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David Himes

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About David Himes

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    Contributing Editor
  • Birthday 01/01/1968


  • Biography
    David Himes is the author of the book Realities for Local Bands: Talent is not Enough. You can find it at Amazon. For a FREE sneak preview, go to http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00KKF9Z2O. The book is also available in PDF format. Also, David published a local music scene paper for over 16 years and has held over 400 live shows, giving him a unique insight on the scene. Your feedback and comments are welcome.
  1. Are You Serious Enough? Of course, you want a career in music...but are you willing to pay the price? by David Himes aka 'The Gig Kahuna' There is quite a long list of what you’ll need to make a serious effort in the music scene. Of course, different tactics work for different artists, and one size does not fit all. But if you’re serious about pursuing a career as a musician, you will need to put in a lot of time, effort, and money. And you will need to ask yourself a lot of hard questions. Before setting out to be a musician, whether as in a band or a solo artist, ask yourself why you want to do so. Honesty is very important here. Of course, different people want to get in the music scene for different reasons. Maybe you want to be a weekend warrior. Maybe you’d be happy being a big fish in a small pond. Maybe you want to go all the way to “superstardom.” Maybe you’d like to work as a “hired gun,” or session musician. Maybe you want to jump off a riser and bang every cocktail waitress on the circuit. You will also need to ask yourself what style of music do you want to play, what audience do you want to reach, etc. Do you want to go for commercial appeal, artistic integrity, or some combination of both? Then you have to ask yourself how seriously you want to go for your dream. Are you willing, ready and able to make a serious go at it? Another question to ask yourself is how you’re going to pay the bills while pursuing your dream. Unless you were born rich, you’re obviously going to need a job to support yourself. Ideally, the job should be one that not only makes you enough money to live on and hopefully something to put into your music, but also one that allows you to have nights off to play gigs and gives you time to put in the effort for your music. You don’t want to work a job that requires too much of your mental, physical, and emotional energy. A high-stress job with long hours will seriously put your dream out of reach. You need to be mentally and physically able to practice your instrument, write songs, and any other activities related to your music—not dead to the world and vegging out with the TV when you come home from work. You will need to be willing to live a minimalist lifestyle. High car payments, home mortgages, designer clothing, and other expensive materialistic things are for normal conforming people. If you’re serious about your dream, you are not a normal conforming person. You are much better off driving a junk car and renting your dwelling. If possible, your vehicle should be something you can haul band equipment with and be fuel-efficient. Many would-be musicians fall into the trap of “climbing the ladder.” They might get a promotion and a raise. But this, more often than not, leads to foolish spending habits and putting more of your life into the job than you should. Of course, every musician dreams of the day when they can tell their boss what to do with their job. But if you think you’re going to get discovered and developed by a record label and no longer need your job, you are delusional. Those days are long gone. Get that farce out of your head right now. In an effort to illustrate my point about materialism, I’ll share something from an interesting article I once read back when Van Halen was starting to “break out.” The author wrote about how stoked he was that Eddie Van Halen was coming to his house to do an interview. As he waited for the new hot (at the time) guitarist to show up, he looked out his window and saw an old, beat up junk car sitting in front of his house. He wrote that he surely couldn’t have that clunker in front of his house, because that wouldn’t look good when Van Halen showed up. So the author went outside to tell the owner he was going to have to move his car. He then wrote how shocked he was when Eddie Van Halen came out of the car. You should be able to guess the moral of the story. As for eating out, not a good idea. The only time you should see the inside of a restaurant is if you work at one. I like pets as much as the next person, but having a pet is also not a good idea—especially when you consider the cost of feeding it and the vet bills, which are outrageous these days. And avoid buying useless junk like knick-knacks and such. So the bottom line is asking yourself if you’re willing to live without the materialistic stuff that you see your friends, family, and co-workers with. And it can be hard when everyone thinks you’re nuts for choosing that path. It can be hard when your hot girlfriend desires a guy who can offer her a materialistic lifestyle. It might help to think of it like this: Most people