Are Local Bands Getting Worse?

Telenator

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By "local club bands", do you mean cover bands? I've played in some local club bands, but I've never played in a cover band.
Where I live, the venue and booking situation has gotten worse, but not the quality of the local original bands. I actually don't even know where cover bands play around here.
That's strange coming from Wisconsin.
Yes, I'm talking cover bands. The original music scene is even worse.
 

Telenator

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If you want to hear good bands in any venue, go to Nashville.
I think they have a hack-ban.
I never saw or heard a soul there that couldn’t consistently deliver the goods.
My hometown, uh, not so much.
Hmmmm. I had always considered Austin to be a good spot for music.
 

teletail

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Putting a good band together, with good vocals, is hard work. Too many people think they can just show up with a bunch of people they’ve never met and kill it. I think if they actually recorded themselves and listened back, they’d be unpleasantly surprised.

I just got in a new band. I play guitar, keys, sing backup and lead. We have 3 part harmonies on about 70% of our tunes. It takes time and work to pull that off and we put in both. At our second gig, several people came up and said we were the best band they’d ever had. It would seem that hard work act pays off.
 

RCinMempho

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Telenator - You underestimate your talent level. I can believe you find it hard to find players at your level.

That said, I ran into a band with a different problem. They were a solid country band playing a restaurant gig for a couple of hours during dinner. Solid band. I talked to the bandleader and was asking him where else they played. His problem was new to me. He couldn't find a place with a big dance floor. He was desperate enough to rent a venue, but couldn't find one. He said he had country dancers all over the area with no place dance. Interesting problem, and certainly not one I ever heard pre-pandemic.
 

bottlenecker

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That's strange coming from Wisconsin.
Yes, I'm talking cover bands. The original music scene is even worse.

Some say the great thing about madison is it's so close to wisconsin.
Madison, milwaukee, and eau claire seem more about original music. I'm sure you still can find cover bands in these cities, I just don't, so I don't know about it.

In the smaller cities and rural areas, there are more cover bands. My coworker comes from a smaller town and has only played in cover bands. For the most part, the two worlds don't know about each other.
I have played a few small town and rural bars and really love playing them, but I never have a big enough set to fill a night by myself. Those clubs aren't used to booking multiple bands, so it only happens when someone puts together a bill. It's great when they do. The audience reaction is wild.

Wisconsin does have original stuff that come out of smaller areas though. I think corey chisel told me his whole band was from neenah, and they were awesome.

All I know for sure is that I keep finding out there's a ton of stuff I don't know about around here.
 

runstendt

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It's a little bit of everything. The two year reset, with numerous good bands folding due to members needing new ways to support themselves or even just realizing that they do not enjoy playing out like they used to had an effect on quality. Some venues that my current band frequently played at have either not gone back to live entertainment at all or are just having solo acts, duos, or God forbid a DJ. The money wasn't really in the bar scene in NEPA anyway, but Covid pushed us much more into weddings and parties than we were before. To be honest with you, none of us mind it. Weddings have better hours, better pay, and are quite often more fun to play.

That being said, I've had plenty of experiences close to what @Telenator has mentioned. I think it's a mixture of lousy pay and low expectations across the board, not just with music. In the bar owners' defense, if a band is not increasing their revenue by what it costs to hire them, why hire them? Also, in my experience quite a few people view playing in a band as their social activity for the week. They get to hang out with their friends, have a drink or two, and play some music. I've always approached it as a job, so it is very frustrating for someone like me when the rest of the band does not take it as seriously as I would like to. However, that's why I kept moving on until I found my current gig.

Have faith, you'll find like-minded musicians someday.
 

bgmacaw

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Yet everyone I've auditioned with, wants to go the safe route and play for wine and cheese cork-sniffers and tourists.

Maybe try joining a local musical theatre troop?

But, seriously, it seems like in many areas the live musical performance opportunities are mostly of event category. That means playing soft music at a duo at a wine and cheese events, hamming it up for tourists, playing sedate and clean corporate banquets, being in a megachurch band and such. Unfortunately, bar and music venue type gigs are a thing of the past outside of a few locations.
 

Killing Floor

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@Killing Floor has a point. Since 2020, there has been a hard reset on gigging. I used to be a regular player out.. and now I’m just starting rolling again. Slowly. I’m sure numerous acts have hung it up, or just haven’t really restarted.

I wonder what percentage of places that booked music, have quit? I’m sure it’s fairly significant, especially in the places I played. Small bars, no dedicated stages.. music was just an extra thing.

