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Horn Band: Viability in Today's Market?

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by jaywa, Oct 2, 2013.

  1. jaywa


    May 5, 2008
    Iowa City, IA
    I have recently committed to a new project and would like to hear advice and perspectives on how we can position it for the best chance of success.

    The band is essentially a re-start/refresh of a horn band that was extremely popular back in the 70s and whose name still has a lot of currency in the region even though they have been defunct for 30 years. Three of the guys who were in that band would be the core of this one (guitarist, drummer and one of the keys players), the rest of us are new guys. We would go under the former name. The current lineup is 8-9 pieces: Drums, bass (me), guitar, 2 keyboardist/singers and a 3-piece horn section (trumpet, trombone, sax) possibly expanding to 4 if we find the right guy. The band re-united this past spring for one show (which I played with them). They brought the house down and were asked on the spot about playing more gigs but haven't really had time to pursue that until now.

    The pro's as I see it are that all of the guys are very good musicians with tons of gigging experience and "pro" attitudes; the music would be fun to play, and the band already has name value which could open the doors to some gigs. My biggest concerns are with the marketability of the material (see bottom of this post) as well as the fact that we do not really have front person (both singers will be behind keyboards). Also I'm wondering how marketable we will be given the core guys are all 60 or over and the youngest guys in the band will be in their upper 30s. (My suggestion that we find a hot female singer in her 20s to front the band did not go over well :meh:).

    I think this has the potential to be a very good band but I also see it being one of those things where we practice a lot but don't play many gigs and the ones we do play are for small money. How can we tip the odds of this thing more in our favor? Thanks in advance.

    (Proposed Setlist)

    634-5789 - Wilson Pickett
    Always and Forever - Luther Vandross
    But It's Alright - JJ Jackson
    Devil With A Blue Dress/Good Golly - Mitch Ryder
    Drive My Car - Beatles
    I Wish - Stevie Wonder
    Let it Roll - Little Feat
    Livin in America - James Brown
    Moondance - Micahel Buble version
    Reelin in the years - Steely Dan-Live Version
    My Old School - Steely Dan
    That's the Way of the World - EWF
    You Can Leave Your Hat On - Joe Cocker
    Smooth - Santana
    Them Changes/Play that Funky Music Medly
    Save the Last Dance For Me - Micahel Buble version
    I Can't Help Myself - 4 tops
    Mustang Sally - Wilson Pickett
    Hard To Handle - Otis Redding
    I Heard It Through The Grapevine - Marvin Gaye
    Knock On Wood - Eddie Floyd
    Runnin Blue – Boz Scaggs
    Lido Shuffle - Boz Scaggs
    Blues Brothers Medly (Cant Turn You Loose / Everybody / Gimme Some Lovin / Soul Man)
    Chicago Medly (Does Anybody / Beginnings /Just You and Me / Saturday in the Park / Make Me Smile / 25 or 6 to 4)
    EWF Medly (Getaway / Sing a Song / September/ Let's Groove / Boogie Wonderland)
    Diggin On James Brown - Tower of Power
    More Today than Yesterday - Spiral Staircase
    Sir Duke Stevie Wonder
    I Want a New Drug - Huey Lewis & the News
    No Reply at All – Genesis
    Just a Job to Do - Genesis
    Walk the Dinosaur - Was Not Was
    Jump Jive & Wail – Brian Setzer
    Sledgehammer – Peter Gabriel
    La Vida Loca – Ricky Martens
    Rosanna – Toto
  2. mikegug


    Oct 31, 2011
    I'd start my fee at a realistic rate, if you are the only one in the local market doing this. Work down from there, if needed. BUT, you gotta bring the goods.
  3. With that set list, it seems you should be able to make inroads to the corporate and wedding market, and once you establish yourself you should make some good money.

    Play some showcases early on, maybe bar gigs but I'm thinking more like your town's "Fridays After Five" or "Saturday In The Park" or whatever that kind of high-exposure gig is, if possible. Look into benefits that would be well attended. Sink some money into a decent demo, and a decent video, then shop yourselves out to some booking agencies.

    If you guys are decent, you'll make money. If you're really good- especially with some great vocal talent- you'll make bank. See if you can add a dinner jazz line-up to the set, maybe even explore a big band set, to diversify and differentiate yourselves.
  4. I might be crazy, but to me that setup and song selection jumps out as a wedding and corporate gig band, maybe outdoor fairs and festivals. Which may not be a bad thing, at least you can potentially get enough money so that it might be worth it.

    If I were playing in a group like that, I'd probably target the wedding and company party market.

    Just a thought.
  5. two fingers

    two fingers Opinionated blowhard. But not mad about it. Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    I can't speak to SD. But that band would KILL in NC. That set list would go over well here. I would dump about a half dozen of those songs and replace them with bigger smash hits, but for the most part that's a hot set. PLEASE put up a video of Rosanna if you get a chance. I would LOVE to see a cover band pull that song off.
  6. the yeti

    the yeti

    Nov 6, 2007
    raleigh, nc
    yep. big time.
  7. At no less than $800-900 MINIMUM per paid gig..you're talking corporate level gigs.

    Thinking outside the box..

    I know of corporate bands who break down into 5...4... to even 3 pieces from the full band..in order to earn SOME amount of money, when not everybody can afford $1000 bands...You don't always have to have horns or 2 keys. 1 good keys player can easily do horns and strings parts..I know it's not real horns..but the $$ you may be out of IS if you can't sometimes compromise.

    A sax alone is a great instrument a great addition to nearly any band..but what does that sax player do when waiting for a horn lead break??