with new cars, big-screen TVs, and who “own” their houses are drowning in debt. There are working long hours and going through a lot of stress to maintain their materialistic lifestyle. They are running in a hamster wheel. They do not own their home - it owns them. Furthermore, the mainstream media and pop culture make people think they have to have the newest car, the biggest house, the best smart phone, and live as a slave to debt. Resist those temptations and treat yourself to those amenities when you’re making enough money from music to do so. Then again, if you just want to be the weekend warrior or play here and there locally while owning a house and raising a family, there’s nothing wrong with that. But if you’re really serious about a career in music, the normal conforming life isn’t going to cut it. Let’s face it: Musicians are simply not normal people. All this can be trickier than you might think. There is nothing wrong with whatever reason you choose to play, but you need to give it some serious thought, if you haven’t already. Once you’ve established what direction you want to go and set some goals, you then need to find like-minded people to work with, which can be, and often is, very hard. Ideally, a band should have each member doing something for the cause other than just showing up to play. But as we all know, the world is far from ideal. Seems like almost every band has at least one slacker who holds up the rest of the band, or a member who wants the aforementioned materialistic lifestyle. On the flip side, most bands have one or two members who do the majority of the planning, promoting, songwriting, etc. If your band has one or more members who make the rest of the band carry his or her weight, you basically have an engine that’s not firing on all cylinders. If you’re serious about your band, you need that engine firing on all cylinders. There’s a saying in the music scene: Sooner or later, you have to kick your brother out of the band. In other words, it can be very hard to give a good friend, relative, or whoever, the boot when that person is simply not cutting it. But if you’re not in the loop, you might just have to tolerate any slackers, or other problem members in the band to get in the game, get in the loop and replace them later once you’re in. Another question that requires total honesty is how strong is your material. Honestly. Do people scream and cheer when you play, or do they head to the bar to order drinks? Do they bop their head, or do they scratch their head? Is the majority of the crowd standing outside during your set, waiting for the band they came to see to go on? If a considerable amount of time has gone by and your turnouts are still weak, or responses to your songs are less than stellar, you might want to take a long, hard look at your material. If you were in the restaurant business and served crappy food, you would fail. The same holds true in the music industry. Without good, strong material, you will not be successful. Predictable response from “Brotha Integrity” in three…two…one…“Why does it always have to be that same old verse-chorus thing? I’m gonna break the rules! This is my art and nobody tells me how to do my art!” While, of course there is nothing wrong with wanting to do something off the beaten path, you’ll more than likely fail with that. To reach people in general, you have to give them something they can grasp onto, like good structuring, solid hooks, choruses they can sing, etc. While a whole book could be written on this topic alone, the debate over commercial appeal vs. artistic integrity will probably rage on forever. But many will agree on some combination of both. The main point here is you might end up having to face the fact that your material just plain sucks, which isn’t going to be easy. Chances are you’ll listen to your current material sometime down the road (way down the road) and wonder “what was I thinking?” But by then it will be too late. How is the morale of your band? It’s very important that each member feels good about the band and the direction it’s going. If this isn’t the case with your band, you have another serious problem. Never forget you are a business as much as a musician, and management incompetence is by far the biggest reason businesses fail. As with any business, but especially the music business, too many people think being in a band is nothing but a party. Too many people only want to do what is fun and easy, but not what is hard and necessary. Finally, you will need to define your idea of success realistically, which is different for different people. If you think success is playing the halftime show at the Super Bowl, you are probably delusional. But even so, keep in mind most of the big-name artists had the same issues as you at one time early in their careers - and I’d be willing to wager they didn’t succumb to materialism early on. _______________________________________________ David Himes is the author of the book Realities for Local Bands: Talent is not Enough. You can find it at Amazon. For a FREE sneak preview, click here. The book is also available in PDF format. Also, David published a local music scene paper for over 16 years and has held over 400 live shows, giving him a unique insight on the scene. Your feedback and comments are welcome.
