Things You Need To Know About Musicians [and what we do]

  1. They are a crucial part of your life – whether you like that association or not. Music permeates your life more than you know. How many life experiences do you have that are attached to a song, artist or album? How many movies do you watch with incredible soundtracks that make your heart race or break? What song makes you cry? What song psychs you up for your next gym session? What episodes of your favourite TV show features songs you start singing along to? Musicians made all of these things possible.
  2. They are not all sloppy, poor, disorganised souls – in fact most are the opposite. Many are quietly meticulous, financially stable and very organised. There are a few sloppy souls giving musicians a bad rap in this area. Don’t let one mayhem musician or someone else’s sweeping statement about musicians define your opinion. Accountants can be sloppy. Bankers can be sloppy. Teachers can be sloppy. Point made.
  3. Their music gear is sacred. Don’t touch their gear unless you have direct consent. I’ve had someone rest a glass of champagne on my $3k keyboard, treating it like a tabletop. No. Do I come to your office and start messing with your work files or computer or eat a messy burrito in your new leather-seated, pristinely clean Lexus? No.
  4. Listening to music and sound is also a sacred part of their experience. There’s some amazing research going into this area – some studies have demonstrated that those with musical training are more sensitive not just to sound or music, but the complexities of it that others miss. If you want to know more about this read some of the work from Dana L Strait from North Western University. But overall musicians will hear things non-musicians won’t – complexities, shapes and colours – and often it will pull them away from a conversation with you (sorry). Behavioural patterns to note when a musician is zoning in on a sound or a song – they’ll:

– ask you to stop talking for a second “wait, hold on a minute” to turn up a song or a part of a song (like the bass line of ‘Rapper’s Delight’ by the Sugar Hill Gang)

– proceed to demonstrate unusual body placements or movements such as closing of the eyes, biting of the bottom lip, gesturing (often of the instrument playing), singing (the solo), dancing (interpretive to the style of sound heard)

– appear to have embodied the artist they hear and the place in which they performed the piece

– cry (don’t even get me started on ‘Gravity’ by Sara Bareilles)

  1. They do not need or want your artist comparisons e.g. “You sound like [insert artist name]”. Now, I understand why people do this – especially people who are not musical (which is fine) and are trying to compare what they hear to something that in their experience is “good” music. I know you’re trying to be complementary. But please understand this message translates to – “you aren’t unique” or “you’re so good that someone else has already done what you’re trying to do”. We are sensitive – YES I know musicians need to just chill a bit – but aren’t you sensitive about some things you do? Your work? Your favourite hobby? How you look? Your cooking? How you drive? Yes, I figured. Here’s some things you can say instead:

– “You have an amazing sound/I really like your sound”

– “Your voice is really unique”

– “I really love what you’re doing”

All of these are positive and non-judgemental, highlighting that you have in fact been listening to them and you like what you hear. Also – never underestimate the power of asking them what they are doing! If they get the chance musicians love to explain what they were just doing to a captive audience – they’re stoked someone noticed!

  1. Musicians are a steady mix of utter confidence in their abilities and absolute insecurity about every single note they play or sing. I think this is in part due to their sensitivity (yes it’s still here) but on the one hand they know they can play or sing, whilst on the other they can name everyone they know who is better at what they are attempting. For some musicians this swing can be across a pretty deep cavern, for others less so. Musicians walk a line where they must be aware of what they need to improve in order to make it better – some practice sessions or performances can feel absolutely hopeless (despite what the audience notices). That is, until they finally achieve what they were aiming for – playing in a certain key, a riff, a short phrase, a style. Then they feel brilliant! Until they find something else they haven’t mastered. And on and on it goes.
  2. They generally don’t like requests during performances. Having said that there are some that are reasonable (which we will try to fulfill) or if the performance act is tailored to a request style then of course! Throw your requests their way. But generally speaking you must sit back and trust the musicians and the songs they’ve selected for your event – they know music and know what works. They do it well (this is the positive side of the confidence swing from point 6) and they do it often. Also, don’t continue to badger them to play songs that they’ve said no to – often there’s a very legitimate reason they’ve said no such as:

– you’ve requested a heavy rock’n’roll song . . . from an acoustic duo (aka wrong kind of band mate).

– you’ve requested something inappropriate like Eminem at a wedding where there’s older people and kids present. Or a ballad in the middle of a dance set. Or a song the venue (who often pays them and has full power over whether they return or not) does not approve of.

– you’re just drunk and a little bit sloppy. You did spit in their face a little when you made the request . . . not the classiest move.

  1. Original artists have the hardest time – they need your support. These guys feel the insecurity tenfold because not only are they judged for choosing to be a musician, they’re judged for trying to create music from scratch. They pump everything into their art – time and money – and this is judged by so many people as an unwise investment which simply is not true. So many hearts on so many sleeves here. SUPPORT ORIGINAL MUSIC. Go to their gigs. Buy their music. Share their music with everyone. Watch their videoclips. Look for new original music – there is So. Much. Out. There. These guys are the pioneers of new sounds, new lyrical ideas, new musical concepts – they literally shape the future of sound so get behind them.

Places to find original music:

– local singer/songwriter nights – plenty of venues, pubs and cafes run these. Do some research and go along.

– YOUTUBE – the deep ocean of original musicians from all over the world.

– online sites like SoundCloud, Bandcamp, Triple J Unearthed and pretty well all social media.

Here’s my top 10 favourite original artists right now if you’re looking for somewhere to start:

Moses Sumney – US
David Ryan Harris – US
Kimbra – NZ
Ngaiire – AU
Reecesponse Beats – AU
Emily King – US
Jordan Rakei – NZ
Microwave Jenny – AU (this video of these guys slays me)
Sarah Humphreys – AU
Amy Vee – AU

  1. There is a career in music. Choosing music as a career path is not just a cop out, trying to avoid a “real job” (when people say this to me my blood boils). The music industry is broad and there are far more options as to what you can do within it than people realise. “Making music” could be defined as gigging/performing, teaching, producing, instrument making, retailing, artist managing, venue-owning, festival organising, logistics, promotions, publicity, distributing, training and so on. Every one of these areas is valid and they keep SO MANY PEOPLE employed day to day. Don’t tell me there’s no career to be had as it’s simply not true.
  2. Musical success is not just a billion dollar record deal and super fame. “But you haven’t MADE it, why are you bothering?” Please don’t be narrow minded on this – and especially do NOT project your thoughts on this to a musician. This point comes down to your definition of “success”. Musical success is not just fame, glory and money (although for some it is – and kudos to you if that’s you) – success can also be defined by musicians as simply being able to make music for a living. Musicians love that they are able to make music and that’s enough for them! So no, not all musicians are aiming to be the next big pop star, and THAT IS FINE. Great, in fact.

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