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Band is in trouble... something must give..


Ross Brown

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I am wondering about my band. Every gig we play I hear how good we are. I agree. We are tight, we play well and we can keep a crowd. But we have no following. We keep a crowd that is there but no one comes to a venue to hear us.

 

We played a gig in the next town over tonight and after the first set we were asked to call it a night and take a renegotiated pay. We did and it was fair pay for one set. Owner said it was the lightest crowd they had ever seen.

 

Maybe it is time to try another project. This one just doesnt seem to draw a crowd.

 

Here is my brainstorm list of issues:

 

The venues do absolutely no advertising around here. I suppose we could advertise as a band but that takes money with no guarantee of working ie radio spots, etc. My bandmates are cheap bastards. I doubt they would go for that.

 

Flyers, web site, facebook, etc does not generate crowds for us.

 

We have very good up beat dance music. No real show. I dont know if that is the problem or not. I think it is a problem but it may not be the only problem.

 

We have 45 gigs booked for 2010. What am I complaining about.? We are in a recession maybe we are doing ok just ride it out? Too many rooms lately with no crowd. Two gigs ago we had three people at one point. Last week was 300 bikers, tonight was dismal. Next week we will have a good crowd but they would show up to see Elmo and Fozzy bear. It is a local watering hole. They like us, but they show up anyway. They are just happy when it is us.

 

We play the same songs to the same people at the same venues over and over. This will change for next year or I am out. The problem is that I may be the only one in the band that feels strongly enough about this. The other may just keep on doing it over and over.

NOTE: We have over a hundred songs. We just play so much that they get a lot of play time. Does this mean we should play less? Maybe we are burning out our crowd. Problem seems to be that we cant expand our geographic base.

 

To be honest, I know that this is nothing new here. We have all discussed this before. Just feeling embarrassed and disappointed tonight. I have some thinking to do. Ill stop now. I hate long posts

 

"When I take a stroll down Jackass Lane it is usually to see someone that is already there" Mrs. Brown
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I have the exact same problem with my band. In fact it is a little worse since we HAD a following, i.e. friends who would show up at every gig and watch us play and cheer us on. Most of them stopped coming. Unlike your band we do not play that often. We also do not rotate set lists quite often since we have very little songs to chose from (my pet peeve).

 

Ask yourself this: would you go and see your band? If so, what would be the reason? Remember that this is the post-MTV era and people want something to watch. They need a show. Does your band put up a show, something (anything) that is left of centre enough for people to go: "Holy Blues Band, Batman!"? Or do you show up, dressed as if you just walked off the street into a bar and decided to jam a few tunes? My band is the latter. We have (finally) discussed working on that (after I wore the worst shirt ever to the most recent gig). I know you are thinking in the same direction.

"I'm a work in progress." Micky Barnes

 

The Ross Brown Shirt World Tour

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45 gigs? well, that's nothing to sneeze at. I think a lot of the reasons that you aren't drawing a big crowd is the economy. Second probably is geography, but also look at your fan base versus potential fan base. Is there a college nearby? Frats and other student organizations book bands, and one of them might want your band to play.

 

Corporate parties? Are there any promoters within 100 miles or so that you can tie-in with for some "All-Day Blues Jam" event. (probably not until next summer, but you can lay some groundwork now.)

 

Resorts?

 

As for the stage show and the rest, I'll leave it to the more experienced guys to opine upon.

 

All I can say is, if you enjoy what you are doing, and you are making enough to cover expenses, stick with it. Playing music you like in a band you like is better than sitting in your basement.

 

Another reason is exposure; if a band that needs a bassist like you, the best way to be seen is to be playing.

"Call me what instrument you will, though you can fret me, yet you cannot play upon me.'-Hamlet

 

Guitar solos last 30 seconds, the bass line lasts for the whole song.

 

 

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Are all your gigs poorly attended, or are some well attended and others not? What differences, if any, do you see that affect that? Should you try for some gigs a little further away from your core geographic area--ie, new markets? 100 songs is pretty good, but on a night with three ten song sets, you'd go through your entire repertoire in three gigs. Seems you might need to learn new songs and then promote that fact--"all new songs at our next show!"

