Bandicoots: Touring and When To Quit Your Day Job
I have been playing guitar for years now and have always aspired to be in a band -- although now that I have graduated I am working at this monotonous financial reporting job. When and how did you make the commitment to say fuck the 9-5 and be a musician? I NEED HELP!
Unfortunately, you're probably going to have to do both for the time being. Unless you’re already in a band that's touring three-hundred days out of the year, it’s probably not necessary (or necessarily wise) to quit your day job.
Nonetheless, here’s some advice for when you get closer to that point: When Future James joins a band full of people he gets along with, let's say, and said group has garnered a pretty decent national following and is getting close to paying the bills through albums sales, touring, licensing, etc -- or is perhaps living off of a member with a trust fund or a rich uncle who's funding everything. (If that's ever the case, by the way, please feel free to have your filthy rich uncle send monthly payments to Westword c/o Bandicoots in return for this invaluable guidance). That's when this bit of advice will come in handy.
Fact is, there is no decisive moment when you know it’s time to commit to being full time. Even at the brink of success, if you’re not ready to give up stability, normalcy, regular intervals of showering, some personal relationships and a place to call home, you may not be ready. No hesitation and no silver cloud that tells you it’s time. Just a leap of faith, I suppose. When the time comes, you best be prepared to work your ass off. Giving up your monotonous day job does not entitle you to be a lazy musician. If anything, musicians work longer hours, get paid far less (if at all) and rarely see the fruits of their labor.
But all of that is just practical mumbo jumbo.
The meat: You’ve got to come at it with as much passion, inspiration and truth contained in every bone in your body. Lots of people say playing music should only be about these things. They are right. There’s also nothing wrong with throwing caution to the wind and striving for success at doing what you love.
On the flip side…you may suck at music and shouldn’t dare make that leap. But I never let that stop me…so MAKE ART! Quit your day job! Jump in a van with four stinky dudes! Find a rich uncle!
What is the best way to go about self-booking a national or regional tour?
Dear Hunter: First things first, play more local shows. Counterintuitive, right? But playing with touring acts coming through Denver connects you with bands outside of Denver.
Furthermore, DO NOT randomly email bands on MySpace in the cities you hope to tour. We receive countless emails from bands around the country that need help booking shows in Denver. We’re happy enough to provide booking info to stranger bands that reach out (get them in touch with the right clubs, etc). Nothing screams lazy ahole like when some no-name screamo-core act from Anytown, USA, reaches out wanting to play three regional dates with Hot IQs. Even more galling, they expect us to book it, promote it, and then insist on playing second to last in the lineup.
Uh, yeah. Not cool.
Do your research! You must mesh well musically and philosophically with any band you want to trade shows with. When emailing potential clubs, know what type of bands they book, know exactly who to email about booking the show and what days appear to be open at the club.
And remember to be concise. Tell them the dates you’re looking for and that you’re working with [insert band name here] on promotion (assuming the band you’ve befriended has OK’d this, of course) and that you’re interested in playing multiple times at that club within the year. Make sure you mention that you’ll be happy to open the show, and then reach out to the other band (who you’ve presumably already met and played with in Denver) that you’re willing to lend any help leading up to the gig. Most importantly, offer the same hook-up the next time your new friends come through Denver -- and follow through.
But what if you haven’t met like-minded bands from around the country?
Don’t sweat it. See about jumping on open bills - shows with successful touring acts or locals in that scene that need one more band. Same rules apply -- make sure you'll make for a good fit. Tell the talent buyer you’re more than happy to open the show and play for whatever (this may mean playing for free, but who cares; you’re in it for the passion, right?). You can’t demand anything until you’re worth something.
Look for more touring tips in future columns. Good luck and get out there!
Bandicoots is a new column by Eli Mishkin of Hot IQs. It's written by the people, for the people, so to speak. It's a chance for the rank and file and musicians alike to ask questions about being in a band, touring and whatever else is on your inquiring mind. It's penned by someone who's in a band, touring and, well, you get the picture. Bandicoots appears every Wednesday, except when it doesn't. Got questions? Get answers. Hit Eli up at firstname.lastname@example.org.