A week or so ago I sat down with a new friend I recently met through playing music. He wanted to get together and chat about music, the Beatles, and more music. I happily obliged. He's a musician himself, a producer and attorney by day. One of the first questions he asked me was, "How do independent musicians make any money?" I was terrified this was going to be a short lunch. Although flattered to have been viewed as someone that might know the answer, I sadly delivered him the news that he already knew.
"We don't," I replied, knowing our entrees were already being prepared. "Bands up here scramble for a few bucks at shows, and then quite often sink that money into a recording that won't sell or go anywhere." Hoping to pull the mood up a bit. I mentioned that there are, of course, plenty of worse hobbies to have. Money aside, at the end of the day, it's a wonderful pursuit. You get to share your music with friends and strangers. You get to record your works of art much like all your heroes did. You may go into the red doing it all, but there's a reason we keep doing it. Some folks fix up old cars, others put boats in their yards. We vibrate the air, and we spend a lot of time and money doing it. It's almost magical and we won't stop anytime soon.
Our entrees came out and the discussion turned to Kickstarter. It's a tool bands use to fund their recordings, or tours or whatever. Fans can donate money in advance to help a band finance whatever it's doing. The fan can get something in return depending how much they kick in; a private concert, the finished album or just a nice feeling knowing they're supporting a broke ass band.
I personally can't stand the idea of using Kickstarter. It reeks too much of begging and there's enough humiliating things bands have to go through without panhandling being added to the list. Want to ask your fans for money? Cool. It's called a cover charge. That's why people pay (hopefully) to hear your band perform. If your band is willing to work hard to save up money to record, that means your band is probably hungry to record. It may take a while, but that album will be worth it. If your band's looking for the quick and easy way to make the money, maybe the hunger isn't really there, and maybe that's not an album that really needs to be made. With that said, I am glad Kickstarter exists. If I think of it as an advance coming from the fans as opposed to a record label, it strikes me as far less odious.
So how do bands make money? I'm convinced they don't. But if you're lucky enough, someone who likes your music might just pay for your lunch one day.
There seems to be a lot of Grateful Dead connections with many of the bands playing this weekend. Hot Buttered Rum returns to Humboldt County, and for a good bluegrassy-jam-time catch 'em at Humboldt Brews at 9:30 p.m. These fellas got to jam with Phil Lesh in the past so there's your Dead connection. $15 to dance it up with HBR.
Not sure if there's a literal connection to a member of the Dead, but the connection with the music is sure there with Miracle Show. They'll be playing Dead tunes for you at the Blue Lake Casino at 9 p.m. and they won't even ask for your money.
Humboldt Brews keeps the seasoned working bands coming through town. Tonight, Moonalice will bring their legends and Bay Area sound to your ears. Expect some psychedelic-roots-rock, which shouldn't be surprising as these fellows have individually played with members of the Dead, Jimi Hendrix, John Fogerty and John Lee Hooker. $15 and a 9 p.m. show here.
A little earlier, and just across town, there's a benefit for the Bayside Grange Kitchen Fund. Kenny Ray & the Mighty Rovers are helping to raise money for a nice new stainless steel kitchen upgrade for the Grange. Show up at 7:30 p.m. to help out. I'm not sure what they're asking for a cover, but I'm sure they'll be happy with whatever you can kick in.
Still getting amped up for Halloween? One of the few reasons for adults to justify dressing up on a kid's holiday is to win money. If you're in it to win it, your costume could win you cash prizes along with some Mateel and KMUD swag at the Halloween Boogie at the Mateel Community Center at 8:30 p.m. $30 at the door will get you in and you'll hear hip-hop and electronica from Goddess Alchemy Project, the "afro-galactic" sounds of The Dogon Lights, and funky tribal music from To Life! No costume needed, and all proceeds benefit nonprofits KMUD and the Mateel.
You might be more hip to this guy than I am, but I'm told a certain indie-rocker Mac DeMarco will be at HSU's West Gym tonight at 10 p.m. So students, get all your studying and rote memorization in early so you can catch this musical alum of the Conan O'Brien and Eric Andre shows. $20 for students, an extra 5 bills for everyone else.
Full show listings in the Journal's Music and More grid, the Calendar and online. Bands and promoters, send your gig info, preferably with a high-res photo or two, to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Andy Powell is a congenital music lover and hosts The Night Show on KWPT 100.3 FM weeknights at 6 p.m. He doesn't feel bad for not mentioning your show that you never told him about.