WHY YOUR BAND SUCKS LIVE PART 1 – THE GREAT LIVE MUSIC APOCALYPSE
THE POST APOCALYPTIC MANUAL FOR SURVIVAL
It never ceases to amaze me that a band will take a dog’s eye view when it comes to visual stage props, and an MP3 reference standard when it comes to their sound. I’m talking about hard working bands with ambition, bent on success, and dream of better pay or even rising to play arenas, yet they refuse to see and hear themselves as others do.
Forgive me for being a stickler on what appears to be formality in the eyes of current gigging musicians, but I got into the game before The Great Live Music Apocalypse! My role models and teachers were the great masters in live performance (real live not YouTube live) Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, the Eagles, Pink Floyd, Deep Purple, The Who, to name a few. What I learned from ‘watching and hearing’ the greatest performers of our age is quite simply this: By utilizing a quality presentation of sound and lights, each of them made a deliberate effort to own the messages being sent to their audiences in live performances. In actual application for my own bands, I learned and applied those concepts to advance my own career. I didn’t reinvent the wheel, I just learned the difference between a racing tire and a snow tire.
THE WEEKEND WARRIORS PROLONG THE DARK AGES
What we lost somewhere in the Great Live Music Apocalypse, (otherwise known as “The DJ Live Venue Takeover”) was the common understanding that the sound and visual aspect of a live performance is not an embellishment, it is a fundamental.
The post apocalypse is currently riddled with garage-tempered Weekend Warriors, hobby bands who have always yearned for their shot to play in a club and are willing to perform for beer or cab fare.
And now it’s time to really start pissing people off!
These WW’s are the scavengers who lurk on the less-travelled back roads of small clubs and prey on the innocent survivors of the apocalypse. They invade clubs with empty promises and employ scorched earth philosophy…they don’t care if they bomb at the club – after all, there is always a new and unsuspecting club owner starting up somewhere. In many cases Weekend Warriors can fill a room (once) with their buddies, and the bar owner is given a shot of optimism.
I won’t say some hobby bands aren’t really good musicians and may even be entertaining, but for the most part they are not elevating the state of live music performance in clubs. In a delicate post-apocalyptic condition where live music is slowly leaking into the clubs through the cracks in the DJ walls, we are obliged to elevate, lest we be permanently dammed by turntable plaster and mortar.
IT’S NOT JUST A MATTER OF BEING A GOOD MUSICIAN
The average Joe doesn’t understand the subtle visual impact of stage performances, but all audiences uniformly hear with their eyes! The average concert attendee doesn’t understand the intricacies of good quality sound, but all audiences know when you are hurting their ears or driving them to leave before you finish your set.
We who perform and we who attend live performances have endured a time of darkness (think Middle Ages) and are still working our way into Renaissance. Musicians feeding off the post-apocalypse dark ages have reduced live performance to a numbers game. Based on the pay of a common club venue, bands won’t elect to afford a decent sound and light system or specialists to operate such systems. My friends, this is like entering a soap box racer in the Grand Prix. You can pretend to do the job, but trust me – you are not gaining fans other than your existing fans, friends, and family.
THE DOWNWARD SPIRAL
The downward spiral that leads to a total crash of live music at the ‘club’ level is inevitable if the prevalent condition in small clubs that ‘try out’ bands in the post apocalypse era is substandard presentation.
The key player in the entire performance equation is the audience, the people who turned off their TV’s and put gas in their car, grabbed a credit card and decided they would spend their night out with a drink and some entertainment.
These are often the same people that will attend a concert downtown, or a live theatre presentation. They are not yokels and they are persistent in their search for good live music. I invite any and all of you to visit Nashville. This small but significant city has earned its title as Music City because there are no substandard presentations in even the smallest or least significant club. In the city of Toronto where I live, we have nearly 5 times the population of Nashville and yet we have to search far and wide for quality performances in small clubs.
In brief, if we don’t put together quality presentations that draw the audiences, then we lose quality audiences that pay for and perpetuate the live music condition. If you build it they will come, but if they don’t come, they will tear it down.
Back to the dark ages!
THE GOOD NEWS AND A PROPOSED CURE
Live performance is appreciated when someone can get an interactive experience with the performer. This is not rocket science, but it is elusive when performers and club owners don’t elect to follow common sense.
To all of the readers who are currently in bands, heed this next declaration as it may be the difference between live performance obscurity or success:
The bands who deliver a consistently higher quality sound and pronounced visual performance will accelerate their success by years and, by virtue of drawing larger crowds, command better pay from club owners.
Yes it is still a numbers game, but it is the right numbers and it requires a commitment and investment.
I declare and predict that if club performers commit to a higher quality presentation, this alone will achieve the following results:
- It will separate the Weekend Warriors/Hobby ‘Farmers’ Bands from the true talent.
- It will create a climate of attraction for live music aficionados. After all, people love live music and if they were to get higher quality at a nearby club, they would be enticed to attend more often.
- A simple climate of attraction will turn club owners’ minds about the value of a band. If they get more income, they are obliged to pay more for their performers or risk losing their attraction power to another club.
- Lastly, and maybe most important, it will raise the bar for better performers that can afford to dedicate more time to their craft. In this instance everybody wins!
If you believe this isn’t true, try making your live music presentation to an audience from behind a curtain on a cheap set of PA speakers and see how many people you can attract.