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Playing in multiple bands; penny-wise and dollar foolish?

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by bumperbass, Oct 10, 2018.

  1. bumperbass

    bumperbass Supporting Member

    Jun 19, 2012
    I got to thinking this week about the multiple band thingy.
    Yeah, you can move around a lot and fill all your open dates and make more money, but does this really make sense? I guess it all depends on the size of the geographical area you may live, but around my area
    that covers maybe a 60 mile radius, there are plenty of bands. In my opinion, more bands than this area can support.

    I tried it for a while. I insisted that everyone text me about dates and I swore to do the same if I had a date I couldn't play, etc. That way I had proof to show that I told them I couldn't play, and in some cases, to prove they gave me erroneous dates. I got tired of all the conflics and told myself I am going to be a one-band-guy.

    The reason I thought about this is, my band is so stretched out. We are always needing subs, and other bands, because of this, need subs too. It's becoming a big circle. For instance:
    You book a gig with band B on 11/10. Band A (your regular band) gets a decent booking for 11/10 on short notice. You can't play because you're booked with band B, so your regular band (A) gets a sub.

    We've needed 3 different subs this month (keyboard, drums, and me (bass).

    It all seems counter-productive. You have guys that barely know the material in band A, yet sub for band B.

    I miss the old days where there was more allegiance. You played with a group of guys and you tried to become as tight as you could. Nowadays, the music suffers because subs can hardly be the real thing.
    The gigs were easier then, IMO because all the guys were more on the same page. Heck, we even did the hang thing.

    I think that, if it was more like the old days, the best bands could get the best jobs.
    This weekend our keyboard player can't make it and our sub isn't available. That means we have to figure out a song list for NO keys. Crazy.

    I always did my best when having to sub, but typically sub dates are kind of last-minute. There's no way I'm going to nail every song, especially the ones I've only heard a few times or ones I've never heard at all.

  2. ArtechnikA

    ArtechnikA I endorsed a check once... Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 24, 2013
    If your one band is meeting your musical and financial goals, good deal. Congratulations.
    OTOH - if you have more bands than the area can support, that sounds like there aren't enough gigs to go around - IOW - no problem.
    3 subs in one month - is that three shows, or one show with 3 schedule conflicts?
    If you're working every weekend, again, congratulations. You may only need one band. You may also be charging too little...

    I work on a 'first-call, first-served bassist.' (pardon the pun...)
    I'll gladly dedicate 100% of my effort to one project - if that project is playing out every weekend.
    You don't get 100% of my effort if you're playing out once a year (got a project like that - BL wonders why people don't want to rehearse...)

    Main reasons I am involved with multiple projects:
    1) if Band A doesn't play a song I like, B or C probably will.
    2) music is my job. No one project works enough to meet my financial goals. I'd be thrilled if this changed.
  3. bumperbass

    bumperbass Supporting Member

    Jun 19, 2012
    4-5 gigs a month would be enough for me. I don't want to have EVERY weekend taken from me. I have family.
    3 subs in one month is 3 different shows.
    I just put up with it because the music/talent is good.
    Jimmy4string likes this.
  4. ArtechnikA

    ArtechnikA I endorsed a check once... Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 24, 2013
    I understand.
    My 'work week' is Friday-Saturday-Sunday and my 'weekend' is M-Th...
    M-Th I do admin stuff, practice, and learn new material for whatever setlist is coming up next.
    My wife works 3-11 so we're mostly on the same schedule...
    EddiePlaysBass and Chickenwheels like this.
  5. bumperbass

    bumperbass Supporting Member

    Jun 19, 2012
    That was ME, circa 1976-1980, but without wife.
    Chickenwheels likes this.
  6. I try to play a different instrument in each band, or a totally different music in each band, and avoid being in multiple bands with the same musicians. Its a little tiring to see bands that almost have the same members, just in different configurations.
    juancaminos likes this.
  7. craigie


    Nov 11, 2015
    The bandleader of the band I’m in books for whatever the venue is willing to pay. Mostly he does solo gigs. Many duo gigs. Trio gigs and full band gigs. He’s a great business man and this along with teaching is his living. It’s not multiple bands but multiple incarnations of his band. I happily sit in for free on his solo or duo gigs whenever I can. I’m starting another project and will have a first booked policy. I do expect that he will book up a lot sooner and I’ll discuss with him first.

