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Frequency's back room

Who's making noise in and around Madison? What's new in the business of making music around town? Review shows and CDs here. Please keep all hype in Hype Exchange.

Re: Frequency's back room

Postby butters » Wed Dec 09, 2009 12:47 am

SirK wrote: I prefer Madison original artists 4,000 times more than hearing a cover band and that includes some of the great ones in town. That's why I go see them, but does everyone in town go see the great local bands? No, people don't go out as much, they are doing other things, they aren't all interested in live music, etc...I thought this thread was from 1995 from the talk of the dying music scene and lack of pay for musicians, tell us something we didn't know years ago... No. It's economics.

As an artist, I know firsthand about the hard economic times. Food, family and bills come first. Buying my crap is very low on the list. As a consumer who is interested in a vibrant music scene, I take some blame for low musician pay. I need to support our local musicians more...and bring 4-5 friends. I'm going to the Frequency on Thursday (hopefully on a weekly basis). Who's playing? Who cares? It'll be fun...but you fuckers better be entertaining.
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Re: Frequency's back room

Postby chainsawcurtis » Wed Dec 09, 2009 9:37 am

SirK wrote:Actually, that's not a very thoughtful reply at all. He basically reduces non-cover bands to "hobby band".


Whoa, Nelly...I only used that phrase because it had been used in the course of the thread. I know full well where cover band musicians get their material - from other musicians who prefer to write and (sometimes) perform their own stuff. This isn't a cover band vs original band thread. It's a support live music thread. And it seems, in Zippy's case, an, "I'm clueless about the bar biz and creative music process biz thread."

If I lived in Madison I'm positive I'd be supporting the local original acts on a fairly regular basis. In 1989 I moved to WI to open, with partners, the Silver Moon out in a cornfield in Darien. Specifically geared toward blues music, we guaranteed musicians X amount of dollars, fed them, and provided a minimal but serviceable PA. Outside of Madison it was the only club in the area that was getting a cover charge to see a band. It cost us a lot of money in the first year paying musicians out of the till when ten people would come through the door and we had a $300 guarantee.

I am well aware of what it costs in money, time, patience and personal life to run a music club. You really have to love live music of any kind (and be a little crazy) to do it.
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Re: Frequency's back room

Postby swoon_queen » Wed Dec 09, 2009 9:39 am

Butters is on to something here. I've always marvelled at how easy it is to get a group of people together on a weekly basis to go out and spend $20 or so on going out to dinner or for drinks, but the same people are unwilling to spend $5 at the door to experience something they've not heard before. I do think that my generation is spoiled by easy access to hearing their favorite bands, and even local bands, via Myspace and elsewhere on the internet. But live music is something completely different. I'm going to hit up the Frequency this week too. Icarus Himself is a great local band-- they're playing an early show on Saturday. We'll see if I can take some folks along.
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Re: Frequency's back room

Postby wallrock » Wed Dec 09, 2009 9:54 am

You're right, it is shockingly difficult to round people up for a show. I've got friends that will bitch about $5 covers at the Frequency or $7 covers at the High Noon but spend more than this every day for lunch. That is why the Frequency is great, since I can usually get people inside to the bar. After a beer and a few songs it's not too much to convince them to pay the cover and go on in.

When I was younger my friends and I all lived for live music, but decried the lack of under-21 options. Once I turned 21 it was like the last hurdle was out of the way, but not really since we were all poor as hell. After college I tried to see even more live shows since I actually had the scratch to do so, and for a few years it was all good. Lately it seems I'm the outlier in my circle of friends, since I still make it a point to go out whenever I can. I can't really blame them, what with marriages and kids and moving out to the suburbs and all, but the days where I could get eight or so people together on a Thursday night to see a show seem to be long gone.
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Re: Frequency's back room

Postby DrAwkward » Wed Dec 09, 2009 7:10 pm

wallrock wrote:You're right, it is shockingly difficult to round people up for a show. I've got friends that will bitch about $5 covers at the Frequency or $7 covers at the High Noon but spend more than this every day for lunch. That is why the Frequency is great, since I can usually get people inside to the bar. After a beer and a few songs it's not too much to convince them to pay the cover and go on in.


*ding*ding*

When people show up at a bar and don't want to pay the cover in the band room, they'll usually change their mind after a few beers and a few friends heading in in front of them.

The Cactus Club in Milwaukee has survived like this for years, and is STILL surviving, even with Club Garibaldi's doing the EXACT SAME THING across the street with their band room.

