I have lived in LA on the West Coast, and Fayetteville Arkansas in the heart of The Country, and since 1998, here in the Upstate of South Carolina (Easley).
Growing up in Arkansas and playing in bands there, we had a tight community, with the 80s being incredible for bands and music performers in every genre. There was always a gig, always something fun going on. Musicians helped one another out in every way you can imagine. From helping other bands getting booked into venues, to sticking together on social and political issues that affected the live music scene, and in times of trouble, say a sick band member, there were half a dozen people ready to sit in and help.
Then, I moved to Los Angeles… Talk about culture shock. We had to pay to play at many clubs (yes, you could buy a roll of tickets and sell them for a dollar each and make a dollar, or buy the roll from the bar or club and give them away, etc), and bands would cut your throat if you horned in on their established places to play. If you needed someone to sit in, and you were making 100 bucks each, that person would say he wanted 200 dollars to cover the session for the evening. So each band member had to pony up a few extra dollars to cover the missing player’s replacement.
Forget about fundraisers. Every band who was good would only play a fundraiser if you paid them, and usually, it was their going rate. So if someone’s family had cancer and they wanted to have a charity event, they had to pay to rent the venue, pay for the band, pay for food, and for the swag involved, and then hope they had some money left over. Those who could not afford publicity and relied on word-of-mouth were screwed, they rarely made much money, UNLESS they paid for the best band around that was guaranteed to pull in a big crowd.
In essence, bands there were very “professional” and were in it purely for the money. It was every man for himself (or herself).
Then I moved back to Fayetteville Arkansas after about 7 and half years to find that my hometown had become somewhat similar. Very money oriented. And I have heard this from friends of mine all over the country, wherever they live.
Finally, after moving here to the Upstate, I have begun to experience a little of what it was like back in the old days. Sure, venues here pay very little as opposed to what they did in the 80s, something that I will not go into now, but, the bands, musicians, entertainers, performers, for the most part, they all seem to want to lend a hand!
Let me list a couple cases that come to mind as I write this:
- Decadent Daze members helped get our band booked into at least one venue, putting in a good word for us.
- Decadent Daze bassist, Mark Bennett volunteered his services to help out on a charity event where our drummer could not make it.
- Everlasting Earle‘s drummer, Travis Rygg also volunteered to assist with the same gig (We took him up on his offer).
- Bennie Waddell, a singer who has worked with us before has always volunteered to sit in on gigs.
- Kip Tomlinson, the original lead vocalist of TDB has sat in when we needed him.
- Decadent Daze and a slew of great bands came forward to help out with a fundraiser for a venue owner who has cancer.
- TDB, $2 Pistol and The Bottom Line Band volunteered for the Pickens County Cancer Association’s Pig Pickin’ in Easley.
- When Delaney’s Pub in Spartanburg, SC burned, bands came forward to play a fundrasier to give back to the place that they had played.
Those are just a few, I kept thinking of more, but it would get rather long if I kept on!
Don’t hear what I’m not saying. I do understand that not every band can always play a fundraiser without receiving some kind of compensation. Music gear is very expensive, travel expenses are getting higher all the time, and if you have to hire in sound gear, lighting and personnel to operate that, then of course a small band cannot afford that, especially when you consider they are likely taking off work and possibly losing money there.
It is certainly a breath of fresh air when bands and individual musicians, as well as club/bar/venue owners work together though!
Thank you to the Upstate music community for helping restore my faith in what this profession can be!
John M. Hoyt – Bassist and vocalist for The Dockside Band
UPDATE: The Dockside Band is no more… But, for a fun and funky, dance and party band for your Upstate area event, be sure to check out the new HOT AS A PEPPER site!