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Freelance muso's tough decisions


Ian Benhamou

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Earlier this week I was offered to be part of a great gig. A cabaret type deal with guest artists and singers every week backed up by a house band. It would be 3-4 nights a week for five months. The gigs would be Wed to Sat night with occasional Saturdays off for guest bands or presentations. The pay, I don't have to tell you would be great. The theater's not far from my place and of course it would be a permanent gear installation/setup. The MD for the project is the bass player in my Pink Floyd tribute band, and he's also hired our drummer.

 

Guess what? I turned it down.

 

On the one hand:

 

-it would be a great experience for me as I've done this sort of thing but always one-off gigs such as event ceremonies or galas

 

-Getting to meet and play with new muso's is always the best way to get more future gigs and expand your network

 

-Steady income for the next 5-6 months because I'm sure there would be payed rehearsals as well

 

On the other hand:

 

I would have to drop all current projects. Of those five projects, 2 are artist projects where the album and tour are concluded and I'm waiting for either studio work on the new album or more live dates. Another is a corporate events/wedding band where I could just sub myself out or sequence my parts.

 

BUT, I've been part of an acoustic duo and 4-piece band with one of my closest friends for the past 10 years. We have incredible stage chemistry, lots of steady gigs and a lot of history together. I'm also a huge part of those two projects because I'm the keyboard player, lead guitar player and only backup vocal. Finding a sub would undoubtedly change the sound of the band, the repertoire and just not be the same project. And just leaving behind one of my dearest friends for six months leaving him to either start fresh with a new guy or take less gigs is not fair to him and would surely hurt our friendship.

 

Then there's my Pink Floyd tribute where already the bass player and drummer are out. Frankly, it's not that difficult to sub them out for that band, but the guitarist and I are the main musical components and the two lead singers in that band. So if I would drop out, that project would either go on standby or be reformed with a new lineup leaving just the original guitar player. Having worked my ass off for that project already programming patches and midi setups, sequencing parts and rehearsing a boat-load, I'm not willing to lose that gig.

 

And what are you supposed to do when the gig is over? Just call back the people you used to play and expect to take you back with open arms? Surely, the minute you leave your musical chair someone's jumping on to it and holding on to it for as long as he/she needs to.

 

Not to mention that I would also be turning down every call for gigs for 6 months. When you do that, one thing is certain, is that your name goes at the bottom of the list. People start to forget about you and assume that your going to be unavailable forever.

 

So, how many other freelancers out there have turned down great offers? How many of you would have taken the gig regardless and deal with the consequences? Or more generally, what factors do you consider when accepting/refusing gigs? Do you help your career more by staying loyal to important friends and/or projects or by jumping through every window of opportunity that presents itself?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ian Benhamou

Keyboards/Guitar/Vocals

 

[url:https://www.facebook.com/OfficialTheMusicalBox/]The Musical Box[/url]

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If I liked the music, I would have taken the gig. Club work is shriveling, and frankly, opening yourself up to new experience is good, and it's only for 6 months, not exactly a lifetime. Your Floyd band can afford 6 months off. The acoustic duo maybe not, but I bet your guy would understand if he were in similar circumstance.

 

That said, a few years back, I turned down a pretty lucrative corporate gig simply because they forbid subs, and it would preclude me from doing ANYTHING musically, or family-oriented, on the weekends. That was a no-go. Never regretted it.

Hitting "Play" does NOT constitute live performance. -Me.
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My current projects are partly in clubs, but most of the cash comes from private/corporate or festival events. My Pink Floyd band never plays in clubs. It's exclusively out of town work with very good pay and conditions.

 

I agree that club work can and has many times been grueling and depressing, but nowadays the clubs and bars that we play are great venues. Everything from classy patrons to great working conditions, respect from the management and good PA equipment. We've eliminated many of the more problematic places with the typical bar owner BS.

 

But I tell you, it was difficult to say no to that gig, and I've been thinking a lot about it and seeking other musos' thoughts on it. But I don't think I'll regret letting it go. If this opportunity hadn't presented itself I'd be more than satisfied with my current work situation.

Ian Benhamou

Keyboards/Guitar/Vocals

 

[url:https://www.facebook.com/OfficialTheMusicalBox/]The Musical Box[/url]

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Hold the line. Let an out-of-work muso take that 6 month gig.

 

If/when you need it, such an opportunity will come back around. Folks always need a KB player. :cool:

PD

 

"The greatest thing you'll ever learn, is just to love and be loved in return."--E. Ahbez "Nature Boy"

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If he is really your dearest, most important friend, he should be the first to encourage you to take a great gig and understand and support you when you do. Don't forget to be loyal to yourself while you're being loyal to everyone else. If this is a step up, take it.
Everybody's got to believe in something. I believe I'll have another beer. W. C. Fields
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In 2001, I faced the most difficult decision of my career, and turned down an offer to be the keyboardist with Mystere, the Cirque du Soleil show at Treasure Island here in Vegas.

 

The gig is still there - going strong, but ultimately I don't regret my decision. It was many of the factors similar to what you mentioned Ian, although it also had to do with a lot of the contract language which I didn't care for at all.

 

Looking back now - - I think one can easily draw up a list of pros and cons of a decision like this, and you can get some great feedback in a forum like this, but I also think you ultimately need to factor in your own personality and lifestyle.

