Get Your Commercial Break

2nd December 2016

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Want to get paid to play while you’re studying at BIMM? Yeah, stupid question, good point. The good news is, you can – now meet the man who makes it happen.

Toby Lawrence is BIMM’s Commercial Performance Manager. He’s lots of other things as well, including a multi-instrumentalist who has had hit singles across Europe and played with Calvin Harris, Example and Feeder, headlined venues including the O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire, performed at festivals including Isle of Wight and V Festival, and appeared on shows such as X Factor, Britain’s Got Talent, Hollyoaks and Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway. But, mainly, he’s BIMM’s Commercial Performance Manager, and what you want to know is…

What does that mean exactly?

Toby’s job involves helping students to get paid performance work with our network of private entertainment agencies and session fixers. BIMM has established partnerships with leading agencies who specialise in private entertainment, from weddings and corporate events through to cruises and overseas hotel residencies, as well as a long-standing network of session fixers, all of whom pay our students competitive performance fees.

Wait. What? I can earn money while I’m studying at BIMM? 

Absolutely. One of our main industry partners is Alive Network, who are the UK’s largest private entertainment agency and have many BIMM student acts on their roster. Students represented by Alive Network generally have at least one gig a week and often two or more, with many averaging 60-80 gigs per year. It’s the best paid weekend job on offer!

How much money are we talking about here?

BIMM only works with agencies and fixers who pay at Musician’s Union rates and above. This means gig fees are generally £200+ per musician per gig but they do vary. Obviously, all fees are passed directly to students by our partner agencies, and BIMM does not take any form of cut or commission. To date, BIMM students have earned over £1,000,000 in gig fees from Alive Network alone.

Would I need to have a full band already?

Who says you need to be in a band at all?! We have all formats of acts, from solo performers through to seven-piece plus bands. If you’re struggling to find musicians to work with we’re always here to help.


What kind of equipment would I need to provide?

It really depends on the gig. Many larger corporate, cruise ship or TV gigs don’t require students to supply anything but their own equipment, such as your guitar, amp and pedals. For smaller private bookings, clients often require the band supplies a PA as well as their own equipment. BIMM has negotiated discounted hire rates with various providers.

Is it all the same kind of songs like ‘Play that Funky Music’?

Not at all! It’s really up to you to decide your repertoire. Acts who play in a pop/rock/indie style and feature a contemporary repertoire alongside classic tracks get the most bookings, certainly. However, if you’re a jazz-quartet, for example, then have some fun and throw in your own interpretations of contemporary tracks alongside the standards.

Would I have to pay for my own promotional photos and things like that?

Only if you wish to operate as an independently managed act, which we do advise against at the start of your career. Our main partner agency, Alive Network, fund professional promo including videos, showreels, photos, website and multi tracked recordings for acts who successfully make their way through auditions. This is worth around £7k in total and is an investment from them into our student acts to ensure they get regular and well paid gigs.

How do I know if I’m good enough?

Simple, we hold around one or two auditions per month with Alive Network. These are held offsite at easy to access rehearsal studios, and 96% of our student acts who showcase to Alive Network successfully make it onto their roster. For session work, I liaise with our instrumental and vocal Heads of Department who suggest students best suited to the gig on offer, so be sure to be in their good books! If you’re still unsure, just book a tutorial with me to discuss further.

I’m sure! How do I start?

Drop me an email and we’ll go from there. I’m on hand to help and advise on any aspects of the above and anything else you need to know, from applying for a session gig to finding other musicians to work with, just drop me a line on [email protected]



James Watts

Social Media Assistant, Professional Bassist and Music Journalist. Career highlights include performing at some of the UK's premier music festivals, recording in Abbey Road and interviewing Debbie Harry.