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Dog Days
 ISSUE  8.3 SUMMER 1998 

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Tips ...
from the Monk, the Drunk and the Dirty Old Man

This begins a series of tip, advice, editorial and discussion columns. The Monk, the Drunk and the Dirty Old Man will be the regulars and hosts of this section with some guests and who knows what. Some columns will be fairly serious, music related topics like this one. Some will be light-hearted, fun and not necessarily music related frivolity. Many will lie somewhere in between. Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 1, 1998

The Columbus Music Scene -- thoughts and observations.
by Brian Archer

Brian is a member of Leeward Terrace and is currently vying for the official title of "the Drunk."

I have been hearing a lot lately about how bad the music scene is in Columbus. For the past 8 months I have been sitting back observing our fair city and the music scene we all love. (Please keep in mind that this is just one individual's commentary and is in no way a reflection of the views or opinions of the Cringe or Joel Treadway. I am not out to belittle anyone or hurt any feelings. I just want to give an honest opinion of what I see.) What the Columbus scene boils down to is this: You have a large punk and pop-punk scene. (Pop-punk is kind of the Green Day sound. When I think punk, I think of Dead Kennedy's, Angry Samoans, Black Flag etc.) Next is the hippie-Dead/Phish style jam bands like USDM, Local Color, Grasshopper Pie etc. There are a number of good jazz players in town but very few established acts. I guess that is the nature of jazz. The interchangeable group effect. The last major sect is the cover/party band groups like Disco Inferno, The Menu's, and even Chris Logsdon. Even though he is usually a one-man act, it is always a party when he plays. So you think where is the problem?

The primary problem with the original music scene is a lack of good material, bottom line. Many of the working original bands have a few good tunes but most do not have enough to grab the attention (and keep it) of the club going audience. I have heard that the way to make it in this town is to play a lot of covers and "tease" your audience with a few good originals. It is said that the club going audience wants to hear familiar music that they can dance to. Well this might be true but it is not all of the truth. You basically have two kinds of club go-er's. One is the type that likes to dance and hear DJ style music. Let them go to Maxwell's or Crazy Louie's. The other is the kind that wants to go hear a live act. There is a definite reason that people purposefully go out to see a band. It is the energy that no DJ can replicate. Now granted, there are those that like to hear "live covers" and plenty of good bands can fulfill their needs (Menu's, Disco Inferno, etc.). I believe that it is a false statement to say that the majority of club go-er's only want familiar radio tunes -- those who do go and see the previous bands or a similar act. Basically what the audience wants is some good music. Period! The first time "Push" by Matchbox 20 (I am not endorsing Matchbox 20 in any way) came on the radio nobody that heard it said, "Oh, I don't know that song. I have never heard it before and therefore by law I must hate it." It is a very marketable catchy commercial rock song. That is why it was a hit. Like them or not, the majority of radio listeners dig Matchbox 20 and that is why they continue to have hits. By the way, as far as cover bands are concerned, the audience is more critical towards a cover than an original. Imagine covering "Hotel California." You better totally re-arrange it and make it very different, or play it note for note just like the Eagles, otherwise you will get the "it doesn't sound like the record" syndrome. A lot of the musicians here will probably say, "who cares." Well you better care because without an audience you have no gig. And with out a gig you are just another garage band. This does not mean sell yourself short or whore yourself out to the highest bidder. Like I said in the beginning, if you don't have good music, regardless of genre, you have basically nothing. Strive for excellence and don't settle for anything less than your best musical effort.

Another thing that bands do in this town to kill themselves is to play out too often. Sounds stupid, huh? Too many gigs? How can this be? Example: Sam Commode and the Four Flushers play out 5 night a week. Three of those are at clubs with no cover charge. Those three gigs guarantee $400 a night. The other two gigs are at clubs that charge 3 bucks a head at the door and the band gets the door. The math says you have a guarantee $1200 bucks a week plus the door at Club X and Club Y. Let's say that over the course of the night at the cover club, 300 patrons walk through the door. That is $900 dollars to you with no cost to a club owner/manager (good for them). This gives you an estimated $1800 a week from those two gigs alone. The question is "Why would the audience pay a cover charge when they can see you for free?" You might do well for a little while, being able to "Double Dip", but your following will begin to realize that they can see you for free more than they have to pay to see you. The no cover gigs become more of a packed house while you still make $400, and the cover charge gig crowd dies down to a few hardcore fans. If you're not packing in the fans at a cover charge gig, soon Joe Club Manager will not hire you. They don't give a fuck about you or your music. They are in the business of selling liquor. The key here, folks, is to not over-saturate yourself. Make people want to see more of you. If 300 people see you 5 nights a week, great! But to a club owner, 750 people two nights a week (mathematical numbers) looks better for you because you jam the place with liquor buying clientele securing you future gigs while giving you ammo to play at larger venues.

I have come up with a few ideas to help your music become more successful. These are not all my ideas just the best pieces of advice I have received:

  1. Practice your instrument on a daily basis and become a competent player. Fans might not understand finger tapping but they generally can tell if it sucks or not. GOOD CHOPS NEVER HURT. LEARN TO READ MUSIC. IT CAN ONLY MAKE YOU BETTER!

  2. Get together with other serious musicians like yourself. Don't waste your time on nowhere basement pot jams.

  3. VERY IMPORTANT! Write good songs. This is the essence of it all. No matter how fast you play through the changes to "Cherokee" or the double bass lick to "One", it doesn't matter without a great song to put it in.

  4. Make a good demo. Take the time to give the best representation of yourself possible. For example: I have done some screening work for a few clubs in the Atlanta area finding new bands to book. I would listen to tape after tape after tape hearing a lot of potential. I would pluck the best of the lot and recommend to the management which band to book. Generally the manager would like to listen to these tapes before saying yes or no. Some of the hippest acts got rejected due to a poor demo. I as a musician could hear the subtle nuance of Funky Freddie and the Fabulous Urinal Cookies but their tape's sound quality sounded very unprofessional to management and gave a negative impression, while less talented acts got the gig because their three chord songs sounded clean and tight. The less talented group had the smarts to know that if someone has a bad take, RERECORD. Never submit anything that you wouldn't buy yourself from a record store. You don't have to spend a fortune on a demo. Find a friend with a four track or record through the board, getting good levels, direct to two track. Take the time and do a good job.

  5. Don't be in a hurry. If your music is good, people should like it. Don't worry about landing 100 gigs that land you 50 bucks a piece. Rehearse until you are confident that you won't fold on stage. Know your tunes inside and out. How many bands can you think of in town that are good now but you can say, "Gee, I remember when they sucked?" Don't be that band or artist. Go out and make the audience at your first gig say, "Wow! Where did these guys come from? They're the best band on the planet!"

  6. In the immortal words of Mr. Chad Rager, "The Groove will get 'em! You can't fight it. Listen to the music. It will tell you what to play."

  7. BE PATIENT!!!!!!!!!!! Everything works out. Not always how you expect, but one way or another things do resolve.

I hope that maybe I have helped somebody out there. The best advice I think I could give is to relax and have fun. If you're not enjoying yourself while playing music, you might need to consider a different career path.