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L5Larry

Letter To Bar Owners

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I think who is interested in what kind of music tends to be more a matter of what venues appeal to what age groups and what there are for bands in an area.

 

There's one group around here for example that does quite well with 50s and 60s "cryin' in mah beer" country music.

 

The pros I know who make a living at it do largely "classic rock" and "classic country." One guy my age who has made his living at it for somewhere over 45 years is in the process of turning the band over to his daughter who plays keyboard. She's gorgeous but no child or teen.

 

If you don't want to make money around here, you play current rock styles or traditional acoustic, it seems. I even know a coupla weekender types who have a jazz guitar duo and nice regular gigs. (Their guitars are something I'd love to steal if I were into larceny. Alas, I'm not. Darn it. <grin>)

 

m

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As to playing for money, as opposed to "the love of it," All I can say

is...you don't get rich, playing in bars...at least, not around here!

We ONLY play, Because we LOVE it! It's nice, to make some money, for

travel expenses, wear and tear on our gear, etc...and, maybe a little

bit of "spending" money. But, if I, and my band mates didn't LOVE it,

we simply wouldn't be playing, period! ;>b

 

However, if this ASCAP/BMI thing gets any worse, we may not have any place

left, to play in. ;>(

 

CB

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So now you're the spokesman for "Everyone", 'Cause "Everyone" didn't get the message.

No, just the spokesman for 95% of the population from the ages 21-35.

Nothing wrong with getting paid for playing music or making enough doing it to pay the bills. I just stated that I would rather see some weekend warriors playing their own sh*t than a "pro" cover band grinding out the same 20 classic rock covers. Somebody just gets crabby and defensive for no reason :angry: I never said your a sell out if you play more than twice a week and make more than $800 a month playing bars.

I just get annoyed when some guy blasts the bar industry for his problems. The rest of the world adapts and makes changes when they have problems at work, but I guess if your an old guy in a cover band, its everyone else' fault. If he hates bars so much, maybe he should play somewhere else?

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No, just the spokesman for 95% of the population from the ages 21-35.

Nothing wrong with getting paid for playing music or making enough doing it to pay the bills. I just stated that I would rather see some weekend warriors playing their own sh*t than a "pro" cover band grinding out the same 20 classic rock covers. Somebody just gets crabby and defensive for no reason :angry: I never said your a sell out if you play more than twice a week and make more than $800 a month playing bars.

I just get annoyed when some guy blasts the bar industry for his problems. The rest of the world adapts and makes changes when they have problems at work, but I guess if your an old guy in a cover band, its everyone else' fault. If he hates bars so much, maybe he should play somewhere else?

You're so far wrong on so many points I have no where to start. I don't often quote Barbara Bush, but, "I'm done with you."

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Jocko...

 

I'm personally convinced you nailed it, regardless that one's playing classical material, jazz, rock or country variations.

 

m

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Old fashioned +1 for Jocko.

 

If one hasn't been bitten by the Entertainer Bug then one probably won't enjoy playing live covers. Or playing Live at all, for that matter.

 

When we were in the market for a new drummer this last summer (our original drummer jumped ship a week before a 4th of July gig) we had the best drummer I ever played with trying out. But he balked at the idea of travel, he didn't really like to set up for gigs, he didn't really get a charge out of playing live (especially covers), and he didn't like to stay up late but he was willing to do it. We went with the enthusiastic drummer that already traveled in other bands, loved to play live, doesn't mind the grind before and after the show, and can't get enough attention from the crowd. His chops may not have been as Mind Blowing as the first candidate, but he fit the entertainer bill to the tee.

 

On a disclaimer sort of a side note, at least 90%-95% of the bars we deal with know what they're doing, pay promptly, and treat us like a business relation (even the ones that don't call us back stay in good standing in case they need us one day). In fact, it's conversations with some of these Owners and Managers that helped shape my opinion. "You have to create a scene," one such Bar manager told me. "It may look bad on the books for the first couple months, but you have to have good music in there every weekend until your reputation builds." He finished with something about Bad News travels faster than Good News and it doesn't seem to need a courier. That "beyond the numbers" understanding of how a Public House should be run made sense, and always stuck with me.