So yeah, lots of people have moved on, have gotten lazy, or are done with the bar scene. I certainly have no desire to play until 2am anymore, myself.

This does depend on locale. I’m sure there is no lack of great players in Nashville.
Point about some clubs closing or fewer places booking makes sense too. That means more competition among bands for gigs. That likely means bands willing to play for low rate (beginner/intermediate players) will consume some of those slots. Basically it’s a mess but it will improve. Hang in there.
 

Telenator

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Point about some clubs closing or fewer places booking makes sense too. That means more competition among bands for gigs. That likely means bands willing to play for low rate (beginner/intermediate players) will consume some of those slots. Basically it’s a mess but it will improve. Hang in there.
Ha! At my age, I don't have time to "hang in there!" LOL!
 

ReverendRevolver

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If you want to hear good bands in any venue, go to Nashville.
I think they have a hack-ban.
I never saw or heard a soul there that couldn’t consistently deliver the goods.
My hometown, uh, not so much.
There's no hack ban. Top tier in BF Nowhere is a medium fish in a small pond, or puddle depending where.
Hundreds of medium fish swing to Nashville (the largest pond, ostensibly)looking for fame. Fools that can't keep up aren't getting booked in an environment overrun with above average musicians, as a rule.


Now, I haven't seen many current super local bar bands. I've seen the ones that are drawing the most consistent crowds at the better establishments locally(not Columbus, that's different). Country and Classic rock. Done well, having fun, getting paid. I've breezed over a couple playing a bar down the street from one I used to play at. 20 people watching, hack ina walmart cowboy hat singing lead with an acoustic, trying to do modern Country and rock.

I've drawn 70ish people into a bar built for 30(down the street from my previous example) because word of mouth from people seeing our open mic audition.

Which of my examples seem likely to do that?

I'm sure hacks get easier bookings when not competing with an act set to draw 150 people to a lakeside bar.
But this is all pretty regional.
 

Flat6Driver

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Over the past several years I have auditioned for more bands that I can remember and I keep walking away from each audition scratching my head at what appears to be a declining sense of pride in what local club bands are doing these days. It's just plain bad out there.

I am most often the only guy in the room that actually knows the material, (all the way through) No train wrecks.
Most of the groups I've auditioned for have serious tuning issues.
There seems to be a complete lack of playing dynamics.
And a seriously casual attitude when it comes to all those little details that make a band sound great!

Again, I'm talking local club bands.

It never used to be like this, at least in Southern New England. Hell, some clubs actually had the bands audition on an open mic night before they would get booked for a weekend gig. Or, if you were represented by an agency.

Is it because club owners really don't care what you sound like as long as you bring people to buy their food and alcohol?
Has this practice actually ruined the local bar business?

I'm getting really frustrated here. I'm no special player by any means. But it is imperative that everyone can play in tune, in time, and actually knows the material. It seems I'm asking too much!


Don't take this the wrong way, but when I see someone bring this up in a small market. I'm guessing VT is a small market. I wonder why you need to audition? What happened to the bands you were in before? What happened to your network of people?

I do agree, that folks don't "get" dynamics. I know my band does not. That's why bands need a "leader" or someone who will speak up and say "stop banging the damn drum over top the lyrics..." (or some version of that) or "maybe lets get through 4 bars of intro before everyone throwing in fills." Many people want a "democratic process" or "we don't need a leader". Yeah, yeah, you need someone to make a decision or remove the suck

Knowing the material means listening to it (once) on the way over. :)
 
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oregomike

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Maybe try joining a local musical theatre troop?

But, seriously, it seems like in many areas the live musical performance opportunities are mostly of event category. That means playing soft music at a duo at a wine and cheese events, hamming it up for tourists, playing sedate and clean corporate banquets, being in a megachurch band and such. Unfortunately, bar and music venue type gigs are a thing of the past outside of a few locations.
We have a couple good places in town that occasionally book heavy stuff, The Ruins and River City Saloon. Great places to play. Other than that, the owner of Double Mountain Brewery takes matters into his own hands on every anniversary, and books some kick-ass acts. Supersuckers, Meat Puppets, etc. Free admission. Would be nice if more in-town breweries got on board. Ha.
 
