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General state of musicians really starting to chap me off, discourage the hobby

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by Toastfuzz, Dec 6, 2011.

  1. Toastfuzz


    Jul 20, 2007
    Pittsburgh, PA
    So since moving to a new city 2 years ago, I've been in 3 bands, 2 of which achieved gigging level. The best gigs we got were paid in beer... most paid nothing. Other bands practiced for months, spent $$$ on rental space, equipment, spent time learning, practicing, promoting, only to have it split up for interpersonal reasons. Now I'm in no bands, my old drummer and I wanted to start a new generic classic-to-modern rock cover gig, and starting the same old game again is really hard and discouraging this time around, I feel like I've been here before and the reward is never worth the work.

    So right now we have a singer, drummer, bassist, and looking for guitarist. I recently split up with my girl, and we used to jam in her basement, so we no longer have a jam spot. We've been getting some Craigslist hits for guitarists, but not nearly as many as I'd expected. Right now my drummer is texting me every day trying to convince me to throw in on a rental practice spot, ~$250/month. I totally agree with his logic, we can't lure/try out guitarists without a practice spot, and once we get the full lineup we should have a good regular thing.

    But now all the "same old sh1t" stuff... drummer has his kids 3 days a week, so practice is limited to Tuesday, Friday, and 1 weekend day. New singer works nights at a hospital, works Tuesday - Thursday - Weekends. I work 9-5 M-F so that limits us to practicing Fridays and maybe 1 weekend day, affordable to individual schedules. No I would like to think I'm smart enough by now to realize we'd all struggle with consistent Friday night practice. Stuff just comes up. And when we start gigging, we're gonna lose our only consistent practice spot, assuming we can lock down regular Friday gigs. And this isnt even taking into account a Guitarists' schedule, or payroll to chip in to the jamspot until we start gigging. Singer can't chip in either, although she has her own PA so its not all bad. So me and drummer are considering splitting $250/month between us two until we can find a guitarist and get our gigging act together.

    In my experience, the chance of any band I get into from the groundfloor has about a 5% chance of ever playing a gig. The last time we tried, as soon as our catalogue started getting long enough to fill a set, the guitarist and singer would start forgetting the oldest material... they didnt practice at all in their free time, and would forget songs as they learned others. While in a perfect world, we'd lock down a guitarist, learn some sets, and have gigs within 2-3 months, my experience with local musicians makes me doubt that is possible. Although me and my drummer are both solid and committed, he is almost blindly committed and proposes hiring guitarists on a whim or ignoring the requirements we set from the get go (that we learned from our past bad experience) and compromising for crappy people, and I feel like this idea of renting an expensive spot while we dont even have any real prospects is not the smartest move. He also brought in the singer, who is his girlfriend's best friend, and even though we said we'd objectively try her out and gauge if she was a good fit and not just take her on cuz she's a friend, he was already 100% gung ho for her and no one else. I mentioned I'd opened a CL ad for a singer, just to see whats out there (we had this girl as a prospect, but in the grand scheme we were starting a fresh new band, so I figured whats the hurt) and he got all worked up over it, and admitted he already told her she was in the band, without hearing a note. While I wanted to start a band myself to avoid the band drama of being new to an already set-in-their-ways crowd, I'm realizing it doesnt make a difference. Almost all of our prospects are either young, unemployed, and lacking equipment and transportation, or are over 50 and egomaniacs. The few guys who sounded legit ran as soon as we said we didnt have a practice space... even though we told them we just moved out of our old one a week ago and were in the process of acquiring a new one. I just can't pay that kinda cash right now to fork out over an extra $100 a month, if we had a guitarist who was committed and willing to chip in and our singer pulled her weight in that regard sure, but thats not the case... I'm figuring that any cash I throw into this jam spot will never be made back. At this time a year ago, i was in a band with a practice spot, a consistent practice day, regular gigs scheduled, all pro equipment, and even THAT band fell apart, just due to everyone getting pissed at each other. Really I just dont have the motivation anymore to keep sluggin along in crappy bands that never get off the ground, and starting to wonder if its just me.

    Rant over. Bands suck.
  2. BZadlo

    BZadlo Supporting Member

    Mar 4, 2008
    Seattle, WA
    Play music/be in a band because you love it. There are other better ways to make money.
    Your practice options make me think that this project won't work out either. As I get older, I realize that time is the most precious commodity.
  3. Red Four

    Red Four

    Apr 4, 2011
    It's not just you.
  4. Don't worry; it gets easier after about 25 years...

    Sort of...
  5. MatticusMania

    MatticusMania LANA! HE REMEMBERS ME!

    Sep 10, 2008
    Pomona, SoCal
    Seems to me, and I dont mean this in an offensive way, but you dont seem cut out to be a band leader. Bands dont suck, youre just going about things in the wrong way.

    Firstly, dont hire people whose schedules are going to make things a problem for you all. Practice is important, and you need to find people who have compatible work schedules if you want to free up time for practicing.

