#1
I'm in a new band that's just started playing local gigs, and I have friends in another local band that has been around for a couple of years and is starting to amass a following.

Both our bands recently had gigs which included bands from out of town. My friend's band headlined a show which included two bands from SoCal. Just a week before that, my own band had a gig which included a band that came all the way from Texas. (We're in San Francisco.) All of those bands played to near-empty rooms. In fact, my newbie, still-in-diapers band has played two other shows besides this one, and at those shows I'm pretty sure we had bigger audiences than all of the out-of-town bands I'm describing had.

I thought it was kind of disheartening to drive several hours just to play a show in front of an audience of maybe five or six people who were most likely from the other bands. But I also suspect that this is fairly common for brand-new bands starting out, and that this is part of paying your dues. Am I correct?
#2
I don't know.... I wouldn't waste my time doing that.

"Yeah man lets pal around in a van for 2 weeks with no food or gas money and play crappy little horrible gigs where the 5 people sitting at the bar aren't listening to us! Its like we're a real band on the road maaan!"

Please... I wouldn't start playing venues far outside your own area till you have actually amassed some kind of decent crowd that will come see you. But times have changed.... no longer can an artist "make it" just by playing shitty little independent gigs, you have to put your shit on the internet and utilize every form of technology and media.
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#3
Absolutely, that's part of being on the road. Each gig can be a surprise - sometimes you play to a packed house, sometimes to the bartender. Obviously, you try to avoid that by scheduling shows with bands who can bring in a crowd, but you often end up playing with guys you don't know in cities you've never been to before. It sucks, but it's absolutely a part of playing your dues.
I should note that in my experience, the best way to avoid this is by focusing on small towns. Big cities means you have competition for people coming through the door via every other bar in town, plus all the other stuff there is to do for entertainment. Small towns usually have maybe one or two bars, and people will come out for a gig - any gig.
#4
Even if your band is established in one area, you'll be doing gigs like this when you attempt to expand. Such is the life of a band.

I think it makes for great character building and a lot of fun times though. Even if there's just one or two people in the bar, if you impress them enough they'll see you again, spread word to friends etc.
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#5
Around here, the only people watching gigs are the other bands usually; it's really sad because the scene used to be great and tons of people showed up at all the gigs.

I don't really even bother going to shows anymore (unless the band is really good or someone asks me to go with them), which I know doesn't really help the cause any.

But on the other hand, it's no fun standing around in a basically empty room watching a bunch of sub-par bands, and it sure as hell isn't fun playing to that.

Although, my friends' band drew great crowds right off the bat, but unfortunately, just broke up for some unknown (to me) reason.
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#6
Seen it happen many times. Actually one time I went to a gig because me and my friend were bored and just wanted to check out who was on at the local venue, turns out that we were the only people in the place who weren't with the band...

What I'd suggest you do as a band is slowly move outwards. Play locally at first, by locally I mean like, all over your city/town and in surrounding citys/towns (so for me, being in the midlands of England good places would be Birmingham, Derby, Stoke, etc etc, nothing too far out, but still places with a lot of people) this'll build a sort of "IRL" fanbase.
But also do a lot of networking on the internet, so that you have people worldwide hearing your music.
If you accumulate a large fanbase in person as well as over the internet you'll raise chances of people coming to your gig spretty much.
Especially if you advertise the gig online (cos I doubt you'll be able to stick posters up where you're gigging if it's too far out) like on a venues myspace/facebook/whatever cos people might see an advert for like "[genre] night at [venue] featuring [band]" and while someone may not have heard of the band, they might like the genre and venue so they'll jump along just cos.

It's not a sure thing that you'll get a crowd, but providing you network enough you can always hope.

Also, if you're getting your pay based on how many people come to the venue...I'd suggest buildinga more solid fanbase before doing any of that stuff!
#7
It has happened to all of us,I'm quite sure of that.
Try to promote yourself before you start booking gigs.If you have any original songs record them and use youtube,facebook,myspace and whatnot to promote them.If your songs are a success and people like them,sign up for a gig,alert people online about it and I'm sure at least some of them would come and a few might actually tell a friend or two.Try to keep a more personal touch on your fans,when you get some,and they will come at the shows to see you.Having a small fanbase even if it's like 10 people for you in the show makes you look better and you get a better standing on the other bands who don't have fans.
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#8
Quote by drumwolf
But I also suspect that this is fairly common for brand-new bands starting out, and that this is part of paying your dues.


'Paying your dues' in music is more about working hard and playing in pubs, clubs etc to build up a reputation. Crappy 'showcases' run by dodgy pay-to-play promoters don't count.


Loads of bands these days seem to think the correct sequence is:

- Form band
- Create Myspace page
- Write a few songs
- Play a few shitty 'showcase' or 'unsigned festival' gigs that only your mates go to
- Wait for record contract to magically appear


When what you should really be doing is more like this:

- Form band
- Write a few songs
- Learn a crapload of covers
- Work hard playing in every crappy bar and club you can find for a few years, and spend the money you earn on recording and promotion
- Write some more much better songs
- Start selling cds at cover gigs
- Gradually build up a following in different areas and expand
- Repeat to fade
#9
It's all about promotion, you can't expect an audience to just magically appear.
#10
Green Day got signed by playing a show out in the boondocks that was powered by a generator. There were like 7 people there, one of them was head of Lookout!.
#11
I run sound for a local band that has recently been signed, and you really can't count out anything. Now, they're a Christian band and mostly play churches and stuff, so it's slightly different, but then again, it's the same in alot of ways.

