Conventional wisdom in the music world says “Take every gig that comes your way.” I’m here to challenge that assumption. In the early stages of a career it could be good advice to take most gigs that come your way, when trying to gain experience. However, there may come a point where not every gig fits into your overall artistic vision.
Something should be compelling about a gig in order to take it. Here are some common reasons for accepting gigs:
1) The music is enjoyable
2) The money is good
3) The gig is a good opportunity to advance your career in some way
4) It’s a good opportunity to give back to the community in some way
5) It’s a great hang
6) It’s a good learning opportunity for you or for others
If none of these things can be said about a particular gig, then a no may be in order. It’s up to you to determine your boundaries and figure out what you are comfortable with.
Experience playing is usually a good thing in the early stages, but after a certain point, artistic choices may dictate saying no to certain opportunities that you used to accept. For instance, if you are taking gigs in dive bars playing rock covers when you really want to be playing jazz, then there is a disconnect. If that’s ok with you, and you need the money, then go ahead and take the gig. If you decide that’s a compromise you aren’t willing to make, then say no (tactfully).
Learning to say no makes your “yes” that much stronger. Making a commitment to something means saying “No” to other things.