  2. Why Banners are Important: Hang ‘em High How to leave a banner impression by David Himes - ‘The Gig Kahuna’ There’s a common, potentially devastating—yet easily fixed—mistake: playing gigs without a banner behind you. If you don’t think this is a big deal, think again. First, you need to let people know who you are. Many times I’ve seen local (or even regional and national) bands and thought to myself “self, they’re a good band, but who the hell are they?” Even when I ask the people who work at the venue, they often can’t tell me what band is playing. And I’m just one person. Think of all the potential fans you might have won over who would like to see you again, but have no idea who you are—not to mention other people involved in the scene such as media, talent bookers, other bands, promoters, agents, label reps, radio jocks, and others who are there checking you out. You can’t rely on people to have telepathic powers, and you more than likely don’t have some sort of bat signal. So without a banner, you are seriously screwing yourself out of a lot of potential new fans and more. No band—at least on a local or regional level—should ever, under any circumstances, play a show without a band logo somewhere on the stage. The time, money and effort you spent playing that useless out-of-town gig for five people could’ve—and would’ve—been much better spent getting a banner happening. Closely related to no banner is a band that has a banner, but it’s so poorly designed you can’t read it from a distance, in low-light situations such as a typical club stage, or you’re in a death-metal band with an eyeball-bending logo. (No offense to any death bands, but c’mon! Let’s be realistic.) But it never ceases to amaze me, the local bands who I’m sure mean well and might work hard, yet don’t think of something so simple, yet extremely important as having a banner, sign, or at least a band logo on a kick drum head. So…where do you get a banner, and how much it will cost? Any sign shop should do a good job for you; chances are there’s one near you. But there are a few mom-and-pop-type sign and banner shops around that support local bands, so seek one out near your town and give them your business. Usually, $100-200 should get you a decent banner, depending on several factors. For most bands, I strongly recommend white vinyl or ink on a black background, so it can be read easily from a distance and in low-light situations. Hopefully, your logo is easy to read. If you don’t have a logo, even having the sign shop typeset your band name is better than nothing. For most bands and situations, a banner about six to eight feet wide should do the job. But if your band has a long name and/or is a sentence, you might have a bit of trouble getting it all on a limited amount of space, and therefore need a bigger banner. A bigger banner might also be a good idea if you’re playing larger venues (such as theater-size). I’ve seen a lot of bands with stand-up banners on each side of the stage. I know those bands mean well and those stand-up banners are better than nothing. The problem, however, is if you’re playing on a stage with even halfway-decent lighting, those stand-up banners block a lot of the lights—especially the taller banners. This is why I recommend banners hung on the back of the stage wall. If you insist on stand-up banners, at least place them as far back as you can to minimize light blockage. So you’ve taken my advice and now you have a banner—but you also need to bring rope, twine, black duct tape, bungee straps, chain, coat hanger wire, hammer and small nails, etc. to every gig. The idea is to be able to hang it in any situation, as different venues have anything from nothing to decent stages to accommodate banners. Other ideas might include bringing your own lights of some sort to light up your banner. Even cooler yet is a lighted sign if you can swing it. Trust me: A banner will make all the difference in the world on your future gigs. There’s virtually no excuse for not having one, and it’s a very small investment you’ll be glad you made. -HC- _______________________________________________ David Himes is the author of the book Realities for Local Bands: Talent is not Enough. You can find it at Amazon. For a FREE sneak preview, click here. The book is also available in PDF format. Also, David published a local music scene paper for over 16 years and has held over 400 live shows, giving him a unique insight on the scene. Your feedback and comments are welcome.
