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charlie brown

What is Wrong, with Local/Area "Live Music," these days?!

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When I grew up, in the '50's, and started playing in the '60's,

there was a very lively "live music scene, with a "teen hop,"

or some other form of "live" local/area music, every weekend,

in town, or at the very least, the surrounding towns. Now,

that's simply not the case. What happened? Karaoke? ASCAP/BMI?

Cable TV? 4 dollar a gallon Gasoline? "All of the above?"

 

What can we do, to change or reinvigorate the local/area live

music scenes, if anything?

 

Your thoughts, and ideas, welcomed!

 

CB

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Dubstep and other electronic music are pretty much the modern equivilent of the whole 60s rock thing. The festivals are now raves and the acid is now ecstacy. And there's acid too.

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The band thing is dead in my area except for a couple of bands that are well known and draw beer drinkers. New bands looking to play around don't have a chance, I blame it on the guys that go up for half the price and a lap top full of midi files to play along with. I tried to get in with a couple of bands I was in a few years back but you just can't compete with someone who will do the same job, albeit poorly for less than half the price.

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Well, at times, we have Karaoke, to compete with, in the local bars, around here.

So far, no "DJ's" and disco, stuff. "Country" is very big, around here, but even

those bands stuggle, to find a place to play "out/live" anymore. Rural areas, where

I live, seem to be especially bad, in that regard, now. This was NOT the case, years

ago. And, not having lived here, for 40 years, I was surprised re: shocked, to see

what's happened. It's odd, too...that when a decent local/area band does play, they

get a pretty decent crowd, and response. But, that doesn't seem to set off any "bells"

to the venue owners, like you would think it might. So...???

 

CB

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All of the above and more. I am just old enough to remember the English "youth club" scene before what were termed "discos" e.g.., guys with lights, turntables, and a couple of big speakers, stared to dominate the scene. In fact, as I remember it, the arrangement was often discos and bands on alternate Friday nights. At that time, there were still a large number of working bands playing chart covers for kids to dance to. The disco's eventually won out because of economics and public tase:

 

The "discos" (where I grew up, the term originally referred to the mobile record playing set-up, not the place it was playing) were simply cheaper to run – a band had to pay 3-5 people. One person could run a couple of turntables. The sound of chart records was getting harder and harder to duplicate with the gear available to the average musician, and (the one that really kills me) The kids listening to the music generally preferred a loud stereo system playing a hit record to four local guys doing their version of it, or, god forbid, an original song. The "chart" bands died out in the early 70's leaving only niche audiences (blues, jazz "heavy rock") and older audiences , who traditionally liked dancing to a "band" on a Friday rather than "records"

 

Volume also played a part. Although I read a lot of comments about how clubs now expect bands to play unreasonable quietly, I don't remember small club gigs being that loud in the 70's. Very few of the clubs had their own PA, and most of the bands carried just a small pair of column speakers and miked nothing but the vocals. You never saw anything bigger than an AC 30, or occasionally a 50W Marshall. As big amps got cheaper and cheaper in real terms, and younger and younger (and less disciplined) musicians started showing up with full Marshall stacks and Hendrix fantasies, the bands just got so loud that audiences left the hall to be able to talk. Promoters looked at an empty dance floor and a bunch of people standing outside and asked why they were hiring a band at all.

 

Also, the amount that clubs are willing to pay bands just seems to have been going down for at least the last 20 -30 years. When I was a teenage apprentice at the phone company, my one-quarter share of the money from a good Friday and Saturday night gig almost doubled my income. Dive bars were still paying bands $200 a night in the early 80's when the minimum wage was $3.25 an hour. Two gigs in a four -piece band earned you as much as 30 hours at a day job. Now, they still want to pay $200 a night, and two gigs in a four piece makes each member the equivalent of just 13 hours of work at minimum wage.

 

Finally, I think that younger kids, who made up the bulk of the live music audience in the 60s and 70s, have so many more entertainments and distractions on which to spend their money nowadays. A live band was a big thrill when I was a kid. Now, if I go to a live gig, the average age of the audience seems to be about 40. I've helped run clubs, and it's next to impossible nowadays to get anyone to turn out to hear original music. If the band doesn't effectively bring its own audience of friends with it, the place is empty.