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Hmmmmm, well...I grew up watching "non-show" musicians...that is,

their enthusiasm, for what they were doing, was "show" enough, back

then. Some the the Motown bands, had a kind of "show," with dance

steps, or some costume changes, etc. But, most of what I saw,

back then, were just great bands, with great musicianship, doing what they

did best. The first "special effect" I ever really witnessed, live,

was when the Yardbirds used a flashing "strobe" light, during "Over,

Under, Sideways, Down, when played live, in 1966-67, or so.

Then all of a sudden, everyone was using strobe lights, and fog machines,

and light shows, etc. Didn't do the music any good...or make the musicians

play any better, but...it was visually interesting, for a while...then it

just got distracting, and tedious. To this day, big act or not, I still

prefer "simple" but enthusiastic, to complicated stage shows! But, that's

just (old) me, I guess? ;>)

 

There's just too much "Vegas" in "live" music, for me, today.

 

CB

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Hmmmmm, well...I grew up watching "non-show" musicians...that is,

their enthusiasm, for what they were doing, was "show" enough, back

then. Some the the Motown bands, had a kind of "show," with dance

steps, or some costume changes, etc. But, most of what I saw,

back then, were just great bands, with great musicianship, doing what they

did best. The first "special effect" I ever really witnessed, live,

was when the Yardbirds used a flashing "strobe" light, during "Over,

Under, Sideways, Down, when played live, in 1966-67, or so.

Then all of a sudden, everyone was using strobe lights, and fog machines,

and light shows, etc. Didn't do the music any good...or make the musicians

play any better, but...it was visually interesting, for a while...then it

just got distracting, and tedious. To this day, big act or not, I still

prefer "simple" but enthusiastic, to complicated stage shows! But, that's

just (old) me, I guess? ;>)

 

There's just too much "Vegas" in "live" music, for me, today.

 

CB

 

+1

 

When I saw the Greenhornes (kind of a 60s garage rock style, you might like them if you liked the Yardbirds and other bands like them) they played a straight up show and let the music do the talking.

 

However, the Black Keys for their finale had some cool effects with the lights and a disco ball. But it was tasteful, not going throughout the entire show. I want good music, not a light show

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You're so far wrong on so many points I have no where to start. I don't often quote Barbara Bush, but, "I'm done with you."

Your right, I am sorry. I just did some research and learned that I actually really like classic rock cover bands of really old guys much more than bands that play their own music. My 28-33 year old friends that have no interest in seeing a classic rock cover band are also wrong, and have decided to come with me to see old men play Zeppelin covers rather than the original Blues/Jazz/Rock shows we have been mistakenly attending since college. I also learned that you are totally right, and that bands should make no efforts to promote themselves or adapt to the ever changing music scene.

Thank you for imparting your vast wisdom.

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Awwwwww.... C'mon guys...

 

I've traveled enough that I can say this with certainty: Different communities, regions and even areas of a larger city will often have very different sorts of saloon-goers. Some will like 50s stuff, some jazz, some "folkie," some "old country," etc., etc., etc.

 

The trick, as Jocko noted, is to entertain regardless of the musical style.

 

There also are some entertainers who almost defy stylistic categorization, but do rather well at holding crowds with music and banter.

 

As an old guy, I've reeeeally gotta be convinced a band playing new original material is worth the price of a single shot of Scotch, and that's gotta be before I darken the door. OTOH, a jazz or blues trio or band almost certainly will gain my interest even if they look sour when they play. <grin>

 

In a "new" city, I'm likely to try whatever is close and listen a bit before I buy a drink.

 

That's not because I don't appreciate many styles of music, because I do, but I'm the same as almost anyone, at least in my general age group, in an audience: I want to be entertained.

 

I'm pointing at myself in my own youth here in that it's too often that young "bands" of one to how many other musicians, tend to take themselves too seriously musically and appeal only to a single same-mentality group of folks. That cuts down their broader appeal.