  3. Rehearsal Space Solutions ‘The Gig Kahuna’ by David Himes Ah yes, no place to rehearse has always been one of—if not the—most common obstacles a local band faces. Lack of rehearsal space has stopped many a band dead in their tracks. While this can make all but the most lion-hearted throw their hands up in despair, you actually have several options. The most common option is renting a rehearsal space. However, this is by far my least favorite choice. It usually means paying anywhere from $300-600 or more per month at some dive in the bad part of town, although you might be fortunate enough to find a place in a better location. If renting a rehearsal space is your only option, it’s not a good idea to leave any instruments and gear of any value there. Take it down and take it with you after each rehearsal, and set it up when you arrive. This can be a big pain in the butt, but it’s better than your gear getting stolen, as band rehearsal spaces are a favorite target for thieves. It’s also a good idea to take your gear if you’re sharing a space with another band to reduce the expense…but sharing a space with another band can present other sets of problems. If you can afford it, it’s also a good idea to get insurance on your gear. And keep receipts, take lots of photos, keep records of serial numbers, etc. Better yet is to avoid any expensive or new instruments or other gear in the first place, if you can get something cheaper or used that works just as well. That way, if something happens to it, it won’t be as hard of a blow, and will be less expensive and easier to replace. But you’ll still want to keep good records and documentation of all your equipment. Personally, I strongly believe there are much better options than renting a rehearsal space. I’ll save my favorite for last. If you can, it’s best to rehearse at someone’s house. If two or more band members are serious enough, and if two or more of you live in separate apartments, why not rent a house together? Or maybe someone in or close to the band has a girlfriend, parent or other relative, or someone else with a house. Even if that person charges to rent a room, you’re probably getting off much cheaper than with a rehearsal space—and probably much safer. But we all know that rehearsing in a house can result in angry neighbors—especially if you’re playing metal/core, gangsta rap, or any other musical style that neighbors typically find offensive. Possible workarounds might be to see if there is some arrangement you can make with neighbors to rehearse at a time when they’re away. More often than not, when a neighbor comes beating on your door, and especially if they are hostile to the idea of a band in the neighborhood, I’ve come to find there is usually some hidden problem. See if you can find that hidden problem and possibly offer to help. Whichever room of the house is for rehearsal, soundproof it the best you can. Build a small riser to get the drums and bass rig off the floor, as those low-end frequencies travel through the ground. If you live in parts of the country where houses with basements are common, basements are ideal for band practice. When loading gear in and out of a house, try to do so in such a way that the neighbors can’t see it. Park your vehicle as close to the house as you can, maybe under a carport or in a garage if possible. And a word of caution: It’s never a good idea to burn any illegal substances before or during practice. All it takes is for a cop to stick his head in the door and smell it, and that’s enough for searches and seizures. You do know about asset forfeiture laws, don’t you? Otherwise, if the cops come knocking on your door, 90 percent of them will usually be cool, and just nicely ask you to turn it down a notch or two, as long as you’re respectful. After all, most cops are music fans too. Some of the aforementioned ideas might sound redundant to many of you, but you’d be surprised at the bands that will practice with windows wide open, in a garage or room with no soundproofing, etc. And now for my favorite, most effective, and feasible way to rehearse in a house (drummers, you might hate me.): An electronic drum kit. Yes, you read that right. While many drummers might hate the idea of an electronic kit, there are actually a lot of reasons a band—including the drummer—can benefit from it. Understandably, most drummers aren’t too crazy about the idea of using an electronic kit for practice. But the benefits of having one far outweigh the reasons not to have one. And the minor limitations of an electronic kit versus an acoustic kit are a very small trade-off. Personally, I think no drummer should be without an electronic kit, in addition to an acoustic kit. Unless those of you drummers are fortunate enough to have a place to practice on your own, an electronic kit eliminates that problem for you and the band. Keep in mind I did not say you have to play live on stage with an electronic kit. But you might be surprised by how many drummers trigger their shells when playing live. And if a drummer has difficulty switching back and forth between the two kits, you can still rehearse once or twice before a gig with an acoustic kit by renting some place by the hour, which is still much less costly than renting a place by the month. The most important and obvious reason to have an electronic drum kit is that it makes it possible to rehearse at a much lower volume. This eliminates a multitude of problems—in particular, the need for a rehearsal