Indie recording artist Nathan “Whitey” White got asked this question one too many times…
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Sorry, this post is not about sex or politics – it’s about communication.
Twice weekly a small restaurant in my hometown hosts live music. Wednesdays a 4-piece all-acoustic group performs Classic Rock and Americana, Thursdays I play Piano-bar style Blues and covers. One weekend a year several Jazz duos or trios play there during a local festival. We’ve each been playing there since the restaurant opened about 4 years ago. Nice place, good food, good owners to work for.
So I was a bit surprised when the pub manager announced “Hey, we have two bands from Philadelphia coming up to play here next Tuesday. Be sure and tell everybody so they have a good turnout.” Bands? Ok, that’ll be different, but I’m all for live music, so bring ‘em on.
Tuesday arrived and I was out doing errands – walking the dogs, delivering a piano to the Beatlemania show, going to the bank, etc. For the evening I planned on stopping in to see the Philly groups a bit, then going to hear Carlos as John Lennon play my piano.
Then the call came. “JT, the bands are here, but they don’t have any mics.” I knew right away it was more than microphones they didn’t have. No mics = no mic stands = no mic cables = no mic mixer = no PA speakers. The bands showed up expecting a PA system to be at the club.
Nobody asked, and nobody told there was no house PA.
So I threw some equipment into my car, drove down to the club, and proceeded to set up my PA system. In the process, the band requested a keyboard stand and amplifier. Yes, I have them, so I drove home and brought those back.
But there was a bigger problem here from the start. As soon as the bands walked into the restaurant, they said “Oh no…” They realized it was the wrong venue for the music they play – hard-driving college party rock. As the manager watched them carry in guitar amplifiers and drums she said “Oh no…” Did they have to use amps? The regular Wednesday band uses no PA, no mics, no amps. Thursdays I bring one speaker for my vocals.
Nobody asked, and nobody told that the venue was primarily acoustic music.
But the show must go on, however, so the bands set up, and trying to be quiet, started to play. As several couples got up and moved their dinner outside to the deck, the first band finished their first song, and the manager, apologizing, told them it was way too loud for the room (which it was). So the drummer stepped out, the guitarists turned down, and they proceeded to play uncomfortably for only a few more songs before taking a break.
After setting up the keyboard amp and stand, the second group took the stage (sans drummer). Having had time to assess the sound of the room, they played a little quieter than the first band, and delivered a longer more enjoyable set. They finished their set, the five of us listening applauded and gave a few dollars in tips. The bands loaded out their gear, everybody thanked and apologized to each other, then the musicians hit the highway to continue their tour.
Nobody asked, nobody told what to do except show up and play.
So how did this happen, how did a pair of rock bands get booked into an acoustic venue? Ari Herstand, who blogs about the music business, mentions this in one of his posts, Book Your Own Tour. When looking for gigs, “get a feel for how your project could (or could not) fit in the venue.” Clearly, this was not done.
Nobody asked, nobody told whether the bands were right for the venue.
So there’s a little blame to go around here. First the booking agent, who cold-called the club and set up the show. A gig is a gig, any chance to perform, right? Second, the club manager who agreed to the deal without knowing anything about the bands. Two bands for the price of one? What a deal!
No, it was a bad deal for all parties. The bands didn’t get to play for the crowd they hoped for, the club didn’t have a crowd to make any money from. There was no relationship established for future bookings, no recommendation for the venue as a good room to play. The only good is a little education was shared, the bands and the venue each got a horror story, and I got a blog post.
So – Do Ask, Do Tell. You may lose a good story, but you’ll have fewer of those “Oh no…” moments.
In the current climate of polarized politics, why do we stick to our guns (pun intended), and demonize the other side? Why do we refuse to listen, debate, compromise, but only shout back at the other guys, calling them idiots and morons? Why are we so right and they are so wrong? Why do they want to ruin OUR country? Well…
“GIVEN THE POWER OF our prior beliefs to skew how we respond to new information, one thing is becoming clear: If you want someone to accept new evidence, make sure to present it to them in a context that doesn’t trigger a defensive, emotional reaction.”
Reblogged from Chris Mooney @ Mother Jones (yeah, I read that sometimes…)
Go ahead and read the whole thing here:
Built for the System or Not
by Tom Jackson
I was recently inspired by a Seth Godin blog, “Is a famous thinker better than a great one?”
Seth’s concept applies to artists and musicians, I think. Only the question for us becomes, “is a famous artist’s music, creativity, & show better than yours?” Because someone is famous, are they more creative, is their show better, and is what they have to say more valid than what you have to say?
Maybe… maybe not.
I like some popular music (pop, country, rock, etc.). There are a lot of great producers out there, as well as some very creative players with really good songs. But there are also a lot of artists that remind me of fast food.
Not that all fast food is inherently bad. In my travels I eat at some fast food places: El Pollo Loco (on the west coast), Taco Cabana (when I’m in Texas), El Pollo Tropical (in Florida)… those are some of my favorites.
But then there’s McDonald’s. McDonald’s has great branding, great marketing, and it’s conveniently located everywhere. But is it good food? I don’t think so.
A lot of popular music is like that: it has great branding, great marketing, and it’s conveniently located everywhere (on radio, TV, internet, etc.). But is it good music? Not always.
To be honest, when I go out to eat, I prefer going to a place where the chef is creative and not in a hurry. Not necessarily a famous chef. It might even be a good family restaurant that will never have a big world-wide chain. The chefs there get to do what they love to do, and they get to build a relationship with a community of people who keep on coming back. But they probably won’t ever be famous.
It’s that way with great music. Some artists will never be “famous,” but they “cook great food” (I mean make great music!). But they love what they do, and they make a living doing it. They’ll never (did I say “never?”), never get played on the radio. Does that make them any less valid or creative? I think not.
When I’m not working I like to listen to music many people have never heard of (because they’re not played on radio). Some of my favorite artists are groups like Shpongle, Afro-Celt Sound System, Zero 7. And I still love progressive rock bands like Yes, Gentle Giant, and others. I personally like trippy, creative, outside the box artists when I listen to music.
That doesn’t mean I don’t like popular artists who work inside the box, too. There are a lot of awesome artists who work within that popular music “box.” That’s because they’re still creative, they know how to work within the system, and their music, personality, & message fit into that system.
They were built for that system; some people aren’t built that way. And that’s OK.
Just because some of you haven’t achieved fame, fortune, and become a household name, doesn’t mean your music isn’t great. Because someone is popular, does that make them more important, more valid, worth more to people? I don’t think so.
So, for whatever it’s worth, I encourage you to:
be true to yourself,
be smart (know what it takes to work within your system),
and don’t compromise just to make yourself “fit” into the wrong system.
Because if you are creative, your music is extraordinary, and you have the ability to communicate that in a live performance – you have a shot at a career doing what you love to do!