You’re Doing It Wrong


You’re a great player and you’re doing a great job at branding yourself and expanding your network. Great website? Check. Solid business cards? Check. Basic networking skills? Check. You’re doing everything you can to help differentiate yourself from every other guitarist/singer/bassist/drummer/horn player/insert your instrument here. There’s a ton of people playing your instrument, trying to make a living, and you just want to stand out and get more work. But if you’re viewing other people who play your instrument as your rival, you’re doing it wrong.

There’s one type of networking that you probably aren’t thinking about.

Networking with musicians that you play with is great. They get to know your playing, get to know you, and hopefully call you for work. Let’s call this “external” networking.

But what about “internal” networking? I’m not talking about looking deep within yourself. What about the people that you know but don’t play with? What about the people who are your “competition?”

Other People Who Play Your Instrument Aren’t Your Enemy

Look, this isn’t The Hunger Games. It’s not you verses everyone else out there who plays your instrument. If you start viewing it that way, you’ll start to alienate yourself and other people won’t want to work with you. Instead, think of your fellow musician as a friend who is trying to make a living just like you. By being supportive and sticking together, you can both win, without having to kill each other in the process. So in this way, I guess it’s exactly like The Hunger Games (Sorry if I just ruined that movie for you).

Okay, But Why?

Why is “internal” networking important? Why should you befriend the people who you are technically competing with for gigs? Why should you “volunteer as tribute?” (Sorry I’m maybe stretching this Hunger Games analogy) Because counterintuitively, by getting to know the people who might “steal” your gigs, and by actually giving them work, you’ll get more work in the process.

If you’re a drummer, chances are you aren’t going to be doing a lot of gigs with other drummers, unless you’re doing the soundtrack for Man of Steel. A drummer isn’t going to call another drummer to play together at a gig, but they will call the other drummer to sub for them when they can’t make it.

Who are they going to call? No, not the Ghostbusters. They’re going to call someone who they know is a good player, but also a good person. They might not be playing the gig, but it’s still their reputation on the line. If you’re friends with the other people playing your instrument (internal networking), taking sub gigs is a great way to expand your network and get more work.

Be The Best Sub Anyone Could Ask For

There’s a few reasons why this is a good idea:
1. In the short term: You’ll make money. You’ll walk away at the end of the night with $100 in your pocket. A gig’s a gig’s a gig.
2. In the slightly longer term: The person you subbed for will call you for more sub gigs. At some point, they’re not going to be able to make it to another gig. If you’ve killed it as a sub in the past, then you’ll be right at the top of their call list.
3. In the long term: You’re expanding your network and playing with musicians you wouldn’t otherwise play with. All of a sudden, there’s a whole new crew of people who have gotten to know your playing and you as a person. If the person you subbed for ever has to miss a gig again, you’re at the top of the list. Not only that, if they permanently can’t do it, you’ll be the new regular guy.

Don’t Be a Douche

With internal networking as well as external, be kind and be genuine. There’s a specific type of douchebaggery that can take place with internal networking. It’s a slight hint of competitiveness, making sure you’re always one step ahead of your “competition.” Remember Tevin? Don’t fall into that trap. You’ll quickly make a terrible name for yourself and stop getting sub calls.

Speaking from my own experience, subbing has been a large source of work. Not only on one off gigs, but permanently taking over the reoccurring gig for friends of mine. I’ve been able to give my friends one off and permanent work when I’m unavailable.

Wrap Up

Your fellow guitarists/drummers/singers/[insert your instrument here] are not your enemy. View them as your friend and you’ll get more work then you know what to do with. Not only that, you’ll have a great sub you can call when you can’t make it. Don’t try to kill each other. Threaten to eat poison berries instead. Wait, that part of the Hunger Games analogy doesn’t work at all.