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Distinguished SOTW Member, Forum Contributor 2014
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Years ago I was at a French Horn workshop. I know crazy. My wife plays French Horn so I was the +1. One of the presenters was an older man that earned his living in NYC playing gigs exclusively on French Horn. He was very successful and earn a very good living. One bit of advice was to always say YES to gigs if you're available.

Today I had one of those moments. I played Thursday in the cold, Friday late, Saturday REALY late, and just got a frantic text this morning at 8:30am to sub for a gig today. Money is terrible but I took the gig anyways. I asked a bit about the money but honestly it's a small venue that the pay is the pay. I know the leader and he's an honest guy.

Do you day NO? Do you push back on price? Some players have a minimum pay. I guess it's nice to have work so no complaints there.
 

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In my younger years, I never said "no". These days in my upper 50's, I'm saying "no" more and more. In fact I'm no longer going to be gigging next year with 2 of the bands that I play with. It's not worth the hassle anymore.
 
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Formerly 1958SelmerMarkVI
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I think it is a good policy for young players coming up to take any gig offered to them, but once you are established there are some times (maybe many times) that a given gig simply isn't worth it. Case in point, I recently turned down an offer (despite being available) because it was just going to be way too much effort for the money. The band wanted to add an additional horn player for a 'big show' they were doing (still just a bar gig). The thing is, they have no charts, so it would have required learning all their tunes off their albums and figuring out harmonies. Even though the tunes are relatively simple it still would have taken many hours of practice + at least a couple rehearsals on top of the actual gig, and all that for maybe $100. Just not worth it IMO, especially considering it wouldn't have been a stepping stone to anything better. Not sure what they'll end up doing...maybe they will go without the extra player, or maybe they'll get a young cat that is eager to play and for whom it would be a good learning experience.
 

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Yes I have said no but only to gigs where I have to travel more than a certain amount. I do, however, have a relatively good network of people I would trust to fill in for me though, so I always hook them up with someone who can fill in. My travel requirement generally cuts off at about 8hrs drive. I prefer 4hrs or less drive. Money is not a motivator for my playing though. As for minimums, I do have a standard hourly rate minimum and a rate that is my “I won’t leave my house for a gig for less than this” rate. Both of those can be waived based upon whatever criteria I choose, like getting to play with someone I just really like to play with or a particularly large fun party… and I’m not doing nothing else. Hell, if it is a really good party I have in the past worked for a really reduce rate.

edit: by the way that network would be someone local to the area for travel.
 

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Yes, I have been more selective as time has gone by. I’ve made my peace with the ramifications of turning things down. I’m sure it’s taken me out of consideration for some things, but honestly I don’t think things operate the same any longer and there is not the same kind of loyalty there perhaps used to be, so bending over backwards to accommodate last minute things doesn’t necessarily lead to repeat calls. For me, it needs to be something I want to do (either musically and/or monetarily; hopefully both!). But it also has to jive with my family schedule, too often in the past I didn’t give enough consideration to that. In fact, I just turned down a nice gig yesterday because we had a family event that ran right up until the start time and I wasn’t interested in bailing early from my family to rush home and change and be stressed out trying to get to the venue on time. Went out to dinner with my wife instead!
 

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Just gonna echo what basically everyone's already said. In my twenties I said yes to pretty much everything, but nowadays I say no much more frequently (still not as frequently as I should, in all likelihood). For me, the old rule of "two out of three" has generally worked well: Good pay, good music, or good hang – it has to have two of the three if I'm going to do it. If it has all three, amazing!

It took me a while to do this (and of course I wouldn't have been able to until I established myself as a desirable professional on the scene), but the more I've said "no" to things I really don't want to do, the better opportunities have presented themselves. At this point I'm happier with the balance of work-related things in my life than I've ever been, I'd say.
 

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I walked away in late May from a great gig on a riverboat because the schedule didn’t work for me, six weeks on, two off.
Unlike cruise ship gigs, health insurance, 401K, good pay and most days I played a 45 minute show at 8pm and an hour set from 9-10pm. It was a great quartet and we got to play tunes in the late night (9pm) set.
At least I left on good enough terms I’m doing a two week fill in later in October.
I think the only gig I’ve turned down lately was a Billy Joel tribute band. I didn’t want to bother to rehearse for one gig at at a venue in town I told myself I’ll never play again.
 

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Say NO to a gig (regardless your age) IF the offer seems to take advantage of you...

...whether pay scale, location, time, lack of comps, etc.

That has been my general policy.

Only asterisk being below-scale pay for a benefit or fundraiser sorta thing....

(so, yes, based on this policy, I of course have said no....)
 

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Distinguished SOTW Member, Forum Contributor 2009
Sax, Flute, Keyboard, Vocal
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Lots depends on if you need the money or if a gig would lead to playing with people you really like?? Thats how I'd look at it. Young in my career I'd play anywhere a dollar was attached. Now aways, I refuse reading gigs and tenor gigs because I have 3 and 4 steady places to play weekly so Im able to perform. I'd gladly play for whatever money with good musicians if I could and like others have said depends on the travel. I wont go more than an hour unless the money is corp and worth it. How you turn down the gig is key. Ive told people I'd love to play with them and keep me in mind but i"m sorry im busy on a date. I did turn down multiple gigs from one guy because hes an A## H### and disses anybody he knows. I dont need the aggravation or frankly the money> K
 

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I say no now, never in my younger days. I say no if I don't like the band, bandleader, type of music, etc. Money can play into it as well, although I will play for free if I like the music and musicians. I just did that two nights ago. Had such a great time playing again with musicians I met 36 years ago for a benefit/memorial to one of us who is no longer with us. Great venue, great musicians, hanging out with old friends. Turned down a big band gig tonight, don't like the bandleader who only knows two tempos: fast and faster.
 

