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OT: Can I "make it big" living in a small town?


groovyjazzyfunky

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I like where I live. It's where I grew up. It's where I own a house. It's home. But it's not a big town, and it's not very music-oriented. Theoretically, if I could put together a seriously kick-ass band here (which I have confidence that I'm on the right track to doing), it seems that we could base ourselves here, do weekend gigs in Seattle and Portland (about a 4-hour drive to each), and still have as good a chance as any band at making it as "rock stars." Am I dreaming? Is big-city-living the only way to make it big? Any thoughts/opinions would be greatly appreciated. I've got some big decisions to make. I'm almost 27 years old. I realize that's not "old" in human being terms, but it's starting to feel a bit old in "becoming a rock star" terms. I just don't want to be 45 and wondering what might have been if I'd made different decisions in pursuing my dreams. Thanks.
All your bass are belong to us!
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"Trying to be a Rockstar" is a bad idea in general. Nice to have dreams, but it's also nice to be realistic.

 

Your chances are slim. Your more likely to become a professional baseball player or football player, as these goals are achieved through merit and ability in combination with luck.

 

Becoming a rockstar is mostly luck.

 

Are your chances of being heard better if you move to the big city? I don't know. It could go either way; yes, you have more exposure to A&R types, but you will also be thrown into a sea of thousands of other bands that happen to be very good and you might get lost in the mix.

 

Do what makes you happy. What will happen if you up and move and you don't make it?

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You can enjoy being a

Big Fish in a Small Pond...

 

IMO...you should have something to fall back on in case your dreams are not realized...

and enjoy the music.

 

You might be the best in town but as you see and hear whats on the airwaves these days...

talent does not have much to do with whats playing on the Top 40 radio stations...

 

Good Luck to you...

www.danielprine.com

 

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I also am in a small town -600 people- and have felt the woes of which you speak. In the early 80's a guitarist and I took off for LA with "The Dream" and almost starved to death. When I moved from S.F. to my current digs I had to get used to small town music mentality but once I got it into perspective I felt alot better.

We are the top of the rock locally (or luckily)and deal with a promoter that books us into larger 1 nighters within 100 mile radius and that works well with our reality and feeds our egos too.

You can be a rockstar in your own town - very few people know my name but I get alot of "Hey Bassman!"

"He is to music what Stevie Wonder is to photography." getz76

 

I have nothing nice to say so . . .

 

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There is a somewhat malignant misconception in out culture which equates "success" with "fame" and "wealth". In the music imdustry this is manifested in the "rock star dream". Being a good and successful musicican does not neccessarily mean being a rock star. And,, in fact (and this is something I stress to my students), if you are playing music in hopes of being "discovered and signed" and becoming a rock star, then your goals are tragically misaligned.

Our desire to make music, to be musicians, should come from a need, a compulsion, to make music and not from dreams of stardom.

 

In the imdustry, with the exception of well established "stars", most of the popular artists we might think of as rock stars are not actually rich...most are in fact quite in debt to their label (to whom they must slave feverishly to pay off adavnces, production and touring costs, etc. When I work sessions, I genereally make more money that the artist for whom I am employed.).

The myth of the rich rock star is just that...a myth. Even most successful "new" bands wind out their year quite in the hole ( a famous case is of a few years ago when Marilyn Manson hit is big; sold millions of units and ended the year 6 million dollars in debt to their label!).

 

And...at 27, you are, in the eyes of the music industry, "over the hill"; labels are not interested in throwing $ into bands/artists pushing 30, as the market (now) which they are exploiting is a youth market. And, I will just graze the surface of the fact that the industry is in dire financial straits ( the figures presented over the past few years of gross earning are severly misrepresentative as most are based on CD re-issues of past works, and that particular pool is drying up quickly!), and so the quick profit turnaround of the youth market is what the labels are looking for.

 

But, don't get too depressed. If you can play, and assuming from your post you can, then you can eak out a decent living as a musician. You can, with some clever skills, even be quite successful, although not at "stadium level". Being signed to a label really means being an indentured servant to their mechanism. Each CD sold gives the artist but a mere pitance of royalty, most of which they never see as first their debt to the label must be paid back...oh this is whole new thread for that subject!

Yet, if you sell but a mere 1000 CDs of which you own completely, all profits are returned to you, minus costs incurred in producing the CD (which can be minimized by owning your own studio gear...). In the long run you can make more for yourself, albeit without the fame and trappings of a rock star.

 

Then there are side "jobs" within the industry. Producing, sessions, teaching, doing sound...all skills which you have learned through being a musician. With a sort of entrepenerial attitude you can make those work for you....and as a result you can live wherever you wish.

 

I live just outside of a small town of 3000 people. I have my own studio. I "commute" to LA (about 3.5 hrs) for occaisional sessions and sideman jobs. I teach, write, compose music for films, produce and arrange for others, perform with various bands and as a solo bassist (in fact I even tour as a soloist!). I am 44 years old. I own my own house (in fact two of them) and last year made well over $50,000 from music alone.

