Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Inside the Process….(Part 1)

    Let’s talk about booking.  How does this process work?  Well, in a city inundated with unsigned indie bands, the process is two-fold. We’ll discuss this in 2 parts….
1.   Dive Bars
    In order to get a gig playing music in a dive bar, it’s fairly easy. The only things you need are an e-mail address and a Myspace profile.  Most bars that fit in this category range from creepy to moderately nice.  They’re  places that are looking to bring in more people with the promise of “Live Music.”
    When you first start out as a band, these kinds of venues are good to get your feet wet - get used to playing in front of people, get free drink tickets, and expose, (generally), your close friends who make the trip out to see you.
    Most people booking these bars are pretty easy to contact via their e-mail address/web page, etc… If your band has a Myspace profile, (or better, your own website), that has some of your music posted - you just e-mail’em and give’em some links with a small amount of persistence, and they’ll probably give you a Tuesday night.
    Now, night’s you ACTUALLY want to play are Friday and Saturday nights, or maybe a Thursday…. But generally the other nights are harder to get people, (“fans” if you will…), out to see a show.
    So, you start out on a Tuesday night - get your friends out, and then hopefully you get the chance to do a gig there on a Thursday or Sunday night in another month or two. There are plenty of bars that fit in this category, so it’s pretty easy to schedule out at least a show or 2 a month.
            However, the major cons of playing dive bars are this:

    1.  You’re paid with drink tickets, and not much else… You may get a cut of the bar, but don’t expect much. If you get $20, you’ve made a killing.
    2.  Crappy sound systems….  Nothing can make your folk-rock band sound like an atonal Sonic Youth feedback jam, than performing through a junky sound system.
    3.  Friend exhaustion…  No matter how wonderful your friends are, sooner or later they’re going to get tired of seeing your band play at dive bars.
    4.  And finally, dive bars are a vicious cycle that pretty much sucks the dignity from you and slowly wears down your joy of playing in front of people.

    You may ask, “Isn’t it enough to just be out there performing?”
    Well, yeah… To a point.   It’s great at first, but do it for nearly 2 years and you’ll see that you’re really playing for the regulars at these places, (who generally could care less about your music), and for 1 or 2 friends that you guilt-tripped into coming out on a Wednesday night. It gets really discouraging over a period of time.
    As gloomy as that sounds though, it is a process that every DIY band has to go through. At first, you actually NEED to play these places, cause they’re the only places that’ll book you, and they’re also useful to get to know other local bands and to get your name around town.
    But what you have to be careful of, is to not get caught in this cycle permanently.
    The process of breaking out of the dive bar scene and playing better venues gets a bit more complicated…  (To Be Continued…..)

The Song of the Week is:   Peter, Bjorn, & John’s “Objects Of My Affection”
Why? Because it sounds beautiful, and who doesn't like whistling?


BrianV said...

This is Great! I look forward to part 2. Besides being an interesting "behind the scenes" look at playing local music, it could probably be good useful advice to artists/bands that are just starting out.

Bryan said...

Thanks, man... At least it sounds vaguely like I know what I'm talking about! =-)