Sunday, February 24, 2008

On Musician's Adversity and Grace

Last night I was witness to a couple of things about the music business that I thought I'd share.

I had the pleasure of being backstage for a band that was a big worldwide hit in the 90s and made a reappearance in 2001. They hit the stage over the last 7 years like they never left it. Just as good, if not better, and their fan base never stops growing. They are very successful musicians and have "made it" as we like to say. It's at this point in my story that I've decided that their identity is not important now that I've set the stage so to speak.

The gig was outdoors under a giant truss supported canopy, but even so the concert was rained out - nowhere for the crowd to keep dry and more bad weather moving in. I met the drummer of the band for the first time and was immediately taken by his hospitality while he was getting his personal gear squared away for breakdown and packing up. He is not the original drummer of the group, but has been since the 2001 regroup. He rocks hard.

The band recently switched agencies for booking and representation to a large VERY well known company. Their new rep showed up while I was talking the the drummer. "Hi, I'm looking for (insert famous band name here)." To which the drummer replied "I'm the drummer (insert his name here), who are you?" "I'm with (famous agency) and I'm the band's new rep." The rep then asks, " How long have YOU been with the group?". The drummer smiles and without missing a beat says "Seven years, I'm (drummer's name again)". And shakes the rep's hand.

The new rep is an older gentleman, like myself (sigh). He looks very distracted. "Where can I find (insert group's road manager's name) ?" The drummer points him out and the rep says a couple of things about his kids play the drums and guitars, and then he hustles off after the busy road manager. The drummer and I continue the bullsh!t session on gear and music and I meet his buddy, a great up and coming artist who's just as gracious as his friend. (more on him in another post)

Here's what I got from this scene:

First, the drummer is very successful, but still must deal with industry (and probably fans) that don't know who he is in this band and recognise him as the group's drummer. Not a fill-in hired gun. He handled the situation so graciously and without a hint of ego-trip that it just blew me away. We have all worked around and continue to run into the ego-maniacs in this biz that would have been in a fit over the lack of respect that he'd just been shown. It didn't even phase him.

Second, industry folks for VERY big, well known agencies still couldn't put in 30 minutes of research into the very product (the band and it's members) that they will be representing and making money from. Honestly, the rep seemed like a nice guy and the incident described above was not intentionally disrespectful, just REALLY sloppy. I've heard stories from musician buddies and their friends about how crappy the industry is to artists, but this was me seeing just a quick peek at how sloppy and processed it can be.

Lastly, I learned a little from the two musicians I met last night. They have that look in their eyes. That look of music waiting to pour out. The genuine interest in others like themselves and the manners and intellect to deal with those in their field that just don't understand. Remember that there will always be those that don't understand why you play an instrument and have to let the music out. It's not always their fault, perhaps they should be pitied in a way, for they are missing so much.

It's all on a big wheel...

~ tonebender

Stephen Colbert on Bass Players

Stephen Colbert on Bass Players:

"It's like you made a poorly worded deal with the devil to be a rock star. Instead of fame, fortune and groupies, you stand in the shadows plucking one note for ninety minutes while the lead singer picks out a trio of co-eds from the front row for a post-show pansexual trapeze act. Even worse, you're expected to room with the drummer."