One of the best things about the columnists on this web site is that by and large all
the contributors have some special field of experience that they can pass on to
others through their years of learning or in most cases 'trial and error'.
I have seen a lot of things first hand with touring a lot over the years and
dealing with industry people generally. What I would like to share this month is my
thoughts on small to mid size touring and recording bands who rely on each other
for multitasking to get ahead. Every guitarist has a little family around him that he
can rely on. The budget is small but the enthusiasm is there. This is your dream
turned into reality, it's game on. It could be great but like all families, it'll
probably end in chaos without some structuring.
I'm assuming most folks reading this will be instrumental/vocal based guitar music
with the primary focus on the guitar player. Therefore you, the guitar player, the
brand name of your dreams, have the sole responsibility of creating and delivering
your music. This is your primary task in life. Beyond anything else, beyond the
daily grind, beyond the domestic tensions, beyond the distractions of the world. Not
much more than that need concern you. You are a simple yet creative creature whose
must focus on expressing your music to paying customers and then, when you've wrung every drop of blood out of that material, write new stuff and keep fine tuning your development. Then go out and tour again. That's it! Your life. Incidentally Guitar
Nine artist Michael Fath always impresses me with his ability to keep developing and
writing new material.
Only you can do this and in truth only you can do this by having some long hard
suffering loyal and die hard people around you. However, no matter how many support crew you have, the actual material is your responsibility and this includes
performance videos as well as writing the music. The creative aspect is you and you
alone. But, because of your very nature as a inward, intense virtuoso, your
personality demands you keep control of everything! Posters, album sleeves, gigs,
PA, van driving, map reading, hair dying and the list goes on. It should not be your
responsibility to call in and talk to bar owners to get the gig. You blow any
mystique you may have had and you should be home writing the next tune or figuring
out how the scenes of your new video fit together.
You're probably not that good at it because you don't have the time and energy or
for that matter the ability to talk in the third person about yourself. Any positive
sales pitch you throw in looks like arrogance. "Yeah I'm a great act, you'll love
me" never really works. Stay home. Let others more qualified around you who love
you, believe in you and could talk their way into gold medal place in the Olympics
do that stuff. You'll show frustration at rejection much more readily because you
will be offended that people don't react instantly to your hard fought for music.
Stay home, write music, practice scales - whatever. Don't pretend you can do
everything equally well. It's fatal.
You'll burn out for sure if you drive the van 300 miles, haul 10K of PA up three
flights of stairs, play the show, sell the t-shirts, collect the money, haul the PA
back into the van and drive 200 miles to the next gig. Get people around you that
you can trust working for you. If you can't trust them, tell them and get someone
You will defeat your dreams by being this fanatical about anything other than what
you do best - playing your guitar. The next guy on the block is practicing twice as
hard as you and he's getting better than you because you spend all day trying to get
a hold of some club owner who treats you like any schoolkid band because you look
very amateur booking the gig yourself.And then - you stand there at the end of the
night with your hand out for the few dollars you're relying on to get gas to get you
to Nashville. There's nothing inspiring to the venue in this. Let someone represent
you. Put some distance between you and the clubs. Make 'em want you. You're a rock
star right? It may not work quite like this in reality, but please, have a little
dignity and try to give the impression that you are someone in this mad mad world of
rock 'n' roll.
Different people have different skills. Get surrounded by people who want to be
involved with you because they like you. Anyone who works hard for you without being
paid loves you very much!
If you're serious you should be playing, writing, recording permanently. Where is
the time to mailshot your fan base? It's not your job. All those people who are
working for you for free are relying on you to be the best you can be in this
world. They need you to get successful because they would love a hotel room rather
than the front seat of a U haul van for 117 consecutive nights. They would like to
eat something that didn't come from a gas station, and they certainly would love a
shower once in a while! Those people are dreaming of 'one day this'll work out'
too. They need you to get it right. They can do their job - so let them.
Of course the reality of the hard road we travel in this biz means it can't always
work like this, but I promise you, if you have a little team around you who all do
their job, they will do it well for you and you will be free to do what you dreamed
of doing since 5th grade. Playing that guitar.
Your product is important to you, I know that - but you'll never bring it to the
world without other people. Choose them carefully, respect them and believe in them
as much as they believe in you.