Empty PocketsThe day I sold my bass was a good day.

I had a problem.

See, I assumed that simply because I was capable of recording all the instruments on my recording projects that I should.

Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

I bought that little Fender Jazz bass, thinking to myself, “Wow, Joe. You’re so impressive. Imagine how it’s gonna feel when you tell someone, ‘Yeah, I played all the instruments on this song.’ They’ll think you’re amazing. Heck, you’re like Dave Grohl.”

I’m not like Dave Grohl. If you’re dripping with THAT much talent, then yes, you can probably pull off playing everything on the record.

I’m not Dave Grohl, and chances are neither are you.

I sold my bass once I realized that I suck at playing bass. Sure I can get the notes out, but I don’t think like a bass player, and I sure don’t play like one.

Rather than agonizing for 3 hours over a bass line, my brother-in-law Joel Bezaire can lay it down in 10 minutes, and it sounds awesome.

Just because I CAN play the bass doesn’t mean I should.

“But Joe, I can’t pay people to play on my projects.”

Really? REALLY?

If you don’t have the cash to pay someone, that doesn’t categorically mean that you cannot pay them in some other way.

Enter the barter system.

Sometimes I wish I lived back in the day where I could take one of my goats into town and come back with a loaf of bread, a wheel of cheese, and a basket of eggs. Ah…the good ol’ days.

We don’t do a lot of bartering anymore. We buy things with money. We do work for money. But there is still real value in a fair trade.

Trading Skills for Skills

What are your skills? What are you good at? What would people pay you to do? There’s a good chance you can offer those skills as a form of payment.

I do this all the time. Don’t get me wrong, I still 100% agree that you should charge for your work, but sometimes charging can come in the form of trading something other than cash for your service.

Are you good at graphic design or photography? Maybe you could hire a local drummer to play on your tracks, and in exchange you’ll do the photography and album artwork on his band’s next album. You’re both getting something valuable, without spending money.

That’s what my buddy David Dewese did for me. I hired him to design the album artwork for my album Out of Indiana, and instead of payment, he asked me to mix one of his songs. (See, he’s a musician, too.)

My bro-in-law Joel plays bass on all my projects. Sometimes I simply write him a check. Other times he has me track some guitars or vocals on one of his projects. (I’m a singer/guitarist, he’s a bass player…another nice trade.)

Or take my buddy Tim Horsley for example. Monster drummer here in Nashville. He’s starting to offer drum tracking to clients through the internet. I need a drummer on my next album project. So? He’s offering me a discounted rate in exchange for help building up his online business. (He’s a drummer, I run HomeStudioCorner…yet another fair trade of skills.)

I could share a bunch more examples, but you get the point. Sometimes you just pay the guy. Other times you can negotiate a nice trade that leaves all parties happy.

What do you think? Is this something you already do? Tell us about it. If not, tell us how you’re going to try it on your next project. What gear or instruments do you need to sell and start “hiring” other people to play/work on your projects?