Nashville is unlike any city I’ve ever known, and you have to play by its rules – says Jaime Babbitt.
In a little over 10 years I’ve watched it morph from the mecca of country music into a veritable smorgasbord of musical genres.
If you’re thinking of coming here and being a singer, there are a couple of things you’re going to want to keep in mind:
1. The competition is fierce
So, you better be bringing your A-game day and night!
That’s right, folks. People from New York, Los Angeles, London, Chicago, Australia, Ireland, and more are vying for positions here in the 615.
In fact, people from everywhere in the country are moving to the Ville of Nash for the easier lifestyle and the lower cost of living…for the time being, that is. I say that because cocktails here are now $14. Not that I drink. Much. Only when I’m not singing, ahem.
Anyway, I digress. You must keep in mind that singers here mean business. If you’re singing live on Lower Broadway, Nashville’s tourist attraction, boasting live bands in every club seven afternoons/evenings a week, there can be a base guarantee pay of $75 (or less, for four hours) and tips on top of that.
There’s a fairly standard repertoire for both guys and girls, so singers can sub in and out.
2. Musicians here use the ‘Nashville number system’
So, learn it! It’s great for singers, too!
Instead of chord letters, Nashville cats refer to chords by numbers (depending on what key you’re in). So, in the key of C major, C-C-F-G would be 1-1-4-5. In G major, G-G-C-D would be 1-1-4-5, too! And there are lines, marks and symbols for rhythms, time signature changes accents and major/minor/diminished, etc, chords.
Google it. It’s fascinating…and will help you singers in Nashville a TON. You do have to know a bit of music theory, FYI. And keep in mind that it’s hard to use the number system for chord-laden progressive rock or super-jazzy songs containing billions of chords/inversions.
Still, learning this system is really great for ear training and for learning songs really quickly, which is a must in Nashville
3. Gigs can pay less than you may be used to
So, gear up for that!
Live gigs and studio rates can really be quite a bit lower than people from larger markets are used to. That’s due to good old supply versus demand, my friend, a lower cost of living AND the fact that Tennessee is a right-to-work state, so there is a lot of non-union work.
For now. So, don’t be surprised, but DO discuss your rate up front and do the best you can to work within your clients’ budgets without selling yourself short, especially if there’s potential for more frequent gig calls from that client.