Saturday, 30 May 2009

The budding semi-professional and the hobbyist take the kids out

I've been thinking recently how much difference there is amongst us in our levels of commitment to making music, and how this affects our individual opinions of the money we deserve to be paid for playing gigs.

For a start, it's clear that we can be separated into three categories:

1) The professionals (those who I assume need very little support from RTYD)
2) The semi-professionals or wannabe semi-professionals (who need a bit more but not as much as..)
3) The hobbyists (who need all the help they can get)

Now, I was talking to my good friend Dove Jones in the park last weekend while the kids were playing. Dove is an RTYD member and MCs at RTYD gigs at The Dublin Castle. He's a great bloke and so passionate about everything he does. To borrow one of his favoured adjectives, he's a wicked keyboard/piano player and regularly sits in with bands and plays live jam sessions. He has a repertoire of covers and originals. He is less concerned with virtual networks and more interested in getting out there and playing (you can see him in his element here). I regard him as more of a musician than I'll ever be. I could never sit in with anybody and jam along. As I've said before, I play guitar in order to write songs. And my ability and interest in the guitar stops there.

Now Dove aims to achieve 'semi-professional' status as musician, meaning I assume that when he plays he wants to earn a decent wage doing so; making music would then become one of his 'jobs', as opposed to his pastime. And I truly believe he'll have little problem making this happen.

Me, I can't 'jam', but I could, if I wanted, get out there with my acoustic guitar and play more often. But I don't. Because I like playing in a band. It's lonely up there with just your acoustic guitar. I've got nothing against doing acoustic shows with my band, but it's enough to get my band rehearsed for an electric gig. I would be happy to play more regularly with my band, maybe once a week? But this is difficult for a number of reasons, such as the fact that we won't play covers, we haven't got a big enough following to keep promoters happy, and there's only so much following you can do of a band that only plays in central London, and that rarely releases a record. For the time being too, my wife works full-time so I do all the school runs, my bass player has a new baby, my guitarist is skint and can barely afford the bus fare to rehearsal and my drummer is an advertisng executive and is often so busy he is unable to leave the office early. Playing weekly would be un-do-able right now.

My band and I are therefore hobbyists. By reason of our collective commitment level. I'm not sure I like calling myself a hobbyist or my band a hobby. But hey, it's a fact. Get over it.

Anyway, since I started promoting these RTYD gigs, I have noticed that occasionally people ask me about money, that is, being paid to play. Now this took me by surprise to begin with. Maybe this because being in band that is basically a hobby, it doesn't occur to any of us to think about being paid. We're just happy to have a gig. We play originals. We don't consider ourselves entertainers. It's too self-indulgent to be entertainment, at this level anyway. But should we play for nothing? And if we did play for a fee, what's the minimum we should be paid? That any band should be paid? What would cover costs for example? And what are the costs? Transport? Beer? Evening meal? Babysitter? Strings? Lem-oil?

Anyway, at RTYD tomorrow night there's no money to pay the bands, semi-professional or hobbyist. Not yet anyway. Not until the punters arrive with their £4.50. Then after venue and PA hire and staff costs, profit is split with the venue 60/40 in RTYD's favour. Last time the profit was about £85. So RTYD was paid 50 quid. I bought the MC a nice bottle of Scotch and my DJ a couple of music books. I paid the last band 20 quid, cos they bought the most people. That left a tenner each for the other bands and ten quid for RTYD (me).

Friday, 29 May 2009

"Rock-Til-You-Drop, Rock-Til-You-Drop-Radio, Let's Go!"

So here it is... the first RTYD radio show podcast, or podcast radio show, or something?

It was not easy, but I'm into keeping it up, and trying to improve it.
I know I have a new-found respect for Dave Lee Travis now. Listening back, it all sounds a little bit serious but hopefully a little more humour will edge its way in, and also my soporific vocal delivery will be replaced with a full-of-beans charismatic one; though somehow I very much doubt the latter.

Of course, you can always think of things you could have said and didn't, like:

how The Invisible Band remind me of a Dutch industrial/electronic/heavy metal outfit I really like called Kong. (Well, I've got one of their albums!)

And how the charming thing about Magic Ship is how American they sound bearing in mind that they come out of Twickenham and Brentford. But then I s'pose the Stones based their entire career on Amercianism. And strangely their form of Americanism ended up seeming kinda English.

And how I, Thalamus have morphed into something quite different since the release of Wild West. They are now a 7-piece live band, Grant having employed a double-bassist, a mandolin player and a violinist.

Stuff like that.

And then you start thinking of jingles and other bits of nonsense like that. We'll see.

Anyway, thanks for listening. If you want me to mention you or your gig or plug your CD, or whatever, let me know. I welcome your thoughts as always, especially on the issue of free downloads that I touch on at the end.

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Excuse me while I kiss this guy..