 

 

Depressing, I know. I wish I could suggest a solution….

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Several reasons have changed the "local music scene" IMO.

First, as a culture we are becoming more and more isolated, and less social beings. There was a time when the only way to hear music was, the radio, go out and buy it, play it, or go out and SEE and HEAR it live.

Today we have all those options, plus, log onto the computer. Once on the computer one can listen to just about whatever they want, for free.

Second, the economy. It costs a lot more for a club owner to pay a 5 piece band than one DJ with a computer.

But then I thought that was what cover charges are for. But then there is that "economy" thing again.

 

All I know is, I would much rather pay a cover charge and hear live music, than not pay anything and here some lame dude paying CDs with a light show. NOTHING can compare to live music. And I hope we start seeing the day again when local bands are playing all over.

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...as a culture we are becoming more and more isolated, and less social beings. There was a time when the only way to hear music was, the radio, go out and buy it, play it, or go out and SEE and HEAR it live.

Today we have all those options, plus, log onto the computer. Once on the computer one can listen to just about whatever they want, for free...

 

All of what everyone said and esp. the isolation thing. But add raising the legal drinking age to 21 and that people in general seem to be more responsible with their drinking. I don't think there are as many gigging bands these days, fewer venues, and I think the quality and appreciation for the variety of music is less than '60s and '70s.

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For me, as I see it here in Toronto, there are a few reasons why the live music/rock scene is not so healthy:

 

1) People are lazy - its tough to get people to commit to come to a show...and even if they commit, 1/3 doesn't show up...

 

2) There are 8,000,000 places to play and 11,000,000 bands to play in them....TOO MUCH CHOICE.

 

3) Drinks are expensive at the bar...its cheaper to drink at home and watch shows on YouTube. :)

 

4) Not everyone can play weekend shows...and nobody likes weekday shows if its not a huge act...

 

5) Only cover bands get paid even remotely well...everywhere else, you get what you get from the door and have to share with the other bands...

 

I have a few buddies in bands around here and I make an effort to see them as often as I can. If I say i'm going to go, i show up...and i can see how happy they are when I do. I haven't played in a band for a few years but it was the same thing 4-5 years ago in Toronto...

 

*le sniff*

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Well, all of what's been said, is true! Out here, we get paid, a decent amount,

as bars/small clubs go...often better, than in the cities, where bands will play

for "free," just to get to play, to an audience, etc. I do think, there is a basic

shift, in what appeals to audiences, too. The "economy" can be a factor, though

around here, it's not that terrible, right now. So, I don't think "that" is the

real factor, here. The club/bar owners make a lot more, in beer/liquor sales,

when there IS a "live band," than they seem to make, with "disco," or Karaoke, even

when those forms of entertainment can cost them less. They don't always pay the band,

directly...save a "minimum fee," but charge a modest fee, at the door. Usually 5 bucks,

maybe 10, at some places. So, that's certainly affordable, to most anyone, wanting

"Live" entertainment. I wonder, at times, if it's because (of not only the other distractions)

people aren't really "used to," live music, in those places, as much as "we" were?

 

I DO agree, the trend seems to be going "less social," more "isolated," because of the

technology factor, allowing...maybe even encouraging that. ??? But, given a choice,

from what I've heard from friends, and much younger friends, at that...they'd "rather"

hear a (good) band, than either Karaoke, or Disco. So...??? Just wish I knew what to

do, to encourage venue owners to take the chance, on bands, more...nowadays. [tongue][confused]

 

CB

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I think Shred hit on the head, people are lazy and getting people to commit sucks. For my final show in Illinois before I left for Colorado, we had about 70 people say they were for sure coming, about two hundred say they might show up, and out of that, with parents who weren't on Facebook, we had like 40 people show up for my band specifically and about 70 people total in the audience. people see it as a chore to leave the house and do things.

