The TLP Network

No One and a Half: Take Us or Leave Us

by on Feb.25, 2008, under Articles, No One and a Half

Scribed by Jason Firestone.

What’s great about being a musician who plays shows all the time is, well, playing shows all the time. What sucks about being a musician who plays show all the time is… playing shows all the time.

“What, Jason? I’d love to play shows all the time! How could it possibly suck in any way at all?”
Well, I will answer your question, Hypothetical Person Who Is Reading This Article.

See, many people think that a local band’s success as a local band (as opposed to the local band that is playing with national acts that were sorta-kinda known for only about a week and a half) has to do with how many shows said band is booking at a time. I’ve had many out-of-town friends see my rather large list of shows and say, “damn, Jason, you’re getting pretty big there in Tampa!” But if no one shows up at your shows, you could be playing at a different stadium every night of the week and it wouldn’t matter.

Which brings me to my point: You have to get people to come to your shows. Okay sure, your band just started playing shows, you’ve got a show maybe once or twice a month. Your friends will come to your first few shows, but they can’t come to EVERY show. It’s even harder when you ramp things up and start doing three or four shows a week. Maybe a weekly gig or two? Yeah sure, you’ll play for five people for a little bit, but there comes a time when you’d like to actually play for more people than the bar staff, door guy, the guy still passed out at the bar from the night before, and the sound guy (if there even IS a sound guy). Plus if you’re playing for no one much of the time, the venue doesn’t make any money. Payment methods vary from venue to venue, but the truth is that people buying lots of drinks is by far the best way for a venue to make money and be successful. But if there isn’t anyone there, or worse: if the place is filled with 14-year-olds, no one’s making any money. The owners will get pissed and it will be harder and harder for your band to get shows there in the future. On the other hand, if you come in at the right place at the right time and know just enough alcoholics, you may find yourself playing to a packed house pretty often. But that’s extremely rare.

What’s a lot more common is begging and pleading every single friend you have to come to each and every show, and if they can’t come to this one, “COME TO THE NEXT ONE!!” There comes a point where you see certain people and can think of nothing to say other than “hey, what are you doing Thursday night from, say, 8-12?” These people catch on pretty easily and eventually figure out that if you’re talking to them you must have a show coming up.

As you get more and more shows, it becomes harder and harder to come up with reasons why people should come to a certain show on a certain date at a certain time, when you have a zillion other shows booked in the future that they could easily blow off… I mean, go to. I had a show this past Valentine’s Day, and I actually resorted to telling everyone that “ladies get in free” when there’s never any cover charge at all at that place. Sometimes you’re invited to a party but weren’t going to go, except you realize at the last minute that you’d have a lot of people to promote your show to, so you end up going anyway.

Can we musicians be blamed for being such incredible self-promotion whores? This is our success we’re dealing with, goddammit. It’s gotten so bad for me that it’s to a point where I’m subconsciously ranking my friends according to how many of my shows they come to. Extra points for skipping work or school or family get-togethers. This is me, I’m nothing more than a musician. Going to some kegger with 20 people at the house of some guy who you don’t even really like instead of coming to a big show I’m in that will get my band a lot of recognition if a lot of people come… frankly, that’s offensive to me.

Call us self-centered. Tell us we have no life. Call us ruthless self-promotion whores. Break up with us because every time you wanna spend time together we have a gig. We’re musicians, take us or leave us.

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