In the competitive world we live in there seems to be a never-ending battle to find good work opportunities. An almost constant pressure to up-skill and improve your abilities, education, or work experience envelops us in its unrelenting grip.
As a working musician or a musician that is aspiring to be working what can you do to add-value to yourself? One way is to be versatile. Versatility has many guises. Let’s explain.
What band leaders tend to prefer?
Many band leaders in this day and age want to get as much ‘musician’ as they can in a single human. What I mean by this is that many bands out there (not so much the hotels and venues themselves) want musicians that can play an instrument or instruments, sing, dance (or at least be willing to dance) and generally be open and flexible.
Do you have a versatile attitude and approach?
If you are an instrumentalist that doesn’t sing or claims to be able to do ‘backing vocals’ you should really ask yourself if you can sing but are just too shy to. Quite a few musicians that don’t rate themselves as singers but they can actually sing but are reluctant to do so in a live performance situation. You can improve your prospects immensely just by toughening up, learning to sing a few tracks, or learning some raps, or some killer dance routines or moves. Good singers can rap sadly the reverse is not always true.
Singers more often than not are not required to play an instrument in most gigs that I know of. This is largely due to the fact that there is a plethora of amazing instrumentalists out there already.
However, in many Top 40 gigs it is considered to be a great bonus if you can sing AND dance, especially for high-energy club bands. You don’t have to be at the level of Chris Brown or Beyonce. More often than not it is just a willingness to try and to learn that will add to your versatility. Group choreography and synchronized dance routines can go a long way to concealing an individual’s lack of great dance skills.
Don’t get sulky
Let’s clarify that nothing will really replace your specialist instrument be it singing, or playing guitar or percussion. If a band wants a guitarist, they will want you for your guitar skills first and foremost. Any other skills that you have as a singer or on any other instrument will add weight to your resume. If a band leader is faced with two guitarists of equal ability, personality, appearance etc she or he will probably choose the guitarist that can sing, or that can go to the drums and lay down a groove for a few tracks, or come out the front and bust a few James Brown dance moves.
Versatility doesn’t mean compromising your ability on your primary instrument. Rather, it can be considered as a mean of bolstering your overall musicianship and increasing your appeal to prospective employers. No such things as musicians that became worse or less employable because they learned another instrument or learned to dance or sing.
Does a musical and non-musical skill take a stock?
You may already possess a few skills that you don’t even realize are skills. Any familiarity you have with recording software and hardware is like Gold for a lot of band leaders out there and increasingly so are skills outside of music, such as business, marketing, or secretarial qualifications or any other work experience which you may think is unrelated but in fact it could be highly valued by a prospective employer.
Go back through your life with a fine-tooth comb and assess and list the things that you have done. We are the sum of all of our experiences. As such, you may find that you have an astounding array of inventory up for sale, locked up in the warehouse that is you.
Do not restrict yourself to just one style of playing or one genre with your instrument. Many people just want to sing or play a particular genre and specialize and that is fine. There is nothing wrong with that at all. But if you can increase your knowledge and ability in other genres you will find that a lot more contracts will avail themselves to you.
Admittedly some musical styles are much easier to study and become proficient in than others. Many styles of music take many years of diligent and applied study such as classical and some forms of jazz to do professionally, with classical probably being the most difficult of all. However, there are many other genres which are more accessible such as Country and Western, Rock, R&B, and Reggae, which the vast majority of us grow up listening to and by its ubiquity are able to learn and weave in and out of without vast technical facility or years of concerted study.
Take a stock. Open your mind. Build your confidence. Take lessons. Be willing to learn.