 

If your "dream" is to be a successful musician, then by all means pursue it....that is entirely possible. Pursue it with all the passion and power you can muster. But, if your dream is merely to be a "star", perhaps you should re-evaluate what it is you really want, as that particular brass ring is so very elusive and superficial.

 

Best of luck,

Max

...it's not the arrow, it's the Indian.
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Max: Again a thoughtful post from you!

 

(Also, Max, check your PMs. I had a question for you a while back about a follow-up to your Caravan CD.)

 

Discomb: For now, travel for those big city gigs. If being able to play them more frequently or regularly becomes necessary, then re-consider a move. In the meantime, doing stuff like developing a good website, etc. will help bring you to a wider audience, even if not thru performance.

 

Peace.

--SW

spreadluv

 

Fanboy? Why, yes! Nordstrand Pickups and Guitars.

Messiaen knew how to parlay the funk.

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Originally posted by getz76:

Your more likely to become a professional baseball player or football player, as these goals are achieved through merit and ability in combination with luck.

If you knew me and my athletic abilities, you wouldn't say that. ;)

 

I agree with most of what's been said here. I am realistic and I understand that counting on winning the lottery would probably be a better plan than counting on a highly successful career in music. But still, it's been my dream since I was 10, playing music is much more satisfying than buying lottery tickets, I'm a fairly young guy without any major commitments (no wife, kids, "career" -- just this house that I'd take over apartment-dwelling any day), so why not go for it? The main reason I ask if living in a big city is the only way to "make it," is because that's what everybody around here seems to think. All my friends and family: "So if you want to be a successful musician, then why are you living *here*?" It's hard to explain to them that the industry is in such a crappy state right now that my chances are as good as anyone's anywhere, but I wanted to know what you guys thought.

All your bass are belong to us!
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P.S. I am definitely more interested in being a "successful musician" than in being a "rock star." My dream is to be able to fully support myself by doing what I love, which is, always has been, and always will be (i have a feeling) playing music. I wouldn't shun fame and popularity (what performing musician doesn't want to share his music with as many people as possible?), or making obscene amounts of money, but that's definitely not my motivation. I just want to do what I love, and make a living with it so that I can do it as much as possible.
All your bass are belong to us!
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Originally posted by Discombobulation:

P.S. I am definitely more interested in being a "successful musician" than in being a "rock star." My dream is to be able to fully support myself by doing what I love, which is, always has been, and always will be (i have a feeling) playing music. I wouldn't shun fame and popularity (what performing musician doesn't want to share his music with as many people as possible?), or making obscene amounts of money, but that's definitely not my motivation. I just want to do what I love, and make a living with it so that I can do it as much as possible.

Good luck, man. Lucky and rare is the individual that can support themselves doing what they love. Most of us end up calling it "work", and it's no fun anymore. Went through the same thing when I did freelance commercial art. It's not like Pickaway County, OH is a thriving megapolis, but I am closer to Columbus than you are to Spokane. I do believe Columbus is a bigger college town than either Spokane or Pullman. Buy good gear, keep practicing, and hope lightening strikes. Sometimes it does.

 

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

 

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Max said it all, better than most anyone else could.

 

If we are going for the famous band lottery, I don't think it's necessary to be in the big city anymore. Mostly it's necessary to pour music into the project....for a self-produced cd, for advertising, for someone who pushes your cd to labels. If you do get signed and you have your own money to throw at promotion and touring, the record company will be more interested in putting their money into to on top of that.

 

One thing that a company will be looking at, beside what your self-financed cd sounds like, is Can you sell out a room? What is your live show?

 

But that doesn't seem to be so necessary anymore.

Counting Crows, Mariah Carey, Macy Gray, and many others never performed live before their records came out.

 

The best thing to do would be to follow Mariah Carey's example and marry Tommy Mottola. I think he's single again now, so you've got a chance.

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Or you could marry Mutt Lang... nevermind :D

Something to add to all the great points is that it may be easier to create a following in a small town. A fan base is very important to record labels and the survival of a band in general, and in a small town with less competition you can probably find more devoted fans.

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My two cents:

 

I live in a podunk town called Eunice, La-- My band practices in Baton Rouge -- a 1.5. hour drive at least twice a week; most gigs are in New Orleans, a 2.5 hour drive.

 

I LOVE IT.

 

If you're not afraid a throwing a little change in the gas tank, it can be very rewarding to do a little commuting if you desire the 'big city' accolades but not ready to break camp.

"Women and rhythm section first" -- JFP
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The internet has completely leveled the playing field, as far as I'm concerned. We're selling more CDs and getting more gigs now, living in rural (and I mean RURAL!) Missouri, than we did when we lived in Seattle. In a big city you're just one of a million bands, but when you're "freelance" you can travel anywhere and play in the regions that like you best. The people in our region have no idea who we are because we seldom actually play here. This is assuming you already have a band that's willing to tour and put in the effort you want to put in. I guess it might be more difficult if you're seeking out fellow musicians, just because you might not have a big pool to choose from.