Point is: We went a played a show at like... I don't even know what it was.. an orphanage? Maybe? Like, 4 kids there. It sucked, but one of the people who had brought food happened to be partial owner of the local Christian radio station. And she liked them So they handed her a CD and started getting some air-time.

And I can't count the number of times that we have played to just a few people, or other bands. And they still do occasionally, despite being signed. Though, one week we may play for 3 people, and the next week 30, and sometimes a few hundred. It's a reflection of the scene and the event.

But playing is the best advertising you can do, as far as creating a local following goes.

Also, this:
When what you should really be doing is more like this:

- Form band
- Write a few songs
- Learn a crapload of covers
- Work hard playing in every crappy bar and club you can find for a few years, and spend the money you earn on recording and promotion
- Write some more much better songs
- Start selling cds at cover gigs
- Gradually build up a following in different areas and expand
- Repeat to fade


is 100% true. Don't wait for a record deal for anything. Save your money, record your albums, keep writing music, and pretend you have to do every bit of it one your own forever. A label is more likely to sign you anyways if you're less of an investment. If all they have to do is pay for the recording of your next album (seeing as they've already listened to one of them) and don't have to worry about promoting you, paying for transportation, or getting gigs for you, then they're more likely to take you. You're less of a risk.
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#12
In my experience yes it is a common experience. Local band brings a big crowd, and they all leave after their set is done, leaving the hall empty for the headline band.

Even if you are only playing for the 1 guy, hes stuck around for a reason, so dont play a half arsed show!
#13
Everyone group of guys with 7 decent songs and a few hundred bucks wants to:

Record a pro quality cd

Get on every festival

AND TOUR


But it's unrealistic. It's fun, but unless people know you and/or, your steal thier atention immediatly, it's a waste... it may be fun, you you end up paying to play

DON'T EVER PAY TO PLAY
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#14
Quote by kyle62

When what you should really be doing is more like this:

- Learn a crapload of covers

- Start selling cds at cover gigs


I think that your post is mostly correct except for the above. If you want to promote yourselves as a cover band, you should learn and play all covers. If you want to promote yourselves as an original band it's better to focus on originals. You don't combine the two.

Now cover bands do get more work, and you can make some contacts through playing covers, but you can't expect a following as an originals band if you play primarily covers.
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#15
Quote by AlanHB
I think that your post is mostly correct except for the above. If you want to promote yourselves as a cover band, you should learn and play all covers. If you want to promote yourselves as an original band it's better to focus on originals. You don't combine the two.

Now cover bands do get more work, and you can make some contacts through playing covers, but you can't expect a following as an originals band if you play primarily covers.
Completely see your point, but it worked fine for The Beatles, Led Zep, and the Rolling Stones (ie; three of the biggest selling bands in history)!


My band has a ton of experience from playing the covers circuit that I think gives us a real edge over the 'originals only' acts. Also provides us with money to record, and an outlet to sell our CDs.
We get to play our own music to big, appreciative, crowds maybe two or three times a week, and get paid £200 a time for the privilege. It's also got us a ton of contacts from radio stations, promoters, studios, labels etc.

Meanwhile our local originals circuit is a joke, nothing but 'band showcases' where a bunch of totally different bands are jumbled together regardless of style, in the hope their mates will buy overpriced tickets to see them play for 25 minutes....
#16
some great points made already...

i'll add:

do a little recon. actually listen to the songs by bands you might be playing with they've posted online. find out a little about the towns you'll be going to, what's important to them there, etc. be smart about your scheduling too. no point in burning a tank of gas or more just to play to a bunch of empty barstools, but if a somewhat established band will have you, maybe THAT's worth going out of your way.
#17
Quote by drumwolf

I thought it was kind of disheartening to drive several hours just to play a show in front of an audience of maybe five or six people who were most likely from the other bands. But I also suspect that this is fairly common for brand-new bands starting out, and that this is part of paying your dues. Am I correct?


You'll find that a lot of shows you play are pretty much in front of the other bands and their girlfriends. It takes time to build a fanbase just in your area.. It takes even longer to build your band's stock in other cities/states. But the only way to do it is to nut up and get on the road. I wouldn't suggest going from Texas to Cali though.. That's just wishful thinking
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#18
I guess. Maybe it's different in the UK since travelling to different cities takes less time but my band's first gigs are all very small ones like the ones you're talking about TS.
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#19
When You're trying to break into new markets it's tough. Most bands can't afford to hire promoters so it's whatever they can do. It's at these shows you meet some very sweet, true fans. The kind that make this lifestyle so meaningful.

And yes it is disheartening but every band has dead gigs now and then.
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