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How to make the money you need to support your fledgling music career by playing functions

Microphone

If you’re angling for a career in music, then playing other people’s music at weddings and corporate parties may not exactly be your idea of living the dream. However, having a side project as a function band or DJ can be an excellent way to make good money from your skills and equipment without having to take a non-music related job to pay for things like studio time for demos, music production software, and travel to venues you are playing as your main project. It is also a job that leaves you with a lot of free time to work on your ‘real’ projects, because most bookings will be in the evening.

What You Need to Get Started

Whether you want to run a function band or a DJ operation, the first things you’ll need are other similarly motivated musicians (for the band), a good repertoire of popular songs for the kind of events you expect to be playing, and any equipment required. If you already play in a live band or DJ nights in proper venues, then chances are you already have most of this. Then, you’ll need a name and a ‘brand’, which may well have no relation at all to the name you normally record or perform under.

Branding Your New Act

This is a side project to help you make the money you need to launch yourself, so you are marketing yourself in a completely different way – which means a different name and image! It may seem funny if you’re in a metal band or are usually an MC to picture yourself on stage in formal wear playing pop hits at a wedding or prom, but you’re simply adding a new persona to your roster, so check out some formal dress boutiques where you can buy some classy looking gear, and own it!

Marketing

Function acts often get a lot of work through word of mouth, so it can take a while for bookings to start flooding in – however once you are established and have done a professional job at a number of events, you’ll find that certain seasons, like the summer for weddings or the holidays for company parties, become extremely busy (and lucrative). To start getting your first gigs, though, you’ll need to do some active marketing. Set up a website and social media accounts with some videos or recordings of you playing and your rates, and try and score some gigs at local bars, hotels or restaurants as your new act. This will allow people to see you perform, and also give you practice.

Playing functions can be surprisingly fun, even if it isn’t the type of music you’d normally want to perform. It can be a good way to meet people, and can be a far more pleasant way to make a living while you are preparing for bigger things than other options like bartending can be.

Photograph by Pete

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