Should I Take This Gig? A Guide to Avoiding Future Regret

May 21, 2014 — 8 Comments
Photo Credit: Kalexanderson via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Kalexanderson via Compfight cc

When you get a call for a gig, do you take whatever comes your way, or do you have a method to eliminate the ones that will lead to frustration and regret?

It’s not always easy, and sometimes even what looks like a good gig can turn sour, but, the following tips will help you think things through and keep trouble at bay.

1. Does it have the three building blocks of a good gig?

  • Good Music: Good is relative to you and your tastes, of course. I just mean it has to feel good to YOU. If you don’t enjoy what your playing, it will likely show through in how you play your instrument and in your attitude. I’m not saying you have to love it, but, you will likely smile more and perform much better if you are having fun playing music you enjoy. If people see you doing that, you’ll get called for more work.
  • Good Pay: Money isn’t everything, but, you have to support you and yours. To help me decide how well the gig actually pays, I do “The Math.” I’ll go into that in a bit.
  • Good People: In many ways, this is the most important one. You’d be surprised at what trials you can go through if you have fun, responsible, creative, positive people around you.

2. Will it stretch you?

If you do the same things you’ve always done, you won’t be as versatile and complete as you could be. NEW is your friend. Do new things as much as you can. And, I’m not talking about new comfortable things, anyone can do that, I mean new things that scare you. Things that test your limits and take you out of your comfort zone. Things that challenge you to grow.

When a gig comes along that will push you further than you’ve been before and challenge your mind and musical ability, consider taking it.

3. Will it get you into a new circle of people?

  • To be successful in music, you need people. And, the more you know, the better. Knowing more people in the industry means there are more fishing lines out in the water waiting for a bite. You’ll stay more busy.
  • You never know which opportunity will be the one that brings you to a whole other level in your career. Don’t rely on “luck.” Play with, and in front of, as many people as you can. I believe if you are truly great at what you do, and a growing number of people in the industry continually see you working hard and doing what’s best for the music and the people around you, success will follow.
  • There’s so much to learn from others musically, in business, and in life. By working with an ever increasing number of new musicians, artists, songwriters, and producers, you will broaden your horizons, add to your musical arsenal, and be able to bring more to the table in the future.

4. Do the Math.

Here’s a simple formula to help you see how much you’re actually making per hour on a gig:

Pay – expenses ÷ hours spent = hourly pay.

Once I started thinking in this way, I started turning down lots of work. Let’s take a look at how this works:

Let’s say someone calls me up and asks if I can play 10 songs for an hour-long show with one rehearsal on a separate day for $125. That kind of sounds reasonable, right? Let’s run the math…

  • Pay. $125.
  • Minus expenses. $15 gas to rehearsal, $15 gas to gig = $30
  • Divided by hours spent. This is where you make a guess based on similar work. I’ll say 4 hours practicing and charting at home, 3 for band rehearsal, and 3 at the gig for load-in, sound check, and showtime. 10 hours total.
  • Gives us this: $125 – 30 ÷ 10 = $9.50 per hour.

That’s not enough money for me to live on. And, that doesn’t even include any money I may have to pay for parking or food at the gig!

This equation is not meant to disappoint you or keep your focus on money. I still take gigs that may not pay as well as I’d like, but, that will stretch me, help me meet new people, help out friends, and benefit me in other ways.

“Doing the Math” is merely meant to help you think about what you do as a business so you can better evaluate the work that comes in and think about the future. You want to start setting things up now so that, 20 years from now, you’re not still making $9.50 an hour.

5. Saying yes to one thing means saying no to something else.

We all have limited time. And, we have to be very careful how we spend it.

I recently heard Seth Godin say “no is the foundation yes is built on.”

Let that sink in a moment…

That’s a whole new way to look at things, isn’t it?

I have trouble saying no. If I say no, I can feel as if I’m letting someone down and not being helpful or maybe I’m missing an opportunity. But, if I look at saying “no” as the path to better fulfilling what I want to say “yes” to, it becomes easier.

Before taking a gig, think about all the commitments you have on your plate. Will saying yes to a new gig or job keep you from doing your best for a previous commitment?

Final Thoughts

Of course, there are many other things to consider that I haven’t listed. And, ultimately, everyone’s situation is different and you have to do what’s best for you.

I hope this gets you thinking and helps you choose work that fulfills your hopes and dreams. :0)

What does a good gig look like to you? Do have any stories of a gig gone wrong? Let me know in the comments below.

  • StevenCee

    I had just this happen last night, nearly the exact same details of the gig, and it put me in a quandary. I like the players, and the music, it will be fun, would expand my circle, but the added rehearsal cuts the money down, while adding as much time as doing the gig twice, but for the same pay as once.

    Plus, as a horn player, I can pick up what I need to do just fine via a songlist, and mp3s of any songs I’m not familiar with, so going and sitting around as they rhythm section learns the songs is not a good use of my time whatsoever. But I hate to sound like I’m “too good to rehearse”, even though I am, in the sense that I’d be better prepared by staying home and playing with the mp3s, than hanging around as the rest of the band learns the changes & grooves, and goes over them, etc…

    • Hey, Steven,

      It sounds like you’ve played with these guys before and they’re not very effecient. You could mention some things to the MD that would help save time and try to motivate them to make rehearsal run smoother, but, usually, people keep doing what they’ve been doing.

      You may have to choose between keeping the gig and wasting some time or finding another circle that is more efficient. I’ve had to move on from some good people who didn’t handle business and time well.

  • Rocky Searan

    Well put man!

  • Drum guy

    Well put man, what are your thoughts on negotiating on a gig? And have you ever had anyone try to dicker with the fee from one gig to the next?

  • Hey, Drum Guy!

    When I’m on the phone with someone who wants to hire me for a gig, I gather as much info as I can – number of songs, number of rehearsals, style (some styles require more work than others), etc.

    After I get that info, I guess on the hours I’ll spend on the work/gig. I multiply that number by the amount I want to make per hour to get the total I want.

    I try not to give my price before they offer their price. That’s because they may put a number out there greater than what I was going to say. I try to get their number revealed by asking “what’s your budget?”

    If the price they give is not enough, I will try to negotiate less hours of work for me. That way, I can still make some money, and they can stay within their budget.

  • Anton Nesbitt

    Good info!