musicians

New Drumming Pet Peeve: Backline Sharing

drumset

When it comes to drumming, I’ve had a busy couple of months.  At one time I was juggling four steady drumming gigs, and was looking at the possibility of adding another one.  Now with the baby coming, I’m taking a bit of a sabbatical from drumming – at least as far as gigging projects are concerned – to get ready for the new parent adventure.  Given that I’m going to have a little bit of musical downtime, I wanted to share some reflections from the road.

First and foremost, I’ve uncovered my new drumming pet peeve: backline sharing. Like most things on the road to Hell, this is based on the good intention (usually made by people who are not drummers).  For those that don’t know, backline sharing is when drummers, bass players (and any other instruments with bulky gear) are asked (or in my case, volun-told) to share their gear for a multi-band bill.  Whether you’re on the one doing the sharing, or taking part in someone’s shared gear – this is a lose-lose situation.  Like I said, this decision is usually made by someone who doesn’t play any of these instruments, thinking only of how they can cut corners and minimize the transition time between bands.

The bottom line is that as a drummer, I have spent a considerable amount of time and money to get the sounds that I feel best compliment my playing style, as well as the type of music that I’m playing that evening.  This was culminated from many hours spent in the drum shop finding that perfect cymbal or snare drum head, then going home and determining the exact placement of each part of your kit.  When you’re asking your drummer to backline share on someone else’s kit, you’re unknowingly saying a big “Efff you” to their musicianship and the time they spent to getting their instrument to sound the best for your music. 

I understand there are certain exceptions (like school drum sets) where you’re not playing on your own kit, but I often equate that to driving a car: I can drive someone else’s car and get around for the most part, but when it comes to understanding how the car corners, brakes and maneuver in tight spaces – you want your own vehicle. The same goes for drumming. If you’re asking me to give my best (often to help us earn money), let me cook with my own ingredients.

It’s bad enough to be asked to share someone else’s instrument, but when you’re asked to do the sharing: you’ve taken it to a completely worse level.  All that I said about putting in the time and effort to get the perfect sound out of your kit, is not a cheap process – and now you’re asking me to entrust my kit to someone who I’ve never met before and likely won’t see ever again?  Seriously? In one of my first bands, one of my band-mates was goofing around on my kit and busted up my brand new Pearl Eliminator pedal, with no offer to help rectifying the situation (luckily the pedal was under warranty and Pearl was great about fixing it), but from that point on I decided to go against the lessons my parents taught me – (when it comes to my drums,) NO SHARING!  Now while I’m watching the opening act, rather than mentally preparing for the music I’m going to play, I’m now fixated on the stranger playing my drums and cringing at the possible damage that’s being inflicted on a prized possession.

So memo to band-leaders: you’re thinking that you’re doing us a favor with us lugging less gear, but lugging gear is part of drumming – I’m more than happy to deal with it.

Ruining the community with your self-promotion

spam

That said, musicians are as much as a sub-community as any group out there.   Good musicians realize pretty quickly that you’re not competing against other bands and musicians, as much as you’re competing against the other ways people find entertainment.  I’m always eager to connect with musicians and exchange ideas, as well as lean on each other so that we all may succeed.  In any profession, “Networking” can be extremely valuable when done right, but many times can deteriorate into a cheap sales job.

With that, I was excited to be added to a “Local Musicians of Denver” group on Facebook, joining hundreds of other musicians in building local community, exchanging ideas and finding different ways to support each other.  For the most part, many of the people are there to do just that.  After the joining the group however, you’ll quickly see that a significant portion are there to only contribute their cheap sales tactics.

Exhibit A:

SelfPromo1

This guy went to all the trouble it took to click “Paste” and put his link up for all to see. No introduction, no context, not even a call to action. Just a spammy link.  Thanks for your contribution to the community.  The least you could have done was at least ask “Let me know what you think.” Better yet, ask point out something specific in the video that you’d like feedback on.

Exhibit B (which was right below Exhibit A):

SelfPromo2

You did the exact same thing as Exhibit A did, the only thing is that Facebook massaged the Event Link so that you don’t look like a total spammer.

