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Is the traditional 'three guys in a rock power trio' format basically dead/dying?

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by invader3k, Feb 13, 2014.

  1. Maybe this question is asked out of frustration...but I want some genuine and honest feedback.

    Our band does OK. We're on our third drummer, and been together about three years. We are three guys in our mid 30's to early 40's, doing a mix of classic and modern rock. Our guitarist/singer is not a great vocalist, but he tries. Musicianship is not amazing, but we're solid.

    We tried auditioning lead singers...had a guy who was good, and joined us, but then quickly flaked on us and quit.

    Had one really good singer audition after that...we REALLY wanted him to join, but he decided that he needed a break from being in bands after 22 years straight. Totally understandable. All the rest of the "singers" we lined up basically sucked, or no showed/cancelled their auditions.

    So we're sticking with our guitarist as the singer. We're now tuning songs a half step down to make it easier for him vocally.

    Gigs seem to be getting more sparse. We have a handful of gigs booked through April, and that's it. Nothing for summer or fall, and not a lot of prospects on the horizon. Venues never call us. I email and Facebook message places and get zero responses. I call and talk to bar owners and sometimes they promise that "We'll give you a date", and then it never happens.

    It's all very frustrating. I notice around here, three types of bands are very successful:

    - Country and rock-country bands.
    - Solo singer/songwriter types doing covers (usually female, but sometimes male).
    - Bands with one, if not two, female lead singers. Doesn't matter the genre...if you have a decent lady singer, you'll get gigs.

    I'm just wondering, is it more or less pointless to continue as a typical power trio, especially in a small town area? We're not near a major metro area. There aren't a ton of bars around here that have live rock music...and if I can't get a handful of them to even return my calls or emails, it is extremely limiting to our gig prospects.

    We have two local venues we gig at regularly, so at least that is something to hang our hat on. But they don't book bands during summer. It's like I can see what little momentum we have evaporating as the pages on the calendar turn.

    Please give me some honest answers and advice. I'm seriously feeling down and frustrated about this lately. Playing music in a band is my one real hobby...and if it's not going well, I get kind of depressed about things.
  2. Factor88


    Jun 21, 2011
    To me, the biggest single factor in having a successful cover band is the quality of the vocals. The problem sounds not like your format, but the vocals. If the lead guitarist, or you, or the drummer were a killer lead vocalist, you could probably make a three-piece work. So you need to either replace you/drummer/guitarist with one who is an excellent singer, OR go four piece by adding an excellent singer. And yes a female singer with good pipes would be way more marketable.
  3. Bunk McNulty

    Bunk McNulty It is not easy to do simple things correctly. Supporting Member

    Dec 11, 2012
    Northampton, MA
    Where I live, three-piece and two-piece (guitar and drums, like Black Keys and White Stripes) bands are popular, if only because the gig money is split fewer ways. None of them, however, are in the classic/modern bag. There's a jazz fusion/funk trio--guys with huge chops--and the rest are punky or post-punky (no, I'm not exactly sure what that means).

    There's even a banjo/drum duo. Megan Jean opened for us at a festival last summer. They surprised the hell out of me--really good.

    ...and sometimes you just can't get arrested. We had that problem late last year. Hired a young lady in a red dress who can sing like Joss Stone. We're not booked solid yet, but it's getting there. Crazy world, eh?
  4. Bunk McNulty

    Bunk McNulty It is not easy to do simple things correctly. Supporting Member

    Dec 11, 2012
    Northampton, MA
    As grandpa used to say, nobody leaves the gig humming the guitar solos. :D
  5. You're probably right.

    I wonder if after our last gig on the calendar (middle of April), we need to do some serious hunting for a female lead singer. It seems like those are the bands that get booked the most often.