 

i love live music, i have friends who play in bands whose music i don't see fits my normal listening stuff, but i go there, have fun and they are always super happy to see you. its rough

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I grew up in bar bands, have played in bar bands all of my life until I was 43, toned it down more and more until about 45 or so, haven't been out for money in 5 years now.

 

For this area it was a fairly quick change. Mostly caused by the local law enforcement staking out bars for DWIs, coupled with the insurances it takes to operate a bar causing nearly all the bar owners to convert to bar and restaurant. Bars dressed up as restaurants just don't make it. Period. The money is in booze, not chicken strips, but you can't tell the local bar owner that.

 

Our favorite place used to run a little shuttle down the street to a motel for any too much to drinkers at 2am. Out the end of the parking lot, literally hunnert feet on a public road, into the motel parking lot. We'd get done, be packin up, point friends and such at the little van type thing that would get them a room if they couldn't drive. Made everyone happy for a good couple years. But The Man said they couldn't drive that van on public street without livery license, and all the insurances that go with all of that, essentially he would have to start a whole nother arm of business for this crummy ride down the street. So he stopped. Just an example of how hard it can be.

 

So we lost most venues between prolly 1993 or so and prolly 2005 the last big joint not far from my house closed up. Great stage, great bars, great venue, we were regulars and so were a whole buncha other bands. Taxes, insurances, licensing, and the ever present droves of police cars at closing time slowly sucked the life out of it. That and as mentioned elsewhere, you can't pay a bunch of older phuks like us 300 bucks to drag out the good amp, it just ain't worth it. Hell, made more a night when I was 17 than I have in the last 20 years.

 

The benefits and stuff we used to do, all the free work for kids and cancer and such? All dried up, licensing for live music, taxes and insurances to make such a thing happen, and god forbid you actually serve a ham sandwich and a warm Coors to the people that have given freely of 12 hours of their day, you can't even afford to think about those costs.

 

It's complex, it's a lot of good solid reasons why those days are pretty much gone. But I'll be the first to say that ASCAP/BMI only closed the karaokes. Around here, where you would think they would have, they never really bothered the bar owners that didn't keep current, so it was not ever an issue.

 

I grew up playing too loud, 9pm - 2am 40 on/20 off, Wed - Sat, maybe Thu - Sat, three, sometimes all four weeks a month. And I had a good job. As time went on, less hours, less nights, less weekends, until here in the early 2000s my last band was rehearsing two nights a week to play one night a month for barely beer money. It was fine, we had fun, but it is no way to foster live music, and you can forget original music, them guys haven't had a chance in years.

 

Good luck to the young is all I can say. I'm glad I lived when I did, glad I did what I did, and I'm also glad I don't have all that hassle any more.

 

rct

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I think us "old guys" sound as if we've all had similar experience and now have a similar perspective with a few "localized" additions to the theme.

 

This ain't politically correct, but the past year since a statewide smoking ban was passed has been almost the final nail in the coffin for a lotta places. In general, it appears bar revenues have dropped 20 percent or more since the law went into effect.

 

Let's face facts, in ways "we" were the added attraction to sell booze.

 

Various outside factors made selling booze more difficult and brought potential audiences to not seeing a "night out to see a band" as a particularly attractive option, at least not on a regular basis. Saloons just aren't as much fun; people aren't as friendly; the alcohol and tobacco "rituals" of yore have largely disappeared and along with it...

 

Another cultural factor: I'll wager most of the guys 40+ on this board remember their parents speaking well about going out to dance, and many of us knew folks playing in bands. I doubt we'd the same percentages of the guys here under 40 with that experience = and we're all live music type folks, regardless that many of our preferences of style and venue may differ.

 

m

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So, does this mean, only "Celebrity/Well known/Famous" acts, will attract

a paying audience, nowadays? Otherwise, the previous patrons, of local/area

live music, will just stay home, watch their Hi-Def, Widescreen, 3-D television,

or put on the headphones, and not deal with people, at all? Too much trouble?

IF so...that's really "Sad," to me.

 

It is interesting, that back "when," a band would set up, and play (even for free)

and people used to come listen, either for a while, or the whole time. Now, if

that would happen, they'd call the police, to complain about the noise, or the cops

will show up, on their own, to see if you have the proper permits (at the very least)?

