How to Get More Gigs Series: Professional Bassist Lazarus Michaelides

Our new series on how to get more gigs will run in 3 parts, giving you the insider knowledge from every angle of the industry: Musicians, Promoters and Venues.

First of all, introduce yourself to our readers, tell them who you are and what you do for a living?

Hi there! My name is Lazarus Michaelides, I’m 21 years old and have been playing the Bass for about 8 years. I studied at The Institute Of Contemporary Music Performance in London, and I am currently on the 2nd year of my BMus Degree.

I am very happy to say that Music is my living! I play with my Wedding & Function band, depping for other function bands, depping for bassists on other gigs (original artists, London jam night house bands, London Rockaoke bands) and performing with my touring Britpop Show.

I have played bass for a couple of Musical Theatre shows in London including Hairspray and Little Shop Of Horrors and hope to do more in the coming years as these have been the gigs I have most enjoyed and always have loads of fun doing! I also teach Bass, Guitar and Music Theory privately.

Clapton once said, you can be the best guitarist in the world in your bedroom, but it means nothing if you can’t express yourself to other people. How important is gigging to a young musician?

It’s essential to be able to communicate and work with other musicians. You learn so much from playing with others – like the importance of internal timing, rhythms, stage presence and feel. The most important lesson I’ve learnt from playing live is that everyone is different and it makes you play a bit differently – one drummer I play with, plays very busily with lots of fills and busy drum grooves and this means that if I overcrowd the sound with a lot of bass then the balance isn’t right, so on that gig I have to hold back and stick to simple rhythms and grooves. However, another drummer I play with, plays very sparsely – so that gives me more room for more intricate bass lines and fills. So you have to learn what is appropriate for each gig and your limits and boundaries to make each performance the best it can be. This shows the MD/Manager/Band Leader that you can adapt and change your style to suit the other people you’re working with and this makes the MD’s job a hell of alot easier!

Aside from the musical side of things, gigging introduces you to loads of people who, if you did a good job on the gig, will hire you and recommend you to others – this is the most important aspect of music – networking. Excuse the proverb, but it’s not all about what you know, it’s a lot about who you know.

What do you tell your students who are looking to get more gigs?

If you have an audition, polish up your playing and think about every little detail about your playing – note length, dynamics, tone, feel etc. I always tell my students not to be flashy and not to be too showy – it’s most important to keep time, have a good feel to the song and to connect with the band as opposed to showing how good you, as a bassist, are – that is what the MD will be looking for, how well you work as a unit, not as an individual.

  • Build up your CV
  • Take whatever gigs you can (even if they are unpaid it is important to fill your CV up and show potential employers that you have experience in the industry)
  • Be punctual (show up 15 minutes early to the gig/rehearsal)
  • Be professional (have your invoice ready, during soundcheck only play when it’s your turn, learn the material, have good/reliable equipment, unless told otherwise dress smartly, play as the MD wants you to play)
  • Have a good online presence (FB, Soundcloud, Instagram, Website, YouTube, join websites that advertise gigs) so that you can send video/audio examples to potential employers.

Get out there! Go to jam nights, go to local gigs, meet people, exchange business cards and network!

How long did it take you to start getting regular gigs, and what was the process?

It has taken about 3 years to get regular gigs for me. At the start of the Higher Diploma I played bass for Modern Soul artist, Moncrieff. He had a lot of material written and after a few weeks of rehearsals we were out gigging in and around Central London and gigged, on average, about once every 3 weeks. The gigs were unpaid, but were so useful in learning about London’s live scene and live playing in general, and meeting new contacts!

The process of getting regular gigs, comes from my point in the previous question about networking! At any gig you go to/play at – talk to everyone, exchange numbers, let them know you play bass and you may get a call from someone for a gig! And if you do well at that gig, it may become regular! This is where a lot of my gigs have come from, I have given out my business card and got a call a few months later for a gig! Networking with all of my University friends has been essential as well since I have had several gigs from students there who have needed a bassist. Just last week, the house bassist for the Hootananny Rockaoke Band fell ill and with 1 hour notice I got the call and rushed off to Brixton to play the gig!

The process, with regards to my Musical Theatre work, came from my tutor, Philip Mann. He kept drumming into me that sight reading is an extremely important skill to have and after he told me that, I worked very hard every day to get my sight reading as good as I could get it. I sent him loads of transcriptions and asked him questions and so he saw how much effort I was putting into my sight reading and, thus, asked me to dep for him on a Little Shop Of Horrors show (A sight reading gig!). After doing this show I saw an advert for another run of Little Shop Of Horrors shows and so applied for that and because of my experience depping on the previous show, I got that gig and from that second run of shows, I got asked to do a couple of Hairspray shows – so from one dep gig, I got a number of other gigs because people had seen that I had Musical Theatre and sight reading experience. So yeah – Networking!

Many upcoming musicians are put off by the idea that the music scene is exclusive, and extremely hard to get your foot in the door. Do you agree with this, if so how do suggest overcoming this problem?

I was put off by this at the early stages, but realised, after playing my first function, how much I loved it and how I only ever wanted to play music for a living. So I overcame the problem just by wanting it! I have put so much effort into building my CV and trying to be the best I can be and get my foot in every door, but the door does not always open! I, like everyone else, have been rejected at auditions and it doesn’t feel good, but you’ve got to push through it and strive to do better at the next one! I had an audition for an Elton John Tribute Band and was told that I did an outstanding job, but I lost out because the other guy knew Elton’s manager (and so would have been better for the show to create official links etc) and that really hurt, but I moved on to the next audition without letting it phase me!

Do you think things like and other online platforms have changed the way musicians meet and get gigs?

Yes, I use a few websites where users can post job openings for musicians and performers and this has opened up a lot of new work opportunities for me! I get a lot of work from Facebook posts looking for Bassists or function bands and it’s very easy for me to apply – when I’m scrolling through Facebook on my phone, simply message the advertiser with my CV and that’s my application! It’s made things very easy, but on the other hand, because it is being advertised on Facebook, it means a lot of other bassists will have seen it and applied. So competition is larger, but the platform and accessibility is very beneficial!

What are your best and worst gigging experiences?

Well I absolutely loved playing Hairspray in Earl’s Court, London in February of this year! It’s the sort of music I love playing and it was my first experience of being in the pit with the orchestra and the cast, crew and band were amazing! Having said this, as you’ll read below I’m playing Bass and MDing a band at Wembley Stadium in December so that gig may well take the ‘Best Gig’ award! Check back with me next year!

The worst gig experience I had was playing at a 5-Star hotel in Central London about 3 years ago – the sound guys were very unprofessional and half way through our set a backing track came on and ruined the songs. We had to play for 30 minutes longer than we were told and didn’t have enough material prepared to fulfill that request! DI Boxes stopped working, PA System cut out, amps blew – it was awful!

Tell us what you have coming up and what gigs we can come and enjoy?

I’m the Musical Director and Bassist for a touring Britpop Theatre Show called ‘The Girl From Mars’ and we start our 2016 UK Tour in June at Brighton Fringe Festival! The show is, essentially, a Britpop gig with a cool narrative that follows the story from the 1954 film ‘Devil Girl From Mars’. Our tour takes us to Brighton Fringe Festival, Craufurd Arms Milton Keynes, Northampton Picturedrome, Roadhouse Birmingham, Real Time Live Chesterfield, Level 3 Swindon and finishing with a massive corporate show at Wembley Stadium!