Being a full-time working musician/artist is sometimes one of the the toughest things you can do. Not only because the industry is so difficult but also, because it means that you have to pick and choose your work.
The best way I can equate this to is when you were in high school or just out of high school and thought that $7.25 p/hr job could get you out of your parents place and into a life of self-sustenance, but you soon found out that $7.25 p/hr doesn't go as far as you thought, and even Ramen noodles can end up out of your budget. The same thing happens to musicians.
Once you decide that playing music is what you want to do, then you have to figure out your budget and you need to be realistic. Analyze where you are in life because if you are still living with mom and dad your budget can be as little as 20K a year and things are allot easier, but if you are like many a little older with a family, mortgage, and everything else you will need a little more. Now you have to figure out how you are going to get there.
To analyze properly, you need to remember as the saying goes, time is money, so you need a detailed calculation of how much to charge for a gig. So calculate everything including your rehearsal time, music learning, gig finding, and how many performances you can get in a week. Then you divide by the total number of gigs you can get in a week, and divided by your weekly budget, plus 15% (this is to take into account low seasons and downtime that inevitably happen) to give you a number you need to charge per gig on average.
Now that you have a number you need to estimate, how are you going to make those digits. This is where reality hits many people. First they didn't realize how much they really needed (or in a few occasions how little, THANKS TO MOM'S & DAD'S!). But, the other part is, can any of these things be subsidized but other things like teaching, studio work etc... Now the gigs!!
If you are a fairly good musician, you surely have local bands to play, but here is where you have to be careful; local bands depending on their popularity can have pretty extensive gig schedule, but might not make as much per gig and but possibly make-up on volume but you will only know when you calculate all the time you will put into it. The difficulty comes, that you have to remember that budgetary number. The other issue, it is not uncommon lately that the locals want to have the same people on stage all the time, but unless the band can meet all your financial needs, you will need to play with other bands and gigs, which will mean that you would need to have fill-ins, just ensure that this is OK with the band. Just remember not to get swept into the bar trap, which is fine for part-time work and open dates but not be the main source of income.
Now you need to look at the other projects which will be better paying; these will include your solo shows, corporate events, weddings etc... These should be the bulk of your income. Remember these gigs are based on quality not quantity so you will get less of them, but may require additional preparation, and special attire so ensure to take these into account, at least in the beginning.
Getting the corporate, and wedding gigs will require some leg work and networking with booking agents, wedding planners, banquet halls and anyone else that may can get you in. This is where you will spend most of your time. This means allot of cold calling, possible casting calls and auditions, but in the end if you got the skills it will pay off.
Something specific to those trying to be solo artists that are using these other gigs as stepping stones to attain your goal of either touring or signing with a label, there are many pitfalls that you need to be aware of; if your goal is to be truly an artist you will need to market yourself shamelessly. Through social media, websites and emails. BUT, you will inevitably work with other projects and you will need to balance marketing yourself while you work with the other projects or bands. But even your best efforts are sooner or later going to ruffle feathers, especially if you are developing a following, so tread lightly, but don't unwaiver.
Minimize ruffling feathers and keep in good standings with your gig projects;
- Always promote the shows on all media it is fine to say you are performing with (name of project), it gives mutual plugs;
- If you are approached by an audience member about your portion of the performance be polite acknowledge the band first and then; if the bands have recordings, promote them and then your material and where they can find it. If the band doesn't, promote your music and any other projects members of the band may be a part of.
- I recommend working a deal with a band leaders to possibly cross promote and maybe share relevant fans or possibly share email lists. If they say no, or do not want to share, then discuss that you have your own fans and want to let them know about it, but this has to be a two way street.
This is a difficult business the main issue is that putting a price on art is very subjective. But, only you need to know where you need to be and also what you are worth. The only thing that will stop you from achieving your goal is you. If you work your butt off, you will reach your goal.
Pt. 2 Shows, Marketing, Swag!