 

 

"Everyone wants to change the world, but no one thinks of changing themselves." Leo Tolstoy
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Two gigs this month outside of our market. Last night.... and a few weeks ago we were playing to 3 people at one point... other gigs are packed. Too many gigs with very low turn out. I am checking today to see what other bands are seeing around here.
"When I take a stroll down Jackass Lane it is usually to see someone that is already there" Mrs. Brown
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I think most bands need a "star/showman" up front. I was a big Stevie Ray Vaugan fan. I went to see SRV and Double Trouble anytime they were in my area, which was monthly. All three were excellant musicians but when Stevie died, Double Trouble died also. What I am saying is, IMO, most audiences relate to the leader and go to hear him/her sing/play or both. We had a great local blues band here and they literally packed the joint no matter where they played. The lead singer/guitar wizard died two years ago. The other musicaians vanished a few days later. There are many, many good ways to promote your band, but the band must be a desirable attraction to keep the followers. I would work on the entertainment aspect

Rocky

"Democracy is two wolves and a lamb, voting on what to eat for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb, contesting the vote."

Benjamin Franklin

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Do you guys have an email list to send out notices of upcoming gigs to your base?

 

If not, start one -- just put a sign-up sheet at the front of the stage and while mingling with the crowd between sets encourage people to sign up.

 

Then a few days before each gig, send out a blast email to the list.

"Tours widely in the southwestern tip of Kentucky"
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That's just the way the cookie crumbles.

 

It's not your job to bring a crowd with you. If a venue gets a repuatation for puttting on good bands you will get a big crowd.

 

I suppose there are two angles to taking a renegotiated payout. At least he will probably ask you back. If you had demanded he pay the lot he may not have.

 

The problem with being in a band is that you hear yourselves every week playing the same material. The punters don't they hear one band one week, another the next. To them it's always fresh. Some of my freinds will go to a pub only when a certain band is on and only because they always playthe same songs - the ones that they like.

 

Mixing up the tunes and adding new ones keeps you fresh but it's only really for your own benefit.

Feel the groove internally within your own creativity. - fingertalkin

 

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The venue cancelled our remaining gigs, including the New Year's Eve gig. We had several folks tell us that we are great. Even the venue owners told us we are the best band they have had in a long time. This has nothing to do with our success there... bringing a crowd does. One of my frustrations is that many venues around here do not advertise at all...

 

I asked the band if they would go see us play.... they said yes.... I might... depending on who else was in town...

"When I take a stroll down Jackass Lane it is usually to see someone that is already there" Mrs. Brown
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All I can say is, if you enjoy what you are doing, and you are making enough to cover expenses, stick with it. Playing music you like in a band you like is better than sitting in your basement.

 

Exactly my thoughts.

 

I also agree with Rocky's "star/showman up front" comment. Stage personality means a lot. I've worked in many bands where the frontman drew large crowds because of his stage personality...even though some of those frontmen couldn't sing very well. (I'm being polite here.) ;)

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It's not your job to bring a crowd with you. If a venue gets a repuatation for puttting on good bands you will get a big crowd.

I've always thought this very same thing. People go to a club at times to hear a particular band play, but I think most of the time people would likely be going there anyway. IMO, a bands main job is to keep people in the bar, dancing and drinking more.

 

Most places around here don't advertise except for maybe on Facebook or their web page. I'm always leery of a club owner or manager who says wants to make our pay contingent on 'what we draw'.

 

I asked the band if they would go see us play.... they said yes.... I might... depending on who else was in town...

Ouch!! Sorry Ross, but this seems like a lack of enthusiasm by the one who said this.

Visit my band's new web site.

 

www.themojoroots.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

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It's not your job to bring a crowd with you. If a venue gets a repuatation for puttting on good bands you will get a big crowd.

I've always thought this very same thing. People go to a club at times to hear a particular band play, but I think most of the time people would likely be going there anyway. IMO, a bands main job is to keep people in the bar, dancing and drinking more.

 

Most places around here don't advertise except for maybe on Facebook or their web page. I'm always leery of a club owner or manager who says wants to make our pay contingent on 'what we draw'.

 

I asked the band if they would go see us play.... they said yes.... I might... depending on who else was in town...

Ouch!! Sorry Ross, but this seems like a lack of enthusiasm by the one who said this.

 

It was me... we are boring to watch... good sound though...

"When I take a stroll down Jackass Lane it is usually to see someone that is already there" Mrs. Brown
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Ross, no offense, man, but if you think the band is boring to watch: stop talking about it, get off your butt and lead by example.

 

I've found that clowning around, dancing to the music, cracking jokes with the audience, etc. is contagious. Pretty soon the other band members are doing the same. Then the crowd gets involved. Soon, everyone is feeding off everyone else.

