The “Local Band” Dilema
Being in a band is a blast, except when it comes time to play a gig. If you ask me “local bands” were the first Herbalife salesmen. What I mean by this is, the bands are selling you something that might make you feel a little better, but you don’t really need, all so they can make a buck. More after the jump.
I quit playing in local bands right when my ‘chops’ were really getting good. There’s a simple reason why I stopped playing (although I’ve had relapses), people didn’t want to hear what I wanted to play. Now we never really cared whether we got paid or not, but bars do; they assume if you’re not charging people to get in that your fans are cheap and won’t spend money on drinks. Then there’s the people who are ‘fans’ of your music. These wonderful people have to get a sitter, or a taxi, or a friend to drive them around; and they have to be willing to spend a late night out and pay for it the next day. If this wasn’t enough, the bands expect them to by a t-shirt at the end of the night. Musicians don’t want to hear it, but it’s a pain in the ass to have a friend in a local band.
So what do you do if you’re in a local band? First decide, are you trying to ‘make it’ or just play? If you just want to play, are you playing what people want to hear (are you going to be the umpteeth band to cover “Jessies Girl”)? Next, don’t get hung up on getting paid. People ‘get paid’ because they have things other people need….sorry, but you are not “needed”. And one of the absolute worst things either type of band can do is to overplay their market. How many times are you going to hit your friends up to come see you play? At some point they are going to have the courage to break off and say they can’t make it, and at that point , in most cases, you’ve lost them forever.
Am I telling you local bands to throw down your guitars? No, but be reasonable about, and strategic about, your expectations. If you’re trying to ‘make it’, start traveling pronto. If you’re a highly entertaining cover band, the clubs will come to you. If you’re somewhere in the middle, like I was, be satisfied to play every once in a great while, and don’t expect to get paid.