We all like living in towns where arts and culture is appreciated don’t we. We do. If you’re reading this, the chances are that for you a big part of that is having a thriving local live music scene. Thriving as in a good amount of good bands, and people who go to shows by those bands. What follows is a little insight into what being in a DIY band in Hamilton in 2019 is like. The term DIY is meant to mean that everything is done ourselves and the people in the bands almost certainly have a day job. I’m in a couple of bands at the moment, not that I want a medal or anything. It’s fun, and I like the creativity of it. It is however, a bit of a grind from time to time, and I thought it would be mildy interesting to share some of that with people who might not have been in a band. The best bit is at the end btw.
Forming a band
Finding like-minded souls who play the right instruments. Sounds easy right? Nope. Somone needs to invent a Tinder for musicians rapid. Drummers in particular are like gold dust and should be cherished like your best jumper.
Finding a space to practice is hard enough, (reader, I have practiced in an old bus in someone’s garden for months on end), but then finding a time and day when all members can be in the same place at the same time (not to mention on time) make some of NASA’s achievements look a piece of piss. Does piss come in pieces? I don't know (longhand for idk).
I don’t know what to put here. It’s the other magic bit. Communicating which bits of songs you like to other band members, negotiating lyrics, song length, altering bits other people are doing, not sounding too much like band X….all while trying not to hurt others' feelings. It’s a minefield!
Finding other bands to play that work on the bill BUT will bring in an audience, agreeing a date, finding a venue that is free on that date, sorting a sound engineer and PA, booking a venue, making posters and flyers, postering posters, flyering flyers…a lot of mahi needed.
Afternoon nerves. Turn up for soundcheck 6pm. Soundcheck 7pm, two songs and ‘yeah that’ll do’. Eat shit food. Doors open. Lay out the merch, ever hopeful. Sit on the door praying to something that people turn up. Trying not to hug and kiss strangers when they arrive at YOUR GIG when they could be doing anything in the world. Smiling and being nice to the person turning up with a $100 note and wanting all your change. Getting to 20 people and starting to breathe because you might have just broken even and can pay the venue/sound engineer. Yuss! Band one plays to 20 people. Some clap. 25 people now for band two. A party of four comes approaches and tries to negotiate a bulk deal instead of paying $10 each. Mate. 30 people have paid in now for band three. 8 people leave because they are tired. One person has their fingers in their ears. Still, they all came through. Grateful. ‘This next one’s a new one.’ They mostly all are, only three people have heard you play before. Got to love it!
Wash up – venue incl. engineer $200 (valid; venues cost money to run and engineers need paying). Resulting in $100 to split between the three bands. One travelled from Palmerston North, ten hours return drive. Sold a t-shirt though, and people dug the free stickers. Two are local and decide to give all the $ to the band who travelled. Solidarity.
There you go. It's how it is. Isn't it? DGMW (shorthand for don't get me wrong) there can be some huge highs being in a band too, other than just the joy of creating/playing music…people actually coming to your show at all; nice comments about your music that shows someone was really listening; selling merch; getting a much bigger crowd than expected; cheers when you start playing a song you wrote and someone recognises it; getting airplay on the radio; seeing good amounts of listens to your music online; meeting lovely people in other bands; travelling and playing different venues…and so on.
This is a realistic picture of what it is like being in a DIY band in Hamilton in 2019. If you can go to a show and the other ooption is not too great, please, go to a show. The bands love you for it, and your city becomes a shitload cooler.
Looking forward to the no-doubt wholly positive comments which follow! 😊