So will you always be a sideman?

Posted: September 18, 2010 in Artist Management, General Music, Personal Manager

There is a transition an artist has to make that is not an easy one to achieive especially in these difficult times.

As Shakespeare said ” To be or not to be that is the question

We’ve all been sidemen and some us are both content to be so and others have no choice but there is whole group of artists that want their own band and careers.

Being a sideman is a necessary part of ones progress as an artist in fact its essential but at some point if one wants to have his own band one is forced to make that transition and there is moment of decision.

When working with Chick Corea he tells the story of playing with Miles Davis and they were in the studio recording I believe (Not sure what album).

Chick is playing some particularly energetic and fairly long solo and Miles comes over to him and whispers in his ear “Chick why don’t you get your own band” and  walks away.

Well thats exactly what he did and his “be” became a bandleader with his own artistic identity and we are all better off for that decision.

Of course Chick is such a phenomenal composer and musician he had to go there as being in someone else’s band was just plain ridiculous as Miles observed and he couldn’t be contained within what was for him such a restrictive framework I would imagine.

Unfortunately we are not all in that position but I’ve noticed over the years with developing artists there is always a point when they have to make “that” decision.

It comes in different ways but it always comes and usually involves a decision where one turns down a well paid sideman gig to do ones own thing and its a difficult one to make.

But unless you make that decision you’ll never see YOUR name on the marquee and you’ll always be that sideman.

Many artists straddle the line and make it work but I’m not sure it actually works.

Its hard to envision many established artists as ever being sideman but they were?

Was Pat Methany ever a sideman I guess he was?

Chick, Sonny Rollins, Miles, Mahldau and Sting?

Sure they must have been but they all made the “decision” at some point and I bet there is always a story about everyone of those decisions that would quite interesting to hear.

I’m not talking about being a Guest artist/star with another headliner artist, I’m talking about being a sideman.

I’m not belittling sideman either thats not my intent as we can’t all be stars with our names in lights so sideman are essential to our business and nothing to be ashamed of but thats not the point I’m trying to make here.

However when record deals were plentiful, many great sideman got their own deals and even sold good quantites of CD’s/Albums but when push comes to shove it turned out they were still sidemen after all.

I would even go as far as to say these days the artists that are still doing gigs in their own name are all established leaders already and were so before the recent downturn in the music business.

Witness just how hard it is these days to develop a new artist in todays market place.

In my opinion there will never be another Beatles because the current music business model doesn’t allow or make it possible for the development time it takes for a band like the Beatles to come about which is a sad state of affairs and the subject of another blog maybe.

So some times one has to put aside any financial considerations and go for it?

Just go for it and turn down that sideman gig no matter how hard it is to do.

As Shakespeare the band leader said just before a gig at the White Swan Inn in Stratford Upon Avon in 1594 (he was 30 years old at the time)!

“To be a sideman,or not to be a sideman:that is the question:

Whether “tis nobler in the mind to suffer

The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,

Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,and decline that casual wedding gig as a sideman?”

My apologies William!



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