#127: What to Say to a Producer Who’s Looking to Hire a Drummer

How to get hired as a drummer

If you want to get hired as a drummer and are looking to introduce yourself to new people in the music business, it’s important to keep one thing in mind: you are essentially MARKETING yourself. So here is some solid advice on exactly what to say to a producer, music director or anyone else who might be looking to hire a drummer.

I wanted to share something with you today. This is a tip that I think that will help a lot of us. It can actually help you even if you’re not just going to use this for drumming. But it certainly will help with your drumming if you’re trying to get paying gigs or studio work, things like that. That is, if you have, for whatever reason, identified a music producer or maybe a music director or somebody that is either looking to hire musicians or needs a drummer for something, and you would like to either be that drummer or get an audition, basically, you just would like to introduce yourself to someone who might be hiring drummers in the future. I kind of want to give you an outline of what to say and what not to say to these people. Because, everyone’s unique but there’s a certain set of things that I think are important to make sure you communicate to people who are hiring musicians.

But before I tell you, I just want to put a disclaimer on this, and that is this: please do not go forward with this part of your pursuit unless you are 1 million percent sure that you are ready to do this thing as a professional drummer. What I mean by ready is: emotionally. you’re prepared, you actually want to do this, but also that you are a good enough player and you have all the other pieces of the puzzle all put together before you start pursuing this. This is kind of like, once you’re ready this is the thing you’ve got to do or you might do to hit the gas and start going with this. So don’t do this unless you think that you’re ready.

What I’ve discovered, by the way, speaking of being ready, is most drummers that I come in contact with, and I mean this online, like people I see doing videos, all kinds of things like that, even the ones who they think they have their head on straight and they’re pursuing the right kinds of things, their is not up to par. If you know me at all, you know that I don’t mean as far as like how much technical ability they have as drummers. What I mean is, the simple basic drum patterns that they might play for songs that you hear on the radio, that type of playing is not solid enough to make it as a drummer. The tempo isn’t steady, the dynamics aren’t there. There’s no feel and there’s definitely the overall consistency isn’t there. There’s a lot of other things in the playing that aren’t there.

They’re basic simple things, but like I’ve mentioned before, you can tell that maybe some of these drummers have kind of glossed over the “easy stuff” and gone straight to more complicated stuff that may not be serving them well. If you think you’re ready to be a professional drummer, revisit your playing, record yourself, look at it again, say, “Is this really as solid …” You know. Set your standards super high, and then say, “Does this meet that standard as far as accuracy and all those basic kind of things that are really important to recording and playing professionally?”

Okay, so when you reach out to a producer or an engineer, someone like that, the most important thing to think about or keep in mind is that you essentially as a drummer at that point are marketing yourself. So if you’ve never gotten into the world of marketing or read any marketing books or taken any marketing classes, you know, maybe do that. But the important thing is this, you’re doing the act of trying to convince someone else to pay you for your services as a drummer. So you are marketing yourself to them. When people think of marketing normally they think of billboards or ads you see on websites, things like that, and that is marketing, but that’s called advertising, that’s not marketing. Marketing is, like I said, just the process of guiding someone towards buying your product or service.

Everything that I do is based on marketing in some point. I’m not necessarily trying to convince to buy anything. But I am trying to convince you to follow this path that I’m laying out as far as becoming a professional musician, this tested, proven path that I’ve kind of documented and put together. So I am trying to convince you to do that thing, and that’s marketing in a way. But in order to market to someone, and we’re jumping back to focusing on producers and people like that that might be hiring drummers, in order to market to someone you have to keep in mind that the things that they care about might be different than the things that you care about as a musician. So the first step in convincing someone to hire you or getting on their radar is to think about and identify what are the things that they care about? What are the things that a producer cares about?

Well, I will tell you this, most of the time … There’s a lot of things obviously that a producer cares about as far as drummers go. But they probably are a little different than what you might think. They don’t care so much about you owning really nice gear for example. If they work in studios there’s plenty of nice gear that’s already there probably or able to be rented, things like that. There’s a lot of other things like that that you might think they care about but they don’t necessarily care about as much. Also, beyond the things that they care about, there are the things that they actually think about a lot.

So there’s maybe a long list of things that producers care about as far as hiring musicians go, but then there is within that long list there are probably three or four things that come up over and over again that they think about the most. So there are things that they care about and there are things that they think about the most. I can guarantee you that at least half of them, if not all of them, are things that are causing them pain or discomfort or frustration, something like that.

We naturally, as human beings, focus on the negative. Or if something hurts, you know, if I hurt my leg and it hurts really bad, it’s going to be hard for me to think about anything else, because that is causing me pain. If, at least for me I know, like right now, we’re in the middle of putting a ceiling fan up in our son’s room and we’re having to get some work done to add some supports to support the ceiling fan in his room. So the ceiling fan is like halfway up right now, and that drives me crazy, that’s causing me pain. It’s something that’s not done. It’s an incomplete job. So it’s hard for me to think about, when I go up to the second floor of our house, it’s hard for me to think about other things because I see that ceiling fan and I’m like, “Uh, I really want this to be done.” So there are a lot of things that I care about, but there’s a couple of things that are causing me pain or discomfort or frustration.

