At last count, I was officially a member of 9 bands, of which 5 gig on a regular basis. This means I reckon I have a regular, locked-down setlist of around 150 songs that I can play without manuscript or crib sheets. I have amassed these songs over many years and hundreds, if not thousands, of gigs. Everything from current pop to jazz standards are included in my mental filing cabinet.

Along with these regular gigs, I’m often lucky enough to be asked to deputise (or dep) for other bass players who can’t make a particular gig, to ensure the show goes ahead and the band don’t lose the date. As I discussed in my last post about learning songs, this often means that I have several sets to learn at any one time, which can be demanding! It is also possible that I will learn many songs for a set and that’s the ONLY time I’ll ever play them.

A key feature of the music industry is networking. The old cliche of “it’s not WHAT you know, it’s WHO you know” is still very true. The opportunity to meet and play with new musicians or bands is an opportunity not to be missed. Some of my greatest gigs and proudest moments have come from meeting someone at a low-key pub gig or depping for a band who then went on to recommend me for something else.

with the wonderful Miss Angie Brown.

with the wonderful Miss Angie Brown.

Here are a few dos and don’ts when it comes to depping.

  • IF you decide to take the dep gig, remember you are committing to do the BEST job you can. Do not complain later that the distance is too far or the money isn’t right. Find out the details before you take the gig and base your decision on the facts.
  • Get a setlist and check the keys of the songs, you probably won’t have a rehearsal before the gig.
  • DO YOUR HOMEWORK!! The dep gig is still a job and the client will be expecting, and paying for, a quality band. Don’t assume that it doesn’t really matter if you are a little ropey because you’re doing the band a favour. This gig is an audition for you too!! Learn the songs as best you can.
  • Check if the band use charts or crib sheets onstage. If they don’t but you feel you need to, work out a way to keep the paperwork subtle and as out-of-sight as you can.
  • ┬áResearch the venue beforehand. How long is the journey? What time will you need to set off? How close can you park to unload? What equipment will you need?
  • Check the dress-code. What are you expected to wear?
  • Don’t assume you can take a partner, friend or roadie. This gig could be a private party, wedding or corporate event. You wouldn’t take you partner into the office with you and the gig is still a place of work.
  • Be on time! The load-in could be several hours before show time. There is undoubtably a good reason for this so please respect the timing plan.
  • Help with the set-up and pack-down. Just because it’s not your band or your PA, don’t let the others do it all. The band sounded good because someone bought the PA and set it up, the least you can do is offer to help. PA companies who provide the equipment and the engineer often factor this into their costs so it’s not always necessary for those gigs but offering to help is always good manners.
  • Following the gig, tell the band you will keep your crib sheets and they can call you if they need you in future. Every band needs extra musicians they can call upon in an emergency and this will help to ensure you didn’t learn all those songs for just one gig.

As a confident, hardworking and reliable musician, your employability will rocket. Bands will get to know you as someone they can trust and call upon when they need a dep. If you screw it up, they will learn that you didn’t really value the opportunity and you don’t care about their act or their band and the phone will stop ringing. Everyone from local band leaders to world class musical directors, producers and theatre directors have little black books full of the names and numbers of musicians they trust and have a high regard for. Be one of THOSE guys.