 

Anyhow, you can be successful anywhere you live, regardless of size. Focus on the benefits of living in a smaller town -- lower cost of living, better quality of life (if you prefer small town to metropolis), etc. -- and use your uniqueness as a selling point: "We're the Dim Danglers, the best (and only) jazz-fusion-death-a-billy band to come out of Kennewick!"

 

Give it all you got and don't have any regrets! :thu:

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Max, ClatterAmy and JeremyC offered some genuine pearls. They're all working musicians, and they've found a way to make it work. Max is right, first and foremost, you've got to be in this for the love of music first and foremost. If you aren't and you don't wind up making money, then what have you got to show for it?

 

Amy makes a great point about the internet and the whole DIY thing. It's the best way to reach people you might not reach by gigging alone. Get to know the independent music scene online as well as you can, and then keep at it like you've got a hellhound on your tail! It's a lot of time and hard work, but you could wind up generating a pretty good fanbase in a city you've never even been to just by using the internet. The DIY thing has paid off bigtime for some artists. Just look at Ani DiFranco and Righteous Babe records. She toured her butt off, did endless self-promotion, and put out her own records. As a result, she's making a boatload more money than a lot of major label acts since she isn't beholdant to a label that's acting like a banker and taking in most of the money from record sales. Even more important than the money is the fact that she's able to do what she wants, and doesn't have to answer to and A&R person or other record executives who "don't hear a hit".

 

As for being in or near a big city...my opinion may differ from others here, but I think if you're closer to more places where you can work, the better. It makes it easier for you to take last minute gigs when you're closer to the venues. It's also good for you to be in a bigger area because there's a bigger audience there. The downside is that there are also more bands and hence more competition. But, as Max mentioned earlier, there are also more anciliary music jobs like sessions, giving lessons, doing sound, producing, weddings, sidegigs, etc.

 

As for making it....having been in a couple of serious original projects over the past 6-7 years in the NYC area, an area with a myriad of venues, huge audiences and the home of umpteen record labels...you're in for an uphill battle. Especially since I can get lumped into that "over the hill" category at the ripe young age of 31. Do it for the music first. You'll be more personally satisfied. Then, if the music is that good, and you can promote it reasonably well on the 'net, you might be able to get some buzz going.

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"My concern is, and I have to, uh, check with my accountant, that this might bump me into a higher, uh, tax..."

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If you're running your own band I think being in a small town is definitely better because you're going to be touring anyway. You can keep costs down, have better quality of life, sell your merchandise on Internet and let people know where you are playing via website.

 

If you're a freelance player who needs to play in a bunch of different situations, being near a big city is better because of more opportunity for work and higher wages. Of course, you'd better have it together because the competition is fierce. That said, there are plenty of great players all over the country who make a living in their towns. But the smaller markets usually have a couple of go-to guy/gals. You just have to be that guy/gal.

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Note: If you're really concerned about not having a 'big city' image, do what we did.

 

Our band's 'booking line' is a cell phone we registered in New Orleans, with a New Orleans ph #.

 

So no one (outside of this message board, and we know YOU WON'T TELL) knows we're actually based out of Podunkville, USA.

"Women and rhythm section first" -- JFP
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Originally posted by Thomas Wilburn:

We've been known to bill ourselves as "The Hardest Working Band in Centreville." But I don't think most people are terribly impressed.

Hey! WE'RE the hardest working band in Centreville (MD)! :D

Petting Hendrix

 

Do you know what it's like to fall in the mud and get kicked in the head by an iron boot? Of course you don't--no one does--that never happens.

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Originally posted by mstreck:

Originally posted by Thomas Wilburn:

We've been known to bill ourselves as "The Hardest Working Band in Centreville." But I don't think most people are terribly impressed.

Hey! WE'RE the hardest working band in Centreville (MD)! :D
My apologies. The royalty check is in the mail.
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Hello!!

Work on your act and playing,promotion and see where it goes!If your act takes off then you can move around.

Im a bassist from england,i used to live in a small village in a county called Cheshire(nr Manchester)I started as a drummer,but decided to swich to bass a gut reaction told me too.

I started in the pubs playing covers,i lived in a small village and didn't drive.I had to play in my local area,i dreamed of touring as a pro.Many bands later,i was recomended to a group and joined on the srength of sixty gigs around the country,but only giged workingmens clubs.I met some musicians who were a big influence on me on the buisness side of music.

I am now a full time pro working bassist.I had to go out and find the experience of been in bands.

I too started out with the dream of been a famous musician who lived in a small village.

Im too starting out as a bassist,am pro yes,but in a touring band,yes im 25 but still a young dapper musician.I decided it was best to get experience on the road,but i know il make my name as a bassist in a rock n roll band.

I find go where the music takes you,thats what ive learned,ive travelled stayed at lots of places and slept on musicians floors in differnt towns for months on end.

All the best with your band,your still young at 27.

If you belive in yourself and your band,youl get there.

I think you dont have to move as you can travel around and see how it goes!

All the best mate!

 

Andy Till Check out my bass playing at fllorshakers.com

Andy Till.Touring Bass Guitarist.

Ampeg-Fender-Rickenbacker.

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