space, because you can now practice in your house—and depending on what circumstances, maybe even an apartment. (I’ve seen bands do it.) And when you no longer need a rehearsal space, you eliminate one of a band’s biggest expenses, freeing up a significant amount of money for other things like merchandise, recording projects, banners, bumper stickers, web sites—you get the idea. An electronic kit makes it easy to train your ears for playing on stage. What you hear when you’re playing in a rehearsal space and on stage are two very different things. Rehearsing at a much lower volume with an electronic drum kit brings you much closer to what you will hear on stage. Speaking of which, you’ll also eliminate any volume battles (if you have that problem) at practice and even worse, on stage. You know, when Joe Marshall-on-11 turns up his amp, then the drummer plays harder, then the singer turns up the practice PA, then the bass player turns up, then Joe Marshall-on-11 turns up even more, and it goes on and on. Another cool advantage of an electronic kit is the sounds are pre-processed. But if the drummer insists on using the sounds from an acoustic kit, it’s easy enough to sample those sounds and add them to the drum module (or what I like even better, software drum machines or sequencers). Speaking of which again, an electronic kit makes it much easier and cheaper to do recording projects. If there are any mistakes, it’s easy to edit them out. And these days, the bugs have been worked out of software drum machines, sequencers, and other forms of digital recording. No one will know the difference, or even care. The best kits are the ones designed to be played like an acoustic kit. It might sound like a heavy investment to make, but an electronic kit will easily pay for itself many times over in rehearsal space rental alone. While a drummer might not be able to afford such an investment, there are ways to make it economically feasible. For starters, there are lots of deals out there on used kits to be had on eBay, Craigslist, etc. Still feeling priced out? It’s well worth it for the rest of the band members to pitch in, or even one other member, manager, or someone else involved to buy the kit. If the band splits up, you can always resell it. If your band can work it out, an electronic drum kit can put you ahead in the game and get you on the fast track. No matter how unpopular some decisions are, the decisions that lead to the best rehearsal are the best rehearsal space solutions. _______________________________________________ David Himes is the author of the book Realities for Local Bands: Talent is not Enough. You can find it at Amazon. For a FREE sneak preview, click here. The book is also available in PDF format. Also, David published a local music scene paper for over 16 years and has held over 400 live shows, giving him a unique insight on the scene. Your feedback and comments are welcome.
  4. They play different songs...but also play by different rules ‘The Gig Kahuna’ by David Himes My writings are aimed mostly at local and aspiring bands and artists that want to do all-originals. But those of you in cover bands might also pick up a few tidbits that could help you out. As I’ve stated before, much of what I say might anger you and particularly, upset cover bands. So I’d like to point out the differences between cover bands and original artists, before those of you in cover bands get your shnizzle in a tizzle. What we’re talking is two completely different games that are played by two very different sets of rules. Cover Bands Cover bands generally play for a built-in audience of some sort. Whether clubs, wedding receptions, conventions, house gigs or whatever, cover bands are typically hired to entertain people who will already be at whatever event. They usually bring their own PA, lighting, etc. Many cover bands play a “circuit,” usually in a region, depending on where you are. But there’s also the “weekend warrior” type of cover band. Like big-name artists, there are certain psychological elements taking place in what makes the cover scene tick. Regardless of musical style, people who go to cover clubs do so because they expect to hear music they recognize. Like concerts with big-name artists, people will come out for cover bands in faith they’ll hear the music they know and love. Those of you cover musicians are correct about your logic of providing a service and expecting to be paid for it, assuming you don’t suck. But with original bands and artists, it’s a different story—a much different story. Before getting into the realm of original bands, I’d like to make one more point about cover bands and clubs. There are also what I’ll refer to as “hybrid” bands. By this, I mean bands that do covers and originals. This game is played a little differently, depending on what part of the country you’re in. While still doing mostly covers, these bands also do a few originals. They might throw an original or two in each set, or maybe even an entire set of originals. They usually sell a CD of their originals at their gigs. This is actually a good strategy. It makes the band much tighter, makes them better musicians, and gives the original side of them good exposure. It also keeps the band working constantly. Original Bands For some reason, most original bands and artists think that what applies to cover bands also applies to them. Wrong. Dead wrong. Too many bands think it’s the venue’s job to get the crowd in, and book you to entertain them. Sorry, but