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Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by Illbay, Mar 5, 2008.

  1. Illbay


    Jan 15, 2008
    Houston, Texas
    Have any of you seen, perhaps even been involved with, a band or project that was made up of musicians who were NOT professionals (i.e. didn't make their living, or perhaps no money at all, from playing music), but were very good, perhaps even good enough to BE pros if they wanted to do it? (But the catch is, they DIDN'T want to do it).

    We could have two categories here:

    (A) Bands or projects that made absolutely no, or very little, money from their efforts - certainly not enough to cover the expense of their involvement; and

    (B) Bands or projects that DO make significant money from their endeavors, perhaps even selling music online, even have a fan following - but still, the members are NOT professional musicians and support themselves and their families through "day jobs."

    I've been thinking about this a bit lately in starting up our own project. One member is "underemployed," shall we say, and understandably sees this as an opportunity at "revenue enhancement," while the others are gainfully employed as professionals making a good living, and see the band as more of a "hobby," albeit a significant one in which they're willing to invest much time (and money).

    I don't know how common this is, or what the typical path is that such projects might take. I seem to recall that one band I like very much, The Blue Nile, was made up entirely of folks who played music only part-time, although they were pretty successful at it.

    Anyone else have personal experiences along these lines, or at least tales to tell?
  2. Well i totally understand being in that situation even though I hope I do not end up there.
  3. Illbay


    Jan 15, 2008
    Houston, Texas
    I wonder, though: Do most people START there?

    Personally, I think most kids have a very unrealistic expectation of stardom, fed by Hollywood and the entertainment industry.

    If everybody's gonna be a star, who's gonna sit and clap?:smug:
  4. I think sometimes they start there, maybe thats all the expect to be, but sometimes to their surprise things take off out of nowhere.

    everybodys situation can be difference. I dont think that being there is failing, or even being in a rut. It is a perfectly acceptable place to be, perhaps even desirable.
  5. Illbay


    Jan 15, 2008
    Houston, Texas
    I think that's the way things were "in the beginning" with rock 'n' roll (ever see the really cute flick "That Thing You Do"?)

    I remember what a "big deal" it was when the Hollywood folks auditioned and selected four guys from among thousands of applicants, and created "The Monkees." Lots of complaints that they had "polluted" the innocence of the process where bands were formed from high-school friends who didn't now what the aitch they were doing and became stars.

    It's one of the reasons for so many "crash and burn" stories like Jim Morrison and Janis Joplin. They weren't prepared for the stardom, nor for how "used" they were by the entertainment flacks.
  6. thats an interesting point!

    The whole industry has changed alot though, but there is still plenty of situations like that... I think the hollywood kind of thing has been more separated into pop from rock these days though. There are alot of bands who lash out against the industry such as radiohead, and these bands are still kind of the "real deal"

    I think part of the reason that there are so many interesing bands out there and so much unique music and interacting of styles is because alot of bands DO have totally different backgrounds that influence their styles!
  7. Illbay


    Jan 15, 2008
    Houston, Texas
    Mostly in that it has become "an industry."

    I remember in the late 1960s, just before the AFL merged with the NFL in pro football. Back then, you had a few guys who made a pretty decent living just playing football, but the majority of players - especially the "non-skilled' players like the linemen, punters, kickers, etc. - made a pittance. Most of them worked "real jobs" in the offseason.

    But it grew.

    Now, Tennessee Titans Defensive End Albert Haynesworth has signed a "franchise tag" one-year contract in which he'll make $7.25 Million! :eek:

    The money involved in entertainment at all levels had changed things, taken some of the "sweet innocence" out of it all. "Stars" are manufactured overnight a la "American Idol," and then disappear from sight to make room for the next big thing.

    It's inevitable that it's going to skew and (dare I say it?) corrupt the vision of the wide-eyed kids who all wanna be STARS!!!:rollno:
  8. Illbay


    Jan 15, 2008
    Houston, Texas
    BUMP for vital research!
  9. I'm actually in a band right now that consists of very talented players. Our drummer is probably one of the best drummers I've ever heard live and very solid. I've hardly ever heard him make a mistake. He also went to Berklee but never graduated. He works for an insurance company.

    We have a keyboard player that's about as amazing as the drummer and is classically trained. He's been playing since he was 7 and he's now 44. He works in a warehouse that supllies parts to my plant.

    Our guitarist is a graduate of the Musician's Institue in L.A. and studied jazz and classical guitar. He's now working for the department of transportation.

    So I'm kind of in one of those categories. We've been playing for 3 years together and have some pretty interesting music in the production process now but in the last 3 years we've played 3 shows, and 2 of those shows were at the same church. One day we're gonna break free, one day!
  10. bkbirge


    Jun 25, 2000
    Houston, TX
    Endorsing Artist: Steak n Shake
    I've played with a lot of people like that, I've been on both sides, been full career musician and very part time hobbyist and everything in between. Some of the best players I've ever met have been hobbyists, I'm talking people who could be 1st call session players in a top market if they wanted to, that good. More than one keyboardist I've met has had perfect pitch and the chops to immediately translate anything they hear onto the keyboard. Other guys are former pros or schooled musos that just wanted to do other things with their careers.
  11. Illbay


    Jan 15, 2008
    Houston, Texas
    So, do you guys ever sit around and talk about the meaning of it all? Talk about your plans, your dreams, your hopes? (geez, sounds like you're thinking about marriage!)