As musicians I believe we are harder on ourselves than anyone else. We always find some monster player to look up to and compare ourselves to, and of course we always come up short. The main reason is that as we hone our craft we always seem to find another amazing player to look up to. Now do not misunderstand me, this is not necessarily a bad thing, but what sometimes happens is that if we are not careful, we sell ourselves short and we may pass up opportunities or not seek them because we feel we do can’t measure to our own expectation. But the reality is, our expectation is only to make us better, the expectations we need to meet or surpass are those of the listeners of our talent or music. These individuals are the true litmus test of our talent. As a musician I realize that I am guilty of this.
Now another aspect of measuring up is when our humility is perceived as cockiness. As many musicians when I received compliments of my playing, I would always brush it off as I thought they were only being nice. Now, here is where it gets interesting, I thought I was being humble (and honestly I just thought I wasn’t that good), but what I didn’t understand was that people actually mistook my humility as being cocky and insincere. Case in point, I had an incident a few years back, where a fellow band mate was saying I was a monster player, and I was literally brushing off the comment to “oh please, I don’t consider myself a monster at all, adequate at best.” The reply totally caught me off guard, she stated “Yeah when I think of crappy sax players I think of you! You better stop smoking that crack, or are you just being an arrogant ass?” Later that night after the gig I asked my wife, my best sounding board, if I was being a jerk by brushing off such compliments; she replied that it did sound cocky when I told people I wasn’t that good. She went on to explain: “You are an amazing player and people cannot actually believe you are being sincere that you don’t know you are so good. People don’t understand that you are as hard on yourself as you are. I know you and this is why you keep getting better, but for the general public there is little if anywhere for you to go. My recommendation is just say; Thank You and smile, even though you may feel you don’t deserve it, you will sound more sincere to others.” Wow!!! Now, that is exactly what I do, when people give a compliment, I just thank then and smile, though I may not necessarily agree.
At first getting the compliments and not brushing them off was awkward at best. But something did begin to happen, and this was that by being open to their compliments a fan base began to develop and though I didn’t always feel I deserved their accolades it did make me think that I was capable of more than I thought I was. After some time I started to ask myself; Can I actually do something more within music? This led me to start looking at various opportunities and what I found was that even others within the industry thought I was pretty good, and more to the fact were asking why I hadn’t approached them before. Now this made me think, did my lack of confidence in my skills actually hold me back? Could I had done this sooner and achieved greater success had I believed in myself more? Now there is no definitive way to answer this as I cannot go back in time, but the more I think about it, I am pretty sure I did hold myself back. Please don’t misunderstand me, I am still brutally hard on myself and am always looking at my performances and killing myself in critiques, but at the same time, I understand what I hear is not what the public does and as such use my perception of my performances to make me better, but am taking advantage of the public perception to advance my career.
We may be our harshest critics, but in the equation, our own opinion only counts in practice, but in performances the one that counts is the public that actually listens to us. They are the ones that gauge our playing and determine how good we truly are. The public is the one that will buy tickets to our performances, download our music and share with others about our music. It is imperative that if they give us a compliment that we receive it with open arms and not deflect it. Don’t let your thoughts about your playing hold you back, because at the end of the day it is other people that will support us in this amazing career and they determine how far we get, not our own opinions.
Ok, I know I am always saying I will try to write on my blog more often, but I actually am. I just need to post here as well as the tour website: www.HonoringOurVeteransTour.com.
To say that being part of a tour is exciting is truly an understatement, but inversely being part of the organization team of a tour is nerve wrecking.
I am so blessed to have an amazing team that has come together for this, but at the same time, some folks along the way bit more than they can chew. This not to say they did things with bad intentions, quite to the contrary, these folks came onboard wanting to be part of something with so much meaning, and helping people that truly need our help. But, unfortunately their efforts were valiant but the results weren’t there and allot of time was spent along the way and now, folks have come into the picture to try and save the day.
The great news is that the worst possible case scenario only includes possible delays of certain cities but also may include addition of other cities in the long run. But as my producer Mr. Tony Choy so eloquently put it earlier this week; “Lou, this game is not for the faint of heart my friend”. No truer words have ever been spoken.
