June 1, 2022

How to get on the scene as a working jazz musician

I get asked the question a lot: how do I get on the scene? With Vancouver, BC, Canada being my hometown, I'm more familiar with that scene than any other – but getting on the scene anywhere isn't as difficult as you think. It's really just common sense.

5 points on how musicians can be seen

At Frankie's Jazz Club, we’ve tried to make it really easy for people to come down. To get on a scene, you need to become familiar with it:

  • going out to the venues and supporting your friends, the people you want to play with and the places you want to play at
  • getting to know the bar owners and music venue booking managers
  • interacting with some of the jazz fans; they like to hang out and talk

Introducing yourself as a musician: what to avoid

If you want to get on the scene, you have to be seen on the scene. It seems so easy, but a lot of musicians miss it.

Let’s take introducing yourself to club owners, for example. One thing that happens a lot but is a real turnoff is visiting the club on a packed Friday night, seeing the venue booker at work, and trying to talk up your new album or band – let alone ask for a gig.

Speaking on behalf of other club owners and booking agents, this is not the best time to corner me and ask for a gig. That's disrespectful. By all means, introduce yourself; and then who knows, the conversation might naturally go in a way that's beneficial.

But on a Friday night when the club is really busy, and I'm running around, that's not the time to talk to me about a gig.

An example of how to do it right

When I think about getting on the scene, I'm reminded of my good friend Jesse Cahill.

I remember when I had the Cellar Jazz Club, Jesse just started coming down and hanging out and introducing himself to people: introducing himself to me – the club owner – and introducing himself to other musicians, just hanging out.

Whether or not Jesse did it purposely, I don't know. But he understood how to be seen on the scene.