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Think of this next time a bar wants you to play cheaply


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Isnt sxsw kind of one of those getting your ticket punched kind of deals for texas bands,,, kinda like gruen hall? I dont know much about it. dont you have to be a pretty good group to even go showcase?

 

All excellent questions.

 

I've lived in Austin a long time. I thought it was a VERY BIG DEAL when I first got accepted to play SXSW. :love:

 

I also thought it was a very big deal getting my first refereed paper published by the National Academy of Science. That particular elation lasted a few hours until I found someone else's submission in my work mailbox, with a note from my boss, the professor, attached. It said, "Please review this for me and indicate whether it should be published or not." :freak:

 

That was the moment when I realized we were all just grad students reviewing each others' journal papers. :facepalm:

 

SXSW is a similarly overhyped thing, and I had a similar disillusionment about it.

 

There was a grad student at my work, and saying his band "sucked" would be a gross understatement. I don't mean "suck" as in "I don't happen to like this music," I mean "suck" as in there's absolutely no musicianship, talent, songwriting skill, ability to sing on key, or other sort of charm present even under the kindest most open-minded scrutiny. :o

 

My friend's band got into SXSW on his first try.

 

Being very carefully polite, I congratulated my friend and remarked it was very unusual to get in on the first try. He replied with a grin, "You're wondering how a band that sucks as bad as we do got in, fair enough. Our singer's gf is on the SXSW committee." :eek:

 

Well, not everyone's gf is, but the fact is the Austin Chronicle does have their special friends and their agendas, as do the club owners, who also have a say. So like everything else in life, it's mostly who you know and who you blow. :idk:

 

I've gotten in four times so far, so please don't think this is just typical loser bitterness. If anything, I'm mad at myself for not figuring out and exploiting that for so long. :facepalm:

 

Most long-time local bands understand how to work SXSW. Not all the clubs participate in SXSW but all benefit from the huge numbers of people on the street that week. It's good to be in good standing with one of those non-participating "scab" clubs. Not only can you get a gig with them during SXSW, but you won't necessarily be held to the 20 minutes that SXSW gives each band.

 

Some of the clubs that DO participate, though they must surrender control of their schedule to the SXSW organizers, ADD shows earlier for bands they like. I don't know how much trouble they get in for this, but I see several of them doing it. :o

 

The official SXSW org needs alternates too. Believe it or not, after managing to make the extremely difficult cut into SXSW, some bands fail the next task of actually showing up, or someone comes down with a lost voice, etc. With hundreds of bands playing, it's a certainty that some slots will come open, occasionally at the last minute. To get those slots, you need to be connected and have your cell phone ON and band ready to go at a moment's notice.

 

Anyway, "they" will never talk about this, but that's how it actually works. :idk:

 

"We" just work within what the system gives us, and try to sell a few CDs. :)

 

Terry D.

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P.S. Just got home from our SXSW "showcase." $750 for a music wristband, we had maybe 200 people packed in (actually applauding) and presumably drinking and we were paid.... nothing.
:mad:
Gotta love SXSW!
:freak:



At this point I've pretty much written off SXSW and CMJ. I guess it used to be different, but at this point the idea seems to be:

Get ten zillion bands to pay to apply. Stick the unsigned ones in crappy time spots in out-of-the-way venues, and save all the good spots for bands who've been "discovered" already and who don't need the exposure or opportunity but will get more people to pay a boatload of money for passes to come see this years "buzz bands". Deposit the money. Repeat next year.

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At this point I've pretty much written off SXSW and CMJ. I guess it used to be different, but at this point the idea seems to be:


Get ten zillion bands to pay to apply. Stick the unsigned ones in crappy time spots in out-of-the-way venues, and save all the good spots for bands who've been "discovered" already and who don't need the exposure or opportunity but will get more people to pay a boatload of money for passes to come see this years "buzz bands". Deposit the money. Repeat next year.

 

Yes.

 

They've actually said, in the Chron (interesting fiction they have that SXSW and the Chronicle are separate), that SXSW is not about finding unsigned talent. They didn't exactly admit what a huge cash cow it is for them, though.... :o

 

Terry D.

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I backed up a singer/songwriter at SXSW in 2003.

What a joke the whole experience was. I flew down on my own dime, paid for my own food, hotel and car and I think I made about 50 bucks for like 5 gigs during a week.

But at least I can say I did it, right?

And the guy I was supporting got zero buzz, record offers or new fans from the experience either.

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I backed up a singer/songwriter at SXSW in 2003.


What a joke the whole experience was. I flew down on my own dime, paid for my own food, hotel and car and I think I made about 50 bucks for like 5 gigs during a week.


But at least I can say I did it, right?


And the guy I was supporting got zero buzz, record offers or new fans from the experience either.

 

Your experience is the norm.

 

Some bands don't catch on right away, though.

 

A couple of years ago we were doing fill ins for no-show bands at SXSW. That's a cool way to get a showcase but often you're paired inappropriately.