Since I have gotten into talking about how I got to this point; let me talk about why I have decided to take on this ginormous task of putting a tour together and the reasons are plentiful:
First, I have always felt that I need to use my talent to give back. Please make no mistake, I am a typical musician that loves to perform as much as anyone else, but finding ways to help others has always been a part of me ever since I joined the Air Force just out of high school. No matter how many problems I have come across, I have always found that I am blessed beyond my imagination (even when I couldn’t see it at the time). My life reads of an action book at times but one that has been given certain opportunities, some that I have used, some the I may not have used to their utmost potential, and others, that I have just not dealt well at all, but none-the-less amazing experiences. Throughout all of these experiences, I have also met and seen people that have not been afforded similar opportunities and/or people that like me did not know how to handle the opportunities they had and now find themselves down-and-out and my hope is that through this tour be able to help some people along the way.
Secondly, as a musicians and as I mentioned before, I want the opportunity to perform. As the music industry has changed over the last few years it is imperative that “WE” the musicians learn to maximize our opportunities. One of the things I have learned is that, yes, if you are really good you will sooner or later get recognized. But, in some cases that recognition may never come, so it is important to learn to create these opportunities and for me this tour is creating that opportunity. Now, please understand this is not an easy undertaking by any means, and I have learned more through my mistakes in this process than through any other method. But, through an amazing team we are creating this in the hopes to reach as many people as possible, and hopefully share my music and talent with them.
Lastly, I think there is some deep need to please those around us, to make our, parents, siblings, husband/wives, and event children proud of us. I think this is especially true for musicians, we are humble show-offs. We love performing, but in many ways the performance is only part of what makes us happy, the other part comes from the reaction from people around us after we perform. This is true for me as well; I want to let my wonderful mother to know that all those years of honking, tweeting and every other odd noise that could come from an instrument she endured was not in vain. I want my wife to know that all the years she has stood by me, through bars, parties, and church services have finally paid off and that we will be ok, and my wonderful kids to know that it is ok to have dreams and chase them with all of their might, because with hard work and perseverance they can come true. This tour all started as a pipe dream, and has gone and continues to go through changes. But one thing holds true, that without the desire to help, it could never have happened.
I know that everyone has an opinion on how things should be done, and how one should pay it forward; this one is mine. I am grateful that people like Jon Secada, Ady Ordiales, Richard Love, Milca Soto, Tony Choy, everyone in the Luis Alas Band, The American Legion, The Florida Veterans Foundation and so many others feel that this is worthwhile cause and have teamed, because one thing is for sure, it takes a bunch of nuts to make things like this happen, and daily more and more people are joining in. So I hope that is you are reading this and you feel like you would like to be a part in any shape form or manner, go to the contact page and drop a line, cause this loony bin still has room for more.
Peace, Love & Sax,
Ok so much has happened so much time has passed that I barely know where to start. A year and 4 months wow, I can’t believe it. Well I hope to bring you up to speed.
Over the last year I have continued to direct music at Wayside en Español and it has been a challenge, but has brought many blessings. I teamed up with the Florida Baptist Children’s Home and put a concert to help bring awareness and raise money. The concert was a great success and got me working with some great local musicians and old friends. In addition, I have been playing and guesting with many bands and artists including playing with the country’s best wedding band (as per Martha Stuart Magazine) GDO Soul. Along with playing at several conferences so at times it may seem slow, I realize, I am doing so much more than others.
This summer has been slow as trying to get into the studio to record and missed many of the jazz festivals. But, some music has been laid down, but not anywhere close to finishing the entire album. I do hope to release the single within the next few weeks, but no promises. During this time some great recognition and PR has happened including: Being on the June edition of Miami Talent Magazine.
Though the summer seemed a little slow the year is ending up awesome, later this year will be on Round Magazine and Smooth Jazz Magazine. I will be expanding performances to South Carolina, Texas, Georgia and hopefully Missouri before the year is out. It is awesome for all this things to happen, even though at times it seems like it takes forever, I know everything will happen in God’s time and not mine.
Well I hope this has given a bit of an update, need to get back to work. Please drop a line or comment anytime I love hearing from you all.
