Top 5 Tips For Bar Musicians

Often in these blogs I’ll take the time to sit down and try to give you guys tips on the mindset I feel you should have, the work ethic I think you should strive for, and various other “before the gig” habits I think you should implement. A ton of these strategies, work skills, and habits are things that will develop and grow as you continue to evolve as a musician/performer, but for the impatient ones out there (myself included) I’ve decided to put together a list of tips that will reward you IMMEDIATELY after you start implementing them into your regular gigs. Without further adieu, I present Logan’s TOP FIVE TIPS for the regular gigging bar musician (with a few universal tips for all musicians.)


Click It Til It Beeps



There isn’t a scarier thought to enter a musicians mind (save for a broken wrist or something) than the thought of someone snatching up a precious piece of gear in-between trips to the car. Watching an Andres Colin video, he discussed the importance of making sure you lock the car each time you leave your vehicle. I’d like to take this idea and run, maybe half a step further (or a semitone har har) and say you should click that lock button until your car beeps. Look. If you’re like me, you are already in the process of hacking your life around your own stupidity and the way your brain functions when you aren’t in peak mental/physical condition. This is why we make the effort to leave our wallets and keys in the same location when we walk through the door, why our cell phone is always in the same pocket in our jeans etc. There needs to be more than just our frail memory confirming that we’ve done the super important thing we were supposed to do, there needs to be a system. Locking your car until it beeps is a double confirmation that your car is locked and your gear is safe. Not only are you visually confirming that your car is locked by looking down at your hand and registering that you have clicked the lock button, but the satisfying (or annoying) beep your car makes is as if your car is screaming at you “YES, I AM LOCKED,” (this also lets any would-be ne'er-do-wells know your vehicle is locked up tight.)


Back-ups


A lot of people I know are probably already rocking an extra set of strings at each gig, 2-4 cables, xlr’s etc. but I wanna talk about the stuff you might not be thinking about. I learned a lot last year hanging out with my good buddy Chris Hum (The Valley Shantyman). The first gig I played with this guy I thought if you looked up the word “overkill” in the dictionary you’d find a picture of Chris standing next to his Jenga stuffed SUV. Yet, more and more we would find ourselves in situations where we would need some crazy back-up to a piece of gear or item that you wouldn’t expect, and each time Chris was completely prepared. When you are a full-time musician, you need to be ready for everything. This means not only having extra cables and strings, but also having extra EXPENSIVE things as well. I recommend that no matter what you always make sure you have; extra microphones, extra mic stands, an extra guitar, a cheaper/smaller version of your sound system (or if you use a Bose S1 like me, fuckin, buy 2), an extra mixer, extra AC cables, extra batteries, extra phone chargers, a second iPad (or a music stand and song book as a backup) an extra holder for your iPad, and WITHOUT A DOUBT, extra capos. This stuff isn’t cheap. Music is an investment. Honestly if I was to start all over again from scratch and you told me that, other than strings and picks, I wasn’t allowed to set foot in another music store for at least a year, I would probably budget $7000-$10,000 EASILY.


Assume The Venue Has Nothing



This tip sort of ties in with the last one so I will keep this pretty brief. If you’ve done your job right and the bar is packed with hungry, thirsty people, don’t expect the staff to be rushing to your aid to make sure you have power, a merch table, a glass of water and a pitcher to collect tips. When I walk into 90% of my gigs, there is a small space cleared for me, that’s it. I have to; find an outlet, plug in my extension cord and power bar, and tape that to the ground if it's where people may be walking. I also have a small table from IKEA that I bring with me everywhere that is big enough to hold my mixer, a tip jar and my 2 litre bottle of room temperature water (that I also brought from home).


Bring (And Bling) A Tip Jar



The almighty tip jar can take a $150 dollar gig and turn it into a $300 gig if you play your cards right. The tip jar has become so essential to my show that if a venue tells me I can’t bring one my price goes up $200 or I don’t play. Tipping in the service industry is common decency. At fancy restaurants they include the gratuity in the price, when you are paying with a debit machine the tip percentage pops up immediately after your card is inserted. Musicians are not in competition with staff and aren’t trying to take money out of their pockets. Tipping a musician is not only something totally not required, it’s fucking inconvenient. I keep my tip jar by me, and usually I’m in the back corner far away from the exit, so you have to have ALL eyes on you as you walk to my jar and throw a fiver in. So why do people tip me at all? It’s because I’m inviting. People want to tip me because I make dumb jokes about where the money goes (“thanks it all goes to VISA,” “sweet I thought I wasn’t going to have money for weed after this,” “My wife says thank you,” etc.) Some people tip me because they want to make a request and make SURE I do it. Some people tip me just because they really enjoyed what I was doing and I improved their day. When people give money to you it is because they think your craft is more valuable than the $10 they have in their wallet. I always bring a jar (or box) that says, in bold letters, TIPS. The jar is filled with twinkle lights that are shiny enough to get people’s attention, and I ALWAYS “bed” my tip jar with toonies and loonies (I use coins because it makes a “plunk” sound when it hits the bottom, and the metal is reflective and clearly visible in the jar.)


Make Sure Something Is Doing The Branding For You



Imagine in the middle of singing, you stopped each time someone was walking out the door and said “Thanks so much for coming, my name is _____ you can follow me on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Tik Tok, LinkedIn, and my website is www.______.com.” Now, that’s what I call; super bad marketing. You need something in the background, or off to the side (more than just a couple of business cards too) that is going to let people know who you are and where they can catch you next. You will have tons of people coming in during your set and leaving before your break. Make it easy for those people to track you down and check out your YouTube channel so they can recommend you to their friend, who is getting married in the Summer. I spent almost $200 on a banner from Vistaprint. This was overkill, FOR SURE, but it’s a massive banner with my logo on it, where you can find me, what my social media is, and cool perks you can get if you sign-up to my mailing list (if you don’t know, you can request a tune and I’ll record, mix and master the tune and then send you an mp3 file to keep forever, just sayin’). You don’t have to go overboard like this. You can print off a big sheet of paper and get it framed at Staples with all your links on it. If you know how to work photoshop there is probably some really cool stuff you could do that will look way better than my banner and cost a fraction of the price. The point is that you have to have something silently letting people know where they can get in touch with you on the web. The person sitting eating their burger and fries could be your next big super fan if you make it easy for them to track you down and figure out what you are about.


Conclusion


Well there you have it my friends. I figured we spent MORE than enough time talking about what to do before you get the gigs, that it was time to sit down and discuss some tips you can start using once you get to the gigs. These are tips that I use at every show and I have even more up my sleeve that I could flesh out for you guys if you’d like. If at any point I wasn’t detailed enough in my description then why don’t you come out to a show and see some of these tricks in action! Until next time my friends!

© 2019 by Logan Brown.