Are Original Music Bands Just Lazy?

cyclopean

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Medium format slrs and full frame digital are both things I’ve wanted for years but there’s always something else the money winds up going towards and my current gear isn’t holding me back from making beautiful images.

I’ve also idly wanted a press camera for years after shooting large format in college.
 

MilwMark

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My band is also partially a video project. We did a Halloween special last year (picture the misfits as musical guests on the muppet show), and I’m starting to brainstorm material and reach out to friends for contributions for this year’s episode. I would never have predicted that being in a goth band would lead me into writing sketch comedy, but here we are.
Then you might - or might not - enjoy this one.
 

telemnemonics

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@Ronzo and @cyclopean , Ive been one and been close to many "artists" who straddle or attempt to work both sides of the line.
Growing up basically in art studios instead of playgrounds or with babysitters or one of those stay at home moms, I began keeping track of artists existential SNAFUs very early, like as a toddler who assumed the artist condition was the human condition and it did not look good.
Then IDK maybe age 8 I learned that artists were a subset and concluded that I did not want to be one.

Anyhow, I gathered case histories and my own conclusion was that if "artist" is above "maker of salable entertainment/ decor", the artist will suffer if trying to live with one foot in the commercial world AKA decorative art and entertainment music.

Some very rare cases seem equally balanced between the two, but more likely they/ we compartmentalize.

Artists who live for the deeper personal expression seem to be soul crushed when attempting to make ends meet commercially.
Really no different from marrying someone you dont care for and having to sleep with them.

Of course the alt day job for money thing has its downsides but physical vs mental exhaustion is the maths.

For whatever reason, as a child of two artists trying NOT to be an artist, strangers kept calling me an artist.
And as a musician I at least for my own sanity never had interest or tolerance for bar band work, which while playing whatever I felt like playing in bars was fun and fulfilling, I just get a sick feeling about playing one radio hit after another, cant do it.

Another facet in those straddling the line is that art can come from two sources.
The logical mind can learn formulas and assemble sounds or images in proven predictable ways that are clearly the individuals creative output.
The other is more soul and instinct, which can I suppose be assigned right brain vs formula and theory being left brain.

But I think theres more than just brain function in artists making art.
Too Long, Didnt Write...
 
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4pickupguy

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From 80 until about 96’ or so the DFW area was buzzing with showcase venues. Some absolutely fantastic bands around back then. Anyone from DFW remember any of these?:
1. Ten Hands
2. Josho Misho
3. The Cartoons
4. The New Bohemians
5. Refugee (Terry Murphy)
6. Joe King Caroscoe
7. The Lift
8. Mohawk Mike
9. The Hugh Beaumont Experience
10. Bugs Henderson
11. Invictus
Fun times and a great time to play music in this area.
 

telemnemonics

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Really for anyone who values their own creative freedom, it comes down to a simple question:

"How much do I have to pay you to relinquish YOUR creative freedom and do MY bidding?"

For some of us spending a lifetime in creative ventures, the answer is there is no amount of money that can satisfy me enough to make me willing to be your servant.

For others we may be able to move the line around and play weddings to pay the bills then play art bars for our own expression.
Remembering of course that the money paid for a few hours long wedding gig also gets divided down into the hours perfecting pop hits and rehearsing top dollar wedding band tight shows.

Maybe part of our individual choice is based on how we came up in music?
Some may have traveled the music study road of garage bands playing radio hits, then gradually developed our own style from there.
Others of us nay have started in Jazz, Classical, or from some whole other place where playing popular music was simply never our practice.

Same with painters, some can fake a Rembrandt or Picasso off the top of their heads because they learned to paint by copying the old masters.
Then other painters never tried to cover another artists style.
Harder to do professionally if one never really did that.
Im guessing that not many guitar players are missing the ability to play whole sets of radio hits, but a few are that way.

Of course if a guitar player got hooked into the good money possible playing well prepared pro grade pop covers and for example can show up early in a tuxedo etc etc, they dont need those side jobs or day jobs required of "artists" who only do original work and are not famous enough to live on income generated by their personal expression.