it doesn’t work that way with original bands. If you’re playing originals, there’s pretty much no such thing as a built-in crowd and even if there were, if that particular crowd doesn’t like your style of music, it’s a safe bet they’ll be out the door in no time. They will also get bored because they’re not hearing anything they recognize, and clear out. This doesn’t mean the majority of people are morons because they’re not supporting you. It’s just basic psychology. Most people have a very short attention span, and are simply not interested in unknown artists. Bottom line: Unless you have good, strong material that will grab them, strong delivery and an overall strong show, a built-in crowd will do you little or no good, as they will more than likely clear out. Don’t get me wrong. I’ll be the first to say there’s a lot of good talent out there, and it really is sad that a lot of people are missing out on some good bands and artists of all musical styles. The problem is reaching those people who like whatever musical style it is you’re playing. And nobody is going to do that for you. NOBODY. The Real Service You’re Performing Some of you might be familiar with “business after hours” or business networking events. This is where someone organizes a bunch of local business people to gather at a venue such as a restaurant/bar to interact and mingle, hopefully resulting in business relationships with other business people. Chances are your local chamber of commerce puts on such events. But usually, there’s someone who builds a database of local business people, plans and promotes the event, and puts it in a restaurant/bar, usually on an off-evening. They usually charge a cover to get in, offer free snacks or possibly a buffet (from the restaurant), and maybe even get the restaurant to pay a fee. If the terms are right with both parties, most restaurant/bars will gladly host this type of event—especially on an off-evening. This is because the organizer is bringing a sizable crowd into the establishment, which of course is always welcome. “So what does this have to do with my band,” you might be asking? This is the service you, as an original band, need to perform. Except the difference is substitute the “business after-hours people” with your fan base. Did I mention you will need a fan base to get anywhere in the music scene? So your job is to put your fans in the venues you play—the more the better. This also holds true with mid to big-name artists. The difference is you, on a local or maybe regional level, are working on a smaller scale. The more fans you have, the less you will “get screwed,” the more welcome you will be at the venues, and the more you’ll be able to call the shots—provided you play your cards right. And by “fans,” I mean people who will come out to see YOU—not the other bands or anyone else who happens to be there. _______________________________________________ David Himes is the author of the book Realities for Local Bands: Talent is not Enough. You can find it at Amazon. For a FREE sneak preview, click here. The book is also available in PDF format. Also, David published a local music scene paper for over 16 years and has held over 400 live shows, giving him a unique insight on the scene. Your feedback and comments are welcome.
  5. From: The Gig Kahuna The truth is out there — but it's grounded in reality In most cases, playing out of town and touring before you’re realistically ready is a foolish waste of time, effort, and money—all of which would be much better spent at home building your following, planning your next big local show, etc. There are, however, a few circumstances and situations where playing out of town and touring can work for you. More on that later, but for now… Let’s say a band has a strong local following, and generally gets good turnouts at their local shows. But no one in another town that’s far away knows of you, and your local following isn’t going to travel too far to see you. Have you ever tried to book any dates at an out-of-town venue, only to be disappointed by the answer—if you even get an answer at all? It’s because any club or venue with any experience knows the very fact I’m pointing out. They’ve seen the same result a million times: Club books out-of-town band(s). Out-of-town band(s) draw no one, and therefore don’t get paid. Out-of-town band(s) then act like they “got so screwed” by “the greedy club.” It’s not worth it to a club to go through that kind of grief, and it’s not worth it to you to spend your money on the gas (especially at current gas prices) and other expenses, and put forth the time and effort to play only for a handful of people. Some bands might think of bringing their local fans to an out-of-town venue in a “party bus.” Forget it. It didn’t take too long for most clubs to catch on to that. The problem with party buses is the participants are already drunk before entering the club, and won’t be buying any drinks. And what’s the point in spending the money on renting the bus, the fuel cost, and other expenses when it would’ve made much more sense to just have the same people come to a local show? Then there’s the popular myth about touring and playing out-of-town venues repeatedly, gradually building a following in those towns, each time bringing out another two people. With the exception of a very few bands, it very seldom works out that way. The band will likely split up long before building any significant following that way. Again, you are wasting your