 

In Vegas, there are cirque/broadway/production shows, and then there is the freelance/corporate/event stuff. The steady gig people have gravitated to the steady gigs, and us freelancers do the rest.

 

Are you the "steady gig" type, or do you thrive on variety? Do you need relative financial security and predictability, or are you cool with not knowing for sure about next month's money? Does the idea of working with the same people every day appeal to you, or do you need variety there too? Perhaps you can do both.

 

If you know these things about yourself, you're at a huge advantage in making such a decision.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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In 2001, I faced the most difficult decision of my career, and turned down an offer to be the keyboardist with Mystere, the Cirque du Soleil show at Treasure Island here in Vegas.

 

A guy I went to University with started out playing in the Cirque du Soleil Delirium show at first locally in Montreal and Quebec City. When it came time for the world tour he was promoted to musical director. After a couple of years on that show touring the world and making good contacts he got to the big leagues and became 1 of 2 keyboard players (the other being Kevin Antunes) on Madonna's last world tour. Cirque du Soleil I would never turn down.

 

I agree with Prof. I know plenty of super talented guys with much more chops and experience than I do who are struggling right now. Those guys could use a good steady gig like that. I'm very fortunate to be in a position where I could say no.

 

Blue JC, it's not that the gig would be a step up. I've done some great gigs and venues. It's more the experience of performing with the same players 80 nights in 5 months. I don't care how great you already are, any and everybody comes off a gig like that a better player and musician.

 

Ian Benhamou

Keyboards/Guitar/Vocals

 

[url:https://www.facebook.com/OfficialTheMusicalBox/]The Musical Box[/url]

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Ian, I understand your decision for sure. I've turned down a couple of offers of long-term work recently. One was a cruise, the other a residency at a holiday park. Both would have needed me to unpick previously-booked engagements and both would have involved me being away from my lovely wife for weeks on end. No contest.

 

On a more general note, it is risky for freelancers to get too dependent on one job or supplier. Around half of my business is still freelance journalism and among the more lucrative, regular work is a trade magazine which I write, edit and design. The magazine is bi-monthly (NOT the title, before Tom puts his oar in!) and takes about two weeks to put together a 68-page product.

 

The company I do this for is eventually looking to produce a sister magazine on the "off" months. At first sight, this is good news for me, but it would mean committing a lot of my resources to one client and having to turn down work from elsewhere. Long term, this may not be a good idea.

 

Fortunately, I do have some options to farm out such work if it arose - not so easy for performers, despite the sub system.

Studio: Yamaha P515 | Yamaha Tyros 5 | Yamaha HX1 | Moog Sub 37

Road: Yamaha YC88 | Nord Electro 5D

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Can't say what I'd do, I have a regular day job, so I don't do the music gig to survive. That 5 month gig could have led to other things, or not.

Still, nice that blood is thicker than a stack of bills for 5 months, and if you can send the gig to another bud in need, well that's the right thing to do.

I assume the Floyd guys are ok with being replaced?

What we record in life, echoes in eternity.

 

MOXF8, Electro 6D, XK1c, Motif XSr, PEKPER, Voyager, Univox MiniKorg.

https://www.abandoned-film.com

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I assume the Floyd guys are ok with being replaced?

 

Well, frankly, they don't have a choice. Are we supposed to sit and wait for them all that time? The thing is I've been through this before in other bands where someone gets subbed out for a period of time. Very often, the bend ends up loving the sub and therefore want to have him stick around after the other guy becomes available again. And very often they do, and the original guy becomes the sub. It's the risk you take for subbing yourself.

Ian Benhamou

Keyboards/Guitar/Vocals

 

[url:https://www.facebook.com/OfficialTheMusicalBox/]The Musical Box[/url]

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Ive turned down many a big gig. Some people think im foolish. I have to be true to myself. I dont do anything for the money. The money is nice sure, but its got to be more than that to take me away from my life, my ability to create whenever i like, creative freedom, my own bed. I spent almost 8 years touring with a great band and that was a great time and i have no desire to work for someone else again. I want to do my own thing on my own terms and if that means starting from the bottom again so be it. Nothing can compare to the feeling of being in control of your own destiny and that freedom compared with being employed by someone else. No matter how big or famous they may be at some point you have to go right, im gonna take a risk here and do my own thing. Go with your instincts always and dont do something if you dont like the music..ie just for the money. If you do youll end up hating playing for a long time! Nows the time to be self sufficient and do your own thing.

Chief Product Officer at Rhodes. Project leader and designer of the Rhodes MK8 piano. 

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A guy I went to University with started out playing in the Cirque du Soleil Delirium show at first locally in Montreal and Quebec City. When it came time for the world tour he was promoted to musical director. After a couple of years on that show touring the world and making good contacts he got to the big leagues and became 1 of 2 keyboard players (the other being Kevin Antunes) on Madonna's last world tour. Cirque du Soleil I would never turn down.

 

Interesting story - - I think for a Madonna tour, or one of the very few artists on that magnitude, I think I could change my personality to become a steady gig guy. For Cirque - - well, probably not.

 

 

 

 

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Interesting story - - I think for a Madonna tour, or one of the very few artists on that magnitude, I think I could change my personality to become a steady gig guy. For Cirque - - well, probably not.

 

My point was that Cirque was a gateway to the Madonna gig.

Ian Benhamou

Keyboards/Guitar/Vocals

 

[url:https://www.facebook.com/OfficialTheMusicalBox/]The Musical Box[/url]

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