    Secondly, DO NOT throw money down at this point for a practice spot. None of you have a garage or a room you can write and practice material in at a reasonable volume? If not, consider hiring someone, possibly a guitarist, who can both PLAY and has a spot to jam. Or find a rehearsal studio you can rent hourly. I make it known when hiring someone that there are expenses to incur, the least being practice space if no one has a place to use. Also, consider hiring only people who have a day job and can contribute something.

    Your drummer seems willing to take on just about anybody, explain to him the importance of finding someone who is the right fit for the band. You need to find people who are comitted, can play, and can bring something to the band.

    I understand where your frustration is coming from. Putting together the right band is not an easy task, and youve been jaded by one too many projects coming apart when things start to come together. It takes the most patient of people to really put something worthwhile together, unless youre lucky, or you really know how to make things happen.

    Ive been playing bass for over 10 years, and in all that time Ive only had 1 band that didnt make it to the gigging level. Thankfully for me, that band only took up a month of my time as I was in between more well adjusted projects.

    All that said, if you are not motivated enough to make things happen for you, consider joining a band looking for a bassist. That would take a lot of the frustrating work off of your shoulders.
  6. mellowinman

    mellowinman Free Man

    Oct 19, 2011
    I agree. No need to let other people dictate the schedule. If you can't practice frequently enough, I will fire you. I can't help it, WE NEED TO PRACTICE!!!

    And if we can't work up four sets within a month, well, I don't know because that's never happened.
  7. Marley's Ghost

    Marley's Ghost Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 9, 2002
    Tampa, FL
    In the past 10+ years, I have

    • Played in 2 bands that never made it out
    • Quit one band after several months out of frustration
    • Been fired from a band due to s/o incompatibilty :rollno:
    My current band is gigging has been together for two years. I have had to deal with slackers and narcissists. I have spent my own $$ on PA gear several times as everyone else was "broke". :atoz: We have dealt with 2 births, job conflicts, endless battles over stage and FOH volumes and just about every other topic. Members "learned" many songs at rehearsal. But we played a gig last Sat to a packed house and got paid nicely. And we are on the verge of getting major increase in booking in better venues.

    Bottom line is that a band is like a 3-5 way marriage. Some times you have to just suck it up and go along. And swallow your anger when slackers and it10ts drive you to the brink. :bag:
  8. lucas vigor

    lucas vigor Banned

    Sep 2, 2004
    Orange County, Ca,
    Part of the problem, as a musician, seems to be being stuck playing rock music.

    I am lucky in that every band I have worked with in the last 5-8 years has NOT been a rock band....and you know what? I ended up having to refuse gigs because there were so many!

    It's something to think about. Explore other genres of music if you are looking for more options.
  9. mambo4


    Jun 9, 2006
    I made a conscious decision years ago to seek bands that already gig, record, etc...in so doing I established relationships with musicians I know to be committed and able to overcome the logistical / personal issues that can sabotage a band's efforts. Now I'm happy with my band -it takes time and patience.
  10. MonkeyBass


    Mar 22, 2009
    Denver, CO
    I've played for/auditioned for so many bands in the 24 years I've been playing that I've lost count. Some were good, some were REALLY good and we actually made a living and went on tours and stuff. Most band I've been in have been BAD. I almost gave up too.

    Right now I'm in a tribute band because it's easy to deal with. We don't have to write any material so we practice only when we book a gig. Much easier for guys in their 30's and 40's with families.

    Just do it for fun otherwise you'll go crazy.
  11. sandmangeck


    Jul 2, 2007
    +1 To joining an established band. As a bass player I think it's easier to do that then other instruments. The last 3 I've joined have all been established. Gigging in less then a month.
  12. bassbully

    bassbully Endorsed by The PHALEX CORN BASS..mmm...corn!

    Sep 7, 2006
    Blimp City USA
    Yes bands can suck. Try finding an established band and that might end your issues. Don't forget even when you have a good tight band there still are problems. Dealing with clubs, bars, managers,staff, booking agents, promoters, bad gigs ,bad pay, being ripped off, canceled gigs, drunks, rude crowds and so forth.
  13. MontzterMash

    MontzterMash Supporting Member

    Dec 6, 2010
    MatticusMania brought up really good points, and I don't have too much to add, but I was really struck by your post and wanted to see if I could through a few more cents of help into the conversation.

    In my experience in another creative biz, it's really fascinating how much of the eventually success of a team/group/business/project depends on the very initial choices and conditions at the very beginning. And when things go well, or bad, it's pretty easy to trace back the roots of those successes or failures to those initial conditions.

    In a creative business, it's easier to ignore that -- we're so excited to get something moving, and to be honest, not everyone who's creative is all that practiced at being organized or in making those hard choices, or in explaining those choices -- and so we let ourselves think that "Well, we'll just do X Y and Z just to get things going, and if things need adjusting up later, we can deal with that once we're rolling."

    The problem is, that the earlier a choice is made, the more power it has for good or ill - a good choice made earlier is that much more powerful, and losing the chance to make them is tragic, and a bad choice made earlier is that much more expensive and harder to undo. And, all the time and energy spent undoing those bad initial conditions -- imagine how much could be achieved if you all can put that time and energy into building good things! You never get that back.

