So. I’ve just had a bit of a rant over on Facebook (no change there), but it actually made me so cross that I actually felt I had to write a ‘piece’ about it. Of course, it’s only my humble opinion, but it makes sense to me!
Bands that quit when the going gets tough. There. I’ve said it and I’m almost foaming at the mouth again just with those eight words. I went on to a band’s Facebook page this morning, only to discover that they have changed their name and started again. Fine, no problem with that. The pinned post at the top of the new page, however, was a great long diatribe about how they’ve given their all for however many years but feel that they can’t continue, blah, blah, blah. It was a self indulgent whine about how hard it is these days, what with venues closing up and down the country, the music scene dying off and basically slating the very people who have kept them going, because they’re moaning that no-one ever came to see them. It may not surprise you to learn that I have some thoughts on this.
Firstly, your music was probably mediocre anyway. You can get quite a long way with the support of a few hundred fans even when your music is crap. It’s called ‘loyalty’ and these are the people that will come out and see you, buy your tee-shirts and wristbands and spend money they haven’t got on travelling to some godforsaken hole in the middle of nowhere, even if they know in their heart of hearts that actually, you’re not that good. Hey, you might improve and they’ve already invested time and money, so they’re sticking with you because they feel part of something and are glad to be involved from the start. I know, because I have done this many times (and just occasionally, I’ve backed a winner).
Secondly, everybody accepts that the music scene, particularly rock and metal, is changing. If it doesn’t adapt to roll with the way the music industry as a whole is evolving, it will die. All those millions of fans (yes, they’re still there, contrary to popular belief) don’t want it to die, so they keep buying the music and merch. If the band is good enough and fully committed, they will make the effort to get off of their sofas and come and see them.
This brings me to the heart of the problem. I don’t consider myself to be an expert in all things music, nor do I claim to be some kind of social media guru or have a degree in the music buying and gig-going habits of the general public. I do, however, listen to a lot of music, spend a lot of time on social media, talk to a lot of musicians and have some contacts in the music industry who like to wax lyrical about every music fan’s favourite topic these days. So, based on my experience and in my humble opinion, I’m just going to put this out there. Bands that quit – YOU’RE PART OF THE PROBLEM. There. I feel so much better …
These days, musicians have to roll their sleeves up and get their hands dirty. They need to get on the phone, become a keyboard warrior, engage to a new level with their fans and basically work their fine arses off just to exist in the world of rock and metal. Yes, it’s hard. Yes, venues ARE closing up and down the country (and I’m not commenting on that specifically – it’s a whole other article), but I see it this way; when I go to a gig with a band who is good, whether it’s a well-known and loved venue or some flea pit that nobody has ever heard of, they will pack it out. If it is a band that is, at best, mediocre and who are giving a half hearted effort (and who haven’t bothered to create a buzz around them and build a fan base online as well), of course it’s not going to be busy and they won’t get invited back. Word will spread and yes, they will find that nobody comes to see them. Stick with me, I do have a point and I am getting to it.
My memory of the nineties ‘heyday’ is hazy, but I don’t recall there being quite so many bands who were on the local gigging circuit. Also, musicians seemed to stick with one band, for the most part and worked bloody hard at it (and played hard too). I don’t remember many crap bands, although I’m sure there must have been some, but the gigs that I went to were always pretty much packed. These days, there seem to be bands coming out of our ears and sadly, some of them should never have picked up instruments in the first place. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great that virtually everyone has the opportunity now and feels able to give it a go, but frankly, it’s a cut-throat business and it’s over-saturated with new music. If you don’t take it seriously, or you’re in it for the money, then you may as well hang up your drumsticks because you’re never going to make it, unless you get through via some steaming pile of excrement that passes for a talent show these days.
I’m going to name some bands here – I have chosen them purely because I have seen first-hand how hard they work to keep their heads above water. So, bands such as Heaven’s Basement, The Dirty Youth, and Feral Sun actually work their arses off. They cane their social media, making sure they engage with their fans – you can knock me for saying that all the time, but it’s the only way to go these days. They make a superhuman effort to make sure that they keep selling their merch, because let’s face it, that’s where the money is nowadays, it certainly isn’t going to come from album sales alone now that we’re in the age of the digital download. The Dirty Youth have successfully got people involved with going down the crowd-funding route. Feral Sun have risked everything by self-financing their debut album to get it out there into the public domain. Most importantly, each and every time they get up on that stage, they make sure they give it 110%; and on the rare occasions that they don’t, they acknowledge it and make damned sure that they do it better the next time.
All of these bands started from nothing and whilst they’re not yet at the top of the mountain, they’re making sure that they have everything in place to be able to reach the top whilst other bands are dropping off around them. Crucially, they are also extremely approachable with fans and will bend over backwards to make a gig an experience that people will remember and want to repeat. Music has become a customer service industry and if you’re not a people person, then you need to become one, or make sure that the rest of the band are.
There’s so much competition out there these days that bands need to be doing it bigger and better than everyone else. If you turn up to a gig, have faces like smacked arses, don’t engage with the people that support you, play your set in a somewhat mediocre and uninspired fashion and then leave without seeing any other bands or speaking to your fans, you don’t deserve to be taking that slot. Give it up to someone who is hungrier for it than you are, because they’ll give it everything they have to try and get to the top.