Well I can’t believe I haven’t written an update since December, I truly am sorry. So much has happened that over the next few days I will play catch-up. So a quick blip, in Jan I lost my job and didn’t get a position till late March but I have gotten a position that is 100 times better than my previous position. Thanks be to God he saw me and my family through it all and we never wanted for anything.
Now music wise, this put a damper on my recording as there was no income coming in through these months. The gigs two main ones were absolutely awesome. First and tonight’s focus was the Jazz In the Gardens gig was truly an amazing experience. This was held on March 19th & 20th and I performed on Saturday March 19th. I was asked to share the stage by my great friend and fellow musician Johnny Holliday to perform with him opening Jazz In the Gardens.
The days leading up to the event were interesting as Johnny was debuting music from his latest CD including a great Afro-Brazilian song and Grover Washington’s “Just The Two Of Us”. Now playing this song at a club or bar is one thing, but performing this song to a crowd of 35,000 plus jazz aficionados is a little bit different, so Johnny (who also plays sax) and I were beyond nervous. Then since we all are still up and coming all of the musicians except Camio and Dante, everyone else has a 9-5 including Johnny who is still active in the US Air Force and works a graveyard shift. So getting rehearsals in for a full 6 piece band is a challenge, but we managed to get a rehearsal and a half in LOL.
Now the day of the performance comes in and we are going to the Sun Life Stadium to perform and we are all so excited. We have our parking passes and our “Artist Passes” feeling important. At the main gate a young lady with an “Event Staff” pass greets us with a smile and asks us to follow. As we are walking she says with a smile “let me show you to your trailer.” Did she say trailer? WTH? We have a trailer? We all look at each other and have a huge smile on our faces, we begin to walk just a little taller and swag following the young lady.
As we walk in an alley full of trailers we see signs in each trailer: Johnny Gill, a little further, Lala Hathaway then Lauryn Hill, then Al Jarreau and our smiles grow then a site that just stopped our hearts… In BIG BOLD LETTERS it said: “Storage Only”. Without noticing the sign or what it says the pleasant young lady says “Here’s you guys trailer.” We all look and just begin to laugh… Any essence of arrogance we had over the last 90 seconds have been deflated. The young lady looks at the door and with obvious embarrassment excuses herself and then tears the sign from the trailer and walks away. The trailer was nice had a couch and a few chairs a bathroom and a big bowl with all sorts of sodas, sports drinks and juices.
After settling in and bringing in all of our individual gear we head to look at the stage. To say it was huge is a sincere understatement. On this stage which was easily 120 feet wide were no less that 5 keyboards each of all the top names, a grand and classics like moog and Roland Mark V. Also there were no less that 8 drum sets of several makes and set ups, amplifiers galore and so much gear that it would take an armada of tractor trailers to haul it all.
The back drop to the stage was a 30 foot by 50 foot LCD Hi-Def screen displaying images and enough lights were hung around the stage that if they were all lit could probably cook a turkey in nothing flat. To say the stage was massive was an understatement. But what made this scene more amazing was the scene from the stage into the crowd, a sea of white plastic lawn chairs as far as the eye can see back. The thought that these seats would soon be full of music fans ready to listen to us was amazing. Though I have never tried any drug, the rush of endorphins at that very moment could not be matched by the purest drug.
The next few hours were a bit frustrating, wanting to get to our sound check and anxious to play our stuff, but being trumped by all the big name artists. Finally about ten minutes before our performance we were escorted to stage and told we would need to perform raw with no sound check. Our exhilaration was quickly replaced with frustration as they couldn’t get our click track to play nor get the monitors working and one coordinator screaming that we need to start playing. Almost all the chairs have been replaced with bodies and the remaining chairs are quickly being filled.
Suddenly in a flash everything begins to work and an announcer introduces us and we begin to play. Every song is just flawless and sound better than ever before and the crowd is screaming. When we begin to play the Afro-Brazilian song “Dance Conmigo” and suddenly when I begin to play the Samba whistle a Brazilian flag begins to waive from the crowd and a large group begin to dance and scream in excitement as their native rhythm is being played to their obvious approval. When we finish playing our set it there are no longer any empty chairs and we receive a standing ovation and the excitement and high are taken to a level which leaves us momentarily speechless. But just as quickly we hear a raspy voice screaming “Great guys, beautiful. Now clear out for the next group.” And just as quickly we are brought to our reality.
