I have lived a small Texas town all of my life, and while I was a teenager, I played in several bands and even ran a venue for a pretty good scene around here. Given the size of the city and its surrounding areas, we had a good thing going. Nothing that could harbour and sustain a professional musician, but lots of fun was had by all.
Then about 2 years ago, in rapid fire succession, the big venues that were around here shut down, one right after another, (even mine) all claiming "lack of time, too much hassle, not enough kids".
At the time, there was only 1 band worth seeing (a post hardcore band with good musicians, but a less than original sound). Given the drama that happened within that band and its circle of friends, the scene was even more dismantled, as friends were pitted against friends, and the kids only wanted to see one band. Other musicians saw it pointless to start anything new, and the scene began to rot and die. This background story should be read, and even allowed to sink in so you can relate to the staus quo of things around here.
As it stands now, things are picking back up. 2 new venues have opened up (which should be successful) and new bands with credibility and different sounds are starting to form again.
The following are tips to help your scene stay alive, thrive,and survive for the up and coming musicians who may be at your shows, just waiting to be inspired by you and your band!
Keep An Open Mind!
There are countless bands and artists out there with countless sounds, styles, formulas, tones, and ideas. I have had my fill of kids who say "if its not heavy its not good." Im a fan of heavy music, as I am a fan of almost every genre, but limiting yourself to one genre to be inspired by will cause musician burn out. You will eventually write things that you have heard, and then, possibly, end up hating that genre, be it heavy, emo, country, classic, anything! Keep an open mind to other styles and genres, and pick it apart if need be to find things that you like about it.
Know Your Craft!
For the love of Uncle Johnny, know what you are doing on your instrument. You dont have to be a phenom, or the next big thing, but at least know how to play a chord or a riff or a rudiment. One of my hard rock expiriments had a guitarist who, after I tried explaining a b chord to him. said "I dont want to learn chords, I just kinda want to mess around with effects."
Effects are great, but without the foundation of a solid chord or even music, effects are just fluff. Annoying fluff, at that. Im not the best guitarist or drummer out there, but at least I know enough to follow almost anyone I know, and I can play what I want to write.
Dont Be Afraid To Suck!
You may be asking yourself, "Doesnt that contradict what his last point was?" In a way, yes it does. I offer it as encouragement. You will not be amazing as soon as you pick up a guitar or whatever your instrument may be. Nothing worth having is easy, and this stands true for music. It also stands true for your bands song-writing. I dont know much about the music business, but what I do know is that almost no one has a "wonders" moment. You remember the movie "That thing you do". The Wonders get a new drummer, play a few shows, some guy picks them up, and within a year, they are instant sensations. There are so many struggling musicians out there, and they can tell you the same thing. You have to work hard and fight to get where you want to be.
Your first few shows will probably not be the best, and you may catch some critisicm that you dont want. Dont be discouraged. Keep playing, and keep improving. Through struggle comes beauty.
You know how diamonds are made, right? Take a piece of coal, apply extreme heat and pressure, and out comes a diamond. You get the picture...
Play For The Love Of Music
The artist in me is sickened whenver I see bands who play in hopes to see a girls breasts or who want to make money by writing the perfect formulaic song, or just so that someone can see them on stage and they can get attention.
If you love music, and if you are passionate about it, please play all you can. If you arent, sure you can play too, but dont expect to be remembered as anything good. You may just be remembered as bad band fodder, something that clogs up the works of a good scene.
Play Play Play
Play all the shows you can get. Play wherever and whenever. Pay your dues, have crappy shows, and work hard to become the best. Inbetween the time you are playing, write write, and write some more. "Practice makes perfect" they say and its very true. If there is no where to play in your area, get creative. Play in someones house, play in a field, play in a parking lot. I have played several shows in parking lots on top of Flat bed trailers. The music, the scene, and underground rock and roll must survive. The responsibility falls on your shoulders. Take it seriously. Finally...
Girls boobs eventually sag and get wrinkly, t-shirts rip and fade, alcohol eventually looses its effects, and your fans will more than likely move on. I say that to say this... If you base your band on things that arent eternal and lasting, then your foundation will crumble and fall, leaving your band in a pile of ruins. Memories are one of the only things that last. If you play for the sole purpose of seeking your next sexual encounter or your next drunken binge or for your bands t-shirts or the pipe dream of becoming famous, then your hopes will more than likely be dashed.
If you play for the love of the music, and you play to have fun, you cannot go wrong. Steer clear of local scene drama. If you attach yourself to a cause, you may never get seperated from it. Also, drama should only be a class given to high schoolers. Be mature, and rise above it. You will always have the uneducated, ignorant guy who will put down your band or find a message board and misspell vulgarities and say how much you sound like "Hoobastank" and how the only good band out there is "Killswitch Engage". Its ok. He is entitled to his opinion like you are, and bedides, hes just dumb. We both know that, so Just let it go, and play for fun. As long as you are happy and comfortable with what you are doing, then that is all you need.
This article may have been titled how to start a local band, or even tips to have a good time playing music. However, if you use these tips, or even just think about them with an open mind, you will help your scene out. Scenes are based on the bands, and without them, you have nothing.
As I stated before, Rock and Roll depends on you and your band. You never know what will happen unless you try. If you gain nothing else, you will have memories to last a lifetime, and maybe even learn a few lesson as you go along. Keep the scene alive for the future kids who will have to fill your shoes. Just dont leave you shoes dirty and smelly. No one wants to step into that!