Gaddabout

New member
sp4zium":sp7dku6m said:
orchestral or small band work? currently im attempting to major in both... but not quite sure if i should start putting more time into one or the other...
Since I've never worked for a professional orchestra, I can only answer based on what I've been told, but here's the second-hand low down:

Orchestral work is primarily reserved for people who have a passion for it. You won't make it if it's just a passing interest. First, the competition for even the most urbane city orchestra is fierce, and we're talking about a salary of anywhere between $25,000 on the low end to $60K for a decent big-city orchestra.

There are premium jobs, but they come along once a generation or so because a position earned operates a lot like tenure at a major university. So you're better off setting your sights on a reasonable position at a stable city orchestra while looking to local professorships and private instruction. There's also a role for clinicians in public schools.

A local drum set pro who maintains multiple gigs and works five or six nights a week in a Top 20 market probably makes more -- sometimes a lot more -- than his well-heeled counterpart in the orchestra.
 

twisteddrummer

New member
You can also pretty much rule out orchestrial work unless you have serious skills on multiple percussion instruments and a masters or a PHD. You need a serious resume just to get your foot in the door (unless there is no other talent available in your area)
 

Gaddabout

New member
twisteddrummer":jw5f7uc4 said:
You have to go where the food is. You must realisticly live in an urban area so there are lots of venues for you to play. If you go to New York, LA or Nashville your chances of picking up studio work increase greatly. Of course you will also be dealing with some serious bad ass players if you want to compete for studio work.
I have to disagree a little. Studio work in those markets you mentioned are tied up by a select few. You really have to know somebody or a few somebodies before going to those markets. Otherwise, you're going to end up starving.

There's studio work in every town that has a quality studio. Here in Phoenix, by no means a town that supports the arts, there are a select few who make a good partial living by recording during the day. They also have developed contacts elsewhere, and offer quality recorded drum tracks in their home studios. I'm going to suggest the independent drummer and the home studio relaying their work over the Internet is going to be the future of recording drums save for the biggest dollar productions that can afford ghastly prices for the big rooms.

twisteddrummer":jw5f7uc4 said:
The other thing you need to consider is how "artistic" you want to be. It's a lot more fun writing and performing your own music, however trying to sell a band that doesn't play covers to a booking agent is a struggle. If you get in a good cover band you can make some money, but your going to have to travel at least a bit. I don't think there is anywhere you can live, play 4-5 times a week and not burn out your audience. And honestly the stability of income from a cover band is shaky at best.
You can do both. Also, if you have some decent qualifications (education at a recognized school of music, one respectable reference) you're stand a chance at picking up corporate work -- and that's a good paycheck in any metro area that has conventions, Indian casinos, seasonal festivals, and/or large beer distributors.
 

sp4zium

New member
You can also pretty much rule out orchestrial work unless you have serious skills on multiple percussion instruments and a masters or a PHD. You need a serious resume just to get your foot in the door (unless there is no other talent available in your area)
I play all percussion instruments quite well actually lol... i actually have spent a lot more time in the last 5 years developing well-rounded percussion skills... I'm practically majoring in orchestral percussion right now = P however, I'm only a junior in highschool, so a phd is out of the question for the next... 10 years? :lol:
 

Gaddabout

New member
sp4zium":2lw1iwum said:
I play all percussion instruments quite well actually lol... i actually have spent a lot more time in the last 5 years developing well-rounded percussion skills... I'm practically majoring in orchestral percussion right now = P however, I'm only a junior in highschool, so a phd is out of the question for the next... 10 years? :lol:
Your best path, at least to see how you like it, is to pursue all the all-state orchestras, the city youth orchestras, and percussion ensembles. Also, place a call to your music school of choice immediately and get to know the head of percussion there. For example, San Jose State would not be a bad choice, considering I believe Anthony J. Cirrone is still there. Texas has a number of school music schools (such as UNT) and Indiana has an excellent all-around music program.

You need to start recruiting them if they haven't started recruiting you, yet. If you haven't received letters yet, you haven't been doing enough to get into the good music programs.
 

Rockaflodge

New member
Hey guys, I guess you couls call me a pro, I player show with 5000 or more people, I get paid on almost all of my gigs. I do studio and session work for other bands and artist than my band. I have a great reputation with the bands and music scene were I am from, my band has open for national acts like, Beraking Benjamin, Three Days Grace, Atreyu, Siliva, Buck Cherry and 10 years. To me the best way is to just but yourself out there. If know one knows who you are, they cant ask you to play. And as you play out, people and other bands and artist see you and if they like you they will ask you to play for them. That was the way I did it. I guess you can call me a drum ho because I played with any and everybody to get were I am now.
 

Gaddabout

New member
Rockaflodge":ounlhbwj said:
I guess you can call me a drum ho because I played with any and everybody to get were I am now.
The difference between contractor and whore depends on who's collecting the paychecks. ;)

If you're treating people right and not fudging on your commitments, you have no shame in collecting whatever paycheck comes your way. You have a natural responsibility to bring home the bacon in your household and provide as secure a future as possible. Don't let anyone ever tell you differently.
 

