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quote from Greta Brinkman


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Name: Greta Brinkman
Biz Name: Greta Brinkman, Greta B
How Long Been in Biz: 23-odd years. This is a little misleading though. I've been a bass player for 23 years, but I only started to earn any money for it in 1994 when I played with Debbie Harry and decided to move to NYC for real.

Photo of Greta Brinkman, bass guitarist
BPL: How and why did you decide to start this type of biz?
GB: My career as a bassist started by accident when someone left a bass guitar behind in the rooming house where I was living. I picked it up, started playing along to the Ramones, and soon after, joined a local band made up of people who were also beginners. We all learned together, and then I just kept on playing in bands until I realized I could actually do it for real. My big break came after seven years in NYC when I got hired to tour with Moby. That was the first time I actually made a real living and got a lot of recognition.

I played with Debbie Harry from 1994 to 1995 and I decided to get serious working day jobs being in every band that I could to gain exposure and relationships.

BPL: What were the first steps you took to get started?
GB: From a business perspective, this question doesn't apply to me since I never had a clear career path in mind or any kind of business plan. My break came because of relationships. I was friends with the sound man and road manager for Moby. Lots of people came and went through the bar I was working at. The house sound man was Moby's sound man. If you plan to be a musician, you need to work some place where you're in contact with other musicians.

There are several rehearsal spaces and guitar shops to work at in New York City where you can meet people. And there are conferences that tend to be several day showcases of bands and panels of how to get your demo heard. South by Southwest takes place once a year in Austin and is a great place to meet people.

BPL: What Brooklyn organizations and resources would you recommend to others looking for help and assistance in starting a new biz?
GB: I have never been to Brooklyn Academy of Music or the Brooklyn Music Conservatory, but from what I hear, they both would be quite helpful.

With the Internet, one can record on someone's album without being there. If you learn about the software and have a couple thousand dollars, you can set up a home studio.

The Internet is also a valuable resource for finding distribution companies like CD Baby. Bands can sell their CDs via the site.

BPL: What methods have you used to get the word out about your biz? How did you select these methods? Which do you think is most successful and why?
GB: I have never gotten a speck of actual paying work from it, but I consider a personal website to be absolutely essential. It provides you with a presence on the web, as well as a convenient way for people to contact you. Having your own website gives you control over how you are presented to the world, which is very important. If someone Googles "Greta Brinkman" the first thing they see is my site, and they are introduced to me the way I want to be seen. I regularly get emails from other musicians through my website.

You need to have biz cards and hand them out to everyone. For a lot of musician friends, this is a big source of frustration for them because they aren't that good at selling themselves.

BPL: What is the best thing about being in biz for yourself?
GB: I consider myself extremely lucky to have had the opportunity to meet and work with many, many talented and interesting people and travel all over the world. And doubly lucky that I have never had to work under fluorescent lights in a corporate environment. I don't have the temperament for it and I know it would drive me crazy.

BPL: What do you think is the most difficult aspect of being in biz for yourself?
GB: Definitely the hardest part is that you never know when you will be working, and you barely EVER earn a living. I have nearly always had to work in restaurants or do construction to make ends meet. It's VERY, VERY rare to ever make a comfortable living as a freelance musician (one who doesn't write the songs), and even when you are doing well, you can be sure it will not last. No health insurance, no job security. You may even find yourself living on people's couches.

BPL: If you were to do one thing differently in starting your own biz, what would it be?
GB: I would have gotten serious and moved to NYC a lot sooner. Everything in this business is based on personal relationships, and the sooner you start meeting and impressing people, the better off you will be. I also would have learned to read music better and taken vocal lessons at a younger age, so I would be more adaptable.

BPL: What's the one most important piece of advice you would give someone else about starting a biz?
GB: If you are considering being a professional musician, the first thing I would tell you is to FORGET about earning a real living. If you are in it for the money, you will be horribly disappointed. The best way to earn a living is to write songs. This gives you what's called "publishing" if anyone buys your songs on CD or maybe rents them out for movies or commercials.

You will need to educate yourself about the music business. There are several good books out there you can start with.

If you want to try your hand at being a "sideman," which is what I am, (you get hired by someone who writes songs, to play on stage or on a CD with them), you will need to be in NYC, LA or maybe Nashville. No matter how good you are, you will never get noticed if you are living in some medium-sized town. Also, you should learn to read music. It will help a lot. But more important is the way you relate to other people. You should always act like a professional. It only takes five seconds to ruin your reputation, and people do talk. A lot.

If you have a band already and hope to go on to great things like U2 or REM, it is possible but it will be very hard. First thing to do is get everything in writing between you and the other band members. Then, as much as you can, keep control of everything yourself. Much more work, but much bigger reward.

You can find lots more information on my website, especially on the "press" page.