How To Become a Financially Stable Musician in NYC with Drummer Andrew Marshall
  • MONDAY, NOVEMBER 21, 2016

  • Posted by: Kirsten Spruch

[Photo Credit: Nicole Mago]

New York City has a lot of things. Soft pretzels, coffee, traffic, exotic fashion, overpriced apartments, and pizza are some things that come to mind...But you know what else NYC has a lot of? Aspiring musicians. I think one could argue that this city has too many musicians. People pay attention to the artists who are trying to make a name for themselves, but you know what we don't always think about? How most artists need bandmates. If a solo artist wants to make a record that requires some gnarly guitar solos, they can hire a studio guitarist to come in and play said solos. If a band is in need of a drummer for a live show, they can hire a drummer for that, too! We here at Baeble often refer to these hired musicians as "band hoes." Because, especially in NYC, when you're traveling from band to band for all of these different types of gigs, that nickname just makes sense. And we mean it in the most positive way - because if you're getting all of that work, that means you're successful! You, my friend, are a hardworking band hoe. And we were super excited to find out that Baeble has a band hoe of our own who goes by the name of Andrew Marshall.

When we were digging through our session inventory, we realized something: New York-based drummer Andrew Marshall has played drums for three different bands in three different sessions of ours. He played for singer-songwriter Tor Miller, pop rock duo Ex Cops at SXSW and indie pop band Tigertown at Bands + Brews. And those are just artists that he happened to play with on Baeble. "I just got off the road with VÉRITÉ. I've done two tours with her this year, the first one was a headlining tour, then we just did a support tour with Marian Hill and SHAED," Marshall said of his current projects. "I hopped right onto a tour with an Australian artist named Tkay Maidza, and that was just four quick gigs - New York, Boston, LA, San Francisco. I've been doing the Tor Miller thing. Our last gig was in July. I'm also playing with a band called Pronoun."



While we had Marshall at Baeble HQ, we decided to pick his brain about getting jobs, challenges he's faced, and any advice for musicians in New York who are looking to do the same thing. So, you just graduated college, moved to a new city, and are hoping for a successful music career. Unfortunately, that might sound like a joke to some people... So where do you begin? "It's basically just word of mouth, pretty much exclusively. It snowballs from there and you end up with lots of friends who know you and call you for things."

And how do you even get into becoming an instrumentalist for someone else? Apparently, you just have to love playing with more than one person (this is precisely where the term "band hoe" comes into play). "My favorite thing to do, honestly, is play in a bunch of bands. People ask me what kind of sound I'd like to play and I don't think I could play one sound of music. I like variety. I like going from a rehearsal to a session to a gig. Obviously having a tour is nice, too, and then you come home and do different things." If you're one of those people who truly enjoys every kind of genre, then that could mean this is the route for you. Playing for several different bands means never having to commit to one type of sound. "I wouldn't want to get pigeon-holed into doing only one thing. I do hip-hop, rock, and pop, and people are like 'how could you go from a synth-pop thing to a rap thing?' They're more similar than they are different."

What comes next after landing a job is learning the music. Everyone has different ways of learning the music. Some learn by ear, some write it out. "Usually I'll get the album or EP in MP3 form and the first thing I do is write out charts or sheet music. Then I go into a practice room and I put up the charts and music stand and just play through them, and eventually I'll try to turn the charts over and play through without them." Ideally, you'll have enough advance notice to learn the music, but every once in awhile you get thrown a curveball. Fun Fact: Marshall only had one week to learn the parts for our session with Tigertown (which is not a lot of time). "I found out I was doing it about a week before the show, so I wrote out all the charts in two days and memorized them. Tigertown was a unique case. I was actually flying to Ottawa the day after I got that call to play at the Ottawa Blues Festival with Tor Miller. I'm on a plane writing out charts and sitting in my hotel room all day trying to learn this music. It was kind of crazy. But it was fun."



NYC may have way too many musicians, but with that comes a larger amount of opportunity. "I think the most successful people are just open to opportunities. Random things come up all the time, a gig may not be where you imagined yourself going, but you never know where it could lead you. It's varied and dynamic, especially because New York has so many different kinds of music going on. It's the norm to be split in many different directions. One day will be a rap/hip-hop thing, the next day is a heavy-rock session, and then you're going straight to a rehearsal for a musical theatre/cabaret thing where you're reading music and you're playing with brushes and sticks and mallets and you might be playing xylophone or bells. Then you go hang at a singer/songwriter gig at Rockwood. It's all over the place. That's specific to New York. It's beautiful and amazing. There's no shortage of inspiration."

Trying to achieve financial stability as a musician in New York is one of - if not the most - challenging things to do. I know a woman who refuses to have a musician as her roommate because they have a bad reputation for not being so reliable when the time comes to pay rent... Why should a venue host your show when there are hundreds of other artists knocking their door? Why should a band pay you to play drums for them when there's another drummer willing to do it for free? It's sad that, because a musician enjoys making music, it's often not looked at as a real job that deserves real compensation. And there's no question that NYC is overpopulated, and with that comes an overwhelming amount of competition. But the point of this isn't to discourage you. The point is to raise awareness about the realistic state of music in NYC and learn how to look at it as a passable obstacle, rather than an unattainable dream. Marshall shares how to get ahead of the rest, "Treat every gig like it's the most important gig you've ever played. Because you never know who else is going to be in the band, who else is going to see you play, who's going to talk to who, the person who's going to write your review about the job you did. All that stuff is super important."

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