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TBers from Boston, MA: how tough is your local scene?

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by idoru, Aug 12, 2007.

  1. idoru


    Dec 18, 2005
    Brisbane, Australia
    g'day all,

    I've had a gut-full of the music scene here in Brisbane. Billboard magazine rates it as one of the top 5 cities around the world for new music. If that's the case, why is it so effing hard to get a gig around here? Good venues are dropping like flies at the moment.

    My missus is from Boston, so relocation is a possibility. I want the realist's perspective: what is the Boston music scene like? How hard is it for a new originals band to start playing shows? For that matter, how hard is it for a decent* bassist to find a band?

    (* for a given value of 'decent', of course)

    I need to know whether it's worth the hassle - my wife misses her family a lot, while I would seriously benefit from having an ocean or two between me and mine ;)

    cheers guys (and occasional gal)
  2. I've been having the same sort of thoughts... my missus is American and homesick too, and apparently I'd like Boston as it's got quite a European feel in parts. :)

    So c'mon Bostonians, let's hear the truth. :D
  3. I live in Portland Maine, about 2 hours north of Boston, and Boston has a big music scene depending on what type of music you play. The Greater Boston area has 35+ colleges/universities, so if you play whatever type of music is popular in the college circuit you'll do just fine.

    Although you could run into some stiff competition. Berklee School of Music is in Boston and there are a million wannabe folkies trying to imitate DMB or Jack Johnson/John Mayer.

    A link to The Phoenix newspaper in Boston:

    Basically it's a survival guide to entertainment in the Boston, Providence, Portland areas.

    Here's a search just for the Boston area music listings on Friday night:
    http://thephoenix.com/Listings/Grid...ue, Performer, Play, etc.&startdate=8/17/2007
  4. DanielleMuscato


    Jun 19, 2004
    Columbia, Missouri, USA
    Endorsing Artist, Schroeder Cabinets
    The jazz scene there is thriving. Also, just because of the population density in that part of the country, you can find hundreds of decent places to play, all within a few hours of Boston.

    As with any "magnet" music city, there are plenty of places willing to take advantage of the new arrivals and college kids who are willing to play for free (or even pay-to-play) just to get some stage time. Working musicians competing with kids who will play for free, especially when real estate is so expensive that a club's capacity might top out at 50 or 75, does not fare well for working musicians. Why would a club want to hire/pay a working band when they can fill their club with a college band who will play for free and bring 50 friends?
  5. PocketGroove82


    Oct 18, 2006
    I found Boston's music scene to be extremely overpopulated for the small number of venues inside Boston proper. There are tons and tons of players there, so I found it harder to gig than expected.

    I'm sure you can find bar gigs if you play in a Dave Mathews cover band though! =D Granted, it's an amazing town and I would move back in a heart beat, if I could afford it!
  6. I lived and gigged in Boston for a bunch of years, plus worked at some of the clubs. Simply put, Boston is a great music town. Great clubs and bars - people will just go out to the clubs to see bands without knowing who is playing. And there is lots of support around (zines and newspapers, records stores, local indie labels). Plus it's a fun scene, generally speaking .

    But beware... there are LOTS of really good bands on the scene ALL THE TIME, lol, so it can be very hard to stand out. Plus, Berkeley is there so you have some serious players in town. Because of all of this, if you don't have your "A game" ready you can be in for a tough time. Everyone seems to expect a lot - musicians, crowds, bar owners, music writers, etc.

    Oh, and Boston is very expensive to live in. But it is a great city!

    My $.02!
  7. poisonoakie


    Nov 26, 2006
    Las Vegas, NV
    Boston is a great place to play, if your not trying to make any money. There are soooooooo many very talented young musicians around this city who are willing to work for nothing, or damn near it, that if you do not allready have an established following and some contacts with the area clubs, you CAN NOT support yourself. Especially if you are living in this outrageously expensive city.
  8. dravenzouk


    Feb 18, 2007
    I used to live & play in Boston a LONG time ago, and I'm sure that much has changed since then, but some factors seem to remain: lots of colleges (so lots of music enthusiasts), the influence (good & bad) of Berklee, TONS of players & bands, and an infrastructure (radio stations, zines, & clubs) that appreciates original music (as opposed to just cover bands).

