But seriously, I have been thinking for a while now about this phenomenon — playing out, gigging, performing, entertaining, etc, whatever you choose to call it.
Musicians spend thousands of hours learning their song lists, spend thousands of dollars on equipment, put thousands of miles on their vehicles. They spend countless hours, setting up gigs, talking to owners of restaurants/bars/clubs, talking to brides-to-be, talking to event coordinators. They re-think, re-evaluate, re-invent their set-up for every venue: outdoors, with a stage, without a stage, plenty of room, in a corner by the front door, etc.
It is very hard work, but it is also a passion and love or they wouldn’t be doing it.
I think every musician has heard the criticism of some patron or regular of a local establishment from the management of that gig. ‘Not enough dance music.’ ‘Didn’t play a single song they could dance to.’ ‘Don’t like their type of music.’ and on…
- All working musicians have a song list, some more extensive than others. Musicians are usually drawn to a group of artists that they cover, or have their own originals. There will be times that you will hear a deep-track from an artist you haven’t heard in years. That may spark a fond memory, make you laugh, make you cry or pique your interest and inspire you to re-examine that artist. Or, it may just be plain fun to hear.
- Requests are usually looked at with respect and if possible honored. If they don’t know the specific song requested, they may have a song from the same artist they can cover or a song with a similar style, beat and feel. It isn’t to snub a patron, it isn’t personal.
- Requests of 20+ songs, well that is just rude. Creating a long list, presenting it to the musician/band and then standing their waiting, rude. Musicians/bands, who do covers, pull from a multitude of artists and try to give their audience the best experience possible.
- Genre or style does count for something. If your favorite type of music is country, the heavy metal band you are watching, probably isn’t going to do it for you. But that doesn’t mean that the experience hasn’t been great for someone else at that venue. It doesn’t mean that the musician/band is not good. It doesn’t mean that they haven’t performed their genre well. It doesn’t mean that their particular style/craft is sub-par. If your preference is realism in your art, i.e. Leonardo DaVinci — Salvador Dali probably isn’t going to do it for you. And, I doubt that ‘The Hills Have Eyes’ is a movie you will be drawn to, if ‘Gone With The Wind’ is your favorite movie of all time. That isn’t to say, that you wouldn’t learn from a Dali exhibit or that a horror movie during Halloween isn’t fun. It just may not be your preference, but a good experience doesn’t always have to be driven by preference.
- Some musicians perform with a full band; some musicians perform solo; some musicians perform as duets. Each have their own unique quality. Full bands can fulfill the sound by having performers for each part. Solo performers and duets may just adapt the song to be a stripped down version or pull up a track or two for the bass or drums to round out their performance. Some of these tracks are samples they purchase or, even better, they create their own tracks so that it can fit the style which they play or take the song in the direction they want to go. But make no mistake, a karaoke machine with someone singing along isn’t the same. Pulling up a song on a computer and watching the lyrics scroll down the screen, well, that’s karaoke – that isn’t a working musician.
- And, last but not least, a DJ is not live music. Yes, there is a live person pulling up songs, reading the crowd and playing what seems to be appropriate, BUT it is not live music. DJ’s have talent, some are incredibly talented in their craft, but again, it is not live music. I cannot even begin to understand why this is not obvious, but that’s me.
I know this is long, but it is important…. at least to me.
As an owner or manager of a restaurant/bar/venue with live music — if a ‘regular’ has a criticism of the music, maybe it should be taken with a grain of salt. Unless your employees, bartenders or manger hears and feels they are not good (not based on genre but on actual performance), then manage your entertainment as the owner/manager. Diversity in style is good; provides for diversity in patrons. One single musician/band cannot be all things to all people. And, frankly, if a patron is a ‘regular’ at your bar, chances are they were a ‘regular’ somewhere else prior. Unless, of course, they just turned 21 last week *snicker*. And, chances are they are going to be a ‘regular’ somewhere else, next. It just doesn’t seem logical, to criticize a performer based on a ‘regular’. Maybe the ‘regular’ should be doing the booking, if that is how the entertainment is going to be managed. And, when that ‘regular’ finds a new place… where are your eggs now that you placed in one basket?
What about all of the other patrons who were there? who stayed because they liked the music? who didn’t feel the need to address the manager or waitstaff? who tipped generously because they enjoyed their night? who will be waiting for that particular entertainer to come back?
Musicians may be a lot of things: they love what they do, they have their own set of eccentricities. But they really were not born with a coin slot in their behind: ‘instant songs, just place your coin and make your choice’.