Ten New Year's Resolutions for the Local Musician
Be Yourself . You are never going to be Joe Strummer. Joe Strummer was Joe Strummer and you are you, which is not a bad thing. The most attractive thing you have to offer as a bandmate, as a performer, and as someone an audience wants to watch (more than once) is being yourself.
Kelsee Becker These New Year's Eve Block Party fans could be yours someday, local musician.
This can be challenging while you are building your confidence as both a player and performer, but listen to your instincts. When your instincts tell you to do it the way someone else does it, listen to the deeper meaning. What are they really telling you?
Practice more? Study the way your hero does it? Improve your craft?
They might be telling you that being in a cover band is the way to go, for you, but probably not. It's easy to emulate and even easier to follow the path someone else has already paved, but you have to ask yourself if that's why you picked up your instrument in the first place. The bottom line is that when the band is broken up or the last gig has been played, if you've been true to who you are and what you set out to do, you are going to feel better about the outcome, even if you played to a crowd consisting of your significant other, two drunks at the bar, and a handful of incredibly supportive friends.
2. Practice. Play your instrument. Practice with your bandmates (unless you're a solo artist -- although some of you solo folks probably have imaginary friends you like to rock with, so have at it.) Play your instrument some more. Learn a song by your favorite band and play that, then learn another.
The more you play, the better you will get. Your band needs to practice. You are not that good that you don't need to work on your craft, local musician. Do not fool yourself. It's not always fun to practice, but If it's never fun practicing, you've either got the wrong bandmates or you really don't want to play music very much.
The audience isn't impressed when you suck, even if you drunkenly mumble into the mic that you haven't practiced in a while. All that says is that you didn't care enough to prepare for them and that is no way to get them to come back to see you, unless you are a fabulously entertaining drunk, which you are not. Although, come to think of it, the local scene sorely needs "The Foster Brooks Experience." If you don't know who Foster Brooks was, look him up.
3. Don't Over-Book. Remember, this is a list of resolutions for the local musician. The word "local" means that you are from here. Your friends are from "here," which means the place in which you are at . . . or something like that. You philosophical types should just take this one off, or your heads may start spinning.
Your friends are loyal, and that's great, but loyalty only goes so far. The more you play, the more they will stay away, even if you rock. Unless they are independently wealthy and have nothing but time on their hands, there is only so much they can invest in supporting your hobby.
Club owners aren't too keen on giving you a great slot when they can look at your Facebook page and see that you are playing two miles away the next night or even the next weekend. Another thing to consider is how it makes you look to other bands who might be setting up future shows you would want to play. Why should they ask you to join the bill when you already have two or three other gigs that month? The only time this is even remotely acceptable is when you are:
A. Just starting out and paying your dues
B. Learning your onstage chops
C. Billy Joel
4. Learn/Pay Attention. As a local musician who wants to achieve even the tiniest amount of success, you need to continue to learn about your scene and pay attention to what is going on with the clubs, other bands, and the press in your town. Being oblivious does not make you cool nearly as much as it makes you uninformed about what is happening around you.
Music scenes are constantly shifting and if you don't stay on top of it, the next thing you know, you aren't getting the good gigs anymore, or the best deals on gear, or in on which band to play with because people are actually getting off their couches and going to see them.
Case in point, pay attention to what is happening at the venues. Which club is having issues with their PA, or where did the killer soundman just start working? Staying on top of these things will only help. Learn the names of the folks behind the scenes who assist you and make sure you treat them well.
5. Be Thankful; Be Humble. Sure, your onstage persona can be frightening, and you may act like you don't care about anything, but even the surliest of rock stars take the time to let their fans know that they appreciate them. Do your thing, of course, and if you sing, scream, or shout crazy lyrics or spit blood on your fan(s), great, but when you are done, let people know you appreciate them coming out and spending their money to support you.
Let your sound person know you appreciate the effort, even if it only by saying thank you. A lot of times they make more than you do at a gig, so tipping them might not be an option, but the best way to get them to care about how you sound is showing that you are thankful for their hard work. Use the power of the mic to let people know to take care of a good bartender or say thanks to the people who helped you schlep your gear. Thank the promoter for booking and, hopefully, paying you.
Remember the words of Walter Sobchak: "No, Donny, these men are nihilists. There's nothing to be afraid of." Keep putting up that front that you don't care what anybody else thinks about your band, or that you are some scary death metal dude to the core, and we'll see right through it. We won't be afraid and even worse, we won't care about what you or your band are going to do next.