    When I lived there, there were huge amounts of musicians and it was a very creative atmosphere. From the viewpoint of a fan, Boston was far and away the best place, musically, that I've ever lived. So much happening - jazz, rock, pop, punk, blues, etc. On any given weekday night you could go out and have a choice of at least 10 original music bands - nice. WERS heavily supported original music, and clubs like the Rat, TT the Bears, and others were always having new music bands in.

    But, as mentioned earlier, the competition was fierce from a musician's point of view. Definately had to be on your "A" game. On the one hand, there were lots of very talented players out there so you had to be good to stand out. On the other hand, there were lots of "coming up" players that would play cheap or for free, and that made it tough if you needed to get paid.

    Here's a factoid that tells you a lot. One year there was a big "battle of the bands" (the Rumble - do they still do it?). To be involved your band had play original music (no cover bands) and you had to be unsigned. There were hundreds of entries. So, that means that, just considering original/unsigned bands, there were hundreds in the area. Add to that signed and cover bands and you can see that there are a LOT of players - all wanting to gig.

    But, here's the factor that no one has brought up: I am assuming you are a bass player, yes? Well, Boston is just like any other place in that gui****s are littered all over the place, but there always seem to be a lack of bass playeres. As a bass player, I always had gigs available. Most were of course temp/fill-ins, but it was work. At one time, I was gigging with four different bands. I had to turn down work fairly often.

    So, if you are really good, have the chops, and have material that stands out, Boston can be one of the best places to be in the whole country. But, if you are "just another guitar player", and you need to make lots of money (yes, Boston is very pricey), than good luck!
  9. Hawaii Islander

    Hawaii Islander Supporting Member

    Aug 11, 2007
    Rio Rico, AZ
    I grew up in Salem, Massachussetts (20 miles north of Boston). I've been in Hawaii for quite a while, but Boston (and the North Shore area) always had a great bar circuit for rock bands. Another TB member pointed out the huge number of public and private college campuses in the area. New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont, and Rhode Island are easily accessible for weekend gigs as well.

    Good Luck!

    and keep us posted!
  10. Me and the missus are going to be over in the US for the last three weeks of September... is there anyone from Boston here who might be able to give us a bit of a tour while we're over? Just the basics really - music shops, good bars/pubs, decent music venues and maybe some of the half-decent neighbourhoods?
  11. FenderP

    FenderP Supporting Member

    May 7, 2005
    I've been living in the area (including going to college outside of Boston) since 1990. Whiel the Berklee influence is a tad overrated, it does tend to saturate the market a bit. Like any other area, you have good bands and players, and bad ones as well. What works has nothing to do with quality. Club owners care more about bar sales and people through the door than your music generally. Nothing new under the sun.

    For grins and yucks, check out the musician's section of the Boston Craigslist.

    I was in a Rush tribute band until we broke up this year. That was a tough sell in the BOston area. The aforementioned Dave Matthews Band tribute may have been a better idea ;) Seriously, what you choose to play and where you choose to play it will affect how much you make here. There are tons of cover bands (which tend to make the most), and original music can be heard in many clubs every night here.

    It's a rich music scene, but if you want music to be your full time profession around here, you'll have to work hard, and your best bet is covers. Save the originals/other stuff for fun and if you start to make money at it, then maybe drop your other gig.

    But I would suggest finding a day job and doing music for other reasons if you plan on relocating here. I wouldn't stay here if I didn't like it, but I'm glad I don't depend on music for my source of income.

    I plan on getting back to my jazz stuff next year and seeing where that goes but I won't be doing it expecting to make thousands a night. And I'm certainly not going to play Scullers or the Regattabar right off the bat!
  12. jomahu


    Dec 15, 2004
    Bos, MA
    depends on what you want to do.

    i live and play in boston. there is a good scene here. but like someone before me said, if you're hoping to make big bucks playing originals in local clubs....um, maybe not. but i imagine that's the case everywhere. RIGHT????? or am i just in the wrong city?????

    the other thing is that boston is TINY. there are a lot of clubs in the boston/cambridge area, but people are too cool here to be all that supportive of good bands.
    however, the good thing is that Rhode Island, Maine, Vermont, New York, New jersey and even Philly can be viable options for touring. but once again, it's a money thing....we just came back from a gig in NYC, where we each made a whopping $10.

    so if you want to be in a band that plays all original music....more power to you. we do originals (and weird ones at that), and we do alrite - definitely nothing that we can survive on full-time, but it's a good supplement. just be sure to join a GB band to actually make some money. :)

    you can check out www.boston.craigslist.org to see what people are looking for and what the market is like.

    edit: darnit, fenderP just beat me to it!
  13. zac2944


    Dec 28, 2004
    Rochester, NY
    I moved to Boston 2.5 years ago and I'm very impressed with the music scene here. Like others have said, your success will depend on what you want to do.