 

OTOH, I've come across groups of all ages and all styles who had a sense of humor and a bit of "crowd identification" that made them worthwhile to stay to watch and listen to that goes well beyond their style of music or even instrumental/vocal skills.

 

This is pretty much the same thing Jocko said, but in different terms.

 

m

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LOL - Jnastynebr you gotta relax man your too young to be so tense, take some advice from one of those old dudes you don't care about listening too, life's too short and it's just the internet. [unsure]

 

 

Gotta love it though with you getting madder and madder and your demographics getting smaller and smaller;

 

First it was Everyone in the world and your playing for free just because you love it.

 

Than it was 95% of everybody 21-35 and your making $800 a month playing music in bars.

 

Then it became just your friends 28-33 since college.

 

Man if this post keeps going pretty soon your gonna be talking about a few guys that are 31 or 32 and then a few more posts and it'll just be you, which is fine really since that's pretty much what an opinion is in the long run anyway.

 

Just remember you can't be a has been if you never become something.

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I am relaxed and half joking. I don't get upset over comments I read on the internet. Just realized my demographic did get smaller. Oops. Well now its just me, my wife, and my buddy Bob. And yes, you are in the clear if you pull in $799, but a complete sell out if you make $805. My attempt to convey sarcasm is used to deconstruct my argument rather than addressing my points, which are clearly presented:

-Younger people are less interested in this type of entertainment.

-Bars have many less expensive options for drawing people to their establishment. For example: the local sold out college or pro game, UFC fight, or pay-per-view boxing match, dueling pianos have become very popular, Karaoke is cheap to do early in the week, and last but not least, killer drink specials are a good way to get people to come hang out.

-Bars are not exempt from economic hardship, and when people start spending less money when they go out, owners have to think of creative ways to keep the $ flowing. A local bar recently started doing beer-pong on Mondays, and it has really expanded business early in the week.

In the 1980s, my bar had bands 3 nights a week. Now, we hire bands once a week, or maybe every-other week.

-Unique or gimmicky groups draw the crowds, and they are the ones that get the gigs. We hire a Grateful Dead/ Phish sounding cover band once every few months because half the hippies in town come out to see them. We also hire a funk/horn cover band because of the diverse crowd that they draw. We also hire a group that plays 50s-early 60s covers and wears matching suits and plays old hollow bodies. They are probably the coolest and best group that we hire. We also hire a three piece that does an acoustic and walking bass folk/comedy act. Also a great draw. My punk inspired/80s influenced/pop group also plays for dad's beer night ($2.00 old style/PBR tall boys). These are the type of groups that we hire.

We promote upcoming shows with fliers in the bar, and posts on facebook/myspace. Other than that we expect the groups we hire to help get the word out on the gig.

In closing, we are all about hiring fresh groups that draw a crowd. We get demos/cold calls from bands all over the Midwest. If they don't market themselves well, present a good attitude, have an original sound, and a gimmick to make them stand out, they don't get hired. Right before I moved and started a new career 3 months back, we hired an 80's metal band with leather, hair, the whole deal, and they walked in with a sh*tty attitude, tried to renegotiate our agreement, and started b*tching about the facilities. It was a slow night so I sent them packing without a $ before they even got their amps in the door. Within an hour I had a four piece jazz combo setting up.

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I remember being asked why we came in thru the front door? At the same gig while we were on break eating they waitress came by and picked up the condiments and said we weren't allowed to use them because they cost extra.

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I don't play for the money if I did I would starve to death.

I play in a band, do live shows and record because I enjoy music.

It is cathartic and fun whether we play to 2000 people or 5(AKA "Live practice")

so if ya' hate so much quit, and STFU.

That way those of us that DO have a good time can enjoy ourselves.

