If you are a musician with the
following three qualities, it’s highly probable that you’ll be constantly busy
with new gigs:

1. Good at
Proficient on your instrument, a
good reader, listener, knowledgeable about styles, skilled in writing, etc…

2. Responsible: You show up on time, have the right equipment and scores, pay
attention to dress code, and you’re proactive during rehearsals and

3. Easy to get
along with:
You have a
good attitude, and people don’t get stressed out by your presence. You’re open
to suggestions and have a positive inclination towards making things better for
yourself and for others.

This is what Snarky Puppy’s bassist
and founder, Michael League asserted in a talk he gave at the Prince Claus
Conservatory in June 2016. He also shared his conviction, that even in New
York, the world’s most difficult city to make a living as a musician, it is
almost impossible to think of someone with these three qualities who does not
have many opportunities to choose from. Of course, there are always exceptions to
this rule: the musicians who don’t have all three qualities and still get a lot
of work—for instance the very nice guy with mediocre talent, or the totally
unpleasant virtuoso.

December is a very busy month for
musicians, as the Christmas and New Year’s Holiday creates high demand for a
wide range of performances. That being said, it is very easy to end up spreading
oneself thin and becoming overwhelmed with performance dates. This usually
leads to a snowball effect of stress, and the music begins to suffer as a
consequence. Also, one can easily fall into the habit of no longer taking the
gigs seriously, and as a result, not put in the time and effort required to
perform at an optimal level.

If you find yourself with a lot of
gig offers, here’s Michael’s criteria for choosing which ones to take. There are
three key elements to consider:

1. The gig
helps you grow musically
: If the gig compels you to leave your comfort zone and pushes you
to practice skills that you don’t get the chance to use regularly, it’s a
taker. One small example from my career is my decision to join an Orchestra. I
knew it would push me to become a better sight-reader, better with the bow,
better at playing in tune, and provide me with constant exposure to great, new

2. Helping out
a friend:
Friends often
ask for each other’s help, as they should. They may do so by asking for advice
or favors. It is a very rewarding feeling to see a friend succeed, especially
if you feel you helped them get there in some way. Most of the time, helping
out a friend means that, they too, would want to help you out on any
opportunity they get. It always surprised me how someone who I thought could
not help me, ended up being of great assistance.

3. The gig pays
conveniently well:
Clearly, some
gigs pay better than others, and there are many variables here. On some gigs
you get a lot of money in the end, but you have to go through a lot of stressful
rehearsals, traffic jams, etc… Other gigs pay really well for you to just
simply show up and play 30 minutes of anything. How badly you need the money is
another variable.

Next time you get an offer for a
gig, you can consider these elements upon making your decision.

If the gig offers none of them, then you
should NOT take it. If it offers one, you should take time to consider it
(that’s another thing: most of the time, you don’t have to give an immediate
answer—you can always take some time to think). If the gig offers two of these,
you should most probably take it. And of course, if it offers all three, then
you should not let it go.

It’s also worth considering that if
all musicians used these factors as reference, concert organizers and pub
owners would try to ensure at least two of them, creating a better work
environment for musicians as a result, leading to better performances and
happier audiences.

So that is one way to think about
work… what’s your take? If you have any criteria you would like to share and
discuss, feel free to share your opinion in the comments section!

Edited by: Sima Itayim