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I've had similar experiences. It is what it is. What kinds of venues do you play? What are the demographics of that kind of venue. Hell, how old are you?

 

People my age are generally professional working type people nowdays. 25 years ago, it was a different story. In my neighborhood today, you have regulars and then you can bring some others with the typical marketing strategies that are used by bands. My band plays in venues that are a good fit for what we do. In the same neighborhood as people like us would normally be anyway.

 

We play to good crowds at our venues, but it wouldn't be like that just anywhere. Man, it just ain't about you. The rock band mentality where you like what you do and think its the "shizzy?", doesn't work in my world. Unless you've got obscene talent or gimmicks. I'm just sayin.

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I did a fill in gig last night with a fairly popular local blues-rock band called Shannon & The Rhythm Kings. Shannon is a lovely young lady who sings like an angel, and is pretty much the front person of most band's dreams. Her boyfriend Allen is a really fine guitarist, and not a bad showman himself. He and Shannon have been playing KC and environs together for about ten years, and are well-known in the area. In short, they are excellent musicians and performers, as well as knowledgeable, experienced professionals. They know the turf as well as their business.

 

I asked them for some advice on booking the band I'm in, because we haven't had a paying gig in months. I hoped they could tell me what we are doing wrong. They said they have given up trying to book a lot of gigs for a couple of reasons.

 

For one, it has been a struggle for them to find places that will pay a decent fee, which they have decided is $100 a head for a four-piece.

 

She said they've worked with booking agents, and their experience has been that the agents don't work very hard(if at all) at getting them more money, even after they had played places for smaller fees to get in the door. Now they did get increases, but it was because they themselves asked for them. The agent's percentage stayed the same, so they were getting THEM more money, the reverse of what they figure they were paying the agents for.

 

For another reason, she says it's hard to get excited about it after 10 years of playing the same places over and over again, especially when they end up playing to a lot of empty tables and chairs.

 

They said the most effective way they've found to get decent gigs is playing benefits where and when they can. For some reason, they seem to get a lot of interest from the people who attend the benefits. Facebook and My Space are useless for generating bookings. Even the(supposedly)tried and true old school method of burning up the phone lines and pounding the pavement to bars and clubs with promo packages and digital media doesn't work very well anymore around here.

 

She also said they don't do many gigs between New Years and spring, because the crowds tend to stay home in colder weather anyway. They use that time to write new material and work up different cover tunes.

 

For those reasons, they don't really bust their hump to book a lot of gigs anymore. They take the ones that pay what they're asking, and leave the rest. Shannon teaches yoga, which apparently pays pretty well. I'm not sure what Allen does for a day gig, but they seem to do okay for themselves.

 

I think the problems you are seeing in your band are pretty universal and not necessarily due to your personnel or presentation, and everyone is looking for answers to them that work. If you run across whatever it takes to solve them, let the rest of us in on it too, okay?

Always remember that you�re unique. Just like everyone else.

 

 

 

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The main reasons to go to a pub?

 

A band a friend is going to be playing in or a band you really like are on. Locally.

 

The pub has a good reputation for live music and even though you don't know the band that is playing you know it will be a good one.

 

The beer is good. In the UK we have real ales so I tend not to go to pubs that just serve lager if there is no band playing.

 

It's up to the landlord to make sure that the second two happen.

If you're playing locally you can influence the first.

A landlord can't expect you to bring a following if you're playing away from home. In the UK my friends won't travel more than 30mins to come and see me as they like to drink and would be travelling in taxis. In the US this may be different.

 

It doesn't matter how entertaining the band is if the landlord is bad and the beer is bad. It's a partnership: He has to advertise you locally even if he just puts up a poster provided by you, he has to have a good pub and reputation, you have to be a good band.

 

I can't understand why he has cancelled you for New Years Eve. Seems a bit close to start to find another band. I think there's more to it.

Feel the groove internally within your own creativity. - fingertalkin

 

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I think it may be harder in the larger cities to find good paying band jobs than it is where I live. Columbia, Mo. is a big small town with 70,000 college students. This alone helps the market somewhat.

There are many small towns within 50 miles if you want to travel some, but the crowds in most of these places are small.

I agree with TimR that you need SOMETHING in your band that draws in people, and you need to find the clubs that draw people as well. A band won't necessarily bring in money for a failing club though.