If you can identify those things, or at least kind of make some assumptions about what might be causing a producer pain or discomfort or something like that, then you can quickly get their attention and convince them that you understand what it’s like in their world, and they might want to invite you into their world. So, what are some things that cause producers pain as far as drummers go? A couple of things that come to mind are, drummers might take forever to get a take, or they’re not open to new ideas and so they get really stubborn about their playing or they can’t play what the producer asks them to. They don’t have a collaborative attitude. They aren’t really solid with a click track. They show up late. They are weird to hang around. That’s just a short list of things that producers often complain about or are unhappy about with musicians, especially ones they’ve never worked with before. If they might meet for the first time and work with them for the first time, they use those kinds of criteria to decide if they’re every going to work with those people again.

So all that to say, if you keep those things in mind … All right, well, let’s just take a couple of those and let’s list them out in a way that might work. So here’s what I would say you need to say if you’re going to reach out to someone. Let’s say that you find out there’s this producer, maybe you connect with them on Facebook or something and you want to send them a message to let them know you’re a drummer. Well, here’s what you should say to him, say something like this, say, “Hey, so and so, my name is (your name) and I’m a drummer and I just wanted to let you know that I’d love to hang around the studios sometime and just see what you do and also let you know that if you ever need someone and you’re in a bind, I’d love to come in and show you what I can do as a drummer. I play really well with a click track. I’m not a weirdo. And I can get the job done pretty quick.” That’s all you need to say to the person the first time.

Notice that I didn’t say, “Please hire me for your session. I want to work for you forever.” Anything like that. In fact, the way that I framed it, I actually kind of made it like maybe you’d be willing to come in for free if they were in a bind to show them what you can do. Which maybe you are willing to do that. I know that there’s a big audience of people who think artists should be paid for their work, and I definitely agree with that. I’m not talking about those guys who post on Craigslist and they’re like, “Design a logo for my business for free. And then you can put my logo in your portfolio.” I’m not talking about that.

But I am talking about in economies where the drummers are all reaching for the same kind of ideal of what success is, you need to be willing to at least do what it takes to get your playing in front of the people who can help make that happen for you. If you’re having trouble doing that, and you do know of producers or other people who are hiring that you want to reach out to, this might be at least a way in. So I’m not telling you to offer to do your stuff for free, but I’m saying that if you’re willing to, that might help you.

So, like I mentioned, what you would say to this person is, “I’d love to come hang out, see what you’re doing in the studio, at least learn a little bit.” You always take the approach of a student, say that you’re not the expert, you want to help them, you want to learn. Then you say, “Hey, if you ever do need someone and you’re in a bind, let’s say someone backs out at the last minute, or cancels and can’t make it, and you need someone to come in, I’d love to get a ring from you. Just know that if you do, that I’m not going to be weird to hang around, not a weirdo.” That’s what I said, you’re not a weirdo. A lot of people are weirdos and so it’s hard to hang around people for a few hours who are tough to be around or are strange or awkward to hang out with. So you don’t want to do that.

Then also, “I play really well with the clicks.” They care about that. Then you also say, “I can get the job done pretty quickly.” Meaning, it doesn’t mean that you’re the best drummer in the world. It just means that you can stay sharp, stay focused, and try to make progress, each take that you go through that you can actually get to somewhere that eventually the producer will be happy with. But if you can just speak to a few things that others are looking for, I think you can start making headway. That actually is true by the way, for your social media videos and everything else that you put out and present as a drummer to other people. It is, are you presenting yourself in a way that reinforces your end goal? So for example, if you’re posting videos of yourself just practicing and you can’t really hear what you’re playing or it seems kind of amateurish, and I don’t mean like the video quality, things like that. Of course you want the best quality you can. But if you can’t really hear what you’re playing or maybe your playing isn’t the best, I’m all for being honest and transparent.

But if you’re going to use your social media as a marketing tool for getting gigs, put your best foot forward. Also that means, if you have a goal of playing a certain type of music as a drummer or playing a certain genre, you should probably put videos out of yourself playing in those genres. You know, if you want to be a country drummer, don’t post a bunch of videos of yourself playing along with hip hop or whatever it is. So, put yourself out there in a way that reinforces your end goal. Also, put yourself out there in a way that reinforces the ideas that communicate to people who might be hiring, that you can help them with their pain points, their frustrations. If you can do those couple of things, however you choose to communicate with these people, that’s the first step in, is just to get their attention by saying, “Hey, I understand your pain, and it’s real, and maybe I can help.”

So hopefully I understand your pain maybe a little bit with trying to find gigs as a drummer, and I have provided some help to your pain today. But thanks for joining me as always. We’ve got a great week of podcast episodes coming up this week. So I hope you can join me back here every day for another new episode of Drummer Daily. But thanks for joining me for now, and we’ll talk again real soon. Bye for now.

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