The Problems Of Being In An Unsigned Band!
Over the past few years I have interviewed a variety of excellent local unsigned bands. All of these bands have excellent talent and potential. However despite this, they nevertheless can face difficulties, especially in terms of making a proper break through in the local music scene.
This mini essay will highlight just some of the problems faced. I dont pretend to be an expert, so dont take my words as gospel. However what I would say is that, I welcome your views as well, and hope from reading this a discussion can be created.
Most recently I caught up with two bands, Cities on Fire and The Creep Void. Both from the Newcastle area, gave me some pretty intresting insight into the obstacles which come with being in a local band. Often there is an assumption that a good band requires a professional manager to look after them. However not all of us have this luxury, especially at the local level.
The responsibility therefore falls on the bands themselves to organise themselves. On one hand this can be good as if successful enables a group to become self efficient. However this can also be seen as being rather stressful. Not only does there have to be someone willing to take the initiative, but can be time consuming, and tiring especially since most local bands have to balance their band with work, college or family commitments. Something else which has to be noted is that there needs to be a mutual understanding and respect between all members. In all my time watching local bands, there have been so many potentially talented people, who sadly due to differences of opinion, especially during the tough times, have fallen out with one another, and even going to the extent of calling it a day.
When I spoke to Cities on Fire however they saw tension as something which infact made them stronger as a group and brought them together. Having gone through a tough patch, lead singer Dan, initially left the band. For many months this left the others trying to find a suitable replacement. After a variety of trial and error, it was only a matter of time that the rest of the guys realised there was noone better than Dan. As explained by them, you dont know a good thing until its gone. Forgive the cliche lol. If you think about it then, disagreements and time out are not necessarily a bad thing. As I witnessed from Cities on Fire, although a difficult time, was nevertheless neccessary in enabling the band to grow from strength to strength, inorder to be the tight unit they are today.
So then your in a band and trying to make it in this tough market. With so many local bands in the North East, coming and going, its not only important to stand out but also to remember, that no matter what not to give up on your dream. If you are able to show your music passion and determination, then others will be able to appreciate it too. I have never really been a fan of cover songs, however I must admit they should not be regarded as an eternal sin. In the early stages, cover songs are useful in helping you to experiment, and find a sound which works for your band in a sense that it takes you in the right direction. Once you find a happy medium, it then should enable you to have the confidence to be creative. Playing someone elses song is fine, but at some point you need to take it that next step and show your identity through your music, so that you leave a lasting impression with any potential new fans.
Another major issue, which the lads from The Creep Void shared with me, was the issue of finding a reliable promoter willing to give bands the support and attention they deserve. With some cowboy promoters having little consideration for the bands needs, and more concerned with raking in the cash, this can leave local bands feeling hard done by. Not only this, but they can also feel undervalued or taken for a ride. To add insult to injury there is pressure on the groups to sell tickets to potential gig-goers, which aint always an easy thing. Not only does this mean more stress for the bands, but for a new band making a debut onto the local scene its a matter of how to encourage people to come along. In my opinion, this responsibility should mainly fall on the promoters themselves, to do everything in their power to make sure that they do 98% of the ticket selling.
Dont get me wrong, there are some good promoters out there who do a pretty amazing job of making sure that both bands and audience are happy. Such support these days is gold dust, so to have a strong promoter who is as passionate about your music as you, is priceless.
If your just starting out in a band, and looking for your breakthrough where do you begin. The best way is to start as another band’s support, or even getting your music played whereever possible. A good source is local community radio stations. Modern day music on the music, is bombared with pop/dance or R ‘N’ B which means there is alot of undiscovered local talent not getting the recognition it deserves. I worked for a while on Community Radio, and nothing pleased me more than bringing emo, screamo, rock, metal and anything alternative to the market. Why should people only be able to hear your stuff if they see you at a gig? Atleast by getting as much airplay and publicity as possible, means your music reaches more listeners, anywhere and everywhere.
The local music scene is extremely tough so finding a good support network is vital. If you are in a unsigned and unmanaged band, I must also point out that you dont have to have a manager or be on a label, because there are a wide array of music groups, unsigned who with the right energy and mentality are going strong.
One thing I am aware of in the north east, is that there seems to be a dominance in male bands. I am sure there are some good female bands out there, but in a male dominated music scene, its important that we recognize that female bands are just as important and brilliant.
Regardless of gender, all local bands have something in common. Usually of the same age range, the Newcastle music scene especially has alot of youngsters pursuing their dream. However it is sad to see in some circumstances the misteament of these groups in terms of being discriminated because of their age. My tip would be if anyone ever criticises you or shows a blatant disregard for you whether it be your age, sex or even your chosen genre, never loose sight. Keep your passion flowing, let your talent do the talking, and most of all never let the bastards grind you down!
There we go then – a little essay for you to read and think about. Please please please, do feel welcome to comment and add your views.