As for good paying gigs, we've had about ten this year that paid around $100 per man, all of them outdoors. For the rest we shoot for at least $50 per man in a four piece band. The economy really stinks these days and the country is still digging out of the recession.

 

Visit my band's new web site.

 

www.themojoroots.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I think this is more a testement of why live music is in trouble than wheter or not Ross' band can bring a crowd. We've hashed this out before.

 

I'm not buying the economy as an end result. There have been lots of econonmic downturns worse than this one (even though the other party is alway saying "this is the worse economy in the last 10/40 years" everytime the stock market corrects) and yet the bars can clubs actually thrived.

 

It's more a testiment to the new social norms. Public drunkeness is frowned upon. Cops hang out across the streets from the clubs every night after midnight. Local media publish names of offenders. Alcoholism and related illnesses are more frequently diagnosed. Organizations are increasing awareness of the evils of driving while impared. Industry and background checks can prevent you from getting a job (more on this later). Laws preventing smoking and "lewd behavior" mean smoking outside in inclimate weather or having to go next door sans drink to see boobies. State and local municipalities are using liquor and liquor license to make up for short falls in local govemernment due to fiscal buffoonery by imposing increased fees and taxes.

 

Let's face it. It ain't no fun going out and drinkin' anymore. Pressure is on the bar owners to do more with less.

 

I'm not an advicate of DUI or public drunkeness. Personlly, I dispise drunks in general. I'm just sayin' ...

 

Strange but true ... at the same time I was applying to get a promotion and transfered to the parent company of the prime contractor for the gum'mit job where I work, my pinhead son gets a DUI after rear-ending a 72 year old lady at a traffic light. The local paper printed (first sentence) "Suffer No Fools, 25, of "my home town" ... ".03 BAC" ... "booked by 'next town over' police for DUI" ... etc. Now, his real name is "Suffer No Fools, III". I am Suffer No Fools, Jr. The article didn't differenciate. The members of my band and some co-workers who read the paper (I didn't) called me so see if I was alright. The hiring manager already knew of the incident (he was my first report as a sub from my last job and we chitchat sometimes) and got a phone call from the agency doing the background checks.

 

This is why I drink at home. If I'm at a gig, I don't even do FREE drinks. Sorry I hijacked the thread.

 

Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn

 

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I think Ross you are just outlining the global position on playing in Bars. The economy has crapped itself, tax on having a good time is at its highest ever, the smoking ban in bars means they are nearly always half empty even when they are full.

 

Bands and venues have to work harder to make a night out a great night out, people don't want to risk the money. There always has to be a level of performance with a band, imo its that which differentiates how good a band is. Untill the economy recovers though I think gigs will continue to be vastly unpredictable in their outcomes.

 

You guys should work on the stage craft thing just for the fun of it and implement a 110% rule i.e. play every show like its your last whether there is 1 or a thousand people there. That 1 person deserves it.

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We play the same songs to the same people at the same venues over and over. This will change for next year or I am out.

 

I understand you are getting bored with the familiarity of the gigs you play and all, but don't be seduced by the 'grass is greener' syndrome. When you are doing 10 gigs a year, that might be different, but I'm sure most of us, with a few exceptions, could share how the grass that we thought looked so green really wasn't.

 

If you are getting bored with what you are doing, maybe try to get into a band doing something different but don't abandon your band for it until you know it's what you want to do and worth giving up what you have for it.

"Political language... is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind"- George Orwell
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You guys should work on the stage craft thing just for the fun of it and implement a 110% rule i.e. play every show like its your last whether there is 1 or a thousand people there. That 1 person deserves it.

 

I read an interview with John Fogerty of CCR once in which he was describing the band's gig at the original Woodstock Festival. They came on at some ungodly hour--let's say 4:00am--everyone in the audience was asleep or passed out, except for one guy Fogerty could see way off in the distance who was up and grooving to the band. "We played for that one guy," Fogerty said.

"Everyone wants to change the world, but no one thinks of changing themselves." Leo Tolstoy
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"We played for that one guy."

 

Well, I can understand that audience enthusiasm is a big plus but, like a former bandleader once told me, "you should always do your best, because you never know who might be listening."

 

I use this when trying to get the band to look the part, even in a crap hole bar... they think I'm nuts.

"When I take a stroll down Jackass Lane it is usually to see someone that is already there" Mrs. Brown
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Ross, no offense, man, but if you think the band is boring to watch: stop talking about it, get off your butt and lead by example.

