Saturday, January 2, 2010

The Art of the Craig's List Ad

The best gigs I've ever had came from the roots of the classified ads. When I lived in New York City, it was the Village Voice and a bunch of regional New Jersey and Connecticut music papers. Now it's Craig's List.

Perusing the ads today, I started to think. Most musicians have such a hard time describing what they want and need. Some ads list such a diverse set of influences that it gets hard to believe the author is knowledgeable about everything listed. I have a diverse taste in music, but if my gig requires me to play Donald "Duck" Dunn type of bass lines, then my love/knowledge of Larry Graham playing is not relevant. It doesn't matter how cool I think Larry is. On the other hand, I'm not going to answer an ad looking for a metal bassist. Could I play the stuff? Could I look up whatever references they want? Of course, but I'm not part of the metal culture as a player. I enjoy some of the music as a fan, but I know it's not in my heart to play it.

It's hard because, in my heart, I'm a player and I want to play all the time. I know I have the skills to play anything, but gigs are more than just playing. There is commitment to a band, writing, marketing, logistics. Here is an example of an ad I would've answered, but didn't:

"If you are an established pro bassist with a track record who is looking for an amiable, steady and well-paid gig, we should talk. Rock, blues, R&B and funk covers for a mix of clubs and corporate gigs. Some roadwork will be involved, but only for good money and never for longer than a week or two. You should be willing and able to work with us 10-15 gigs a month. You'll make at least $125 a night - more if we're doing any roadwork. You'll need pro gear, skills, work ethic and attitude and have samples of your playing available online. With all due respect, I am too damn busy to respond to one-line e-mails or those who don't have these simple professional requirements.
Us? We're well-established professionals, family-oriented guys (a frontman and a drummer) and basically re-grouping after a band breakup. We like working together, we're a "diva-free zone" and there are no chemical problems, drama or crazy spouses allowed in the clubhouse.

We've basically got everything we need to get working immediately as soon as we can find a guy/gal who can bring the bottom end along with a sense of humor and a professional work ethic. We don't care about your age, race, gender or sexual preference - just be able to play well and not be a jerk doing it. Is that you? "

There's a lot in this ad I like-it's specific and lays out the commitment required. I've played in cover gigs before and they are good for money, but the time commitment kills my creativity. Playing 10-15 gigs a month is rough when you have a day gig and the money is just enough to survive on (in ATX) and only if those gigs are guaranteed. Plus roadwork can be rough. I'm fortunate to have a day gig that I get 3 weeks of vacation of year and is pretty flexible with me. I want to use my vacation time this year to travel, see friends and do strategic touring.

I'm going to write some ads looking for a drummer and a female vocalist for the projects I wrote about yesterday. I'm taking this weekend to really flesh the ads out. I have specific types of musicians I'm looking for and the right personality for gigs. Bands are very special entities and so crafting an ad requires some time.