I mean.. while I learn the art of podcasting from this guy who gives on-line tutorials on the subject. What a guy, and so helpful.

Back in a few hours.

Thursday, 21 May 2009

"All made up and nowhere to go"

Rehearsal tomorrow night. Gig ready. No gig on the horizon.

Still, we can have a go at some new stuff, I s'pose. Got a couple of newies up me sleeve. Not that there's any room in the set for new material. Not that there's any gig to showcase new material. Nor any new album that requires new material.

Still, it's only a hobby, eh? So lighten up. Just enjoy it. Shut your eyes and pretend. Pretend there's an audience. Just like you do at gigs.

But wait! "there's been a slaughter here"...... As I write a message comes in via the oh so user-friendly myspace from lovely young Jim at The Libertine in Borough. He's looking into a date for us there.

Rocking good news!

Friday, 15 May 2009

Less is more. More or less

So it struck me that I often start my blogs with the word 'so'. So I'm gonna start this one a little differently.

Well, I was cycling to the West End today to buy the wife a teapot for her birthday, and it struck me early on in my journey as I was turning left into Oval Road, that one of the advantages of being in a non-professional, 40-something, original rock band, is that there are less of them.

"Oh tweet thing, tweet thing"

So you'd be forgiven for not noticing that Rock-Til-You-Drop is now followable at If you read blogs though, you probably already know about Twitter, and even tweet or twitter yourself. Come to think of it, you'd have to live in the woods or in a cave not to have heard of it.

Last week I was still dubious of it. I thought it was all more nonsense that I didn't want to be drawn into. I already hated that 'What are you doing right now' thing on Facebook so this didn't help my perception of it. But being the suggestible mature musician that I am, once Colin (Magic Ship) signed up, I thought I'd give it a shot too. As long as it's business, I thought, and not personal, so long as it helps raise the profile of Rock-Til-You-Drop, it could be okay.

All I gotta do now is make it worth following.

Sunday, 10 May 2009

Give it away, give it away, give it away now?

I've recently added an on-line music store to ROCK-TIL-YOU-DROP at As well as providing another outlet for bands to sell their CDs and downloads, it provides audiences and fans with an address that they can visit to shop for music by their favourite overgrown kids.

I've sent the link to a few bands I like, that I think probably have a bunch of great CD albums in a box somewhere that are not seeing the light of day. They are all currently having a look.

But I've just finished reading the Observer article The end of the age of free! by Vanessa Thorpe and it left me feeling slightly depressed about both trying to sell music on-line, and being in a band, other than an established or young up-and-coming one.

The gist of the article is that news and music on the internet is free (in the case of music, only illegally) and this is not good for business. Apparently 95% of all downloaded music in 2008 was illegal. This is quite incredible.

The article points out that both music given away with newspapers and streaming music services such as Spotify only serves to make music appear even more free.
I know when I discovered Spotify, I couldn't believe it. All this music, for free?! So I spent the next few days greedily plundering the collection. And I can tell you it took at least a week to feel sated. I filled my boots alright. A bit like when I have one of those all-you-can-eat breakfasts that they offer at some hotels.

Because most music, right or wrong, is available somewhere for free, established bands are now making most of their money from live performance. This is not good for bands of our age who make original music, who (mostly) can't even get paid to play.

So is it worth attempting to sell our music on-line? Will anybody buy it? Should we be giving our music away too? And if we give our music away, will this help get people to our gigs and us paid for playing? I doubt it. Or do we just get over the whole business. Stick to playing once in a blue moon for the fun of it and making a CD when we can afford to, simply for posterity?

Which begs the question, am I a hobbyist or a wannabe professional musician? I thought I was over the ambitions. Maybe not?


Saturday, 2 May 2009

The social network takes effect (off-line, i.e: in the real world)

I got a call from Grant from I,Thalamus yesterday afternoon. His keyboard player was not going to be able to make their gig on Saturday night. "It's a real rock-til-you-drop moment" he said, "do you know of anyone who could sit in for the night?"

"Yes I do", I said.

So Dove Jones, who incidentally is an excellent piano/keyboard player, will be sitting in with I, Thalamus at the Dublin Castle tonight (Saturday 2nd May). If I hadn't woken up with chicken pox (I knew I wasn't feeling right all week) I'd be going. Well, that's not entirely true; if I hadn't woken up with chicken pox I'd be playing a gig myself tonight at a 21st birthday party out in the sticks).

It is also worth noting another RTYD Effect, and that is that I originally booked I,T at the Dublin Castle. The venue liked them so much - they're a crowd puller and pleaser - that they offered them a Saturday night slot. This is great for I,T but not so good for me, 'cos I could have done with them playing the next Rock-Til-You-Drop night. That of course is only a Wednesday night gig.

One day, eh?...

....there'll be RTYD gigs, festivals, records, TV shows, oven gloves, la la la la la....