 

So, maybe we've legislated all this, on ourselves? Who knows??? [confused] :unsure:

 

CB

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I've seen a lot of these same things myself the last 5 years or so. Trying to book gigs for the bands I play or played in have been getting more and more difficult.

 

At least 2 of the bars my old band used to play regularly have stopped live music altogethr because they were hassled for some type of licensing fees. (Probably that ASCAP/BMI thing?)

 

In my area, the police also play a big role. Too many of my friends have been "popped" for having a few beers and being pulled over by predatory cops.

 

It's sometimes hard to convince people to come out any more, and the bars expect you to bring your own crowd. It seems hit and miss. On some nights, everything aligns and we get a bunch of our friends/family to come out. Other times, no one shows up, and if the place doesn't have much of a regular crowd, they lose money. I can't fault the owners for wanting to avoid that. So they are reluctant to book bands unless they are really established.

 

I didn't really start "gigging" semi regularly until around 1999 or 2000. So as a player, I missed they heyday of live music in my area. In the late 70s through 80s there were so many great venues and awsome local bands, you could probably see a different band every week for the whole year and they all rocked! I wasn't old enough to start going myself until the later 80s so I did get to see the tail end of that whole scene. Now-gone places like Hammerjack's, Sandbar, Network, Coast To Coast, Seagull Inn, were going full tilt all week with great local and even national bands. It all started to die in the 90s.

 

I hate to sound like that guy "back in our day"...but the live/local scene today is not a shadow of what it used to be. Just mention the word "Hammerjacks" to anyone from the Baltimore area that is between 40-55 years old, and you will start to hear some stories +:-@ B)

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there is nothing better than going out to hear a live band, well a good live band... Electronic, computer generated music is much to blame for the decline of the live band scene... Young people today are much more into computers and video games have become the rock stars of the new generation... Sad but true. Musical instruments are difficult to learn how to play, it takes time and dedication. The real question is how do we get young people away from their computers long enough to enjoy music again...

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I disagree that electronic music has contributed to this...its just more popular than rock for the past few years. You have way more kids going to electronic music shows than rock shows...that's whats popular. It still takes talent to learn how to make music electronically. You still need to understand how music works and how to affect someones mood with it...

 

I play the guitar AND i make beats on my computer...both take talent and a lot of practice, just a different type.

 

I understand not liking it but if you haven't spent any time making music with computer software, you don't really know of what you speak. Its not as simple as pressing some buttons and you have a hit the kids will like. It still takes rhythm, timing, melody, phrasing etc. Some do it better than others...just like guitar. :)

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Good topic! As a restauranteur/ bar manager, perhaps I can shed some light:

Bottom line, most bands just want too much money. The pros that do this for a living have priced themselves out. There are too many 9-5 guys with bands that are pretty good, and will play for next to nothing. There are guys we will go out of our way to hire when they roll through, even though they are expensive. But the pricier acts only get hired a few times a year. We used to hire a funk/rock 6 piece with horns and sax a couple times a year. They were tight, but when you do the math, they wanted like $40 an hour per person, $700 for a Tuesday night (weekends were more)! You figure I have to sell $1500-$1800 in food and booze just to break even on them. I might bank, but I might tank, too. Just not worth the risk. Especially when a bunch of tech support guys will come play for a gas money and free drinks.

Also, look at how many games are on TV now. Back in the 60s and 70s, you were lucky to get more than a couple football games a week. With season ticket, I can get any NFL game in high def. Cost wise, its not much more for a whole season than to hire a couple bands for a weekend. The three busiest days we have ever had have been when USC came to play us in 2008, when Oklahoma came to play us in 2001, and when we got the Tyson-Lewis fight on pay-per-view. No band has ever come close to bringing in as much business as those events. I'm all about hiring good bands to play, but I'm not going to pay anyone $400 to play on a snowy Tuesday night. Just cant afford it!

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So, what's the "norm," now...around the country, IF/WHEN bands ARE hired?