My band played a show at the Hemlock Tavern in San Francisco in August, and the band room was separated from the rest of the bar, with money being taken at the door to the band room. Room sold out thanks to the local and we made out just fine.

The Frequency's setup is totally fine and has worked in other cities across the country for years, and anyone who disagrees is making a mountain out of an anthill.

As far as this whole "bands are underpaid" debate goes, it's hilarious watching zippy duck the "what would YOU do differently?" question time and again.

I do have this to contribute: i have friends in a fantastic band in Bloomington, IN who are currently on a larger indie label and are making enough money with their all-original band (through live performance, merch and album sales, and endorsements/sponsorships) that it's their only job. None of them have mortgages or anything to my knowledge, but they're definitely not starving, and they don't have to work day jobs. How did they do it? HUGE helpings of the following:

1) Hard work--and i'm talking hard touring for YEARS and rarely being home with their friends, while making about as much as most of us do on tour or at local shows. This means they were living in squalor in punk houses with 5 of their buddies for years (and most of 'em still do). You willing to do that to make a living at original music? I never was, to my occasional (but not often) regret. But even if i had, that wouldn't guarantee a thing without

2) Luck--and TONS of it. They just so happen to play a style of music that has a wide appeal, and somehow they managed to come up with a style that also is fairly unique and original while appealing to a wide base of people. It sort of blows my mind (i know MY band would NEVER have this appeal) that they happened to exist at a time where their style of music would have a wide enough appeal that their fan base would grow as it has over the years of touring they've done. That's a total crapshoot and a case of right time, right place. They're really fucking lucky on top of being really fucking good and willing to work their asses off. And they're not rich by any means.

Hell, when the Dismemberment Plan broke up the members of that band were making about $25K/yr each after nearly 10 years of constant touring. What are YOU making at your day job right now? You willing to take the pay cut to go out on tour half the year and put your personal life and relationships at risk for the HOPE that you'll get up to $25K/yr in 10 years?

That's the reality. You wanna make more with less work? Play "Smoke on the Water" at some cover bar in Waukesha. Otherwise shut the fuck up and remember that you're doing this because you love it.
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Re: Frequency's back room

Postby christopher » Thu Dec 10, 2009 12:15 am

Image
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Re: Frequency's back room

Postby Kenneth Burns » Thu Dec 10, 2009 9:14 am

There is a way to make decent money doing original material, which is to perform music in a rootsy genre like classic country and play both nostalgic covers and originals in a similar vein. Acts like Dale Watson, BR549 and others have succeeded with this formula, and my old band the Junkers also did pretty well with it. There's a showmanship component to this that's important -- costume, stage affect. You can't just be four guys wearing shorts.

We also took a cue from those other acts in preferring not to share bills -- i.e., we'd play long sets with no opener and make more money. For this to work I think you need to play music people want to dance to, and not just stand and nod their heads.

Then you take someone like Sleepy LaBeef, a rockabilly legend who pretty much plays only covers, but is revered as a true original. That all comes down to charisma, authenticity, etc. The night at the Crystal Corner when he played the medley of "My Toot Toot" and "Elvira," I had an out-of-body experience.
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Re: Frequency's back room

Postby DrAwkward » Thu Dec 10, 2009 9:25 am

Kenneth Burns wrote:There is a way to make decent money doing original material, which is to perform music in a rootsy genre like classic country and play both nostalgic covers and originals in a similar vein. Acts like Dale Watson, BR549 and others have succeeded with this formula, and my old band the Junkers also did pretty well with it. There's a showmanship component to this that's important -- costume, stage affect. You can't just be four guys wearing shorts.

We also took a cue from those other acts in preferring not to share bills -- i.e., we'd play long sets with no opener and make more money. For this to work I think you need to play music people want to dance to, and not just stand and nod their heads.

Then you take someone like Sleepy LaBeef, a rockabilly legend who pretty much plays only covers, but is revered as a true original. That all comes down to charisma, authenticity, etc. The night at the Crystal Corner when he played the medley of "My Toot Toot" and "Elvira," I had an out-of-body experience.


I don't dispute any of that, but the examples you cite i would argue fall somewhere between being truly original and playing covers. The more you're willing to compromise your originality and give the audience something they're immediately familiar with, the less difficult it'll be to make money. Some people are fine swimming around in the gray area between the two, and some aren't. I'm not placing value judgments on either, as there's a place for all of it.