    Band I was in .. 1980's..had a phenominal alto sax player..did not play at all on some songs... when he did..he got in..burned HOT and got out..stood patiently waiting, otherwise.

    FUNNY...He usually arrived about 1 minute before show time..left as soon as cash was in his hands..all equal shares... while rest of us lugged/ loaded amps PA etc. His 'behavior' was tolerated because of his talent.. B T W . Otherwise a great guy..now he's is R I P ...I still miss him..

    Been discussed in other TB threads..Sometimes horns don't play on every tune ..just waiting around until a horn song comes up..Are they paid less than the rest..for waiting than playing..yet they are THERE the whole time?? ..are they paid by the tune or for the gig??

    I WISH YOU LUCK..just some things to consider with a full horn band...
  8. two fingers

    two fingers Opinionated blowhard. But not mad about it. Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    Things must be tough in the big ATL. A good bar band can get a grand around here. You might have to do one for $700 to get in the door. But if you prove you have the good stuff a grand isn't out of the question. (My last band got more in most cases.)

    Private parties for a band like the OP describes would START at $2500 and go up from there. There are a few bands around here that get $10000 to play in a driveway! (My cousin's father-n-law's 65th birthday party.... )
  9. DWBass

    DWBass The Funkfather

    Better get with a booking agency. A bar wouldn't be able to afford you.
  10. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    My band has a horn section, mostly two, sometimes three. We work just about as much as we did when we were a 5-piece and didn't have to take a pay cut.
  11. LordRyan


    Dec 9, 2012
    The setlist is great but needs something by Blood, Sweat, and Tears or "Vehicle" by Ides of March which sounds like B,S,&T.

    A great overlooked horn song is "Touch Me" by The Doors.
  12. two fingers

    two fingers Opinionated blowhard. But not mad about it. Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    Spinning Wheel!
  13. chris1125


    May 14, 2007
    Sounds awesome
  14. gastric

    gastric Professional product tester for hire

    Jun 8, 2009
    Raleigh, NC
    Source Audio BETA tester
    Not derailing the OPs thread, but there's already at least one horn band in NC that I know of: http://www.bullcitysyndicate.com/band_bio/
  15. Tituscrow

    Tituscrow Banned

    Feb 14, 2011
    NW England
    You should PM bassybill. He is in a killer big band with horns.
  16. I play in a 10 piece horn band. It does take some extra effort to book the band, since a lot of places and events just don't have enough room to accommodate a band of our size, but we stay pretty busy averaging 20 to 30 gigs a year. Some gigs pay spectacular and some not so much but we keep a tally of what we make and shoot for an average that works for everyone rather than micromanage from gig to gig.

    We also tried to get a front person so that there was a little more focus to the show but it never worked out. We had a couple singers in the beginning that just didn't stick so we went with the vocals by committee option and it seems to work pretty good. About a year ago we had an opportunity to bring in a lead vocalist who had a great reputation around town but we found that we had become pretty set with the way things were and he was never able to integrate himself into the band enough. We finally had to let him go after realizing it just wasn't going to work.

    As far as your set list, there are some songs that are on that list that we did in the past that never worked for us, Lido Shuffle being one of them, but that might be different for you. If I were to do it again, I would start with the obvious classics, which you have a few in that list, and branch out from there.
  17. jaywa


    May 5, 2008
    Iowa City, IA
    Thanks everyone.

    I appreciate all of your comments especially with regard to the setlist and potential audiences/venues. I don't think the bar scene is really gonna be where it's at for this project. #1, middle aged white guys playing 30-40 year old tunes aren't what the bars around here are looking for. #2 bars don't pay enough, #3 hardly any of them are big enough to hold a band that size and #4 all of us in the band have had our fill of playing bars by this point in our lives. So that leaves weddings/corporate as many of you noted (but unfortunately, in this market has been largely taken over by $400-500 DJs). There are a few fair/festival slots we might be able to get but the pay for those kinds of events around here isn't that great. I've already resolved I won't make as much money in this band as I do in my 5-piece country/80s/variety cover band but I don't want to play for free either, especially since I'm gonna be putting in time for both woodshedding and group rehearsals. I was also told we may be able to land some casino jobs here and there provided we can keep our volume in check (hard to do with a horn band).

    As far as the setlist... a couple of the horn players really want to do some BS&T but I just am not into that band at all. Even the Chicago stuff is a reach for me as it seems like all those songs have just been done to death. Lido Shuffle was my request cause I've always wanted to play that song but if it doesn't sell, that's good to know.

    I e-mailed the guitarist today (who's a good friend of mine as well as also being the guitarist in my "main" band) about how I really feel we need a front person and could we "borrow" the chick singer from his brother's band (who's not in her 20s but still looks good and can really sing). Haven't heard back from him on that yet...

    Also... in our initial sit-down we all pretty much came to consensus that we will be hiring out production for any gigs where it's not provided. So in this market that's gonna mean $500-600 off the top before any of the band sees a dime.

    Keep the thoughts coming.
  18. MrLenny1


    Jan 17, 2009
    After two fingers response I'm moving to North Carolina.
    Bars pay squat here and wedding/corporate is almost dead.
    There is a 10 piece horn band in town, they are very good.
    they play once in a while privately & house band on Tuesdays.
    Don't know what they make though.
  19. Dave Curran

    Dave Curran Lilduke

    Jul 27, 2013
    I'm jealous... My trumpet sits in the closet and I don't play anymore... Nobody around here goes for brass/wind instruments unless it's a marching band... lol thats why I learned guitar, and now bass. Just to be able to play with other people again.
  20. Febs

    Febs Supporting Member

    May 7, 2007
    Philadelphia, PA
    A good female singer can be a big plus in this type of band:

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