A question that is becoming common in my inbox is “What can I do to get my drumming career started”
And here’s my answer for everyone. Those who have graduated from very expensive colleges and those who have never gone to college at all.
A most important thing would be to continually keep studying. Just because you graduated from wherever you graduated from, it doesn’t mean you’re studying days are over. In fact this means they’re just beginning. Go to clinics, research new genres, take lessons, and do everything you can to continually stretch your ability. Make yourself an asset for any organization. Be versatile and make sure your abilities are up to the top pro standards. Learn more then anyone else you can think of and develop a fire and passion for discovering new things about drumming and music. The best players I know are always in a continual state and mind set of learning! Absorbing! Practicing and stretching. I was in LA recently and got to hang with Alex Acuña, Clayton Cameron and other great drummers in that area. ALL we could talk about was learning new stuff!! The passion was to great for us to not talk about it! What happens? Well one very important thing that happens is that you create bonds!! That will hopefully last a long time!
Go play music.
Get to playing, hopefully with people that are better then you! How? Start a project. Get in a project. Get your demo stuff together and start meeting people in the music business. So you can get a gig. Learn how to book yourself in a club. Learn about organizing a band and setting rehearsals. Getting to rehearsals on time, dealing with other musicians. But mostly go play music. Ohhh, did i mention go out and play? Play with people you know, play with people you don’t know. Take a chance on going to a club you’ve never been to before and meet the musicians that are playing there. Do it just for kicks. But be prepared in case you encounter some really great players.
Of course…It’s always good to learn about contracts, learn about music publishing. But, stay on top of what’s happening with the Internet and how you can use it to sell your music or yourself in a dignified way. The “Music biz” is in a state of flux and really the truth is nobody knows whats going on. So we are at a new frontier. YOU have to stay aware and be flexible. Also…It’s a project driven world. The days of waiting around for the phone call from somebody to take you out on tour are over. Out of all the thousands upon thousands of drummers I know around the world maybe 10 are on tour from people that call them out of the blue. The rest have worked their butt off to get to where they are today. What does that mean working your butt off? It means accepting the daily grind of your life as a drummer. Making friendships with other musicians, communicating, building long-term relationships with people who might benefit your career. Learn how to do this correctly and not be a pest!
Now if there’s one thing I can say if you are in a position where you are just starting a new career, and I hope you will take this to heart… Don’t teach. Don’t start a teaching studio. Don’t teach little kids, don’t put up signs or flood the Internet with fancy fliers about how you’re teaching now and where you graduated from. Leave that to guys with vast experience both playing and teaching. The drumming scene does not need anymore amateur teachers or people giving out wrong information or regurgitating information that they learned from school. What the drumming scene needs is innovative music to keep music evolving. To keep the people interested in music and keep culture and art moving! And for you to be playing and not wasting time spinning your wheels convincing people to pay 30 bucks when you have no playing experience absolutely at all. Don’t start a lessons website. Or flood YouTube with bad videos of halfway learned lessons and incorrect information. This will only severely hurt your career and very much limit your chances of anyone ever taking you seriously as a drummer. Put all that energy and effort into playing music! And becoming “an artist” – Remember most cats (Even me) got to teaching because people developed an interest in the musical concepts we were applying to MUSIC. Not because we wrote a regurgitated book about rudiments or whatever.
Now many of you are probably saying okay fine I’ll go play but where am I going to go play? There’s no scene! What clubs will want to have me? I can’t fill a room yet no one knows me! And that’s the exact point I’m trying to make. Get into the game. The real game. Get your name out there and play! Any way you can. Even if you have to start out on a cruise ship, it’s a good gig for beginning player to get experience and get paid a little. If you’re lucky and someone recommends you and you can read, you can get in the show band. Usually there’s lots of reading involved and the shows are constantly changing. For most players careers develop in a slow burn kind of fashion and not a quick flash. You are much better off that way anyway. Quick tip!! Look to older cats that have been around for a while and try to play with them! They usually have been around and know club owners and have relationships already going. This way you can get to playing and not be sidetracked by booking. If there is no other way then book yourself. But make sure you have a product and don’t just play and burn the bridge to the club. You will have to offer something people will want to hear!
Another thing I strongly advise… Don’t be afraid to leave your hometown. As a musician you’ll have to travel like mad. So you might as will get used to it. If you live in a very small town where there’s no music you’re going to have to move to a bigger town that’s all there is to it. And if there’s too many drummers in that town then don’t be afraid to move to another country. Where there possibly could be more opportunities for a drummer like you. Epicenters of music are no longer where they used to be. And you will find that the more you learn about the world the wider your scope of opportunity will be. There are many rumors flying around about American guys that have gone to China and are making a killing out there because the drum set is a relatively new instrument there. (And the rumor is that the level of the playing is weak)
So start thinking on an international level and don’t be afraid to get moving.
Of course I can’t end a blog entry like this without saying that the key to achieving whatever goal you are trying to get to, is to keep your passion alive. Keep your passion for drumming burning and don’t let it burn out. There will be every kind of obstacle in your way. And if you don’t have your mind together you will be stopped immediately in your tracks. Believe in yourself and be obsessed with drumming. Be obsessed with music. And remember that the greatest success you can possibly have is to live the life of a drummer every day. Enjoy the process and revel in the fact that you are a drummer. Be happy because if you’re playing drums, if you are involved in this business, if you’re learning constantly and your life revolves around music… You are already successful.
I send you many greetings wherever you are.
All the best