It began with an innocent craigslist ad.
I like to pop over to the dark land every so often to check the music equipment listings (for obvious reasons) and musician community posts, just to see who’s out there waiting in the wings, who’s open to collaboration, what projects are going down, etc. My curiosity has resulted in mostly positive interactions, save for one sketch situation that I won’t get into here, but suffice it to say, I escaped unscathed.
Someone wanted to start a top 40 cover band: “Top 40 checking interest.” The poster painted an optimistic picture, referencing paid gigs, professionalism, and fun. An innocent gesture, not unlike I might make, just to gauge interest and survey the market.
But Craigslist is a bottomless cesspool of negativity where ideas go to die.
Someone else (not me) posted this reply: “Don’t kid yourself!!!” (with three exclamation points…)
First off, I applaud this person for at least trying, but the band market in Columbia is DEAD. Bars in this town will no longer hire live bands. The younger, college aged crowd has NO interest in live music, only what’s on their phone, and the shit bars outside the city limits will only do a pay for play or play for the door, expecting the BAND to bring in a treasure trove of people. It’s a shame that the bar owners in this town don’t know how to run their own business to make money but they are well versed in crying the blues and blaming it on everybody else. It’s just funny how bars in other towns in this area are doing a booming business and have bands every weekend..and yes, they make money. Unless you’re a acoustic duo or solo act, NON main stream jazz, or can play SOFTER than the juke box so the bartenders don’t have to listen to you, then maybe you can get a booking!!!
I’m not saying Craigslist is the place for scholarly discourse on the state of a particular local music economy, but I couldn’t help but feel irritated after reading this post, ESPECIALLY because no fewer than six months ago, I engaged in a similar discussion with a bunch of anonymous musicians complaining about how dry the local scene was, and how musicians can’t make a living in our town (even though many are, but no, they must be untouchable diamonds in the rough with unlimited resources…) The conversation ended somewhat haphazardly; someone refused to learn how to read music, another insisted the local swanky rooftop downtown hotel was no place for a death metal band. Of course, that person is correct, but missed the entire point of the conversation, which was to get up offa your thing and shake till you feel better.
I know, I know….never read the comments. It’s my unresolved new year’s goal. Whatever. I could pontificate at length my confrontational nature, but I’ll keep it short for here and now: In any given week, I see upwards of 30 private music students. In most cases, I have exactly 30 minutes to confront and clear away any obstacles to the music-making process. I’ve become a sort of unofficial expert at reading people, vocalizing unarticulated thoughts, addressing any inhibiting body language, and recognizing the woo-woo “aura” of creativity. If we can’t say what we mean and mean what we say, how are we ever going to get into a creative space?
With that, sometimes I just can’t let these things go. I’m working on it…
Then a couple days later, another reply (also not mine):
Bars gotta cater to the customer. In other words, us musicians gotta support our own craft. How many live bands have you seen in the last 6 months? Did you spend at least $40 in booze/food and tip the bartenders and pay a door charge? If you did, then hooray for you. But not enough of you out there doing that unfortunately. So…..the college kids win with their mass overwhelming support of karaoke or a DJ they can dance to all night long. And bars don’t have to pay him/her but a couple hundred $$ I’m guessing. Money saved, money gained. You do the math.
Bar owners could be at fault too and I’m sure there are plenty of them. But I’m just saying what I’m seeing. What they are doing, provided they have been in business long enough, must be working or at least more convenient for them.
Bottom line, most people just ain’t into live bands like they used to be. There’s too many to support. And not enough good ones.
I type this with a very sad sensation.
I’ll never be one to discount someone’s feelings. It’s okay to be sad. That’s your truth to which you have every right.
quit whining and do something about it!!!
(there’s my 3 exclamation points).
If bars don’t pay enough, then don’t play in bars. Find somewhere else to play or create your own DIY venue or creative space. It isn’t anyone else’s fault if they don’t want to spend money on live music. It’s on YOU to create a demand and figure out how to monetize it.
If your target demographic is college students, make sure you are informed on how they access music. If they consume on their phones, you better damn well make sure your music is just a few clicks away. That’s not on them, that’s on YOU.
If you find yourself staying in one box (or bar, as the case may be), ask yourself this: what problems are you solving for those other business owners? A gig is a two-way interaction; bar owners are never going to come knocking on your door begging you to play, and they have bills to pay just like the rest of us. If you can’t understand that and aren’t working to solve two problems with one stone, that’s on YOU. If you’re not effectively evaluating whether a bar’s needs are a good match or align with your needs as a musician, then find another business. That’s on YOU.
Finally, if it makes you sad that things aren’t the way they used to be, good. It should make you angry, too. Use that anger to fuel a new thought process and get things done. Nostalgia is counterproductive, and frankly, can be dangerous (and if the current US political climate isn’t an indication of that problem, I encourage you to open your eyes and ears).
Quit whining and do something about it. Think twice before shooting down someone else’s process, because that person might actually be making the dry economy work for them (that probably includes taking Craigslist replies with a grain of salt). When you do this, you discount other people who ARE getting the work done without selling their souls or playing for free.
You can start with this list. When you’ve done everything on this list, find another one and get to work.
You have to be willing to move or get off the train.
I’ll use that analogy and not the other one involving feces.
Because creativity shouldn’t be flushed away and abandoned to the It in the sewers.
Do something about It.