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Wow quite a thread started with a joke and now fighting; I don't know about elsewhere but in my area its the same as in the 70's before I joined the military. I have been in and out of bands since the 70's and also a member of the USAF Tops in Blues Program and I do enjoy playing music. The current band I am in has got me back on guitar again and we have auditioned and have a new bass player. So for we have had 5 gigs this year and plenty more on the books and allot of that craigs list joke is true; although if its a decent club they should pony up also. We play at Thunders allot here in S Miss and its a 2k capacity sized club and the stage is frigging huge; out of all the times we have played there three of those times they asked us to play a additional set and the bar paid us extra cash for that. For me its almost a 80 mile round trip to the bar and the day starts at the singers house loading up all the stuff around 630pm and I usually get home around 430am.

 

On the subject of originals I would love to do exactly that but there is no market in our area for this; and out of what clubs remain after Katrina only 2 will let you play originals. The guys in the band are really cool and we agree on doing originals but after we have a large enough following so we can start throwing some weight around. We are a heavier band doing Seether, Sabbath, Dio, White Zombie, and Alice in Chains to name a few and we have yet to have a bad night with the crowd.

 

Playing out has more to do with entertaining the crowd than playing just music; oh you can be a 5hit hot guitar player (or any other instrument) but if you don't play to the crowd you aint 5hit. You have to work a crowd and this is how you have good nights. I learned while I was a member of USAF Tops in Blues there is a formula to having a great night. First its seventy five percent presentation and twenty five percent actually playing the material; this is a flexible rule but generally its true in all occasions. Then another important rule is never play more than 80% of your current ability at shows, so basically that means at practice you can be adventurist but at the show you have a built in reserve. Another very important thing is to get along with the other members of the your band. Just because "So and So" is the hottest player in town does not mean he is the best for your situation; I can name many professional acts that sucked at this rule. You always need to check egos at the door; its fine to have some attitude with the fans but not your band mates.

 

Currently my band is not the best on the coast, and I know this is so very true but those great bands are not working as much as we are because of everything I have said above. There are many here on this board who like to fight and quite a few who know everything; sadly this is only in their own mind. While I do not know everything the time spent with Tops was a very enjoyable and humbling experience and allowed me to become a better musician. Not too many people here that would hang up their guitar and by a bass amp and play a few months worth of gigs for the collective unit. I know there are a few here who do both; and these individuals are the ones who I would love to jam with one day, the ones who put having fun while playing with others above the ego crap.

 

J

 

Jocko,

 

Would you elaborate on what this means exactly? I think I know but I'm not sure I follow 100%

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Everyone has a certain plateau of skills and lets say I can play the beginning to "Sweet Child O Mine" correctly most of the time but there is always a chance I will screw it up; granted practice will cure it but lets leave that for practice and not live. We all know our ability and whats stretching your ability; above is just a example. IOW play things your comfortable with and not near the top of your playing ability. It should be common sense although I have seen many (and feel prey to my own ego) individuals who fail to hold back and end up failing themselves.

 

Hopefully this explains it better.

 

Bingo! That helps for sure. Wise words. However, it is more exciting to live and play on the edge...

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Ya know what would be really cool, walk into a Bar where the Bartender is pouring free top shelf drinks because he enjoys Bartending so much. After all, there are people who have their own bars at home and enjoy mixing their own drinks, so it only seems fair......

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All kidding aside on this one...

 

I get a kick out of how some of our age differences will reeeeeally color our descriptions of things and our terminology.

 

Jnasty doesn't apparently consider his 50s-60s outfit a "classic rock cover band."

 

I definitely do. But I've a hunch I've got more than a few years on him.

 

It's kinda like, and I hate to admit this, that old Harmony archtop electric guitar or - alas that he's gone - my 1955 Chrysler New Yorker 2-door hardtop with that nice hemi engine and directions that "when driving at sustained speeds of 120 miles per hour or above, reinflate tire pressures 2 to 3 pounds."

 

What's a "classic" car? Not that Chrysler. That was MY car. So was the 1961 383-325 horse Chrysler that I never figured exactly what the top end was - but it was over 140 mph the way this one was geared, and that's by timing a trip rather than watching the speedometer.

 

Classic cars? Nope, Mine. Classics are the older models from the 30s. <grin>

 

m

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