It’s OK To Be Imperfect

© 2009 Vinny Ribas

I was not a good singer. My pitch was often off. The quality of my voice was fair. I honestly paled when compared to most.

I was not a flashy drummer, but I was solid. I was a poor piano player. However, if you wanted a good song arrangement, I was your man. I could make ballads soar with lush or soaring strings. I could accent R&B tunes with vital horn parts. I seldom memorized parts – I just improvised. If I knew the key and had an inkling how the song went, I could color it with just the right flavors of piano, organ, brass, percussion or reed instruments (all played on keyboards).

Even with all of the imperfections and weaknesses that I had, I made my living (a pretty good one) playing full-time all around the east coast, in NV casinos and on cruise ships in the Caribbean and in Europe for 15 years. I played in a duo for many years, in various bands for many years, and even played quite a few solo gigs. I even played piano bars even though I was a weak piano player and singer!

Why do I tell you all of this? It certainly isn’t to brag about my accomplishments. I mention this to let you know that you don’t have to be perfect to be successful! You need to know who your true audience is and play only to them. You need to know what your strengths are and what your weaknesses are, and find ways to either work around them or hire other people around you to compensate for them. These were some of my ‘secrets’:

  • I knew I couldn’t sing anything close to a power ballad. So, I mostly sang fast, uptempo songs. Most of them were ones that the audience couldn’t help but dance to and/or sing-a-long with. That way, MY VOICE wasn’t in the spotlight, the audience participation was.
  • I surrounded myself with better players and singers as much as possible. I told them what my weaknesses were up front. I let others take most of the solos and sing the power ballads. I was the ‘relief’ from the serious songs that they did so well. My main job was to make them sound great!
  • My solo gigs were in places where everyone knew me. I had regular gigs and developed my own following simply because I learned the songs that they wanted me to play. I knew enough of about a thousand songs to keep things interesting. I tried to play every request, and made a big joke about it if I was going to fake it. I had them sing along with the request (it was part of the deal) if I didn’t know the song (and sometimes if I did!) I sadly butchered a lot of songs, but I made a LOT of tips!
  • I was prompt and professional. Many bands hired me to fill in on drums or keys instead of hiring better players because they knew they could rely on me to be there on time, have good equipment and not embarrass them.
  • I booked my own gigs. I worked with agents for quite a while, but got tired of being booked in rooms that were wrong for the act. I had no problem turning down gigs that I didn’t feel I could do justice to.
  • I seldom played for young audiences. My bread and butter were the middle age or older audiences on cruise ships, at fancy resorts, in upscale hotels etc. I could also play any country music bar, and even backed my share of country stars (when our whole band was booked to back them).
  • I was great at trivia about 50s and 60s music, and often threw a lot of that into the act. I also told jokes. I made the gigs fun!
  • For many years (before sequences), I played 2 keyboards (usually piano and strings, bass pedals with my left foot and tambourine with my right foot. I also knew some guitar chords, so I would throw in some guitar-based songs for variety. I had a drum machine as well. I was unique, and had the fullest sound for a solo act around! In the duo that I was in for 9 years, my partner also played piano and a synthesizer. We often sounded like a 7 piece band! She could also sing like Barbara Streisand.

I can go on and on, but my personal methodology and tactics are not the message. The message is that you can be an imperfect artist, and still be successful! There are may average artists who are cleaning up monetarily. We have all heard them. And there are many incredibly talented singers and musicians who can’t get enough gigs to survive. It all boils down to 3 things: 1) knowing who likes you and why, and then going after that niche; 2) knowing how to play to your strengths and away from your weaknesses, and; 3) being professional in every situation!


About The Author

Vinny Ribas

Vinny Ribas is the founder and CEO of Indie Connect, an artist management, consulting and training company. The company also hosts networking and educational events and has published an app that connects people to the Nashville Music Industry. During his 40+ year career, Vinny has been a full time musician, artist manager, booking agent, songwriter, studio owner, producer and the Entertainment Director for the NV State Fair. He has also coached over 1000 artists and songwriters. He is a sought after speaker and has authored over 400 music industry articles. Vinny is also the CEO of Top 4M Entertainment, an independent film and television production company.