Monday, May 25, 2020
Dave Carlock - A Day In The Life
Doesn't anyone believe in musical monogamy anymore?
Originally Posted: 11-22-2013 2:28 PM
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Bassist Buddy Pearson's Facebook wall is a great one to follow. Aside from holding down the bottom in "Dave Carlock's Funkin' Rock Orchestra", he plays with a cool cover trio called "The UNiT", based in Valparaiso, IN that performs all over Michiana, and he's also in a great improvisational-fusion trio that frequents the city of Chicago called "Freek Johnson". Not only a virtuoso level player, his sense of humor is kinda sick and hilarious. Just my kind of guy!

Recently Buddy posted about various dramas going on within bands he knew, not his own, he said. Seems some players were unavailable for some of the bands' intended bookings because they step out to work with other groups, which had booked them first. This was a fascinating topic to me because it captured the big RUB in performing live for pay: staying booked to make regular pay v.s. staying "loyal" to a band.

For those of you who haven't done it before, putting together a band is HARD. Unless you're in a big city, great players are always in short supply, mainly because most great players relocate to bigger markets where their skills might be better matched with opportunity.

Small markets are filled with frustration for musicians who want to go pro. Be it fewer places to play, lower rate of pay, smaller population base to build a following; it's always something! To help you understand why, Faithful Reader, let's look at a few different levels of bands.

"First time bands" are often made up of friends with wildly varying skill sets. Some or possibly all of the band can't play very well, but they often do so with a genuine fervor. These groups are often formed more for fun than anything else, sometimes as a self challenge between friends who like to hang out. Things are usually pretty casual and no one thinks they're going to go anywhere with it, which can be part of the coarse-edged magic. These bands get a few gigs here and there and relish the chance to get out of the basement.

From these basement jams, one of two people may develop faster and want to go a bit further. They may want to record a song they've written, and they may want to play out regularly. The more driven members usually end up wearing out the other members who really are in it for a hang, or to get high or party weekly with their friends surrounded by the ground hum from their guitar amps.

Eventually, the ambitious members either bring new blood into the band who share the new vision of the emerged leaders, or they quit and form something new with other players. Now things start to get interesting as the real work and commitment begins. Band members need to face time deadlines to be ready for performances. They also need to financially support gas costs, band promo expenses, any recording costs, and they have to really begin to make time compromises with other friends and family if they want to be part of something with a purpose. Finding shows is next.

Suddenly, the band that was in it for fun & music are asked by the club owners to bring in an audience--butts in seats. Friends and family get coralled into attending shows, some quite willingly, others relationships tend to fade into the background under the all-encompassing responsibility of pushing the band forward into getting higher guarantees to pull them into a breakeven on their costs.

Now they have a day gig, a band gig, and sometimes a family or a significant other that all want chunks of their time. Eventually, some of those musicians will ease the load by deciding to make the leap from a day gig to making a full-time living from performing music. Now the dynamic changes, because there has to be enough work to support that decision.

Case in point: just out of high school, I was a bass player in a wedding band that played most weekends. The late weekend nights meant I had to quit my morning shift job at McDonalds. I was the grillman, making your Egg McMuffins for exactly one month! But during the summer, my late-30s band leader wanted to take his boat out as often as possible, which affected my income when he chose not to book the band. So I set out to book solo gigs, which eventually conflicted with the wedding band and I got sacked after about a year. I was replaced by sequenced synth bass lines and a female singer. C'est la vie...

As I discussed last week, the pay for most bands in clubs in 2013 is pretty much a joke, so if players are relying on performance money to earn a living, how do they get it done? Performing live for money is all about Friday and Saturday nights--maybe Thursdays--unless you live in a major market with club personnel actively marketing the club during the week. Does your band want to travel? Is it good enough to get booked in a major market? If the answer to either question is no, then a musician needs other income streams for sure. And if a musician takes on multiple live performing projects to increase the odds of playing regularly, how does that effect the other members of the band(s)? Well, they probably have to get other things going too, making scheduling even tougher.

And there's also an issue of "brand identity" when promoting a band for bookings. Brand identity is a lot easier to keep clean when a solo artist plays with revolving musicians behind them, but not so clear cut with a “band” brand. For example, if I saw a band who had a guy like Buddy Pearson doing his amazing "playing bass guitar and synth at the same time" routine and decided to book that band, I would be CRACKED if Buddy wasn't onstage at my event. Sometimes, even if you aren't the lead singer, being too cool has its downside.

But is there no such thing as musical monogamy anymore? Or is that monogamy largely tied to large dollars? Does that make us all musical whores? Yes. I think it does. And we like it. Except when you request "Proud Mary" or "Brown Eyed Girl". Again. Some heinous acts require big tips.

NEXT WEEK: How talent buyers are being misled by YouTube promo videos in press kits, and, is a band ever "a band" these days?

Dave Carlock
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