Watching a band develop is proving to be one of the more interesting experiences in my life. I could (and probably should because we have a nearly complete manuscript) publish a book.
But there’s one aspect of that experience I want to comment on today.
What’s behind that band on the stage?
When you see musicians perform, you see the end product. What goes into it beforehand is far more complex than most realize.
I can’t tell you how many times people have told me how great it is that my daughters are living their dream. That is true. But it takes far more than performing.
In order to sustain yourself as a performer, you can’t opt for static because it’s all about fluidity. You will spend many hours learning new music, and getting it tight. If you’re performing with more than one person, you will spend many hours scoring the music for each instrument or vocalist. If you’re a singer-songwriter, double your time. Taking a song from rough draft to polished product will usually require many, many hours of revising and polishing.
You need muscles. Speakers and sound equipment aren’t light and gigs often require you to bring your own equipment. I stand in awe every time I watch my daughter hoist those speakers—I figure they weigh at least 40 lbs. each—above her head to mount them on the poles.
When a band sets a fee for performance, the hour(s) they’ll be on stage comprise a small part of the work. There will be the time you spend getting to the gig, and you will have to travel unless you want to constrain yourself to being a local act. There will be the setup time for your equipment and sound check—usually 30-45 minutes. There will be the teardown time after the gig. Again, 30-45 minutes.
Meanwhile, you will likely spend time promoting your band. After all, you want as many people as possible to enjoy your music.
You will also spend time marketing to new venues. Venues come and they go. You will constantly be involved in working with new ones. There will be agreements and contracts to sign. You will spend time reading them and trying to understand them. They aren’t all alike.
If you do music fulltime, you will have to run your own business, dealing with operational costs (equipment, vehicle, etc.), taxes (local and federal), and compliance on product sales. You will spend time maintaining your website and maintaining your social media sites.
Regarding the equipment, from numerous cables to those big speakers and your instruments, you will spend time maintaining them and making sure they’re in working order. Sidetip: carry lots of batteries in that gig bag.
This is just a snapshot of what a working musician does in order to get up on the stage and provide a listening experience for those who come out to the gig. It’s a hard job, one of the hardest you can choose and what I’ve covered here is just a small slice of the pie. In the end there is absolutely a great deal of joy in living that dream.
As with any other job, sustaining yourself as a performer requires a lot of hard work and no small amount of attention to tedious detail. It’s far more complex than hopping on the stage and belting out tunes.
(KBD/March 8, 2017)