Adrian Cunningham muses on life in The Big Apple
Are you a working musician, but are tired of waiting for the phone to ring for more gigs? Are you constantly looking at band line-ups and saying to yourself “I should be playing in that band?”
We all know that important rule in music: if you practice more and become a better musician, you’ll eventually get the gig. Ha! That’s the deluded answer of the hard-working fool. Practicing is for losers. Winners are too smart to put in any real effort.
If you really want to be the busiest cat in town but don’t know how to get started, here’s The Professor’s guide to hustling gigs.
1. Start a rumor. If you want to get rid of the guy who’s doing the gig that you want, there’s nothing more effective than an unsubstantiated rumor to ruin a good reputation. This will be bad for them, but will provide you with great new career opportunities. Here’s how you do it. Pick a combination of the following and spread by word of mouth: “Did you hear that he punched/slept with/broke/set fire to—the bandleader’s —car/girlfriend/mother/dog/bank account?” Of course the guy will deny it, but musicians are more gossipy that a gaggle of 1950s housewives. So just sit back and wait for that phone to ring.
2. Vibe the guy while he’s on the gig. A personal touch can be most effective when kickstarting your career. Simply turn up to the gig you want to be on, and stand directly in front of the stage, facing the guy you want to replace. Get out your horn, and when it’s his turn to solo, play over the top of him, louder and more obnoxiously. It doesn’t even matter if you don’t know the song, or if he is a better player. Don’t let ignorance or lack of ability hold you back. I call this the Donald Trump approach to success. Just keep doing this till he gets frustrated and leaves the stage, and voila, the gig is yours!
3. Sabotage their instrument. I always carry Krazy Glue with me. If I see a gig for which I want to be hired, I turn up to the venue, and on the band break, put a dob of glue on one of the saxophone pads of the guy doing the gig. When he goes to play, it will sound awful, and he’ll start to complain and blame his horn. This is your cue to yell from the audience, “Hmmph! That old excuse! Booo! Get off the stage! Loser!” Feel free to shout different insults in different voices to give the impression that the whole crowd is against him. And when he leaves the stage in embarrassment, you just happen to have your horn with you, and can jump in.
Okay, so you’re plan worked, and you got the gig? Congratulations! But the work doesn’t stop there, my friend. Now you’ve got to keep the gig. Might I suggest the following strategies:
1. Sleep with the bandleader. This is a no brainer, and a time-tested formula at that. (This is also effective for managers, venue bookers and agents.)
2. Laugh at all the bandleader’s bad jokes. Bandleaders tend to have a crappy sense of humor. They are far too stressed to see the funny side of life. Use this to your advantage! When the bandleader tells a joke, make sure you laugh much longer than any other guys in the band. Keep laughing after everyone else stops and it becomes awkward, then laugh for a further ten seconds. Then slap the table hard and as you’re wiping away a tear, say, “Good one, boss.”
3. Buy a car. It doesn’t matter if you’re the worst player in the band—you’ll quickly become irreplaceable as you are able to pick up the other musicians from their respective mothers’ basements, and drive them to that wedding gig out in Connecticut.
So, I hope this guide helps all you struggling musicians out there with your careers. I know, some of these strategies may seem childish—but so is playing music for a living. Good luck! Oh, and if I see any of you turning up to one of my gigs with Krazy Glue, there’s gonna be trouble.
Reedman extraordinaire Adrian Cunningham is the leader of Professor Cunningham and his Old School Jazz Band, based in New York City. Adrian Cunningham was voted in a 2017 Hot House Jazz Magazine readers’ poll the Best Alto Sax Player in New York. His most recent album is Swing It Out! issued on the Arbors Jazz label. Visit his both his sites on the world wide web: www.adriancunningham.com and professorcunninghamjazz.com.
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