Being a hired gun is an art. It’s not for everyone. Most of the time it means doing things someone else’s way.

A good example of this is in the movie Rockstar. Chris Cole is hired to be the singer of Steel Dragon and doesn’t want to be just a hired gun.



My recent experience as a hired gun, or as some call it, a “Mercenary” was pretty typical. The band leader said he’d just fired the sub because he wasn’t cutting it. I got the call on a Wednesday and was to start Thursday and play till Sunday. I accepted the gig. Why?


Because it’s what I do. This is how I make my living.

The band emailed me the set list. I looked it over. I knew 10 out of the 60 songs they played, but those 10 were sometimes two whole steps lower than the original key. Did I freak out? Nope. I got out my paper and pencils. I started up my computer and opened my word program. I fired up iTunes and got to work.


I had one day to chart out 60 songs. I used a shorthand system where I write out the arrangement and the chords to the first verse, chorus, bridge and the solo. Most of the time the rest of the song is the same. This is an easy way to get through many songs in a short period of time.


Sometimes l look up the sheet music on line. There are sites where you can look at the charts for free.


In most cases this is a great place to start and sometimes even a quick fix for not having to write the chart yourself.


Being a hired gun means coming in and doing what you’re told, right or wrong. The bottom line is: as a hired gun you’re there to make money. So be prepared. Have the right gear. Dress for success. Know your songs. Have your charts in order and be ready to go. 




I tell people who ask me about doing work for hire: “You have to show up, shut up, play music, entertain and get paid.” 


Leave the ego and attitude at home. In some cases you will be asked for your opinion and maybe even some creative input. This does not happen often but when it does, let your talent shine.


You need to be a people person and get along with all types right from the start of the gig. This will set the tone for the rest of your time with that band. If they like you, it makes life a lot easier and may even lead to more work or a fulltime spot in the band. Being a hired gun sometimes turns people off but you have to just look at the big picture: I need to work and get paid. Being friends is nice but this is “Show Business not show friends.”


I’ve been a hired gun for a long time, played in hundreds of bands, some great and some crap, but the bottom line is: I did my job and got paid.

Originally posted 2012-05-16 20:02:00.