What I've Learned as a Nightclub Musician
It's been huge in Ibiza for a while. But now the trend of live musicians playing alongside house DJs has started to get popular here in the UK. When I landed my first nightclub gig a few years ago I was a little confused, intimidated but very excited. What am I supposed to do? What are the benefits and downsides of playing in this environment?
I quickly discovered a nightclub musician's job is to improvise over the records spun by the resident DJ, working together to craft interesting textures and exciting drops without overpowering what's already in the track. This involves an impeccable ear, a good knowledge of the house charts and the ability to work closely alongside DJs, and sometimes other musicians too.
Now that I'm lucky enough to have played festivals, supported world-class DJ's and currently holding multiple nightclub residencies I'm going to share with you my insights into the weird and wonderful world of the nightclub musician.
The first thing I have to mention is that playing house in nightclubs is one of the most fun gigs you can take. Once you get your head around it its relatively low-pressure, improvised music to a receptive (or very drunk) audience.
Another big upside is its a great way to meet a lot of exciting people. Since working at Cafe Parfait in Southampton I've made some great friends and I look forward to my gigs there a lot. Similarly doing festivals with Sticks and Licks has led me to meet some really interesting characters. The people who work in these circles are often exciting individuals From a professional point of view house gigs are great for working on your aural skills, the whole thing is improvised by ear so it develops these fundamental abilities as you go. Similarly, you can often do two gigs in one evening as nightclub gigs often start pretty late. You can do a wedding show, pack up, and still make it in plenty of time to your next gig.
Sadly it isn't all champagne and roses, although it does happen now and again. One of the pitfalls in this line of work is the intensely late nights. I'm not surprised if I don't get back from a gig by 5am when working in clubs, sometimes even worse. If you are not in the mood for a bit of a party or are feeling under the weather these gigs can be an ordeal!
Another problem with working in the club environment is that some places are not equipped for live music at all. So many times I've arrived at a gig only to find the sound is terrible or you have nowhere to plug in. This issue can be successfully navigated by being well-prepared yourself, bring all possible cables, an extension lead and a good measure of patience.
So that's just a little insight into the netherworld of nightclubs. I really enjoy it and as a musician if you ever get an opportunity to try it I don't think you'll regret it.