Our performance was great and flawless and I know that people loved it, but, we were just an opening act and by six we need to clear out so the evening opening acts can use the same trailer. We get to enjoy the rest of the artist got some great compliments from those that took the time to listen and took pictures with them. By the time we turn in our trailer, we are free to enjoy the remainder of the evening in front of the stage, but all the adrenaline is gone and sheer exhaustion sets in. This was truly amazing experience and one we won’t soon forget and are being told more invitations to events like Newport, Monteux, and Jamaica are coming but for today we are done. Tomorrow I will play at both Sunday services at my church and continue my life. Will these other events happen I hope, but we need to take them one at a time, cause life like God's blessings are to be taken one day at a time.
Well I have finally gone into the studio to record my debut solo album. I know I have talked about this but, let me tell you it is nothing like one would expect. First there is a definite difference in recording a solo for someone, and having to micro-manage every aspect of every song. Having to worry of the drum loop is right or do I need to go and add live drums to this song. But, all-in-all, it is awesome, because what makes it so frustrating also makes it so rewarding.
Today we started recording an original I have called “Master J” this song is a fusion between funk and Latin. I wanted to do this as I want to make sure every song reveals a little about me. Though the overall groove will be funk driven, it will also reflect some songs that formed me in church as a child and the various styles of music that I was so fond of growing up, from my brothers Santana and Earth Wind and Fire albums to the big band music from school. The overall goal is that if you the listener actually listen to all the songs you will actually have a feel for me as a musician and the music that made me who I am today.
Another aspect about studio playing is that every flaw in you playing is there for everyone to hear and as such I have become hyper-critical of my tone style and I hope that by the end of this project it will make me an even better musician. Because of this I will be doing some lessons on how to best record horns to ensure a quality product.
Well I still have one more studio session tomorrow and hope to complete two songs. So I will leave this entry with this; Nothing is as simple as it sounds.
Well this is something that has come from wat out in left field and I truly can explain how escited I am. The second dream of every professional musician from the first day they learn about playing professionally is getting endorsed. Why the second dream, you ask? Cause the first one is actually playing professionally.
But once a musicians gets that first fifty or hundred bucks for playing their next big dream is getting endorsed. Why you may ask? Well unlike playing for people who may not know anything about music, getting endorsed means that somebody who knows about you craft, who most likely endorses other big names in your chosen interest, sees in you someone that could be an ambassador for their brand. This company hace listened to you and seen your performance an feels that you can represent them well.
Well, this week this is exactly what has happened to me. Garrett of www.saxophone.com listened to some of my recordings, saw some of my performances and felt that I would be a great ambassador to his brand. The saxophones that I am representing are great horns made by quality craftsmen and not some cheap Mark VI immitations. These are actually high quality horns and best of all come at great prices.
Today any pro musician that wants to buy a pro level horn has to choose between the horn or buying a uased car literally. Any of the main name brand horn whether Selmer, Yamaha, Yanigasawa, Cannonball etc... can be looking at prices up to $5,000 USD for a single horn. This makes it very difficult for horn player to be able to get a pro level horn which is almost mandatory if you want to record. Well here comes www.saxophone.com , these horns have exceelent action and play very well, whether you like to play altissimos like Gerald Albright or overtones like Micheal Brecker these horns respond and best of all don't break the bank.
I am honored to be an ambassador for these horns and am happy to promote such great quality. If you want more information on these horns feel free to write to me or contact www.saxophone.com directly just let them know where you saw there information.
Well, I know I keep promising to write more often, but life seems to get in the way and no matter how I try it is harder to make time with everything going on, plus having a family life. But so much continues to occur and it truly seems to come from nowhere; well not nowhere cause I know God is seeing me through but it not as I have actively sought most of these things.