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telemaster03

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I was in a variety band for a couple years when I moved to town, we practiced weekly but didn't seem to ever get tight and we hardly ever played out. The musicians were nice, good people but didn't seem to understand how to be a good and entertaining group and I eventually wished them well and left. I found a classic country band that I thought was fantastic and scouted them by the videos they posted on their FB page. I saw they were playing at a local dance club so my wife and I went and checked them out. They were between guitar players so I hit them up and eventually joined, literally without any practice the same week I hit them up. They gave me a setlist, I woodshedded my butt off and was ready when we hit the stage. Everyone is an excellent, seasoned musician and although we hardly ever practice it's one of the best and tightest bands I've ever been in. We played last Saturday and had several compliments from patrons that we were the best live band they had seen in our area doing the kind of music we do. We have a standard price we ask for and if we don't get it we don't play, but we manage to play pretty regularly in honky-tonks and dance clubs and halls in our area. Since that thing we've had for the past couple years shut down a few local places we are having to travel more and farther to find places to play that pay anything.

In my town good paying gigs are pretty tough to come by. However, any schlep (or group of schleps) that can carry a guitar into the venue can put out a tip jar and that's all the pay they get, maybe with drinks and food. The venue advertises live music and even when the talent isn't great the audience doesn't seem to mind. As for the performer, $25 in the tip jar makes for a successful gig. They stand there dressed like homeless people looking at a tablet screen all night and can barely tune their instruments. This has certainly added to the demise of quality music in my area.
 

bgmacaw

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We have a couple good places in town, that occasionally book heavy stuff, The Ruins and River City Saloon. Great places to play. Other than that, the owner of Double Mountain Brewery takes matters into his own hands on every anniversary, and books some kick-ass acts. Supersuckers, Meat Puppets, etc. Free admission. Would be nice if more in-town breweries got on board. Ha.

Athens GA still has some venues for acts on the college tour circuit that will sometimes feature local bands. But, it's a shadow of what it was like years ago.
 

Masmus

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A lot of venues want to pay $200, which is what my band got way back in 1978. If it's a solo act that's decent money, but for a band (six or sometimes seven members in my case), it barely covers the gas.

Venues can get away with paying so little because local band members have day jobs-- a.k.a. are "hobbyists", and aren't dependent on the gig income to make a living. The only local gigs that pay real money are corporate gigs and weddings. They're willing to pay around $1,500, but you better be good at that rate.

Sure, we have true pros coming through, but they play different venues in our town, such as the Santa Barbara Bowl.
This is too true...You get what you pay for.
 

wulfenganck

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It was getting tougher to get good gigs before the pandemic: less clubs in general due to rising rental fees, less clubs with live music, clubs not willing to pay a solid amount of money and, sadly, people being less interested in live music.
Then the pandemic hit and we learned who's "relevant for the system" (don't get me wrong, I absolutely want the staff in hospitals and nursing homes etc. to get better conditions, but the total lack of interest in saving cultural venues/events was frustrating).....only a few clubs made it through the two lockdowns 2020/2021.
I know quite a lot of bands that disbanded during the lockdowns.
My band also got kind of turned all over and we had to build up a new program. We do have some gigs from September onwards, but the payment is worse than before - and I can't even blame them.....my hope is that there was a substantial plus in selling guitars. I hope these people stick to making music and new bands evolve. Maybe even a new livescene.
 

stxrus

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We’re fortunate to have a large selection of very good musicians in many forms. Some have/had National or International acclaim. Unfortunately there are those that aren’t quite up to snuff and think they are “gods gift”

Bands rise and fall here constantly. Almost everyone has a day job outside of music.

An amazing bass player does on-shore fishing trips. He also records and produces when he goes stateside. He also is involved with several projects that are done without getting people in the same room.

He realizes and misses the one-on-one face-to-face interaction. He also realizes that the way it “was” is not the way it is “now” or will be in the “future”

There are also hacks and wannabes that do a few gigs a year. They have a following of friends that support them and go to the 6 times they play out a year.

The open mic/jam I hosted for 5 years had a huge draw. The main focus for the players and audience was to have fun, make a bit of noise, and enjoy the energy of the moment.

Maybe this works in our small market (approximately 45,000 full time residences, a lot of snowbirds, and a good mixture of tourists) because we are a small market and enjoy/embrace what we have
 

RCinMempho

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The live music audience isn't getting any younger.

I've been playing retirement condos for a couple of years. Long enough that I want to do something else.

I think we are going to have to "make" gigs. Start at 7 instead of 10. Wind up at 10. A local bar in Memphis had two stage areas. They did real good with it. They had an early act and a late act for younger crowd. Live music and some dancing over dinner and then get the hell out of there before the DJ starts.
 




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