“The strongest thing that any human being has going is their own integrity and their own heart. As soon as you start veering away from that, the solidity that you need in order to be able to stand up for what you believe in and deliver what’s really inside, it’s just not going to be there.” ~ Herbie Hancock

Punctual Integrity

Being on time for gigs seems like it should be a “gimme,” but I am constantly amazed at how many musicians don’t sink this putt! Ok, so I would be somewhat of a hypocrite if I didn’t admit to being late to probably 3 or 4 gigs in my life, but that’s not too shabby over the course of 25ish years. Even still, I know those mistakes cost me future work and money. There are some outlier musicians that sound so good that they seem to get called no matter how many times they show up late, but I don’t recommend testing that theory for your self.

“Early is on time, on time is late.” There are several variations of this quote, and it’s origin is disputed, but it certainly holds true for musicians. Planning to arrive at least 30 minutes early (on time) for every gig will give you a cushion for the unexpected (traffic, going back for your bass drum pedal that you forgot to put in your hardware case, etc.), and it will earn you a reputation of punctual reliability that makes band leaders want to call you (often before they will call a better drummer who lacks punctual reliability). I am speaking not only from the sideman experience, but also from the band leader perspective. Whenever I have to book a band, I pick musicians that I know will sound great and will surely be on time (early), and sometimes bypass better musicians that aren’t as reliable. Being a band leader can be stressful, and you never forget (and never call) the guys that add to that stress by constantly trying to set a world record for the least amount of seconds needed to get there axe out and make the downbeat.

Some crucial factors that you should consider when planning to be early (on time):

• Number of gig commute miles – The longer the distance, the more chance of delays.
• Time of day – Is it rush hour(s) during any part of your gig commute?
• Is it a new gig? – Give yourself extra time for unfamiliar roads/parking/load in.

Excellence Integrity
Have you ever half-assed, or some fraction of-assed any job or project? Putting 100% effort and focus in to everything you do might seem unrealistic, but approaching all tasks with that mindset can create a pattern of excellence that will bring you success in both your professional and personal life. You must realize however, that giving 100% of your effort will not always yield the same results as someone else’s lesser, or even possibly worst effort. For Example, I couldn’t beat Tiger Woods in golf lets say when he is giving 50% effort, even if I could somehow find a way to give 200% effort. Point being, while we can learn from others, excellence should not be measured in terms of achievement comparisons, but rather in individual effort, which can only be measured by you. If you can say that you put 100% effort into everything you do, then you have “excellence integrity.”
Musical Integrity

For some musicians musical integrity means starving before playing music that betrays their notion of musical artistry. While other musicians are labeled “sell outs” for having no musical integrity, and pandering to the lowest of “musical common denominators” to make a buck.  Musical taste is entirely subjective, and you should never let others opinions determine for you what you enjoy listening to and/or performing.

I personally don’t judge any musician for what they choose to play or why, however I do get bugged by musicians who have a crappy attitude on the gig.  For me, musical integrity is defined by only taking the gigs that you can do with a positive attitude.  Besides being a pet peeve of mine, it is also an important factor for getting called for future work.  So if your disdain for a certain style of music (or the musicians themselves) prevents you from even acting like you are having a good time, have some musical integrity and stay home to protect your attitude reputation, but also as to not ruin the gig for everyone else.

Human Integrity

“Integrity is doing the right thing. Even when no one is watching.” ~ C.S. Lewis

I think most of us want to be good human beings, but have you ever taken a moment to define your own moral code/beliefs?  Thinking about it, defining it and (maybe most importantly) writing it down is crucial to raising the self awareness (and the resulting cognitive dissonance) necessary to hold your self accountable for being a good human being – and being a good human being will definitely help you stay employed as a musician (or in any career for that matter).  If you are dishonest/shady, or speak disparagingly of others, IT WILL catch up to you at some point and affect the amount of work you get as a drummer.  I can sum up my integrity code (which serves me well when I don’t blow it) in 3 categories.

  • Honesty Integrity– Always tell the truth.  Lies have a way of catching up to liars, and rationalizing any lie can be habit forming. Even white lies such as “you sound great man” will undermine your honesty integrity when a musician you have said it to, hears you say it to another musician who objectively did not sound good.
  • Moral Integrity– Rationalizing actions that you know are wrong for any reason (maybe because you are sure you can get away with it, or because you believe those affected by it deserve it), is a slippery slope that can chip away at your moral foundation, and ultimately your musical employment. It may seem trite, but to quote C.S. Lewis “Integrity is doing the right thing. Even when no one is watching.”
  • Gossip Integrity– This is the one I struggle with the most.  I am often too quick to join in discussions that are negative or making fun of others.  But I am working on it!  When my mom died, something was said about her by others that truly resonated with me: “she never said a negative word about anyone.”  I still have a long way to go before people will say that about me, but that is my goal, and I highly recommend it for your musical career.  If you gossip negatively about other musicians, those that you are gossiping with will eventually wonder what you are saying about them when they are not around, and that simple observation can translate into less calls for work.  More work shouldn’t be your motivation to be a better person, but if you struggle with gossip integrity, you might want to take an existential introspective moment to decide what you want people to say about you when you aren’t around. Especially after you die – which in turn could inspire others that were close to you to be better human/musician beings.