How many hours of your life are you willing to give somebody else in exchange for how many hours you get to keep for yourself?
I work these days in a tourist town and see primarily folks who "suffer" 50 weeks a year in exchange for two weeks of letting their hair down.
 

teletail

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I’ve noticed the same thing many times. “Originality” for its own sake is often terrible. No one can pull art of any kind out of thin air. The less study is done the worse it will be. Learning other music and why it works is essential for everyone.
+1

It’s like trying to write a novel without having ever read a novel, or painting a picture without ever having seen a painting.

There is a misconception among some musicians that learning somehow diminishes creativity. I don’t think that could be farther from the truth. If you are really creative new ideas can only help you.
 

Mjark

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+1

It’s like trying to write a novel without having ever read a novel, or painting a picture without ever having seen a painting.

There is a misconception among some musicians that learning somehow diminishes creativity. I don’t think that could be farther from the truth. If you are really creative new ideas can only help you.
Tabula Rasa doesn't mean ignorance and weed.
 

Charlie Bernstein

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. . . People who learn to play and put in the effort to develop a good musical vocabulary often seem to have more interesting song structure and a more complex, sophisticated sound, while those who can't be bothered with building their chops first, often present songs that are somewhat less interesting.
Easy to say. But harsh. I've just never been a great player. I'm not a meat jukebox. I don't have prodigious musical aptitude. My real talent is songwriting. Complex, sophisticated sound? Sorry, you got the wrong guy. I'm a twangbanger.

Fifty years or so ago, I quit playing. Cold turkey. Try as I might, I just never got anywhere near the level of my musical friends. My retirement lasted six months. I hated not playing a lot more than I hated not playing well. Couldn't keep my hand off my guitar another minute. So I thought hard about what I was actually good at. And it's songwriting. None of my musically talented friend could do it. I could.

You're welcome to criticize those of us who are better at writing than at playing and have never "bothered" to build our chops. We try. Lord knows, we try. And as long as the songs keep coming, I'm going to keep writing 'em — and playing 'em for anyone tone-deaf enough to listen.
. . . Are bands just finding it easier to create original music and playing it instead of honing their chops before putting pen to paper? Are local original bands suffering from laziness?
Am I lazy? Absolutely. Am I suffering? Absolutely not! I suffer when I play in a cover band. I've been in quite a few. Every time, I swear it's going to be my last. I've had to learn Luke Bryant, Toby Keith, Blondie, Kid Rock, and the Rembrandts. Shoot me now.

I'm now in a band whose leader just wants to play (a) Grateful Dead tunes and (b) tunes the Dead covered. I'm not allowed to play any of my own songs. He'll let me slip in, say, a Chuck Berry tune, but it's a short leash.

Now, I've been a stone-cold Deadhead since '71. But who wants to be a Jerry impersonator — even if I could? Might as well go all the way: put on a Madame Pompadour wig, impersonate Elvis, and be done with it.

I'm also in a duo with another songwriter. We do originals and covers.

The audience can't tell the difference.
 
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Charlie Bernstein

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Wow. Interesting take.

If you are writing all original material, and you are not well known, how do you get gigs? . . .
Fair question.

I'm not a pro. Regular pub spots, a few parties, and the occasional festival are most of my gigs. The way I get 'em is to put myself out there, be good to the management and audience, follow up leads, and sound good.
 

Charlie Bernstein

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. . . There is a misconception among some musicians that learning somehow diminishes creativity. I don’t think that could be farther from the truth. If you are really creative new ideas can only help you.
Could be. But you have a pretty basic misconception yourself.

I write lots of songs. That doesn't mean I avoid learning how to make music. Just the opposite. The more I learn about making music, the more music I can make.

That's what songwriting is.
 

Charlie Bernstein

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Musicians in general are lazy. Being in an originals band doesn't make you special. Being in a cover band doesn't make you special. I see tons of people half fasting their way through cover material because they are too lazy to learn it right. They call it "putting their own spin" on it. 99.9% of the time that means making it easier. I've seen lots of originals bands playing awful music that they obviously didn't put much though in to (at least that's how it sounded).

The whole cover vs originals is just another way that insecure people try to make distinctions so that they can feel better about themselves. The best band I ever played in was half cover, half original. We nailed the covers close to note for note and we sweated blood over our originals to make them as good and as tight as possible.
Best reply on the thread so far!
 

teletail

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Could be. But you have a pretty basic misconception yourself.