    I'm sick of feeling like I have to hunt, scrape, and beg for gigs. We get paid every show, but I'm tired of the grind of it. I co-own a family business, am married with a 2 year old at home, and I don't have the time for hunting down bar owners anymore. I'm sick of it.
  6. obimark


    Sep 1, 2011
    I auditioned for this very same format (and am waiting to hear back) True Power Trio- Guitarist/Singer, me on bass and drummer.
    Playing very cool classic rock- think Robin Trower, Cream, Who, Grand Funk.
    If I get in I will let you know how it goes.
    I like the idea because my bass is a HUGE part of the overall band sound now, vs. the traditional, two guitar, lead singer sound. Where the bass only can be heard sometimes.
  7. repoman


    Aug 11, 2011
    Kinderhook NY
    dude, there is your answer...the format isn't dying, your desire is. :(
  8. lfmn16


    Sep 21, 2011
    charles town, wv
    No, you need to start today.

    Welcome to the music business. I don't know many band that book with a single phone call.
  9. I also live in a smallish town and my band (one of them)was having the same problem,werent able to get gigs,so we spent some time,polishing up our material foremost,getting a little demo together ,a mini press kit,nothing to serious,just a quick bio line and a few glossies for the bar ,club owners to look at,and when we would get the gig we would spend a little energy promoting it,get some people to come out,the owners loooove that,a bit of hard work payed off,and bunk mcnulty,I just in the past two weeks did asll 5 seasons of the best show EVER on television,finishing the last few episodes of season 5
  10. Maybe. I just figured after going for three years, getting gigs would be easier...not WAY harder.

    When we first started it was easy. I would give my card to the manager/owner, describe our material, and usually get booked on the spot or soon after.

    Part of the problem is that a couple places we played when we started no longer have live music. But I really think our current format or lineup could be holding us back. It's not supposed to be this tough.
  11. bassbully

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

    Sep 7, 2006
    Blimp City USA
    Gee hope not some of my favorite bands were trios.
  12. You may be right. We are having band practice on Saturday and I think I may need to have a very blunt conversation with my band mates about the realities of booking gigs in this area, along with the marketability of our current format.
  13. BawanaRik


    Mar 6, 2012
    New Jersey
    Sometimes you have to make choices. If you have a family business that's putting food on the table it might be time to focus on that.
  14. Wow, in reading the original post, it's exactly what has happened with my band. Exactly. The same.

    We do what you do. A lot of bands do. Our singer was fair-to-rare, but he had either booze or drug problems or both, and eventually we had to fire him because it hurt our performances. We have been using a fill-in guy for about a month, but he does not intend to be more than a fill-in guy due to his schedule with his other band. We were offered more bookings at every venue we've played, but the most common comment was "great sounding band, you guys are excellent. Your singer.....well, you might want to look around some".

    We have been auditioning people, with no luck. Either a bad attitude, can't sing, didn't show up, wanted us to change our entire setlist, or just decided our band wasn't for them, wanted more instruments, etc... So we started to look at just continuing on as a trio (we have booked gigs), with myself and the drummer singing. We both have about a half dozen songs we sing, anyway. The problem is, we are both pretty limited in what we do. He has a great rock voice but limited range, and honestly he can't carry a whole night. I have good success with songs that don't require any real vocal ability, but are catchy and quirky, or have a particular sound (I do Highway To Hell, Jailbreak, any old AC/DC, Flagpole Sitta, Man In The Box). So neither of us would make a good lead singer, plus when we do sing, if affects our playing some unless the song is super-simple.

    We may have hit the jackpot, though. One of our auditions this week is an attractive female singer who is musically trained and works as a vocal and acting instructor. And she likes our band and what we are doing, so hopefully it will all come together. I'm actually pulling hard for moving over to a female vocalist, for reasons stated above.

