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The issue of backing tracks

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by Viper617, May 17, 2019.

  1. turf3


    Sep 26, 2011
    Well, for a cover band, personally (PERSONALLY!!!) I prefer to see the people on the bandstand making the music. No drummer? Do the songs in a way that doesn't require a drummer. This comes from my personal history in a cover band where we had one guitar, no keys, sax, drums, bass, male singer, and we played songs that were originally recorded with keyboards, two guitars, female singers, synthesizers, etc., etc., simply by making arrangements for our instrumentation.

    For an electronic-music project, if the electronics are part of the musical effects, then that's what they are.

    Two different things, two different preferences.

    I understand that the average audience member prefers performances of well known pop songs to sound as close to the recorded version as possible, and it better be 120 beats per minute - not 118 or 122, nope, can't dance to that, gotta be exactly 120 beats - now I'm dancing! Woo!

    But being an old fart from a time when there was at least a tiny bit more individuality in band performances of well known songs, I would rather hear something that isn't an exact copy of the record. Otherwise, why don't I just go home, have a drink, and listen to the record?

    I mean, people here complain constantly about being replaced by DJs and then they insist that their own performances be exact replications of records. Heck, if all you're going to get with live musicians is the record, only sloppier, why would you want to put up with a bunch fo musicians?
  2. Sav'nBass

    Sav'nBass Supporting Member

    Jan 18, 2009
    Northern Va.
    Indeed ... and this brother is an exceptional horn player.....
    CyberSnyder likes this.
  3. When my MIDI band was formed, DJs in the NYC metro area were taking work from live musicians. They were making the “$100 per man” baseline nonexistent.

    We quickly determined that three performers was optimal for scheduling rehearsals and agreement on the creative and business aspects of the band. Majority rules, and we all had a voice.

    More musicians eroded the project. Drummers, in particular, created more chaos, even if they were hired guns. People seem to want a say in the band’s decision-making, even when they were explicitly told that they were employees, not partners.

    Personally, I preferred to split a $400 gig three ways rather than five or six ways. One share always went to the band equipment fund. Adding a drummer or a female vocalist, while helpful visually and musically, rarely, if ever, increased the pay the band received. No matter the type of gig, no matter the quality of the venue. Venues have a pay range that is inflexible, based upon their budget. Events like weddings, corporate functions, etc. also have budgets; if you asked a bridal couple or an event planner If they would pay extra for a live drummer, most would say, “Was there a live drummer on your demo cassette/CD?” We would say “No.” They almost always declined to pay extra after hearing that.

    I’m 67 years old, and therefore an old fart too. @turf3 , I’m sure you approach the issue as a musician first. It’s admirable. But we approached this as people with good day jobs, who weren’t going to be snookered by venue owners who would do things like “playing for exposure”, and playing on stages that are electrically or physically unsafe.

    EVERY job we did, a contract was signed. And in that contract, a stage plan and a technical rider was included. We were dependent upon properly wired electrical power (because we carried out a 386/486/Pentium PC and a CRT display, before laptops became affordable), and we needed a secure table on which to put our rack mounted gear like the synth and drum modules. I personally carried out circuit testers and tested the electric before very show. I remember a bar in Maspeth, Queens where someone’s brother-in-law wired the outlets; not only were they not wired to code, but it would have fried US in addition to our equipment. I pointed out in the contract they signed that unless the condition was remedied by showtime, we were leaving AND they were obligated to pay us. Not to mention that they should expect a visit from the Fire Marshal if they planned to stiff us. They asked the dry cleaner next door to run an extension with a four-gang box between the two businesses, and we went on. Made the bar a lot of money that night. And the bar owner corrected it afterwards, and had us back.

    Most other bands would have just played there. We had a reputation for being professional and consistent.
    bpmben and Nevada Pete like this.
  4. turf3


    Sep 26, 2011
    Well, I am sure that for the purposes and venues you are talking about, the use of backing tracks works very well and the customers are satisfied.

    If I were an audience member, my reactions would vary according to where I was.

    If I were a wedding guest, my interest would be in socializing with the other guests, the bride and groom, etc., and maybe having a few drinks and dancing. Even as a musician, my interest in the details of the band would be minimal.

    If I were going out to a bar with some friends to have a good time, get a little lit up, celebrate something or other, do some dancing, try to chat up a chick, my interest in the details of the band would still be minimal.

    If I heard "so and so band is really good, you ought to go check them out" and I went with the intention of listening specifically to the band as the focus of the evening, and I heard a cover band using lots of backing tracks to try to simulate a record, I would be somewhat disappointed. In that particular context, I would be hoping they would come up with their own interpretations, and I would interpret "exactly like the record using backing tracks" as evidence of unimaginativeness.

    If I went specifically to listen to a band that was described as "they use lots of electronic effects to achieve their unusual sound for their original compositions" then I would hear the tracks as an intended part of the music; not as a cost-reduction substitute for a live musician.

    So there's four scenarios where even a musician's reaction to "band using backing tracks" varies from "yeah, whatever, can we get another tray of drinks over here" to "Meh! Not inventive enough to figure out how to play the tune and sound good unless it's a record duplicate" to "Cool, I see what he's doing there with those recorded musique concrete sounds."

    Now that I've typed all that, I'm not sure what it really means. Maybe just that context matters very greatly, and you have to consider that in making your own decisions for your own group.

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