I write lots of songs. That doesn't mean I avoid learning how to make music. Just the opposite. The more I learn about making music, the more music I can make.

That's what songwriting is.
What is my misconception? I don’t say that you HAVE to learn anything, I’m just saying that learning about music doesn’t DIMINISH your creativity, which is something I’ve seen on multiple forums.

I think the Beatles (and many others) pretty well proved that you don’t need to learn music theory to write goods songs … IF … you have talent.
 

Charlie Bernstein

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What is my misconception? . . .
It's that you said "some musicians," not "some people."

Musicians know music. That's what a musician is. It's only people who aren't musicians who think you don't have to know music to make music.

They're sort of like the people who look at paintings by abstract artists like Picasso and Duchamp and Pollock and say, "My five-year-old can do that."

But hey, to be fair to both of us, I don't call myself a musican. Guitar player, yes. Songwriter, yes. Someone who loves making music, yes. Musician? No way. There's too much to ever know!
 
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Charlie Bernstein

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Too my far-too-long post above, I should probably add: I think there is a structural reason original live music can seem more like a mystery to people coming from a covers-only background: venues focused on original bands may not need or be inclined to add PRO license fees to allow covers. Often they prohibit them. So bands focused on covers naturally have no visibility into those venues.
I used to work for an arts presenting organization. Our strict policy was to never hire cover bands — unless it was jazz.

Which never made sense to me. The idea was that with jazz, the interpretations were the point, not the songs themselves. But who says other cover bands aren't interpreting what they're hearing? Not this boy!
 

Harry Styron

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Easy to say. But harsh. I've just never been a great player. I'm not a meat jukebox. I don't have prodigious musical aptitude. My real talent is songwriting. Complex, sophisticated sound? Sorry, you got the wrong guy. I'm a twangbanger.

Fifty years or so ago, I quit playing. Cold turkey. Try as I might, I just never got anywhere near the level of my musical friends. My retirement lasted six months. I hated not playing a lot more than I hated not playing well. Couldn't keep my hand off my guitar another minute. So I thought hard about what I was actually good at. And it's songwriting. None of my musically talented friend could do it. I could.

You're welcome to criticize those of us who are better at writing than at playing and have never "bothered" to build our chops. We try. Lord knows, we try. And as long as the songs keep coming, I'm going to keep writing 'em — and playing 'em for anyone tone-deaf enough to listen.

Am I lazy? Absolutely. Am I suffering? Absolutely not! I suffer when I play in a cover band. I've been in quite a few. Every time, I swear it's going to be my last. I've had to learn Luke Bryant, Toby Keith, Blondie, Kid Rock, and the Rembrandts. Shoot me now.

I'm now in a band whose leader just wants to play (a) Grateful Dead tunes and (b) tunes the Dead covered. I'm not allowed to play any of my own songs. He'll let me slip in, say, a Chuck Berry tune, but it's a short leash.

Now, I've been a stone-cold Deadhead since '71. But who wants to be a Jerry impersonator — even if I could? Might as well go all the way: put on a Madame Pompadour wig, impersonate Elvis, and be done with it.

I'm also in a duo with another songwriter. We do originals and covers.

The audience can't tell the difference.
Charlie is pointing out something that this discussion has overlooked, which is that there are ways to present original music other than by playing in bands.

I like original music, and I hear it performed live by solo, duo and trio acts, occasionally by bands, in the house concert setting. House concert venues are everywhere, and many artists make a living playing original music for 20-75 people in these venues, which are often in peoples’ homes Or other small listening rooms.

Some of the great acts I’ve seen in house concerts are the Rainmakers, Victor and Penny, the Nace Brothers, Trout Fishing in America, the Bottle Rockets, Bob Livingston, Willi Carlisle, National Park Radio, the Creek Rocks, Jonathan Byrd, the Hillbenders, Still on the Hill, Shannon Wurst, Violet and the Undercurrents, Distant Relative, and the Lacewings. Some of these acts primarily play in the Midwest, but some of the tour nationally and internationally.

The music that many of these acts perform is sometimes called folk music, though to my ears it is often pop music that includes elements of rock, rockabilly, jazz, country and traditional folk music.
 




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