THE CARE & FEEDING OF THE MUSICIAN
I have been asked many times to sing for weddings, funerals, dinner parties and other events. In many cases, I found that the client had a vision in mind for their event, but had not adequately planned for its reality. Over the years , these experiences range from impeccably done to down-right comical.
As a singer, there are a few things that I require for a performance (not green M&M’s, velour pillows or Perrier Water. Nothing like that.) Just a few simple things event planners and patrons should put in place to ensure that their event measures up to what they had in mind. I am sure that every singer or musician will agree to at least a few of the things outlined here. These assure that we can give you the performance you deserve.
1. MAKE SURE THE VENUE, EVENT & CLIENTELE ARE ALL CONDUCIVE TO LIVE MUSIC.
I was recently asked to sing at a party. In said party, there was to be a wedding scene during which, I was to sing. The noise was unbelievable, there were problems with crowd control so severe, that several requests had to be made to clear the stage area. Many patrons were intoxicated and boisterous upon their arrival, which led to a lot of chaos. On top of all that, while I was performing, I told the DJ to turn the music up (so that I could hear the track over all the noise) and the client was standing next to him, telling him to turn it down. Hey, lady, who is doing the singing here? Let me tell the DJ what I need. This was clearly NOT a place where live music was to be had. When you plan an event, make sure that live music can be appreciated and the audience is going to be receptive.
2. WHEN I ASK ABOUT THE SINGER/MUSICIAN, YOU SHOULD HAVE RELEVANT INFORMATION.
When I ask “Who’s playing?” or “Who’s singing?” I would like an answer. If you haven’t thought about or planned for your singer to have musical accompaniment, perhaps you shouldn’t have a singer. Every good singer wants a good musician and every good musician wants a good singer. It makes our performances better when we can trust in the quality of the other person’s gift. By the way, when you have payed out your song request and confirmed that we are satisfied, let us talk to one another. Musical people have a language all their own and when we have to go through you, a lot gets lost in translation.
Also, when I ask about the musician/singer and you say: “it’s Roberta’s nephew and he’s good…” , that tells me nothing. Everybody thinks their nephew is “good”, but that it subject to your definition of what good is. Things I need to hear are accomplishments and maybe who they play for regularly. Something that tells me they are on par with what it is you want to do. You may love this person, but if they can’t play or sing in C or do clean chord progressions/modulations/
3. WHAT ABOUT EQUIPMENT?
Is there a keyboard? Is the organ a B3? Will I have to bring my own equipment? How’s the sound system at the venue? Many people will say: “You are musical. I don’t know anything about that” that’s why I wrote this piece. You should know about that. Don’t you want the music to be great? Don’t you want to be able to hear everything clearly? So do I. I am well aware that for me to perform, I need to have good equipment and sound. You should be as well.
4. IS THE SONG YOU WANT GOOD FOR A “LIVE” PERFORMANCE?
With so much electronic editing going on nowadays, a lot of what you hear may not be sung, it may be manufactured. If you want the song to sound just like the CD, keep in mind that you need to have what the people on the CD had. MP Machine, bass guitar, full drum kit, etc. Would you be happy with a scaled-down accompaniment like a piano and a trap kit? Perhaps the song you want is only really effective as a studio song or not for the venue you have chosen. If you really want the song done at your event, at least give me some creative license to adapt it to what we have — especially if you don’t have great resources.
5. WHAT TIME DOES IT START….AND END?
Having me sit there for 45 minutes while you have your make-up done is not cool. It’s important that you begin on time. Many professional musicians have lined up multiple gigs during a weekend afternoon. Your wedding does not pay enough money to cover the gigs I am missing because you went two hours over the allotted time. It is important that I arrive on time to your event and equally important that it end at a decent time.
6. SHOULD THERE BE A CONTRACT?
If you are in the habit of being late, being unorganized or making last minute changes. — YES! Why should I pay for your ineptitude? A contract is not a scary thing like most people think. It is just everything we agreed upon in written form. It doesn’t have to be formally drawn up, but it does need to have terms both parties agree upon. Make sure that you put terms in the contract that are reasonable: arrival times, wardrobe, services and maybe even additional things that spell out what to do in the event of a mishap. It protects us both from any misunderstandings that may occur. I have also found that a contract makes people do the right thing because they know you are serious. It filters out all the people who know they don’t do well with business and keeps things nice and friendly. Not every situation needs one, but you should be prepared.
7. HOW FAR AHEAD DID YOU PLAN?
Did you call me at the last minute or did you forget to tell me about it till the last minute? Do you know how you want everything set up or did you say: “I’ll figure it out when we get there…”? Make sure you have thought out the event — if not in detail, at least in theory. I shouldn’t ask where to stand, you should be the one to tell me. If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.
8. MAY I HAVE SOME WATER, PLEASE?
I was once asked to sing three songs during a funeral. First off, that is too much singing at a funeral. It is also too much for one person. Adding to the strain is that I wasn’t even offered a thimble of water. Singing with a dry throat isn’t easy. You want the velvety sounds and the amazing riffs, but where do you think the sound comes from….my legs?? The least you can do it provide a bottle or two of water for your band and singers. It’s only a buck and it shows that you care.
9. AM I THE LAST PERFORMER ON SCHEDULE?
If so, please refer to #5. You want me to wait through a whole docket of things you have lined up and then want me to sing. Maybe you have invited too many guests and they all came. Now you want me to hear everyone else and then I have to sing to empty seats or an exhausted audience. Make sure that you understand that time is an enemy to execution. After too much time, you can lose your excitement for the performance. You also become listless and tired from waiting too long to perform and performing, of any kind, takes strength.
10. ARE YOU PAYIN’ ME?
Everything does not revolve around money, but fair is fair. If you are on a budget, had unforeseen expenses or are just flat broke, spell that out ahead of time. If I choose to do the gig pro-bono, please pay special attention to the other points I have listed for you. Some of the other things, when done right, can sort of make up for the lack of finance. For instance, if you start on time and end on time, it means that my time is valuable to you. I appreciate that. Some things are worth more than money, like kind treatment, professionalism, good equipment, accoutrements and consideration.
I do like to get paid and I like to be paid fairly. In my contracts, I put in the agreed amount and a stipulation that pays me another sum over and above that for every 30 minutes late and deducts that same amount from my pay for every 30 minutes as well. Please also, do not try to get over on me. Pay me what is fair. I expect you to shop around, that is just good business, but when you have decided to use my services, please don’t forget this ain’t no auction!
Seems like I spent a lot more time on money than anything else? Seems that sometimes people spend a lot more money on other things than me. Fair is fair.
I have highlighted a few things that I believe are key points to keeping your music staff happy and getting the type of service and success you are looking for. Singers and Musicians everywhere will not only agree, but certainly bring out some points that I left out. Be good. Be safe. Be aware.