 

That was the case this day. We were playing between two LOUD metal bands, and we aren't remotely metal. :freak:

 

I've heard loud, but this was over the level where the ear can't perceive any sort of pitch or beat, just a continuous jet engine type of roar at painful levels. The bar had already cleared out, only the waitstaff hung in, with ineffective toilet paper stuffed in their ears.

 

I put my plugs in and ventured inside to check out the spectacle for a while, and to see if we'd be able to jack in to the house PA in the allowed 5 min setup time.

 

This was the sort of band that had a huge wall of guitars, thundering drums, and a cookie monster vocalist. I didn't know the cookie monster part right away, as I couldn't hear the vocalist AT ALL. As young metal bands usually do (having played in one myself many years ago), they seemed to emphasize their tightness, playing intricate riffs in unison, with complex stops and starts. They were certainly tight.

 

Then something funny happened.

 

They did a thing where the vocalist screamed a long held out note as the band stopped and started in a complex sequence, letting some of his vocals stand alone for a moment - except they didn't.

 

The first "empty" spot where he was still singing, he and I immediately noticed his mic was unplugged since who knows how long ago. He quickly picked up the cord from the floor and plugged back in, resuming his scream. I laughed at his uber seriousness, thinking I'd seen the "Spinal Tap" moment of the night.

 

But there was more to come.

 

Even with my earplugs in, it was way too loud, so I went back outside.

 

Shortly thereafter, seeing the club completely empty, the guitarists came out into the street using their wirelesses. I guess they thought they'd attract some people into the club.

 

In a few seconds, though, they accidentally synchronized to the drummer in the next club over (6th Street clubs are like 4 ft wide and 60 ft long) who was louder than their own drummer out in the street. They were literally playing along with the drum beat from another band and they had no idea. Their transition was so seamless I didn't notice it for a minute or so myself.

 

It was one of the weirdest things I've seen. :facepalm:

 

Afterwards, they were so full of post gig adrenaline that they lingered and didn't tear down, slapping each other high fives and even exclaming, "We {censored}ing rocked this place!" even though no one was there, or had been there other than briefly. :freak:

 

The club was empty, so I let them enjoy their euphoria for a while before reminding them we needed to get set up and play our set.

 

Terry D.

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What's the point? I've listened to clips of yours Terry and thought they were great-funky stuff. I'd hate to be in a music scene like that. I really would give up performing if the only choice was to play for people paying money and I get nada. like every other long timer, I've played free gigs, played showcases, played gigs for what i thought might be some future benefit, but with the main guys I've been playing with for many years, we have reached a collective mindset that we never play for nothing, even if it means we don't play. We all do other gigs, so if one of us wants to play more or for cheap, we can, just not together. I don't even call the guys to talk about free "opportunities" I get when your in your 20's you get out there and do everything you can, but I don't get older guys with lots of experience who do crazy gigs for the "future" I'd rather do something else, or stay home and practice, record, write, whatever. I'm not bagging on you, just trying to understand. Your a pro, been around the block. Why play that gig?






P.S. Just got home from our SXSW "showcase." $750 for a music wristband, we had maybe 200 people packed in (actually applauding) and presumably drinking and we were paid.... nothing.
:mad:
Gotta love SXSW!
:freak:

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I'm not bagging on you, just trying to understand. Your a pro, been around the block. Why play that gig?

 

This show was at a new, upscale club that we'd like to get into on a paid basis. Julie (musical partner) thought it might be a good way to audition for them (clubs here and possibly everywhere just throw away press kits) and maybe sell a few of our CDs in the process, given the huge traffic generated by SXSW.

 

If we'd brought the full band, it would have cost me a lot of money as our dudes (and dudette) don't play for free. But we figured what else were the two of us doing that night, might as well perform. We'd just taken almost a year off to do other things so it also sorta served as our rebirth.

 

Austin is a grim place to work. As I mentioned, even Monte Montgomery doesn't draw well and can't fetch a gate that any professional musician would consider worth playing for. However, he still plays for $10 cover to 25 people and splits that with several other bands, I guess because he loves performing and likes to stay busy. :idk:

 

My primary focus with Julie is songwriting; we spend more time together doing that than gigging, though the gigging is necessary to keep our chops up and get feedback on how people like what we write. We currently have a new song you guys haven't heard that is garnering some interest from movie soundtrack people. That might become our primary direction in the future, if it works out.

 

Terry D.

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Since I don't drink anymore, I have no idea what drinks cost and don't really care. I get hired for a certain amount to do a show, if the bar makes money great but I better get what I was hired for, which is why I get signed contracts.

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$6500 in a bar safe is probably the norm for a small bar to have in operating cash. I've worker in a fairly large bar that does a lot of business for the last 8 years and we always have $20k - $30k in cash on hand, with about $10k of that in change. Then there is another $10k to fill the ATM machines, money to pay bands, employees that get paid cash, ect.

 

Plus on top of the money the bar keeps on hand there is always money from sales floating around that havn't been deposited yet.

 

$6500 really isn't very much for a bar to keep on hand.

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Since I don't drink anymore, I have no idea what drinks cost and don't really care. I get hired for a certain amount to do a show, if the bar makes money great but I better get what I was hired for, which is why I get signed contracts.

 

 

 

same here

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