Marketing Yourself as a Musician
Of course, as musicians, we all want steady jobs. (Or gigs……’Gig, son. When you’re a musician, a job is called a gig.’ Sorry, that’s from a Simpsons episode, and it’s quite funny.) Now, as worship musicians, I know that sounds incredibly un-spiritual. But if you feel that playing music for God is something He wants you to do, and you feel that way enough to practice and improve your craft (i.e. buying gear…oh yes, I’m serious…hehe), of course you’re going to want an outlet with which to play music for God and subesquently, for people, so as to reach and help them. As Jesus talked about in Matthew, nothing worse than sitting on your gift.
So, how do we go about marketing ourselves? As musicians, we’re incredibly insecure, so we don’t want to put ourselves in the position of perhaps being told we suck. If you’re a musician, and you don’t think you’re insecure, ask yourself which you would cry over first: someone telling you that you’re uglier than Gary Busey, or that you might have rushed the tempo on that chord change just a bit. Yep. So we’re insecure. And secondly, as Christians, we definitely have to appear humble. Just ‘appear’. No need for real humility in the church. ;) It’s sad that the satire in that last statement actually plays, but unfortunately it does. Let’s face it……as believers in Christ, we suck at being humble and excel at looking humble, myself absolutely included. But anyway, insecurity and trying to be humble are two very big hurdles at marketing ourselves as musicians.
(This is Gary Busey, of ‘Point Break’ fame. Busey, Keanu, and Swayze? All in one movie? Dear sweet mercy, let the cheeseball lines flow: ‘I am an FBI agent!’ ‘I didn’t let him go.’ ‘He’s not coming back.’ Okay, all those lines were from Keanu. Swayze and Busey actually have some redeeming value. Well, Busey did until he discovered botox.)
And we all know that marketing works. Why in the world else would people have actually gone and seen the movie ‘Click?’ And to this day, I know for an absolute fact that the only place where a kid can truly be a kid is at Chucky Cheese. That’s it. There’s no way around it. You can only be a kid up to your full potential while patronizing Chucky Cheese. When I borrow kids, that’s where I will take them……Chucky Cheese. No doubt about it. (Notice, I always use the word ‘borrow’ when it comes to children. I love children…………for about an hour. Then they need something. And since this view of children as more of ‘toys’ or a ‘distraction’ for about an hour or so, seems for whatever reason possibly somewhat harmful to said child or children, I have decided not to have any. My wife is right with me on this. ‘Borrowing’ is okay……because you can give them back to your cousins or siblings or friends whenever actual ‘parenting’ proves to be necessary. Like last night……a cat wandered into our apartment. Well, actually I heard it outside and let it in. See? I love cats…just like children. If a stray child was homeless and hungry outside my apartment, I’d let it in, too. It’s not like I’m not completely heartless. And my wife and I had a ton of fun with the kitty……for just about an hour. Then it looked like it needed a litter box, and we got bored and put it outside. Come on, we left it some food and milk. So, since that’s how my wife and I deal with kittens, we feel it’s best to not have children. Because, no one cares when you put a cat outside when it needs a litter box. But if you put a child outside when it needs a litter box, it tends to be frowned upon.)
(Seriously, how many times can Adam Sandler just rename the same movie? The only good thing about this movie was that U2 found it in their good graces to stoop down and loan this movie their song ‘Ultraviolet’ for a few seconds. Oh, ya. And Christopher Walken. Walken always entertains. How much do you wanna bet he just showed up on set wearing that? Simply fantastic.)
That was a lot just to say that marketing works. And then even after I said all that, I put a picture in, too, making it even longer. But you gotta deal with the pictures, because I’m sure there are many people who just scroll through this blog until they find pictures. Probably, by this point, everyone who has attempted to read this post.
So what’s the best way to market yourself? It’s quite simple: humility. I remember a sound tech coming up to me a few years back as I was setting up for a service at a church. And he said, ‘You know what? You’re my all-time favorite guitarist.’ And of course, those are nice words for anyone to hear. But as I started formulating my false-humility-laden response, he continued with, ‘I mean, you’re not the greatest guitarist I’ve ever heard, but you’re so nice to us sound techs and easy to work with.’ Now that should have been a compliment. I, of course, did not take it as one for the rest of the night, and probably for a few months after that. In fact, I probably went home that night and went on Gearpage and bought six more pedals to prove what a great guitarist I was. (And if you haven’t discovered this already, I unapologetically equate ‘buying new gear’ with ‘practicing’. Not really. But close enough. )
But that one tiny little thing has gotten me and kept me more worship musician jobs than any skill, tone, or even feel, ever have. Don’t get me wrong, skill, tone, and feel are important, but the majority of worship leaders, band leaders, producers, sound techs, whatever……are looking for someone who is easy to work with; someone who doesn’t have an unsolicited ‘idea’ for everyone else’s part in the song, someone who treats the sound guys with respect, someone who doesn’t live under the delusion that they’re the illegitimate child somehow of Stevie Ray Vaughan; someone who makes playing with them fun; someone who makes playing with them a little more worshipful; someone who turns down (I struggle with that one); someone who actually learns some of the parts in the recorded songs rather than thinking that whatever they come up with will be better than the parts the pros wrote……someone who’s humble. Ask yourself–can your worship leader pick out ‘great’ tone from ‘slightly better’ tone? But can he pick out ‘humble guy or gal’ from ‘Man, there’s-dissension-every-time-this-person-plays guy or gal? It sucks, huh. That being nice will always trump being a good musician. We hate to hear that. Well, at least I do.
But that’s how it is……and the world is probably better for God setting it up this way. So if you want to get on a certain team or certain band, or if you want to keep your current job or ‘gig’ (hehe), my humble (pun absolutely intended) advice is to take yourself just a little less seriously. That’s the first step towards humility. hehe And even me saying that is pretty prideful……as if I have the complete path to humility all figured out. I don’t. Which is why I still make a big show of turning down my amp, but secretly also turning on two fuzz pedals and a boost whenever the sound guy asks me to turn down. hehe No, I don’t do that anymore…………sometimes.