 

I've found that clowning around, dancing to the music, cracking jokes with the audience, etc. is contagious. Pretty soon the other band members are doing the same. Then the crowd gets involved. Soon, everyone is feeding off everyone else.

 

I guess I meant I have a problem with our frontman (see numerous other threads). He is boring. I dance around. Guitard moves some. Drummer has some personality but is stuck behind drums.

 

I am in a period of interspection with the band and my role. I like to improve and keep moving forward. I realize that this is not the way everyone operates. If I keep accepting $75 for a gig, then great. If I want more, I need to insist (and get off my butt and do something about it). Same holds true for playing better, fuller venues. I am searching for answers and things to try.

 

This(these) posts represent a portion of what I do to solve my issues. I do more than talk about it here. I also do many things to try to make the situation/band better.

 

good responses.

"When I take a stroll down Jackass Lane it is usually to see someone that is already there" Mrs. Brown
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It's not your job to bring a crowd with you.
Unfortunately, over here that is exactly why most (struggling) venues hire bands. Really, it wouldn't matter to them if you plugged in and played or not; they just want you to advertise their venue to your family/friends/fans and bring a crowd. They are paying to advertise using your email/MySpace/Facebook/Twitter/etc. mailing lists.

 

As I posted before, one venue has gone so far as to say they will pay anyone a percent of sales if they bring 20+ people to their place. You don't have to do any more than that.

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We had several folks tell us that we are great. Even the venue owners told us we are the best band they have had in a long time. This has nothing to do with our success there... bringing a crowd does.
This is the same thing we (Ask Alice) hear over and over. One good thing that shakes out from this is invitations to private parties where we the job shifts to 100% performance and 0% marketing.
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Do you guys have an email list to send out notices of upcoming gigs to your base?
This strategy seemed to work a few years ago, but after every corporation in the world started asking people for their email address people have wised up. They set up an account just for junk and then don't check it (often). Or after they get tired of hearing the blasts they set the spam flag.

 

Another problem we saw is that people only come to see us at their favorite bar. They wouldn't also come to see us at the bar just 5 miles down the road, let alone the one halfway across town. If you do what you're supposed to do and rotate venues then 9 out of every 10 email blasts are considered spammy by these folks and pretty soon they tune you out.

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I guess I meant I have a problem with our frontman (see numerous other threads). He is boring. I dance around. Guitard moves some. Drummer has some personality but is stuck behind drums.

 

The sad truth is, a band is (usually) only as good as its front man. Unless it is a band named after one of the members, of course. From what little I have heard, your singer has a really good voice. I'd like a singer with a voice like that. But from what little I have seen, he makes me feel as if he does not want to be on stage and does not feel comfortable up there.

 

Perhaps he should strap on a guitar. For some reason people who do not move around a lot feel more comfortable with an instrument to hide behind. The worst part is, he could just hold it in a rock pose for most of the night, and people would think he is a rock god.

 

With no disrespect to Brian Setzer (I love his style of playing), this is more or less the look I am talking about:

 

http://play.rocknpopcast.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2008/02/brian-setzer-westbury_002.jpg

 

Works for The Boss, too:

 

http://www.fretbase.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/05/bruce-springsteen-live-1975_1985.jpg

 

And again, no disrespect to guitarists out there but anyone can learn to strum a few chords so they look like they have a reason for holding a guitar.

 

This(these) posts represent a portion of what I do to solve my issues. I do more than talk about it here. I also do many things to try to make the situation/band better.

 

Here's where you and I differ :grin:

"I'm a work in progress." Micky Barnes

 

The Ross Brown Shirt World Tour

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Should you try for some gigs a little further away from your core geographic area--ie, new markets?
Most venues will not hire a cover band from the other side of town because they are afraid the band will not draw.

 

We played some teen-only shows at a library that is an hour away. They love us. One of the younger librarians said we were better than the local bands and talked to her favorite venues about hiring us. They all said the same thing; we are too far away to draw. It's about bringing people in the door and not about entertaining regulars.

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A few more things.

 

Many here are spot on when they mention branding. A band has to do something to differentiate it from all the others. There are many ways to do this, but one is to offer some originals.

 

I while back I picked 80s-LZ's brain on building a following. One reason his band has such a large following is that he is constantly working on his mailing list. The one thing he did that I haven't tried yet is putting flyers/cards under windshield wipers at every large event in town. A parking lot full of cars owned by people who actually go out and do things is a gold mine. (Also, see how his band is successfully branded with an '80s theme and costumes.)

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