time and money. I’ve seen quite a few bands buy into that myth and give up once they figure out the point I’m making here. Another lame justification I’ve heard for playing out of town is the idea of playing for the local bands’ crowd in their town. I’ve seen a few inexperienced or delusional club owners and talent bookers add one or more out-of-town bands to what they know will be a strong local band night. Big mistake. This will upset many local bands, especially ones at the mid-to-upper-level, and rightfully so. It’s not fair to them to bust their asses to get a good turnout, only to have some out-of-town band waltz in and reap the fruits of the locals’ labors. The local bands will then not want to play that club anymore, assuming there is more than one club in a given town. Seen it a million times. The truth is until you have built a seriously strong local following, you are not ready to even think about playing outside of your hometown. If you can’t build a following in your hometown, what makes you think you can do so out of town? Even when or if the time comes to start thinking about playing out-of-town, you will need some kind of help. You will find it hard to continue working your local scene with the additional burden of working an out-of-town scene. By now, I’m sure someone out there is calling for my crucifixion for being against the idea of “giving out-of-town bands a chance.” But actually, I’ve run across quite a few good out-of-town bands with a professional and sincere attitude. And like many others, I’ve found myself wanting to help them out. I’ve actually even given some of them gas money out of my own pocket; helped them build a following outside of their hometown, and had them back. So things like that do happen, but don’t count on it. On a more positive note, there are a few circumstances where playing out of town makes sense: If an upper-level band has built a strong enough local following, it might be time to start looking elsewhere, although you will be needing some kind of help. It is possible a local band might have a strong enough following outside of their hometown, maybe even a strong regional following. It’s also possible the town you’re going to has only one club or venue, and that town’s locals have nothing else to do. Some local bands have gig exchange arrangements with out-of-town bands. This is where a local band brings an out-of-town band to their local show. The out-of-town band then brings the local band to their hometown in return. This can work out well, but if you are a local band, I’d suggest bringing in no more than one out-of-towner, or you can, and likely will, seriously weaken your turnout. Let's face it, unless you’re ready (honestly) or you have some kind of hook-up or backing, forget about playing outside of your hometown until then. Ditto for “touring.” Speaking of which, “tour” can be one of the most dangerous words in the local band’s vocabulary. If it’s not done right, if the band isn’t ready, doesn’t have viral online numbers (six-figure minimum, preferably in the seven figures), or if there is no backing or some kind of hookup, “touring” is another one of the most disastrous and foolish mistakes a band can make. The word “tour” conjures up images of tour buses, green rooms, groupies, and insane crowd love night after night. But in reality, the tour bus is a van with six or more people crammed in; the green room is the filthy men’s room of some dive bar; the groupies are the toothless bartenders at Goober’s Tavern, and the mad crowd love is some old drunken bum in the corner yelling “play some Skynyrd!” If you ask most local bands how they did when they come home from a “tour,” you probably won’t get an honest answer. Most will tell you how awesome it was and what a blast they had. But any band member who is honest will more than likely say they were lucky if they played for 10-20 people for the most part. Seriously, the stress, low morale, and other potential hazards of an amateur tour can easily break up a band. It’s not too “awesome” when the van breaks down; when there’s no food; when there’s not enough door money to get you to the next town; when Joe Bad-ass Band Member suddenly gets homesick and wants his mommy (yes, it does happen); when all of you are cooped up in a van and smelling each others socks, farts, etc.; band members break into fistfights; and you have to hope and pray you make it home alive. Yes, these are among the hard realities of doing a tour before you’re ready to do so. I’ve seen lower-level bands on club tours actually walk around with a jar begging for donations for gas and food money. If that’s your idea of a “blast,” then go for it, I guess. Here’s another reality: Did you know most tours require the lower-level bands to buy on? In other words, you actually have to pay a substantial sum of money just for the privilege of being an opening act. And it’s not just the big tours. Even the smaller club tours are doing the same. It’s been happening for a long time and is pretty much the norm. The cost is justified by the exposure you’ll supposedly get. But even on a big tour, you’ll more than likely play some side stage where you’re lucky if you play for 0-200 people, if that. And some of those side stages are hidden away pretty good. Of course, most bands (or someone behind them) won’t admit they bought on to a tour. And even if they do come clean, they’ll say they were still “chosen.” Yeah, right. They were “chosen” because they had the money to buy on. So