The best way to figure out if your band deserves to get paid for that middle slot at one of your local pubs on a Thursday night is to ask yourself this honest question: who cares? That’s not a rhetorical question. Who actually cares about your band? Your drummer? They don’t care, they’re already in three other bands. At this point, they’re just hedging their bets. Your guitarist? Maybe a little, but they’re really only in it to get laid. Lol, you think they keep cranking their volume to complement the other voices? Nah bro, they’re flexing. (Side note: they should get laid, and so should you. It’s a proven fact that every single person becomes 15% sexier the minute they walk onto a stage. Get yours.) Your singer? Pretty much the same deal as your guitarist, but more neurotic.
Within the band, that leaves you, the bassist. I assume you’re the bassist because everyone knows that bassists are the only members of any band that actually read things. You probably write most of the lyrics too. Good on you.
Now let’s venture outside the band. We’ll start with your friends and family. Do they care? If they do it’s probably only because they love you. They’re basically pity fans. And let’s be real, you’re a musician; at some point, they’ve all hurt you, and all of your songs are about them. Talk about awkward.
Your significant other? Sure, they probably care a lot. But again, you’re a musician. They likely already pay your cell phone bill and half your rent. Are you really going to make them pay more to hear you play songs they’ve already heard you play in your living room while you’re figuring out your way through new riffs, at every band practice you’ve dragged them to, or in the bedroom? (If you’re a musician and you’re not singing your S/O songs you’ve written for them, then I question not only your deservedness to get paid, but also your ability as a lover.)
That leaves between 6 and 24 random people in the crowd who you’re hoping will become your fans. And make no mistake; you are not providing any service by playing for a crowd that has neither heard of you nor has any reason to care about you. If this is a local show, they are doing you a favour just by being there. If your friends and family want to shell out the price of admission to fund your pipe dream (and statistically that’s what it is, a pipe dream) then that’s great, but the simple fact is that most local bands suck, and most people seeing them for the first time would usually much rather be doing something (read: anything) else.
(Another side note: if you are one of those random people who’s already paid to get in, stay for all the bands. Don’t wait around to hear your sister play 30 minutes of Bon Iver covers and then spend the rest of the night outside having a cigarette, dick.)
If you don’t work on your music every day (and I do mean every damn day), then music is not a career for you, it’s a hobby. And hobbies earn what they earn. Stop getting mad at promoters and venues for light turnouts. Stop getting pissy with your friends for not coming to see you every single time you play a show, and stop getting offended when the only way a local watering hole can afford to pay you is with a couple of drink tickets. Make people need to see come and see you. If you’re worth it, they’ll come. And they’ll be happy to pay.
Written by Syd Ghan
*edited by Kate Erickson