Today we’d like to introduce you to Max Benson.
Max, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I grew up in Chicago and started playing bass guitar at 13 years old. I knew back then that I wanted to make music an integral part of my life, but I didn’t quite know what that meant. I played in bands throughout high school and got my first professional gig at age 20 while attending community college. I eventually ended up going to the Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University and got a Bachelor’s Degree in Jazz Performance.
While studying at CCPA, I started learning the upright bass and nonchalantly started an early version of GB Duo with my good friend and guitarist, Jon Gould. We quickly found a niche playing as a duo in wine bars, coffee shops, and eventually started getting bigger gigs at private events, such as corporate functions and weddings. Being that we were mostly background music, we quickly found that this was essentially a great way to make extra money while getting paid to practice jazz.
I graduated from college in May of 2012 and ended up moving to LA in September of that year for bigger and better opportunities. I have been working as a freelance bassist since I moved here and I have gotten to do many cool things throughout my career. I have been able to go on tour all over the world with major label pop acts, perform on live TV, play at awesome festivals such as Coachella and Lollapalooza, and record on great albums.
In 2017, I got tired of being the guy waiting for the phone to ring (because as a freelance musician your whole lifeline is based on who knows and needs you) so I decided to re-form GB Duo for the Southern California market. I had played in many wedding bands, so I knew how the wedding (and private event) industry worked. I invested a decent chunk into the promo video, website, logo, pictures, and advertising, and it quickly took off.
Since 2018, we have booked 25 events, and I am really enjoying taking on the bandleader/managerial role.
We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
Like any industry, it’s up and down. Being that I’ve already been working in music before I started this company, I see the flow of it a lot like my career as Max Benson, the freelance bassist. Some months are really good. Some months are not so good. It really is a feast or famine way of life being in the entertainment industry.
I know how to sell myself as an individual, freelance bassist to an artist or other bandleaders who wants to hire me for a gig. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. It’s the same with selling this company. The two hardest things I have found are: marketing the product and closing the deal of a lead.
When someone really wants it, and it’s exactly what they’re looking for, then it’s a very easy sell. A lot of my leads are through advertising sites like GigMasters and Gig Salad, so when people reach out to me for inquiries about gigs, it tends to not pan out because A) they have a very small budget, B) they’re not quite sure what they’re looking for, and C) we don’t provide exactly what they’re looking for.
We’d love to hear more about your business.
GB Duo is a young, modern, and eclectic jazz duo consisting of upright bass and electric guitar. We specialize in providing background music for the cocktail hour portions of weddings, corporate events, and other private parties. We also do ceremonies and play at restaurants, wine bars, and nice lounges.
We have a residency every Saturday from Noon-3 PM at Playa Provisions in Playa Del Rey. Our repertoire includes jazz standards, top 40 pop, R&B, oldies, and Latin. I think what separates us from other jazz and background music groups is that we literally play everything.
In one set you’ll hear instrumental versions of “Love Me Do” by the Beatles, a jazz standard such as “Fly Me to the Moon,” and “Hotline Bling” by Drake. We’re the type of musical experience where one can have a cocktail and have a conversation or can tune in and be actively engaged to what we’re playing.
What were you like growing up?
I had a lot of energy growing up. I also had a very wild imagination. I was never a great student in school as I mostly got C’s and B’s.
I excelled in all things humanities, but math and sciences I tended to not care about. I was also kind of a class clown and a bit mischievous. I always had very good people skills and could get along with pretty much everyone.
In a lot of ways, I haven’t changed. I find humor and excitement in a lot of mundane things. I think being in music full time keeps one young.
- Website: www.gbduo.com
- Email: email@example.com
- Instagram: @gbduojazz
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/gbduojazz
Tyler Miles, Justin & Shannon Vonderach, Jayme Palmer