I personally have very little interest in bending my band's "artistic vision" (for lack of a less preposterous term) toward the watering-down necessary to make it marketable, and the people who DO love us appreciate that and connect with it. That's never gonna sustain us financially, and that's fine. We have other skills too.
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Re: Frequency's back room

Postby Kenneth Burns » Thu Dec 10, 2009 9:38 am

DrAwkward wrote:The more you're willing to compromise your originality and give the audience something they're immediately familiar with, the less difficult it'll be to make money.


I wouldn't view playing genre music as compromising my originality. We released albums of all-original material that people seemed to like. I work to write country songs, just like any songwriter. We're all bound by convention at some level, at least those of us whose guitars have frets.
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Re: Frequency's back room

Postby DrAwkward » Thu Dec 10, 2009 10:00 am

Kenneth Burns wrote:
DrAwkward wrote:The more you're willing to compromise your originality and give the audience something they're immediately familiar with, the less difficult it'll be to make money.


I wouldn't view playing genre music as compromising my originality. We released albums of all-original material that people seemed to like. I work to write country songs, just like any songwriter. We're all bound by convention at some level, at least those of us whose guitars have frets.


See, that's where it gets tricky and we start to play semantics. To you, it's not, because you enjoy it. I wouldn't necessarily have fun playing country music. Thus, playing it to make a buck would feel like a compromise to me--it would feel like a job.

Then again, if someone were to be able to pay me what i make now at my day job to drum in a country band, i'd definitely do it, but the question of whether i'd still have time for what i consider my *real* band would be a factor in whether i took it or not.
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Re: Frequency's back room

Postby Kenneth Burns » Thu Dec 10, 2009 10:03 am

DrAwkward wrote:See, that's where it gets tricky and we start to play semantics. To you, it's not, because you enjoy it. I wouldn't necessarily have fun playing country music. Thus, playing it to make a buck would feel like a compromise to me--it would feel like a job.


It comes down to sensibility. I didn't get into country as a money-making enterprise. I started playing it because I liked it, and then I learned about these commercial possibilities. That was, as you say, kismet.
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Re: Frequency's back room

Postby DrAwkward » Thu Dec 10, 2009 10:24 am

Kenneth Burns wrote:
DrAwkward wrote:See, that's where it gets tricky and we start to play semantics. To you, it's not, because you enjoy it. I wouldn't necessarily have fun playing country music. Thus, playing it to make a buck would feel like a compromise to me--it would feel like a job.


It comes down to sensibility. I didn't get into country as a money-making enterprise. I started playing it because I liked it, and then I learned about these commercial possibilities. That was, as you say, kismet.


Exactly. In a parallel universe where abrasive feedback-riddled noise-rock sells and country is seen as esoteric and weird, we'd be in opposite shoes!

That's why i'm so impressed with my Bloomington pals. What they're doing is rooted in Nick Cave and dark country/Americana, but it doesn't really sound like either. It's their own sound and somehow they've gotten legions of teenagers and early 20-somethings to buy into an original sound that they'd be doing even if it weren't profitable. I'm really proud of 'em.
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Re: Frequency's back room

Postby hey hombre » Thu Dec 10, 2009 11:18 am

Hey Dr. Akw.,

Whats the name of the Bloomington band; I wanna check 'em out.
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Re: Frequency's back room

Postby wallrock » Thu Dec 10, 2009 11:26 am

DrAwkward wrote:That's why i'm so impressed with my Bloomington pals. What they're doing is rooted in Nick Cave and dark country/Americana, but it doesn't really sound like either. It's their own sound and somehow they've gotten legions of teenagers and early 20-somethings to buy into an original sound that they'd be doing even if it weren't profitable. I'm really proud of 'em.

Murder By Death? Red of Tooth & Claw is a pretty bad-ass album. I really regret not seeing them when they played Madison a year or so ago.
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Re: Frequency's back room

Postby DrAwkward » Thu Dec 10, 2009 11:30 am

wallrock wrote:
DrAwkward wrote:That's why i'm so impressed with my Bloomington pals. What they're doing is rooted in Nick Cave and dark country/Americana, but it doesn't really sound like either. It's their own sound and somehow they've gotten legions of teenagers and early 20-somethings to buy into an original sound that they'd be doing even if it weren't profitable. I'm really proud of 'em.

Murder By Death? Red of Tooth & Claw is a pretty bad-ass album. I really regret not seeing them when they played Madison a year or so ago.


Yeah, Murder By Death. They most recently came through on tour with the Gaslight Anthem (who were ok, but were really nice guys!). They're recording right now, but when they hit the road again, check 'em out. I think a lot of people on this forum will gladly pick up what they're throwin' down.
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