The Re-Evaluation of a Habit.
It’s easy to get caught up in the workings of independent music. Once you’ve played around some, you’re starting to play other cities, play bigger shows in your hometown, score some nice quotes from powerful people, and make friends with other bands. Your merch is selling, your equipment is upgrading, your soft gig bag is traded for a hard one, and all the drums get cases. You meet people at other shows that recognize you as “from ”. You’re becoming a bona-fide independent celebrity.
Or maybe it’s the flip side of the coin: your merch is sitting in boxes, people don’t know your name, and you spend all of your time promoting the crap out of your music, both online and in real life. The message boards and the coffeeshops all know your band’s name, but you still can’t get people to come to shows.
There’s only one thing in common with both of these bands: they’re in danger of losing their direction. They’ve focused so much on ‘being a band’ that they could, if not careful, completely forget the pure joy of playing music. I’m not saying that new bands shouldn’t promote, or that established bands automatically do this- I’m just saying that it’s a nerve-wracking trend for a music critic to see more and more bands sold out to promoting themselves instead of being sold out to being musicians. Sure, you may have local and even regional success if you promote yourselves to death, but if it comes at the expense of loving music, you’ll never ‘make it’.
At some point in time (usually the beginning), bands form because the members enjoy playing music together. For many bands, the joy of just sitting around and jamming gets lost somewhere between the first practice and opening for a nationally touring act. Don’t be in a band because it’s a habit- be in a band because you love making music.
If you do love music, show your love by making your songs the best they can be. Don’t ever present a sloppy product- even if you could take a gig playing for 400 people cause you got lucky with an opening spot that you got by promoting yourselves to the extremes. If you take that gig with your unprepared (yet extremely promoted) band, those 400 people will all have a bad impression of you. And you know what? That just hurt you more than it helped you.
The love of music is what drives the best bands. Music is the forerunner- the fact that they are managing the industry as well is a side problem. Music is the be-all end-all for them- and it was for you, when you started your band. Take some time to love your music. Practice it a couple times extra. Write a new song. Rekindle your love for music- because after a while, the love of music will be the only thing that keeps you going. And if you don’t love the music, you’ll break up, leaving all those fans you acquired through promotion stranded, talking about how good they could have been. It happens all too often.