I can't state this enough it seems....
To all musicians (or anybody for that matter), BE PROFESSIONAL! can't even begin to express how important this is for everyone involved in any creative industry. Our reputation actually depends on it and our livelihood along with it. Here's why...
Too many times I hear the stories about bands who show up late, dress badly, don't follow the rules of "the man", drink a ton before they play a note, take three minutes in between each song to figure out what they're going to play next, improvise the majority of every song they play, refuse to play songs people know AND finish their sets early. Lets break these down piece by piece shall we?
"Aaron's 7 Steps To Success As A Performing Musician" (woo, yay, hazzah!)
1) Showing up late
Any other job and you'd be fired. Treat it the same way and don't expect to be an exception.
2) Dressing inappropriately or Shoddy
If you dealt with a sales person who looked like he hadn't bathed in days would you want to give him money or shake his hand? Doubtful. Think of yourself the same way. Sell your image along with your music.
3) Follow the Rules of the Gig
Clubs, casinos, bars, restaurants, coffee houses, where you play all have rules and regulations of what their "employees" can and cannot wear or do. If you're told no jeans, then don't freakin' wear jeans. If you're told you're not allowed to drink during the gig then don't drink. If you're unhappy with these rules then go play somewhere else for less money.
4) Drinking on the Gig
I don't drink at ALL while I play, but I understand the point is to sell drinks when you're playing a bar. Ok fine. Have a beer or one drink to sell. If you're not onstage promoting the bars sales on the other hand, then you have no business drinking before you play your first note. The band I play with has a reputation for not drinking and you'd be surprised at how many gigs we get and how the quality of our gigs has improved through this one simple factor. It helps. You wouldn't show up drunk to a bank job so why show up to your show already tripping over your feet?
5) Too Much Time Between Songs
You're there to put on a show. So, keep the show moving. Have a set list worked out. Know how to go from song to song. Rehearse your show. In a generation where DJ's are getting more and more of your jobs it's important to keep the music going.
Lumping the next two together...
6) Being unprepared forms, improvising music and refusing the play songs people know
I get you're an artist. There's nothing wrong with that and there are particular gigs where things like that are encouraged. However, the local bar gig where everyone really wants to hear "Brown Eyed Girl", "Mustang Sally", and "Play That Funky Music" for the 15 billionth time is not one of them. Believe it or not people want to listen to things they know and can relate to. If that's the same song over and over again, and you've been hired to do that gig, then play what the people want. Its not beneath you,
it is your job. Improvising new parts to old tunes can be fun if done well. Making it up every time you walk in the bar throws people off and is rarely regarded as cool or interesting. The audience wants to sing along or dance. If you're throwing them off they can't do that. Refusing to play a song exactly like the record because its uncool and boring to you doesn't make you look cool. It makes you look pretentious and careless.
7) Playing Shortened Sets or Finishing Early
If you were at any other job and suddenly decided you weren't going to finish at the time you were expected to then guess what? The next day you come in you're told you don't have a job anymore. Why, WHY pray tell, do you expect your job to be different? Its not. "People don't really care." .. They do. They notice. And the next time you come in you might get paid a little less for it or, worse yet, devalue what the next upcoming local band does. You got paid $300, but the next band gets $250 because of you. Its a trickle down effect.
Professionalism CANNOT be over stated. At least three times in the last two weeks issues have been brought up in conversation. I've talked to countless bands about this, talked to patrons about this, club/bar owners, sound guys, agents, promoters, and they're all sick of it. Don't play music just because its fun to do and treat it like a game. Take pride in what you do as a performer, writer, or entertainer. What you do on any level reflects upon the entire industry in all its factions.
The 'weekend warriors' are just as important to societies impression of the music industry as the Motley Crue's, Nickleback's and Maroon 5's of the world! If you want to get paid well for playing music, for the countless, unappreciated hours you've put into perfecting your craft and the ability to showcase it, then work for it. Every other job requires hard work. Don't make your artistic love the exception. :)