jpenguino

New member
Hey man..So ive been doing music full time for 10 years im 27..in cleveland...for 4 years i did nothing but session work and i was a percussion advisor for my hs...and way i stayed busy..playin in church and then i hook up with this band.. for the last 6 years i toured with a christian band and i actually took about a year and a half off...anyway....i had friends that were on the scene out here jazz and pop fusion...they way ive made a name for myself out here is that...im always early for gigs...i learn the material...pocket...Pocket and POCKET!!!! pocket will always keep you working...if you have a good one. ppl dont like to work with what i call a lumberjack....or chop artist....play to the best of your ability everytime... and on top of that be a player with integrity...dont back out of gigs last minute...and when you commit to a gig, even when you get offered better money stay comited....ppl will take notice of that and sooner or later ppl will notice and book u...dude im booked solid for the next 4 months....and luckily for me they are great payin gigs....so thats my advice...good luck <))>< joel
 

broozer

New member
ALL of the above is great advice. play anywhere and everywhere you can at the start of your career. over time you will slowly realize where and what music you like to do more. IF you are a good drummer you will and can make a living, but not if you live in the middle of nowhere. here in TX you can make a living playing country music and never leave the state. there's thousands of honky tonk bars and clubs here.

one thing i don't agree with here is that if you're good you WILL make it. talent isn't everything. you have to be someone who can work with all sorts of people that have EVERY type of personality under the sun. i've played with A-holes, kind people, stuck up people, arrogant people, rude people and also some of the nicest people you could imagine. i did it all to keep busy and keep playing music i liked (and sometimes music i didn't like. rent is always on the 1st of every month you know!).

and do something i didn't do while young: PRACTICE, PRACTICE AND THEN PRACTICE SOME MORE!!. here's a story to emphasize that point:

in HS i played in the band and that's where i learned most of my fundamentals from. i played in marching band and concert band. i would have played in rock bands, but there just weren't enough people playing guitars and such to do that. i also practiced what i had to to do my part in the band, but that was it. there was ONE guy who practiced all the time. he was always in the band hall early and going over his parts and he had a enclosed garage at home and he practiced his drumkit ALL the time. i never knew him to socialize alot, although i'm sure he had his close group of friends he hungout with. i'm not kidding, it was like he practiced 24/7/365. i thought it was cool, but i just didn't bother practicing that much. he later went on to a very well known college here in TX and was pretty much at the top of his game there playing in the top jazz groups and naturally he got lots of paying work around the DFW are in bands and with artists (live and recording sessions). then he moved to NYC around '92 or so (can't remember the exact year). he eventually was playing with THE top players in NYC and went on to play, tour and record with MULTI MILLION selling artists. i believe it's because he never stopped practicing and it paid off for him. his name...............................................

KEITH CARLOCK

he is a monster on the drum scene now and he'll never have to worry about not having a good paying gig. it doesn't get much better than touring the world multiple times over with acts like STING and STEELY DAN.

SO, practice all the time and do it especially when you're young. i make a living here in TX now, but part of me thinks i might be farther in my career had i practiced more when i was younger.

bruce
 

Gaddabout

New member
broozer":1n80qwhs said:
KEITH CARLOCK
The pride of UNT and one of my heroes. In general, if you work hard for Ed Soph, you're going to be a star. Gregg Bisonnette is another UNT guy.

Carlock is one of my heroes. I'm sure he has chops but I don't ever want to hear them. He's got a pocket to die for.
 

broozer

New member
Gaddabout":vdpz16m8 said:
broozer":vdpz16m8 said:
KEITH CARLOCK
The pride of UNT and one of my heroes. In general, if you work hard for Ed Soph, you're going to be a star. Gregg Bisonnette is another UNT guy.

Carlock is one of my heroes. I'm sure he has chops but I don't ever want to hear them. He's got a pocket to die for.
oh yeah, he's got chops like nobody's business. i marched beside him for two years in HS and he was always using a very high molar stroke while doing double stroke rolls. it was funny to see the drum instructors try and keep his stick height down, but they just couldn't.

and he ALWAYS had that "pocket" of his even way back in '89 & '90.

bruce
 

SmellsLikeIan

New member
twisteddrummer wrote:
You have to go where the food is. You must realisticly live in an urban area so there are lots of venues for you to play. If you go to New York, LA or Nashville your chances of picking up studio work increase greatly. Of course you will also be dealing with some serious bad ass players if you want to compete for studio work.

I recently read the Taku Hirano interview in DRUM! and he said he was told by several (Abe Laboriel Jr, was one I think) session players to be prepared to spend about two years making little or no money when you first move to L.A. or Nashville. I disagree with your opinion that you have to live in one of those two towns, or even an urban area to make a living as a musician. In this career travel should be a given. I live in a tiny town, (less than 1,000 people) down a dirt road and I make 90-95% of my money playing music. I have to make the hour and a half drive to Dallas or Ft. Worth on a regular basis, even further a few times a month, and I don't exactly live high on the hog (can you say manufactured home?) But as my current band has picked up momentum, so have I, and if you're realistic, and set small, attainable goals often, there's no reason most people couldn't eke out some sort of existence in almost any market, provided they have a reasonable level of talent and ability.
 

BillRayDrums

New member
It's not a pretty place. The short form- go to a Hardware store, get the heaviest hammer you can swing. When you get home go out in the backyard and hit yourself in the head as many times as you can before you pass out. When you awake from the coma, complete the physical and mental therapy (2 months to 2 years) You can say "that was my experience in the music business" and you will have condensed down a lifetime of suffering and mental anguish towards both yourself and those who love you into the small space of 2 months to 2 years.

That being said, If you want to make it in this business, I suggest that you not look at the "one large stream" of cash flow but rather "many sources of income" as the paradigm. My $$$ comes from gigs mainly but also I teach, maintain websites for bands, do consulting on the music biz, tune drumsets, sell CDs, book gigs, etc.

Oh, and I just WON A GRAMMY for my work on Ike Turner's "Rising With The Blues", voted "Best Traditional Blues" CD. Woo freakin' Hoo!!!

~B
 
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