    I had a duo band that just broke up because of this other band I’m in. He couldn’t handle me not being 100% committed. Didn’t matter that we had one booking all summer and two until the end of the year. His loss. Was a jerk too who always made some incident every gig to take the fun away.
  8. In my case, I'm trying to make music my job, so I have to play with everyone. I am in 3 different original projects where I'm just a hired gun. However, it's not only about the "money". Playing different styles (in my case: grunge, pop and flamenco) makes me a better musician and have a better perspective (I think at least)

    I think this is very important. I have played in 12 bands or more (not as a hired gun. Writing music, gigging...) and I have never been in one that we were all on the same page. Even in my current band. Nowadays it's very difficult to find people on the same page as you. For me at least, it has been impossible so far
  9. hrodbert696

    hrodbert696 Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Yes and no.

    I don't think any market can "support" all the bands that exist there, in terms of having plenty of good-paying gigs for all. The live music market is very different than it once was, if anything there are fewer gigs and more would-be players than ever. I include myself there - if it weren't for TB, CL and youtube, I probably never would have made the jump from bedroom player to gig-seeking musician.

    There's such a thing as just being overcommitted. You can get into a situation where the band can never book a gig - not with its regular lineup, anyway - because one or more members always have conflicts from all the other projects they're in. When that's happening, they need to go - hopefully voluntarily recognizing that they're holding the group back, but getting fired if they don't figure it out.

    But that doesn't make it "foolish" to have more than one project. A "band" is not a marriage, nor are most full time jobs. It's just a group of people making music together at a particular moment. If you have the time (and the time-management skills) to do right by more than one project at a time, there's no reason not to.

    I like having more than one iron in the fire. Some of it is what @ArtechnikA said about song selection. I like a band to have a definite identity about what they play. But that means there's going to be some great music it doesn't. So if I'm playing modern alternative in one band, it's nice to have another one that plays some funk or classic rock. I don't like a project that tries to be all things to all people and winds up as mush that has no flavor. Also, I like playing covers and having gigs where people know and like the songs we're playing, but I also like to write originals.

    The other thing is the fragility of bands. Since most of us aren't relying on music to pay our mortgages, band members are basically volunteers who will only keep playing as long as the project is fulfilling their own goals. Getting three to five people to want the same thing over an extended period of time is tricky. I see projects break up all the time when people leave or get fired (including myself), so I don't like having all my eggs in one basket.
  10. Space Pickle

    Space Pickle

    Apr 15, 2013
    I like being able to play many styles of music and work on many different techniques (fretless, DB, fingerstyle, pick playing, etc.). Also keeps me playing if a band falls apart.
  11. buldog5151bass

    buldog5151bass Kibble, milkbones, and P Basses. And redheads.

    Oct 22, 2003
    How often does your band gig, and is it enough for you? If it doesn't, consider a second band. Frankly, in your case, you are in too many bands, and might be happier playing almost as many gigs with one band (playing music you know and like).
  12. Holdsg

    Holdsg I should be practicing Gold Supporting Member

    Sep 10, 2009
    Alta Loma, CA
    I do like having multiple genres and multiple instruments in my band lineup/mix. I get bored easily. You have to be well organized and a good communicator. Helps if the Band Leaders also have those same skills.
    TideSwing and catcauphonic like this.
  13. catcauphonic

    catcauphonic High Freak of the Low Frequencies Supporting Member

    Mar 30, 2012
    Seattle WA
    Agree ^

    Seems most musos around here have at least one side project going to satisfy a different musical itch, and some 3-5!

    Things would likely get too complicated (for me personally) to have more than 2, unless the others were some kind of an infrequent or recording only situation.