Look, I understand you need to promote your shows. I also realize that musicians often are interested in other bands and musicians and want to scratch another band’s back with some support.  At the same time, this guy has given no indication why you as a member of the musicians community should go see this show.  At least say something like “This is a really big show for us and we’d love your support”, or “We want to show the Denver Art Society that musicians can represent.”  Please, just give any kind of invitation, even if it’s just a personalized message.  Instead you’re no better than Exhibit A.

 

While the first two examples show how people are spamming the community, there is a grey area that if done correctly – can at least give the appearance of active participation:

 SelfPromo3

To me this successfully walks the thin line of shameless self-promotion and community participation.  Why – because you’re giving the community something, also the personal invitation helps.

 

Finally there is the other side of the coin: getting wisdom from this community to better yourself.  Some examples:

SelfPromo4

SelfPromo5

Notice the biggest difference between these last two from the first three? They actually have comments!  Now you’ve established a connection with other musicians, which you can cultivate into a relationship that will be beneficial to the both of you.

 

The moral of the story: There is a time and place for Shameless Self-Promotion. If you’re going to use your “networking” time to do it, then be prepared to walk a fine line – better yet, put away the two thumbs that point at yourself.

A great response in the file sharing debate

This is a bit old, but I hadn’t had a chance to post it and thought it would beg good for those who didn’t see this the first time around.

For those who don’t know, there’s a debate raging in the UK (and other European countries with similar legislation) over proposed legislation that would be a “3 strikes” policy on those that are accused of file sharing.

Last month Lilly Allen came out in favor of this legislation, but in the process of blogging about this, she plagiarized TechDirt in the process (whoops!). In response, Dan Bull released this video/open letter that pretty much summarizes my stance as a musician on going after file-sharers.  This is definitely worth a look.

When will Apple open up iTunes LP’s?

At the recent Apple’s iPod Gushfest, they announced a new feature in music purchases in the LP format.  This is supposed to be the next generation of the album format’s liner notes, photos and additional goodies you get when you pony up money for a CD.  This looked like a feature that may turn out to be cool (depending on how much they charge for this), but as a band that sells on iTunes I was very interested in how the LP was going to become available.

Details are starting to formulate, but because Apple hasn’t been very forthcoming with details (as if that’s a surprise), it’s given away to rampant speculation.  Initially the news broke that Indie (Independent) artists trying to implement the LP solution were told by iTunes reps that LP’s weren’t available to Independents.  Not only that, but to get an LP into iTunes, labels needed to pony up a $10,000 production fee.

Apple refuted the claim saying that they’re going to release open specs, and that no production fee would be charged. The fact that they’re going to release the open specs should hopefully enable content creators to create them – but we’ll see if they really become successful.  It’s surprising that iTunes doesn’t appear to have a sense of urgency about putting these specs out, considering that these have been out for over 6 weeks and only has 16 LP’s to show for it.

My guess is that unless they open LP to include a lossless audio format, there’ really isn’t going to be much incentive to get people spend the extra money and buy these instead of a CD.  I would also guess that Apple probably put these together due to pressure from the record companies and probably won’t invest their full attention towards this – not unlike the Apple TV.

Pre-gaming for a show

It looks like the roads from Fort Collins to Denver are clearing up, and the weather is clearing up for our Greenfoot show at Signatures Night Club.  Aside from my regular drum gear, there are a few other things to gather for myself and the band.  Some of the things I’m packing in my gear box:

  • Print-Outs of the Set List in big, bold type that can be seen on a dark stage
  • Duct tape for the setlists and any other cords/gear that needs to be taped down
  • Print-Outs of our mailing list signup form (along with pens that I’m not afraid to lose)
  • CD’s to hand out
  • Business Cards with our contact information
  • T-Shirts to sell
  • My Nalgene water bottle
  • Gum (so I don’t look like an idiot when I play)

What are other things that musicians should bring with them (aside from their gear)?  What one of the things I’m on the search for is a clock that: 1) Can be seen in the dark (either with a back-lit, or front-lit digits); 2) Displays in this mode by default (doesn’t need to be touched); 3) Is (or can be) battery powered.  So far no such luck.   Would anyone have any suggestions – either for a clock or for gear musicians need to bring).