Tips and tricks for your best shot of having a career as a Hired Gun.
A Hired Gun, is a musician who gets paid per show for their skills, and will play/perform other peoples music for them live, in the studio or for music videos. This is a different roll as a “band member” who would write the music, perform live, and split band income. Making a living as a hired gun can be a competitive role, here are a few tips to start working your way into a full-time salary job as a musician.
To start, you want to have 2 if not 3 very important items on hand. A talent resume, a professional head shot and possibly a demo reel of live footage(Only if it’s done well and will help your image vs ruining it). On your talent resume, the manager or artist reviewing it doesn’t care if you worked at Safeway, but what they want to know is if you have attended any school/ professional training for your craft and who you have performed with in the past for any live shows, or music videos. You can google examples of a Talent Resume’s to put yours together if you don’t already have one that is geared 100% to your arts career. For your headshot, people are looking to see if you will fit in with the image of the band, and please a crowd of people. AKA, you need to be clean, in shape and put together professionally in your appearance as well as your craft.
A few ways to get into Hired Gun work, is of course through word of mouth, from friends, or co-workers. Another option is through social media sites such as Facebook or Linked in. Once you have a couple projects under your name and on your talent resume, you can begin to start “shopping” yourself to other acts. If you have been playing with a local bar band, you probably won’t have any luck pitching yourself to Kelly Clarkson as you don’t have the experience of that magnitute yet. Instead reach for someone more realistic, maybe an up and coming act you like or know of in your area. Each time you move on to a bigger and bigger project, you will be making the right steps to finding a long term professional job with a successful touring act and building up your talent resume one gig at a time.
When you are ready to “shop” yourself, do your research on which artists you may want to be playing with. It’s best to email their manager (or to the artist directly if they do not have one) a brief email, including your talent resume and headshot along with all of your contact information and what you are looking for. Outline WHO you are looking to play for as well if sending to management. Management companies normally represent more than one act and if you don’t specify off the bat, you are already starting on the wrong foot. You want all of your details laid out on a silver platter for them so they have no other option but to respond for a try out, or at least add you to their data base/files for upcoming opportunities.
*Side notes/ tips:
– You work for THEM. You are self-employed. Keep good records of your income, % for taxes and any items you feel that can be written off as a business expense such as phone, gas, gear repair etc.
– Discuss payment amount and method BEFORE shows take place. Anywhere between $50 – 250 per show is normal for up and coming artists.
– It also may be important to find a part time job that has a flexible schedule(+ to pay your bills as sometimes work as a musician in the start will not). Ideally, getting a job in a music shop (selling instruments, cd’s, etc.) will allow some flexibility and allow you to meet people from within the local music scene that may need a player, or know of someone who does.
– If you are touring, you should also negotiate a perdiem each day for basic food costs BEFORE you hit the road. $15 – 30 per day is normal for this.
As a hired gun you’ll likely have to start small, and work your way up to the top. Good luck!