In The Beginning, The World Was Empty And Formless
The other day, I said Pensacola Beach needs a little help getting original Rock Music on the menu. Like in Genesis, the beach is empty and without form. Let's say, "Let there be light!". Or more appropriately, "Let there be ROCK!"
Let's adjust this empty and formless thing into a great opportunity!
Please don't get me wrong. There are plenty of cover bands here. More than you can shake a stick at. Matter of fact, my last band, regular JOE 2.0, was one of them. We did covers no one else around here did. That is, mostly people from the West Coast appreciated our schtick. Soon however, we started doing ska, some classic tunes and more "recognizable" tunes. Even as I tried to steer us towards originals, we sank into the deep. Glub, glub, glub. Down we went. Everyone lost interest and went their separate ways.
Everything we worked so hard for ended. I sold all my gear. I was washed up. And I simply didn't want to spend any more time digging that deep again without a good team.
I wrote a song about it here.
As they say, "That's show biz." Still as I sank into writing about how I felt about things ending, I reflected about what went wrong and why I needed to adjust my perspective. Let's face it, I learned a lot. Even as I began to get some help from folks out in California (and they really helped), I still wanted to do something more local. You know? Bring Rock Music here to Pensacola Beach?
I wrote a song about that, too. Here.
These two songs (among a few others) were just the inspiration I needed to go from empty and formless into something new. Let There Be Rock!
So, why don't I want to do covers? Read on!
Darkness Was On The Face Of The Deep
My darkness brought inspiration. Everyone feels sad, or mad sometimes. It's probably why Taylor Swift dates serially. There is depth in darkness. It's OK to dive in. But your personal darkness isn't the only kind. The music biz competes. It can be a very dark and onerous business.
Back in the day, song pluggers would pay radio stations to play their songs. It was called, "Payola." In the real world it's bribery. The practice is illegal. But, it's still goes on today. You can go to Music Xray, and just about every radio station who advertises there wants a bribe. Some in the thousands.
Plus, on the club circuit, everyone competes for the bottom. That is to say it's easier and faster to play Top 40 than it is to do something original. It's the same old songs, performed better or worse by either the same old people, or a new group of them.
More darkness? Well, clubs want you to play music their customers recognize so they loosen up and have a good time. Your job is selling drinks AND entertaining patrons. Notice I said, "JOB"? Yes. It's a job. Another term for job is "Just. Outside. Broke." What clubs don't want are customers who leave. But they also don't want a band so big they can't serve people. Cover bands are made and broken by bartenders. So, every band must balance the dark forces mounted against them.
Play covers, sell drinks, and then entertain. So, why bother? Well, that's easy. At least you have some fun. And that's better than a dead end job where there is no fun.
Through all of this, there is 1 rule:
The artist is always the last person to get paid!
Still, the club scene is a great training ground if you take it that way. To this end, the music is only part of the business. Being entertaining is another part. And that's the part where most bands just don't deliver. They don't engage, or show the audience how to have fun, or simply struggle to get people involved. In my experience playing out, the music is only half the show. The rest is engagement. The more you engage, the better. If it looks like your audience is bored, guess what? They are. They don't care. You must make them care. You must get them to eat out of your hand. Very few bands can do this. Even the best cover bands.
Cover Music + Engagement = A Pretty Good Cover Band!
So, that's why bands do it. It's easier than playing songs nobody knows. And you can get popular pretty fast. Still, it's not the same as changing the world. Rock Music can do that.
Let There Be Rock!
One of the final pieces is meeting people. Rock Music, like so many other things, is about relationships. For example, I met Mike Rozon and his girl Kiki at the Jerry Cantrell show on my birthday. I told Mike I was coming and I showed up. We were so glad we took a few moments to catch up. Mike is a professional producer I've leaned on to get the most out of a few songs I wrote. He plays a mean steel guitar. Coming to see him really made his day. And because of him, I met Mike and Tisha Ciravolo, from Beauty In Chaos. I never would've met these incredibly talented folks if it weren't for Rock Music.
I'd like to see Mike play in Pensacola Beach one day!
Matter of fact, Mike mixed, and mastered the two songs I referred to in this blog. I think he did a wonderful job. And you know what? Meeting him and his girl made my day, too.
The Only Way Out Is Through
Despite how hard the music biz is, or how you do it, the only way out is to stand out. If you play like everyone else, and do what everyone else does, you'll end up like everyone else. You'll compete for the bottom where it is empty and without form.
You must embrace your own voice. There are many people who, like me, have never earned the great success the big artists have earned. But there are incredibly talented musicians who make a living making art and maybe will never be big and famous. And that's OK. It's not about how you finish, it's about if you're in the race. If you can stick with it, stand out and sing something no one's heard before, then there is always room for one more voice. Your voice.
It really is time for Pensacola Beach to have it's very own original rock band. I hope to be part of it.
Don't get me wrong. It's not that I don't like covering a great song. I really do like them. It's just that I really want to create a band I've never seen here. And I'd like to bring that to you. I think some of my music is good enough. Do you?
And it's against that backdrop, I write this blog. If you know someone in the area who wants the same kind of thing, let me know. I'm all ears. Seating is limited, and I've met a few players already who show great promise. More next time.
Love & Rockets,