    For an original band, you're going to have lots of competition and a tough climb to the top of the heap. If making it big and becoming a rockstar is your thing, take a number and get in line.

    Now, if you're just looking for good paying steady work, Boston is fantastic. I'm definately in this school and not looking to be a rockstar.

    Just after I moved here I landed a gig with a funk/disco cover band. As a band we're making $1k-$2k for club dates and $5k-$8k for private gigs (corp., weddings, parties). There are so many rich people and corporations around this area, these big money gigs just fall in our laps. Some of these gigs are in Boston and other are scattered around New England.

    I've also landed a fairly steady studio gig playing for a producer. He didn't balk when I asked for $75/hr.

    If you want to come here and satisfy your creative musical urges, you're probably better off at home. If you want to come here and make money like a pro/hired-gun, there is much work to be done.
  14. zac2944


    Dec 28, 2004
    Rochester, NY
    +1 My point exactly.

    Therer is a lot of crap to weed through on CL, but I've picked up many good paying gigs there. I read through that musicians wanted page every morning. There are always people looking for fill-in bass players last minute. You can command a lot of money last minute.
  15. jomahu


    Dec 15, 2004
    Bos, MA

    dood, you play in booty vortex? y'all are GOOD TIMES! :hyper:

    hey, if you're free on friday, come on down to the milky way in JP. we're havin a cd release party.
  16. jakeox


    Feb 15, 2007
    For what it's worth, even if it's tough to break through (I'm not there so I can't speak to that), the scene is big enough that if you break through, there is a nice progression of bigger and bigger venues to play. And as others have mentioned, you have other great cities within driving distance.

    For an unusual case study, take a look at Bang Camaro. They are from Boston, and hit it pretty big pretty quickly. They now sell out some of the larger venues in Boston and decent sized places in NYC, etc. Of course, they're a fairly unique kind of act (3 guitars, bass, drums, and 20 lead singers), so there's a novelty factor involved, but they're an example of how quickly you can do well in Boston if you have something people want to see and work hard. I don't think they're making much money with 25 dudes in the band, but that's a different issue.

    I think their bass player is from New Zealand and moved to Boston for the music scene, for what that's worth. The dudes are reasonably easy to get in touch with (some google work, or they seem to respond on myspace), so they might have more details for you.
  17. zac2944


    Dec 28, 2004
    Rochester, NY
    Thanks for the props. If I show up on Friday I'll be sure to say hello.
  18. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    Another Bostonian here. I agree with most of what's written above.

    As you can see, the money is in playing commercial music...weddings, parties, top-notch top 40 bands.

    While the money is low, there is plenty of opportunity to play original music in a wide range of genres. Since moving here in 1981 I've played punk, top 40, "indie" rock, bluegrass, Irish, cajun/zydeco, jazz, blues, C&W.

    Even as a part-time player I'm getting 3-4 gigs a week and I'm far removed from the "A list".

    As far as I'm concerned it's a great place to live for a musician.
  19. fhbandy


    May 22, 2007
    Boston, MA
    In boston, there is no shortage of places to play whatever type of you music you wish. That is, as long as you don't mind playing ****** dives sometimes, and don't mind getting paid in beer and buffalo wings. There are a lot of great places to play as well, but getting gigs there are dependent on who you know. There are a few venues that will need to fill time slots and will post on craigslist just asking for a phone number and a url to your music, and if they like it they will book you. Its a good way to get going, and once you do the networking around here is easy and pretty soon you are show trading with anybody and everybody. I love the scene around here; however, you won't get rich playing it. It's still a hell of a time.
  20. idoru


    Dec 18, 2005
    Brisbane, Australia
    Thanks for all the verbose replies, everybody. If we do move I'd mostly be looking after my little girl while my wife rakes in the big bucks. Maybe pick up some covers work, but just as likely to get back into the surveying industry and focus my musical energy on original stuff. I'm really into the heavier side of things, in a progressive post-hardcore way. Needless to say I'm used to playing dives ;)

    So basically, it wouldn't be the worst move I'd have made in my life if it goes ahead. Cheers all.

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