In the last month things have been progressing but maybe not in the way that I thought they would. The process for a contract is not so cut and dry as some think and it is surely going to happen but it is a process. Now in this time, I have continued to gig which is great, but the real amazing part is that a friend asked me to go and see if there was a chance that I would be able to perform at a large Christian event that will be held here in December. We to make a long story short I came out of the meeting as the musical director/coordinator for this event. Though this is something I can do, I was honored to even be considered, especially an event that will be attended by over 20,000 people and where I thought I would be lucky to perform at. Now amazingly this is only one of several things that have happened in the last few days. The part that is perplexing is, that though I know God has given me a talent and ministry, I know there are some amazing musicians in the ministry, and I sit back and all that come to mind is saying; "God, Thank you but why me?"
I know hard work has much to do with it. Through the criticisms and negative experience God has opened doors and kept me strong. In those moments that we all have of doubt, something happens that shows, as I have said before, I am on course.
I am now in process of putting together a praise team for this event that is multi-denominational, multi-cultural and what I hope will be the most awesome team I can muster. In the next few weeks I will give an update on team and how
I just realized how long it has been since I posted anything on my blog. Wow time really has flown and so much has happened.
Well I guess the latest update is the fact that P2L Ministries has recently received a recording contract offer and we are having an attorney look into it and then decide if this is truly th route God wants us to go. Even if for some reason we don't do it (which I highly doubt will happen) it is an amazing feeling to even be considered. Though I have played with signed artists it is so different to actually be given an offer.
As I sit here and contimplate on this it is a bit humbling, but at the same time gives a level of confirmation that all these years haven't been a waste of time, and that maybe, just maybe I am not as dillusional as some may have thought. You see, I have always played and it has always been what kept me sane, but as many say this industry is tough and at times everyone has doubts about their abilities and also if this is the route they should take.
At the same time, this comes at a time where I personally have learned to truly give it all to God and leave it in his hands. For too long I truly believed it was all because of me, but at one point God truly showed me wheat "just me" can accomplish, needless to say it wasn't pretty. But as I have learned to trust in Him and also put things in their proper priority God has not only blessed me but my family and our ministry as a whole.
I am now beginning to put things together and follow-up on the many doors God has opened up throughout these last few years. Music conferences, performances, clinics and recording all because of Him. I only pray that I can give God the tru excellence he deserves and that through my playing His presence can be felt and be a blessing to others for that is what it really boils down to. To give others the comfort, relief and compassion He has shown me.
I will be trying to update this blog as much as possible as there are several events coming up, I hope to be able to give some insight into how they go.
I wanted to write on our Clinic and Concert from last night. Though this was not our first concert it was our first clinic, and though there were some minor issues with the acoustics in the venue and the weather hurt the attendance the event was an overall success.
The event was held at my church Living Hope Community Church and we divided the clinic and concert only by an hour so those that attended the clinic could stay to attend the concert without having to wait that long.
The clinic opened with the musicians playing “The Chicken” a great tune with an awesome groove.
This clinic was divided into four sections (though due to time we only did three)
Production and Genre Recording Concepts: By Ever Rodriguez
Chord Structures and Arranging: By Camilo “Milo” Velandia
Locking Drums and Bass, and Importance of Chord Structure for bass players: By Ezra Carias
Praise Team Development and Tricks for Sax Players: By Luis Alas (Not Shown)
The clinics taught were received well by the attendees and brought on many questions. So I would rate it with a major success.
The concert went awesome; though we had some issues with the acoustics the sound company handled it with true professionalism. Though to compensate they had to boost the sound it did drown the bouncing tones.
P2L performed virtually flawlessly and had a great time of worship with those attending. It’s sometimes difficult to define a performance as a performer because of the perception we have on stage is different than that of crowd. All the feedback, even from some of our friends that can be harsh (cause of their honesty) was that the band was super tight and impeccable.
Now we need to concentrate on recording our album and I will also begin work on my solo album.
We need to give some special thanks to our sponsors;
- Sam Ash Music
- Peace Love World
- Living Hope Community Church
- Elite Sound Production
And personally I need to give a special thanks to my wife as she has been the pillar and support for me in this endeavor. She was the one that motivated me to start this group and has endured never ending rehearsals and frustrations. I thank God everyday for bringing her into my life.
Well I will be hitting the studio soon and I promise to keep you all updated.