    However if you're sole income comes from making music, i suppose you have to take what you can get.
    Holdsg likes this.
  14. pcake

    pcake Supporting Member

    Sep 20, 2011
    Los Angeleez
    for one thing, any band should have a google calendar rather than texting or emailing. that way, each band member can mark any days he/she isn't available and the other band members can see it in real time. if a band member just can't be bothered to mark down his unavailable days OR can't be bothered to check the calendar from their phone or computer before booking a show (it takes less than 10 seconds), there are problems to be dealt with.

    the old days weren't so different. there were people in more than one band. heck, wasn't jerrry garcia in the dead and old and in the way? i was in an a capella singing group and a band at the same time, and it worked out okay. and i've been in bands where everyone was on the same page in the '90s and 2000s, and was also in bands where no one was on the same page in the '70s. we had a guitar player in the '70s who was 100% sure he would be a super star and leave us in the dirt while the drummer played for the money and the second guitar/main vocals played to network himself to better things. i just liked making music. we got along well, played decent gigs and made fun of the lead guitarist in a nice way. it worked out okay.

    it sounds like the problem might be your band members. maybe you need to be in a band where the band is the members' priority OR you could pay the sub who gets called in the most to do a rehearsal with you to get to know the songs.
    Bunk McNulty likes this.
  15. lfmn16

    lfmn16 Supporting Member

    Sep 21, 2011
    charles town, wv
    Sounds more like a problem with the people you are playing with. I've played in three bands at the same time before. It aint rocket science. First come, first served, text to the other bands that I'm not available. If anyone ever asked for proof that I'd notified them I'd have two words for them and it wouldn't be Merry Christmas.

    Everything is hard when you are playing with yo-yos.
  16. pcake

    pcake Supporting Member

    Sep 20, 2011
    Los Angeleez
    that's so VERY true! and it's true in any area of your life where you work with people.
  17. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    One size does not fit all. It depends on how much you need the money and how much you want to play. No one band that I work with regularly plays more than twice a month on average, I'd rather play more so I'm not going to stick to just one of them.
    Holdsg likes this.
  18. The part of this premise I don’t get is the requirement for a particular band to take every gig that comes its way. Last minute offer to play some bar? Oh our bassist can’t do it, he already booked. One choice is get a sub, the other is to simply turn down the gig. What is so wrong with playing there in 2 weeks, or 2 months from now?

    If I could stay as busy as I want to be with one band, I’d only be in one band. But that doesn’t work for bands around here, especially real rock bands. Too many winery and cider farm gigs that want small combos, not enough real clubs.
    derrico1 likes this.
  19. LordRyan


    Dec 9, 2012
    It used to be that clubs would have bands five nights a week for a stay of up to four weeks. Many bands would often travel to distant locations and stay there for the full four weeks. This was a way of life for musician's for many years and bands got really tight from playing so much. Some bands even lived together in the same house when not on the road.

    Things started changing around 1991 due to an economic downturn. In southern California where I was then clubs cut back on the number of days per week and several places I had played for years suddenly went out of business.

    Now clubs hire bands for one-nighters on Friday or Saturday and sometimes weekdays during the summer in resort areas. The per night pay did go up a bit and it was still possible for one band to work every Friday and Saturday.

    In 2007 there was another downturn. This time it became difficult for many bands to get bookings more than about twice a month. This is what caused musicians to start playing with multiple bands. Most of the pro musicians I know are playing or subbing with four or five bands to keep a full schedule.

    Band leaders who once insisted on absolute loyalty are now willing to take whoever they can get for whatever gigs they get. Some put out a cattle call on Facebook for musicians needed on a certain date.

    I miss playing five or six nights a week but it looks like those days will never return and those of us who want to continue being a full time musician have to find a way to adapt.
  20. I could support myself playing with my surf band if we did 5 - 6 gigs a week, but that would be a pain to do for so little money, so I have a day job and only do 1 - 2 gigs a week and make enough to pay for the practice space and gear stuff.
    My other band is original material and I can look forward to exciting material and tight band with those guys. I used to play in another band, but just don't have time for it unless I quit my job again, which means playing more gigs with one band and not enough time for multiple bands, so it's like a triple edged sword...

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