Sunday, December 1, 2013

Book Review: The Gigging Musician by Billy Mitchell

I just finished a book. That's not unusual for me. I read a lot of books, usually fantasy/sci-fi, business management and personal finance books. I'm a nerd. For a musician, I don't read a lot of music related books aside from the notes and staff variety, but this one reached out to me. Maybe it knew I needed it.

The book is Billy Mitchell's The Gigging Musician: How to Get, Play and Keep the Gig.* 

So, how did I come by it? Pretty simply. There's a decent thrift store in town, and I cruised through the book section and picked this one up. It had a one dollar price tag on it, so I thought, "Well, I'll just carry this around for a while and then bring it back."

I couldn't bring myself to leave it, so I paid the buck and took it home.

Not only did it have a title that hit close to my heart, but this book was a little ragged around the edges, seemed colloquial - I honestly felt like I was adopting a lost puppy. I brought it home, but didn't think I'd actually read it. But the first time I cracked the cover, I was hooked.

Billy Mitchell, Author
There was a reason for the ragged cover - the book shoots straight. It's full of plain advice and straight talk that the wise musician will take to heart. It is written in a conversational style that provides for easy and quick reading. It seemed to me that the author tried to create the feeling of having a personal conversation between colleagues.

In short, Billy Mitchell gets to the point, and gets there very clearly.

There's much more here than this, but a few of my favorite lines include these:

  • "If you keep on doing the same stupid things, you can expect the same stupid results"
  • "You are the only one who realizes the full potential of your work."
  • "It's blood, sweat and tears - and then you still might not get the gig."
  • "When you begin to look at gigs for their dollar value only, you begin to diminish the spiritual value of the craft."
  • "The music business is a living thing, a beautiful yet vicious animal that sometimes eats its young."
There's no shortage of one-liners, and there are myriad concepts that you simply cannot miss if you're attempting to make a career in the music business. From figuring out who you are, to showing respect to those who work with you or for you, to arriving prepared to the gig - Mr. Mitchell covers critical aspects of the music business. I've been playing paying gigs for almost twenty years, and there was plenty that I needed to read.

It's a unique thing to read a book that makes you instantaneously feel that the author knows you, knows your situation, and cares. But you do get that sense. The writing style is personal, honest and very straightforward. More importantly, it's plain. I don't mean uneducated or simplistic, but written like you'd write something important to a good friend.

If you're a gigging musician - or aspiring to be one - you need to read this book. It'll take you an afternoon. Two, at most. And it'll be worth every minute, and every cent you spend to buy the book.

Happy reading. And happy gigging!

*Active on the pro LA scene since 1970, Billy Mitchell is as experienced and decorated as any musician in the game today. You can read his full bio here

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