    Here is my opinion why the rock coverband trio is a hard sell. And it's based on what I've experienced with Aftermath. First of all, with only one guitar, one bass, and drums, the sound can be pretty "thin" unless you work your tail off and manipulate your effects and sound well. It's tough to fill in the space that a rhythm guitarist occupies when your lead player goes into solos. I have to tap dance on my pedal board to get all different sounds to cover the song and play my a$$ off. Personally, I like the challenge but it's a lot of work and the song always seems to lack...something. But here's the biggest thing I find; if you're doing standard rock covers, you're a "Mustang Sally", "Hard To Handle", and "Cat Scratch Fever" band like we are, whether or not you are successful and popular relies on your stage presence and performance. A dedicated vocalist can get out there, move around, party with the crowd, and add their own personality. The guitar/bass/drums are often anchored their spot on stage, so with a trio, it's often "just music", and not a lot of fun to watch. People out seeing cover bands like mine are not interested in hearing "perfect" music, they are interested in having fun and getting a little crazy (mid-life crisis bar patrons, for the most part), and a standard trio may have a hard time giving them the experience that they are looking for. We try to combat this by having everyone go wireless except the drummer (for obvious reasons), and we all get out, move around, and have our particular interactions with the crowd that typically go over well. But, as a trio, if you're just relying on the music alone, it's a tough sell from what I've seen. Bar crowds, at least around here, don't want just music....they want a show as well.

    And, as previously stated, to a lot of people, the singer IS THE BAND. It's who they hear and what they remember. An average band with a great singer will be better accepted than a great band with a crappy singer. A lot of bands out there are very good, but not having a good singer holds them back. People focus on the vocals much more so than anything else, so having a good voice is the most important thing in the types of situations we are in and the crowds we play to.

    A trio could work, and traditionally has worked, but you'd better be sure someone in the group has a fantastic voice and everyone else has to work double time to make the performance entertaining.

    Just my thoughts, or at least the impression I get from the bar scene.
  15. Flyingfrets


    Dec 25, 2011
    We're a 6-piece Beatles tribute band with members coming from 4 different states (reasoning & logistics have been discussed elsewhere on the forum).

    Consequently, none of our gigs are local to any of us. I live roughly 15 miles outside of Atlantic City. You'd think the casino market would make things easy for us, but the casinos here aren't interested in a Beatles tribute that doesn't do the whole costume shtick (we don't. We're more along the lines of The Fab Faux). This is where having a booking agency comes in...

    We travel to where the $$/gigs are. Weekend stands all over the northeast with an occasional foray down the east coast. More effort yes, but the return has been worth it. After expenses, we each made an additional $27k (above & beyond our day jobs) last year.

    Your chosen format is fine. You just may have to broaden your horizons a little if you want work.

    And repoman is right, if the desire is dead, so is your band. Bar-managers/ booking agents & most importantly, audiences can smell that a mile away. If you don't care, why should they?

    If you actually do care & it's just frustration we're hearing, have you considered a vocal coach/ lessons? If the band is firing on all cylinders, the work is out there.

    Best wishes for your success...
  16. Dave W

    Dave W Supporting Member

    Mar 1, 2007
    White Plains
    Getting gigs may be harder because they've heard the vocals and weren't a fan.

    They also generally take multiple phone calls, emails, stop-ins, or and other means. Once you get "in" with a place it can get easier, but cold calling new venues is always rough.
  17. Thanks guys. I think I was just a bit down this morning and feeling a bit frustrated.

    Ironically, I was able to get a gig booked at a new venue this afternoon for late April, and then literally just 5 minutes ago, one of our regular places messaged me about a date in May. So things are looking up a bit.

    I think we will still have to talk about the long term marketability about the band, but this helps me feel better a bit.
  18. kikstand454


    Sep 28, 2012
    Everything they said plus.... I'm in a power trio and we're all average singers at best. Were doing OK, 2-6 gigs a month, and since we have families and day jobs.....that's more than enough. Our area lost most of its "high end" gigs recently and so more established ( better) bands are dredging the hole in the walls and gobbling up gigs.
    Its tough everywhere man..... hang in there.
  19. kcole4001


    Oct 7, 2009
    Nova Scotia
    Better vocals almost always mean better bookings, much more than the quality of the musicianship.
    And an attractive female vocalist increases the market potential immensely.

    Just watch a multi-act show that includes the type of band you currently are and one with a talented and attractive female singer.
    The crowd reaction will tell the story.
  20. Gaolee

    Gaolee Outta my way! I'm caffeinated! Supporting Member

    Another aspect of it is how much of a show you are putting on. Are you entertaining to watch and listen to? If none of you project a charismatic presence, the audience is going to be less enthusiastic even if you are spectacular players.