Is it one band, for 3-4 hours, or 3-4 bands, for 45 minutes-1 hour, each?

That last scenerio, seemed to be the "norm," in LA, when I lived out there...

at least the last few years, anyway. Around here, it's either "open mic,"

type evenings, or 1 band, for 3-4 (1 hour) sets...50 minutes on, 10 minute

breaks.

 

CB

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I would say that depends on what kind of band you are talking about....cover or original? I believe the set structure and time on stage is quite different for both...

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I would say that depends on what kind of band you are talking about....cover or original? I believe the set structure and time on stage is quite different for both...

 

Yeah, that's what I figured, or Used to think, but here (anyway) it doesn't seem to matter,

much, if it's "original material" bands, or "cover" bands. So, I was just curious, as to

what the "norm" was, anymore...IF indeed, there is one? LOL

 

CB

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I can tell you in Toronto, if you are a cover band, you are playing in pubs...and you are doing about 3 sets or so of 45-60 minutes...i have no idea how much they get paid though..

 

If you are an original band, you are sharing the stage with 3 other bands and its very much like going to a gig...opening bands get 45 mins to play and the headliner gets 1 hour or more depending on how much material they have to play...pay is pretty crappy usually unless you have a lot of people show up and pay cover ($5-$10)...you share with all the bands. The most my band ever got paid at a show was like $400 and it was our best in terms of turnout. It was a lotta fun.

 

But most of the time we made enough to cover our gas to the show and thats is...maybe $20-$40 per band member...which was spent on beer lol!

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around here, it started going downhill when karaoke became the big thing, then karaoke DJ's, then, Texas Hold 'em took over. Why pay a band hundreds, when you can get canned music for next to nothing-

Another thing around here is the pay- we make LESS than we did in the 80s! Start up bands will play for nothing, or, tips or, free beer- bar owners don't want to pay what a band is worth- they can always find a crappy band to play for next to free-

Most bands in this area are the same old southern rock/free bird/gimme 3 steps type bands.

Plus, all the folks that were in bands back in the day have grown old and don't have the fire, or wife's permission anymore. And the baby boomers are all grown up, and don't party like they used to- not nearly as many places to play as there were 10 yrs ago-

Also, there are really very few Rock bands on the radio anymore, so there is no one for the young 'uns to emulate.

I keep telling my guys we are the last of an era, that is dying fast- kinda like the dinosaurs, I guess we will go the way of the pay phone- when is the last time you saw one of those?

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Its all over the place. I had a 3 piece "Cure" sounding alternative group called "Naked Lunch" that did half covers and half originals that would work for $250+ free drinks (a lot of free drinks). There was a cover group that was popular locally that wanted $350. There is a three piece the "Swing Crew" (stand up bass, drums, and guitar) that would do it for $400+ free food, but it was totally worth it. We had the 6-8 piece funk combo that wanted $600, and I once payed $800 for a semi famous blues player out of Chicago (and he gave me a break). I once had a guy give me a demo and behalf of a musician he represented (that I never heard of), and he wanted almost a grand. I laughed in his face. On the flip side, I have had groups that just wanted to play, and told me to pay them after the show based on what we made and what I thought they were worth. You got guys that will do if for free drinks, and guys that want a grand [scared]

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Usually there's a Dance Club and a Rock n Roll bar in the same areas around here. And a Kaereoke bar, but those tend to be places too small for live bands. Definitely have to travel a little if you want a full schedule, there's not enough rock and roll bars in one area to really keep a band working through the year, but you really wouldn't want to saturate one market anyway.

 

It's better for the bands longevity to travel a little, anyway. "Playing the Field", as it were. Good thing about Southern California is you don't really have to travel more than an hour and a half, max. Big cities are a little different, San Diego and LA could support a typical cover band, but travel would still be advisable.

 

Of course, if I was in LA I'd probably doing originals. Wouldn't want to travel to much in the beginning stages of an original band, too costly with absolutely no return takes it's toll on equipment and vehicles.

 

Like Jnastynebr mentioned, you can only get paid what the market can bare, so the trick is keeping over head down and members to a minimum.

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