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Just gonna echo what basically everyone's already said. In my twenties I said yes to pretty much everything, but nowadays I say no much more frequently (still not as frequently as I should, in all likelihood). For me, the old rule of "two out of three" has generally worked well: Good pay, good music, or good hang – it has to have two of the three if I'm going to do it. If it has all three, amazing!

It took me a while to do this (and of course I wouldn't have been able to until I established myself as a desirable professional on the scene), but the more I've said "no" to things I really don't want to do, the better opportunities have presented themselves. At this point I'm happier with the balance of work-related things in my life than I've ever been, I'd say.
The “3 P’s” (people, project pay) were my litmus test for years. 2 out of 3 needed.
Now I use the 5 P’s….add Place (how far’s the drive, how much is parking, how far to lug gear) and Practise (how much prep is needed).
Any gig has to satisfy 3 of the 5 criteria. Most don't tbh and it’s easier to teach a little more, which is what I love to do anyway.
 

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I never used to turn down gigs but now I’m more picky . Currently playing with a trio that’s very well paid but I’ll turn down gigs if the money sucks or if I have to do a lot of prepping for a gig I don’t really like . Also the band has to have nice people in it . If I have to transpose or learn lots of new material for a 75 dollar gig I won’t do it. Also if parking is a hassle and the pay isn’t tight forget it . I’ve missed enough family parties and time to just take cheap a$& bar gigs . Nowadays I play lots of cocktail hours and events that pay well. I did the wedding thing for 30 years and that was good but I don’t want that anymore . Been to so many weddings I have rice marks on my face😂
 

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Distinguished SOTW Member, Forum Contributor 2011
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I've turned down a couple gigs recently because they were too far away. One of them would be 2 hour drive each way. Another would have been even longer. I used to use the 2-out-of-3 method: good pay, good music, good hang. The gigs I turned down had 2 out of 3, but I've had to add 4: good travel, meaning roughly an hour drive at most, maybe I could do an hour and half if it was 3 out of 3 gig. I got old and the travel time has gotten to be hard on my patience, mood, and stamina. If the total time away from home is 8 hours (2 hour drive, 1 hour set-up, 3 hour gig, load out and drive home 2 hours) that's just too much. I also have to arrange dog care. And I don't drive home at 2:00 in the morning unless the gig was 3 out of 3, like a really big show. I've traveled for hours in the past for a 2-out-of-3 gig, but no more. Just can't do it ...
 

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I never used to turn down gigs but now I’m more picky . Currently playing with a trio that’s very well paid but I’ll turn down gigs if the money sucks or if I have to do a lot of prepping for a gig I don’t really like . Also the band has to have nice people in it . If I have to transpose or learn lots of new material for a 75 dollar gig I won’t do it. Also if parking is a hassle and the pay isn’t tight forget it . I’ve missed enough family parties and time to just take cheap a$& bar gigs . Nowadays I play lots of cocktail hours and events that pay well. I did the wedding thing for 30 years and that was good but I don’t want that anymore . Been to so many weddings I have rice marks on my face😂
In the 70-80s I did 600 weddings.
 

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I'm 77 and I will play any respectable gig, even sit in for free, just to get the stage time since I just don't practice. Things are turning around though and I have several actual gigs coming up after already having three so far this year. Yes, it is a huge hassle especially if you drag the baritone and alto like I do plus some electronics, stands, etc. I fill up the back of my SUV for a band job. But I wouldn't quit for anything. I've been gigging since 1962 and its still a major part of my life. My last gig was Sat., Sep 3 at a big Labor day party with real fireworks. It was hot but not terrible. I blew the tenor, the bari, the alto and some alto/tenor duels, and I didn't die! Here's a pre-show snapshot showing my new 1982 Omega Alto! Found a bargain on a mint one and it cured the problem I was having with the dual saxes.

 

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I'm 77 and I will play any respectable gig, even sit in for free, just to get the stage time since I just don't practice.
Thanks for this. I'm 77 and I don't practice either. Thanks for your honesty. :)
Yes, it is a huge hassle especially if you drag the baritone and alto like I do plus some electronics, stands, etc. I fill up the back of my SUV for a band job. But I wouldn't quit for anything. I've been gigging since 1962 and its still a major part of my life.
I've been gigging since 1962 too. And I can't quit. I play sax and keys in my main band. That's a lot of gear to haul - horn, keyboard, stand, 2 speakers and stands, gig bag, etc. I also play tenor and bari in an originals jam band. That bari gets heavier every time. Last time I brought my EWI Solo instead of the bari.
 

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Thanks for this. I'm 77 and I don't practice either. Thanks for your honesty. :)
I've been gigging since 1962 too. And I can't quit. I play sax and keys in my main band. That's a lot of gear to haul - horn, keyboard, stand, 2 speakers and stands, gig bag, etc. I also play tenor and bari in an originals jam band. That bari gets heavier every time. Last time I brought my EWI Solo instead of the bari.
In the band I just quit I played alto, flute and keys plus I brought the monitor speakers and head.
 
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