First of all, a belated happy new year. Sorry it’s took me a while to get back in the saddle after the festivities, but January has been busy for me. Lots of folks got guitar starter packages for Christmas & round about now they’re realising that the instructional DVD they got along with it isn’t really motivating them to practice. So now they’re booking lessons with me, which is helping replenish the coffers a little. Hence little time for blog writing just now.
Anyway… Regular readers will know that I am a little tired of the whole gigging scene. I did a post on this topic HERE. But to sum it up, there’s no decent money to be made (which when you rely on your guitar to pay the mortgage is something of a drawback), and often you find your band-mates can be erm… “motivationally challenged” (to put it politely). When I mention that I don’t gig these days, I often get asked, by people who do still play live “Well, if you’re not going out and playing in front of an audience, what’s the point in playing at all?”
My response is always the same. I DO play to an audience. An audience who, unlike most punters in the local social club or pub, want to listen to the music I make. They’re not just there to get drunk, have a punch-up and chuck beer mats at the stage. They actually pay attention and are, themselves, musically very well informed and appreciative. They also all play music, and are excellent foils to collaborate & jam with. Where do I find this audience? Simple… online.
There are a plethora of musicians’ forums on the web and they are frequented by talented and committed players. I am a member of Songcrafters.org, an online musicians’ community of superb songwriters and musicians. I record my music in my home studio and post it there – original songs and covers. It always gets a fabulous response and (where needed) lots of helpful constructive criticism. I can collaborate with other members and form virtual online bands and have made many new friends from across the globe. I’ve also learned loads about production and recording. Knowledge I would never have picked up slogging around the local pub/club circuit. Plus, you have a finished product you can be proud of in the form of the recording you’ve made. And that will last forever, unlike playing a gig which survives only as a memory… even when you’d rather it didn’t.
I can honestly say that the buzz I get from performing my music to this audience is at least as good as I used to get standing on my hind legs and knocking out covers of whatever happens to be in the top 40 that week to a crowd who’ve only turned up for the raffle or the “beer & burger for a fiver” deal. Plus I don’t have to hump equipment in & out of a venue, worry about anyone spilling beer on my amp, or deal with the awkward concert chairman who wants to tell you what songs should/shouldn’t be in your set.
OK, so I’m not making money from this kind of thing, but I never made that much money gigging. Once you take into account travelling expenses (including overnight accommodation for long distance gigs); keeping a van on the road; HP payments on a lighting rig & PA system; the wear & tear on expensive guitars and other gear, and (last but not least) the exorbitant cut taken by agents, you begin to realise that you’ve earned less per hour than a parking meter for an average gig.
I’ll admit there are those players who make good money at the top tier of the live music industry. But that’s a hard world to break into & either luck or my location (Teesside is NOT the best place to live if you aspire to become the go-to session guy for touring bands) have conspired against me on that score. Sure, I could have upped sticks and moved to London to “live the dream”, as it were. But that’s a young, single man’s game, and I haven’t been either of those things in a long time. Plus, I love where I live and have a nice house with all the comforts of home. To abandon all of that and go & live in a bedsit, in a strange city with no network of friends or income on the off-chance that I might just get that lucky break somehow doesn’t appeal to me.
All in all, I don’t miss the days of sacrificing my Friday & Saturday nights to get to play music to an audience & I certainly don’t miss giving up Christmas Day evening or New Year’s Eve any more – both were regular fixtures in the live music calender back in my gigging days. Not being able to have a few beers on the afternoon of 25th December because I need a clear head to play “that” Slade song & a whole host of other tinsel-festooned drivel on the evening loses it’s appeal pretty quickly, especially when you realise the bar staff are probably taking home more money than you at the end of their shift. When was the last time you heard of a musician getting double time and a paid day off in lieu? But I digress… I genuinely love being an web-only performer – the internet is my venue, and I embrace it.
Until next time… have fun (I’m going to)