Hiring a band? You (usually) get what you pay for! A horror story from my freelancing days, and how you can learn from it.

Money, Money, Money, Money! (Money!)

As a musician for hire, I’ve come across lots of different bands some professional, some not so much. I feel like I now have enough distance from a particularly embarrassing event to speak about my experience in hopes of protecting clients from a bad hire.

Price isn’t everything. However, it can be a pretty good indicator as long as things make sense. For example, a band that charges double the rate of other comparable bands might actually be worth the money because they offer much, much more than those comparably-priced bands! However, if they can’t offer you performance samples or don’t even have a website (and I’m not talking a MySpace website … if you even know what that is), RUN! Just the same, someone who’s low on the pricing might be cheap because no one will hire them for more money. Alternatively, you might have an extremely gifted group that’s just getting started. If that’s the case, you’ve got a bargain!

 

The Gig, The Disaster

I was hired as a keyboardist for a band, and it became clear that I shouldn’t have taken the gig. They had a date for me, but not much else. Since I wasn’t booked, I took the gig. I wasn’t told a time, how much I was being paid (I was doing it as a favor for a friend), what it was for … anything really beyond the fact that I’d be performing their “usual” setlist and that “there might be requests.”

I found out a week before the gig that it was a wedding. That’s also when I was given the list of requests despite my repeatedly asking for them for months prior because, you know, it’s important for me to practice. The night before the event … no, wait, wedding! at 11:30pm, I was asked to learn a couple of more songs because they were “important for the clients!”

The gig was disastrous for me. Despite being promised a set list well in advance, one was never made. The band leader was literally asking the musicians what songs they knew so he could decide what the next song would be! At someone’s wedding! The band was also hired to play the processional and first dance. What songs? I certainly wasn’t told, nor was I until the event coordinator nudged the band leader saying that everyone’s waiting for us to start [names song].

The coordinator had to interrupt us in the middle of songs to say that something needed to happen! We’d take long breaks while the DJ would provide most of the background music. The band manager told us to treat ourselves to the wedding buffet, only for us to be told that we weren’t supposed to be fed or given a table to sit between sets.

The music selection was completely inappropriate for the vibe of the wedding, and it showed in the faces of the guests as they attempted to eat to disco/techno/dance music. This made it extremely difficult to connect with them during the dance numbers after dinner.

 

With liberty & embarrassment for all!

Additionally, sound was a complete mess. The monitors (how musicians hear themselves on stage) kept causing massive feedback that interrupted the wedding on several instances, so they eventually had to be shut down. In other words, we weren’t able to hear ourselves whatsoever. Imagine being a drummer and not being able to keep the beat for the singer! Imagine being a singer and not being able to hear whether or not the guitarist is finished with his solo!

Most of all, imagine being a couple who paid thousands of dollars for a band that came unprepared, botched songs, interrupted the flow of the special day you’ve been planning for over a year, and embarrassed you in front of all of your friends and family.

I wanted to crawl into a hole and disappear. But I couldn’t, and I didn’t. I put on a smile and played my parts like it was the best day of my life. Needless to say, I wasn’t paid very much in the end (nearly half of my minimum rate). At that point, I was so humiliated that I would’ve paid to leave .. and suppose I did using my professional reputation as tender.

 

The aftermath & thoughts

Fortunately, the vast majority of professional bands who’ve hired me have been just that: professional. I don’t think it’s any mistake that the best bands have been the highest paying ones; and boy do they deliver!

I’m not sharing my experience to imply, “Throw a bunch of money at musicians and all of your wildest, musical dreams will come true!” (Seriously, don’t do it.)

Instead, my advice is this: do your research and hire a band that strikes the right balance between price, value, professionalism, and convenience. Musicians can and oftentimes will say anything to get themselves hired. Be sure you call their bluff and see if they can produce evidence for their claims.

Also, be aware that when you ask a vendor for a discounted rate, you’re giving them license to provide discounted services. It’s always worth trying to bargain, but professionals will know their value and turn down gigs that aren’t worth it for them. I made an exception in this case and suffered from it.

My sincere hopes are that you won’t.

Stonebridge / Furch micro shop is live!

I’m proud to announce that I’ll be selling my favorite guitars — Furch / Stonebridge Guitars — as a micro shop serving the Washington DC area (see my micro shop page here)!

The first guitar I have available is this Furch OM31SR-C-DB! You can read more about it here and/or watch the video review and unboxing videos I did!

In the coming weeks, I’ll be doing similar demos for my personal guitars, a custom Stonebridge SJ22LC-C and the ever-popular Stonebridge G22CR-C. Let me know if there’s anything you’d like to see in the videos and reviews. Really looking forward to sharing the love for these incredible instruments!