    It's odd that you've done so much practicing (I presume) and recording (haven't you?) yet only three live shows?

    Maybe you guys have delusions of Steely Dan grandeur?
  12. Illbay


    Jan 15, 2008
    Houston, Texas
    A thought occurs. Maybe they just don't want to lose the LOVE they have for it, which would surely be dimmed somewhat by the drudgery that every career eventually represents.

    I like what I do - I'm an engineer - but as I get older it's just "mildly interesting," not a source of amazement and satisfaction. These days I'm so high on making music I think I'm gonna explode. I'd hate to feel like playing was "just a job."
  13. Our problem has been that we've had a hard time in the past keeping guitarists and singers. I mean, we don't play super hard, over the head type stuff all the time, just some times. The guy that owns the studio we play in told us that "When you walk into the studio and see and hear you guys play, it's an intimidating experience." I think we intimidate guys that try out. We don't do it on purpose but because there's so much "professionalism" sometimes when we start rehearsing I think it turns the average musician off because it seems too much like work than just jamming. A lot of the guitarists have a hard time keeping up with us and all the changes too. We can get pretty progressive sometimes.
  14. Basshappi


    Feb 12, 2007
    I've met alot of musicans like you describe.

    Here where I work, there is a band in which all the guys simultainously take 3 weeks of vacation every year so they can "tour" in Europe. They play regular gigs around AZ and CA throughout the rest of the year.

    I know bands composed of "hobbists" that play in the big music festivals like SXWS and others across the nation.

    Just because you are a regular "working joe" doesn't mean you can't do something serious with your musical goals.
  15. Illbay


    Jan 15, 2008
    Houston, Texas
    Your experience is the kind of thing I've been wondering about. I've just been so far "outside" for so long that I don't have my ear to the ground. And over the past five years that I've been attempting to get back into it, I find very few who're willing to be "serious enough" about it without being hugely unrealistic.

    Most are on the low-side of "serious," just wanting an excuse to drink beer with buddies while the play songs that sound "just like the record." More a case of arrested development.
  16. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    I guess I fit the description of an amateur who is serious enough about his playing to work at a pro level. All of the bands I've been in for the last 15 years or so have been a mix, some pros and some not. I've always had a day job myself.

    The first thing that I learned was that pros need to play all the time so they do not have issues with playing what many amateurs consider demeaning gigs. Got a gig in some dive bar? If it's an off night to the pro it's an extra $50 towards the rent and maybe a little fun. I remember pinching myself when my favorite rock drummer of all time filled in for a bar gig I was on. Here was a guy whose records I had been listening to for 30 years, who had played with McCartney and Jethro Tull...and now he was on my $75 bar gig and having a ball.

    Another thing I learned is that in some styles of music it's so tough to make a living that even world famous performers had day jobs. Dewey Balfa, long revered as the dean of Cajun fiddlers, drove a bus. Kenny Baker, who fiddled for Bill Monroe for years, used to work as a coal miner between tours. David Izenson who played bass with Ornette Coleman was a psychiatrist as is jazz pianist Danny Zeitlin. For years I played with a folksinger who's been recording records since the early 60s for labels like Warner Bros. and Rounder but between tours he would work odd jobs like repairing marine engines or selling Christmas trees!

    The final thing I learned was that working with pros removed most of the soap opera behavior that folks post about on TB all the time. I'm not really happy with the 1-2 gig a month schedule of many amateurs, I like to play as much as possible. I am willing to go out of town on weekends or play bar gigs on a weeknight and go to work the next day after 4 hours of sleep. Working with pros means I'm less likely to have my time wasted or get yanked around.
  17. Illbay


    Jan 15, 2008
    Houston, Texas
    brianrost, thanks a LOT for the Significa! I did not know these things!

    Okay, this brings another question to mind.

    What if you just can't get around "being picky" about your gigs? For instance, I really DON'T want to do "bar-gigs," and the kind of music we play is more appropriate for the small concert venue where people would go to actually listen to the music, rather than as a background to the deliberate slaying of neurons.

    So what kinds of places ARE available to play like that if you don't want the "bar gig" scene at all? Or are the "talented amateurs" just SOL?
  18. RED5


    Jan 14, 2008
    Suffolk County,NY
  19. Illbay


    Jan 15, 2008
    Houston, Texas
    That's a great idea, although one problem we have here in Houston is this town does NOT like to "preserve" older buildings. The moment it loses its usefulness, here comes the wrecking ball!

    However, there are plenty of small theaters housing - what else? - small theater companies here in town. I might work to see if we can just rent a place on our own nickel, advertise, and play to a captive audience!

    Thanks for the idea!
  20. El-Bob

    El-Bob Supporting Member

    Oct 22, 2006
    Hamilton, ON
    maybe a bit off-topic, but i think one of the great things about playing metal is that it's less influenced by the media than other genres, so most metal players have no delusion about stardom. alot of metal bands that i would look at as professional would fit your definition of amateur. just something to consider.

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