with a few exceptions, “touring” is another major waste of time and money. But if you still absolutely insist on touring, here are a few words of advice. Before doing a tour of any length, test the waters first. Book two, three, maybe four dates fairly close to home, maybe within your state. This should give you an idea of how well the band will hold up, and give you a little experience. And if something goes wrong, at least you’re not too far from home. If all l goes well, work your way up to a few more dates and farther away the next time. Your vehicle will need to be as dependable as possible. You definitely don’t want a breakdown out of town. Avoid any bumper stickers, or anything else that can make your vehicle a cop-magnet. Bring as much cash, or whatever credit/debit card power you can muster so you can always at least get to the next town, and are covered for any emergencies. And a good-size cooler with ice, water, maybe other drinks and non-perishable food isn’t a bad idea. The bottom line is a high band morale is very important. Touring before you’re ready to do so—and you have to be brutally honest with yourself about whether you’re ready or not—can kill that morale in a heartbeat. ___________________________________ David Himes is the author of the book Realities for Local Bands: Talent is not Enough. You can find it at Amazon. For a FREE sneak preview, click here. The book is also available in PDF format. Also, David published a local music scene paper for over 16 years and has held over 400 live shows, giving him a unique insight on the scene. Your feedback and comments are welcome.
  6. One complaint I often hear from local bands is something like: “You have to be in a certain clique to get booked.” Although not the most positive attitude in the world, it’s understandable that some local bands would feel that way—especially the more entry-level bands that might be having trouble getting in the loop. My answer to this is simple: If that’s how you feel, why not start a clique of your own? I’m always trying to advise and encourage local bands to seek out friendships with other local bands, especially the ones that are like-minded and doing something similar to your own band as far as genre, and this is just one reason why. The idea is to get a circle of bands going where all of you support each other, play shows together, and hook each other up. I’ve actually seen this done quite a few times in the music scene and if done right, some pretty amazing results can be accomplished. You might be surprised what a circle of bands can do when you pool your resources, plan and promote together, and work together as one collective unit. You become a much more powerful force as opposed to each band working individually. However, there are a few things to keep in mind to maximize the potential of your own clique. For starters, each band needs to carry their weight. Even one slack-ass band can be enough to break the chain and drag the alliance down. Don’t think you’re going to ride the coat tails of the other bands. And if there is a band in the circle that is not at least making a reasonable effort, dump them. Secondly, don’t be selfish or get greedy. Don’t be a band that insists on always getting the best slots. Be fair to each other. Rotate the time slots with the other bands. If you played, say, the third slot on the last gig; offer to take the opening or closing slot on the next, and let a band that played the first or last slot before have one of the good ones next time around. Forming an alliance with other bands doesn’t always mean playing shows together. For instance, one band might get some opportunity to play in a situation where they can’t get any other bands involved. In these cases, any time a band plays individually, at least some members of the other bands in the clique should show up at the gig to support. And when you show up at one of the other band’s individual shows, it’s important to do so with an unconditional attitude. In fact, an unconditional attitude is an important factor to making a clique successful. I’ve seen quite a few local bands pack a venue with the support of other bands helping out. I’ve done it many times myself. Keep in mind when the other bands come to support you, it’s a nice gesture to acknowledge their presence from the stage. Finally, it should go without saying there should be no love triangles, Jerry Springer drama, or whatever between bands. Although this point might seem obvious, the members in individual bands who would have an affair with a bandmate’s girl never ceases to amaze me. I’ve seen it enough times in past bands of my own. I could rant all day on this subject alone, so I’ll stop right here. So to summarize, if you can get your own clique going and do it right, you’ll end up as one of those upper-level cliques before you know it—and you will then find yourselves as a target of the bitching and moaning from lower-level bands. One last thought: The bands you might think are in one of those upper-level cliques now were at one time in the same boat as you. David Himes is the author of the book Realities for Local Bands: Talent is not Enough. You can find it at Amazon. For a FREE sneak preview, click here. The book is also available in PDF format. Also, David published a local music scene paper for over 16 years and has held over 400 live shows, giving him a unique insight on the scene. Your feedback and comments are welcome.
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