    It's clear that you're tuned in and seeing this. The conditions you're describing are definitely not the right conditions to start a successful band in, and yup, you're right to be hesitant about it.

    The trick is, you see this, and you want a project to succeed, so it's up to you to set the conditions for a band to succeed. As that silly country song goes - "lessons don't come cheap," and you've earned really good ones, and if you want, it's time to start putting them to work. You see what can't be done, you done the major work in seeing what needs to be done. It may be that you need to do things differently, or it may be that you need to find the right person who will ("you can accomplish anything you want if you don't care who gets the credit"). Either way works.

    Frankly, from your description, your drummer is not that guy, and in my opinion, you can't have a working band if he thinks he is, so you will need to find a way to fix that situation.

    Don't know if you're that guy, but you took the big step of thinking through all this and looking for help, which is a really good sign. If you're not (and there's nothing wrong with that), you'll have the ability to see the skills and appreciate the value of them if you decide to recruit someone like that.
  14. bluewine

    bluewine Banned

    Sep 4, 2008
    Exactly why I won't start my own band or play in originals bands. I want to be and will be out gigging and getting paid most Friday & Saturday nights.

    If you want to gig, join an established band with a strong history of gigs and that has a process for booking themselves.

  15. MatticusMania

    MatticusMania LANA! HE REMEMBERS ME!

    Sep 10, 2008
    Pomona, SoCal

    And straight up, I wouldnt have been able to provide such succinct advise without 1)having been through this before and 2)seeing that the OP seems to understand where the problem is, at heart. Personally, I agree that your drummer is not "that guy" as he seems to be too eager to get things moving without taking into account the logistics that seem to be setting this project up for failure.
  16. chaosMK


    May 26, 2005
    Albuquerque, NM
    Hi-fi into an old tube amp
    It takes some stars to cross for a great original band to form.
  17. It all depends on the markets but here are my generalizations about band configurations:

    * Wannabe bar bands with an emphasis on playing the same songs as other bar bands. Mostly having members that do this for fun and have day-time jobs so they don't really care about the outcome. They tend to use the same configurations/members so it's hard to get into the tribe. Then again there's nothing fancy doing this kind of music.
    * Metal/alt bands with a strong intent to make it big. They expect people to stop any daytime jobs and live on bread/water inside a van for 20+ years until their dream just fades away due to a very late reality check.
    * Blues bands, kind of like bar bands, old musicians that don't really want to practice new songs, just rehash old ones and hey this is blues so that's how it's done.
    * Big scale bands targeted at commercial gigs, casinos and so on. If you get into those, you could get a somewhat decent income but it's sooooooo boring.
    * Obscure funk/fusion/math/artsy bands. Mostly having really good musicians but you get a gig a year with maybe a little bit money.
    * Backing up a singer/songwriter or some other artist. Sometimes fun, sometimes a drag. The problem is that the leader of such configurations is the boss and she/he could re-arrange the setup at any time with little notice so you never feel sure about the gigs.
    * And I'm sure there are other configurations, too.

    Anyway, ideally for me the best configurations is a small group of very good musicians that have a very focused goal what they want to achieve, work towards it and constantly refine and re-address the focus based on what's going on. And especially have fun playing the music on-stage. As with startups, if you don't have a catchy elevator pitch, forget about the band idea.
  18. kraigo


    Jun 21, 2007
    Minneapolis, MN
    After about nine years in Minneapolis I finally got into a band that gigged out. Most failed before that happened. We've been together for well over a decade. My second band has been together for over five years.

    What I've found is that sometime after age 30 most of the flakes have quit playing. If you're lucky enough to have found a "community" by that point it gets a lot easier to put things together.

    Good luck.

  19. kraigo


    Jun 21, 2007
    Minneapolis, MN
    To augment ksandvik's list, a friend has a Zydeco band that gigs regularly and gets paid for it. Someone else mentioned getting out of pop/rock and things open up a lot. I'd say that's one avenue. The other is "tribute bands". They gig fairly regularly.

    In my experience, if you want to get paid you need to own a PA and be willing to travel a few hours out of town. At my age, I'll take an unpaying gig in town rather than do that most of the time. I can find better ways to make money and I'd rather be around friends and sleep in my own bed (hopefully before around 2:30 AM) than make $100.

  20. jsbachonbass


    May 16, 2006
    Denton, TX
    I think the main problem that you are facing is a lack of funding. I have come to the conclusion that the only practical way of starting a successful band is to first be financially secure enough to pay for all the start up costs yourself. This means being able to afford your own PA and rehearsal space. And even then, you still would have trouble finding serious players who will rehearse for free unless you have paying gigs lined up. That is why I think paying a retainer fee is the only way to get the musicians you want and have them play the way you want.

    Right now, you are relying on other musicians for their charitable donation of time and money to be in the band. You can't really expect them to put aside other things in their life that take priority (like paying jobs, or kids) for a start up band, no matter how much they say they want to make it work.

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