FOR SALE! Furch OM31SR-C-DB

Wow! What an absolute beauty! This guitar screams, balance, clarity, and versatility. It can strum, play lead lines, and sing articulate fingerstyle passages with ease.

PICTURES

You'll love it if ...

  • You've been looking for a dream guitar that can do it all while fitting into a reasonable budget!
  • Articulation is important.
  • You want a bright, clear, and very punchy sound with a deep, warm bass.
  • You enjoy complex overtones that aren't distracting or overwhelming.
  • You want a body that's a little smaller and more comfortable to play than a dreadnought, grand auditorium, or jumbo but don't want to go down to a OOO or parlor sized guitar.
  • You love OM body shapes but crave a deeper, boomier sound.
  • Your aesthetic leans toward a classic, elegant, understated beauty.

 

Look elsewhere if ...

  • You want a boomy, power-strummer. You'd probably be better-off with a dreadnought or jumbo style guitar.
  • You want a warm, mellow sound. You'll probably love a cedar top!
  • You want a mid-heavy guitar with a strong fundamental and reduced overtones. A mahogany, sapele, or maple back & sides will probably be more to your taste.
  • You want an attention-grabbing, highly-figured, highly-inlaid guitar.

 

VIDEOS

REVIEW VIDEO OUTLINE

INTRO & OVERVIEW
0:25 - About Furch/Stonebridge guitars
1:12 - What comes with the guitar?
5:06 - Guitar woods & features

HOW DOES IT SOUND?
6:40 - Strumming w/ pick
8:20 - Harmonics
8:45 - Fingerpicking
10:25 - Modern fingerstyle (DADGAD)

THOUGHTS & REVIEW
11:35 - Overall thoughts
13:21 - Review of sound
15:00 - Who is this guitar for?
16:16 - Dynamic range
17:00 - Buying this guitar
18:23 - Visual appointments

ABOUT THIS GUITAR

PRICE: $2359.00 USD

TOP: Alaskan Sitka

BACK & SIDES: Indian Rosewood

FEATURES:

  • Solid high grade tone woods
  • Two piece Honduran Mahogany neck
  • Ebony fretboard & bridge
  • Ebony headstock onlay
  • Ebony bridge pins
  • Tortoise style binding with B&W purfling
  • B&W three ring Rosette
  • Tapered X-Bracing
  • Two-Way Adjustable Truss Rod (Proprietary Stonebridge Design)
  • Paua Abalone Headstock Logo Inlay
  • Paua Abalone position dots
  • Dixon Nickel Tuners with Furch Logo (15:1 Ratio)
  • Tiger Spot Style Pickguard
  • Semi-Gloss Hand Rubbed Lacquer Finish/ Satin Finish Neck
  • Flat Top Headstock
  • Elixir Ph-Br Nanoweb 012-53
  • Light to Medium Gauge Strings Recommended
  • Limited Lifetime Warranty

SPECIFICATIONS:

  • Lower Bout: 14.88″
  • Upper Bout: 11.26″
  • Waist: 9.13″
  • Depth at End Pin: 4.01″ (Deep Body 4.57”)
  • Depth at Neck Joint: 3.22″ (Deep Body 3.78”)
  • Scale Length: 25.563″
  • Body Length: 19.29″
  • Overall Length: 40.39″
  • Nut Width: 45mm or 1.77″
  • Fingerboard Radius: 400mm or 15.748”
  • String Spacing at Nut: 1.50”
  • String Spacing at Bridge: 2.17”
  • Setup for Light Gauge Strings
  • Frets – 20
  • Frets – Nickel/Silver
  • Frets – Width: 2.0mm (0.0787″)
  • Frets – Height: 1.0mm (0.0394″)
  • TUSQ Nut & Saddle

EXTRAS INCLUDED

  • Hiscox Hard Shell Case
  • Warranty Card
  • Truss Rod
  • Quantity of two bridge pins and some replacement frets

SJ22LC-C (available for demo)

VIDEO REVIEW & OUTLINE

INTRO
0:00 – Intro
0:25 – My history w/ Stonebridge

ABOUT THE GUITAR
2:27 – Body shape
3:53 – Appointments
4:52 – Top wood
7:11 – Back & side wood
8:05 – Other features
9:40 – Pick selection

PLAYING SAMPLES
10:40 – Strumming
12:48 – Harmonics
13:22 – Fingerpicking
14:42 – Modern fingerstyle

THOUGHTS
16:23 – First impressions
17:56 – Impression over time
19:38 – Connecting with the guitar
22:48 – Drawbacks

ABOUT THIS GUITAR

Body: Super Jumbo
Top: Alpine Spruce
Back & Sides: Cocobolo

Nut Width: 1-3/4″

Upper Bout: 12.05″
Center: 9.57″
Lower Bout: 9.52″
Body Length: 20.20″
Overall Length: 41.26″
Body Thickness: 3.78″ – 5.34″