Five Ways to Take the LOCAL Out of Your Music

I KNOW that a good portion of "Local" music is great. I have witnessed it. I live it. I have performed alongside some incredible bands and sadly, we were playing the same nearly empty room(s) together. Simultaneously, I can log on to my FaceSpace page and find no shortage of griping about how "Modern Music Sucks". Of course, these comments and similar ones are almost ALWAYS in reference to "Popular" music. The questions that keep me up at night are: Why does there seem to be such a vast disconnect happening? Why are people so complacent to participate in the "Slack-tivism", complain about the music on the radio, at the VMA's and in their newsfeeds when there is clearly so much great music right in their own backyards??

One problem that we've already delved into at great length is the limited visibility on the internet due to all the major social networks being locked-up tight in the search for more ad money. Unfortunately, there is not much that we, the artists, can do about that. The other side to this coin is something we DO have control over.

I feel like the qualifier "Local" added before music has acquired a bad stigma over the years. As I said earlier, I KNOW that there are incredible bands that fly under Local banners, but even so, when I hear the term "Local Music", my mind creates a scene where I'm standing in a cramped bar filled with cigarette smoke, and waiting on a band that was supposed to start an hour ago (or sometimes the calendar day before). I need to pee, but the line for the one, unisex toilet is somehow longer than the line to get in the bar, so I'm left with no choice but to hold it. When "Gary Coleman's Body" finally does take the stage, my excitement is quickly extinguished and not because the wasted guy behind me just spilled beer down the back of my leg, but it's when I realize the bass player is out of tune and I can't hear the vocalist due to cymbal wash still hanging around from last night's show and somehow seems to bounce infinitely around the room because there is no baffling or sound proofing materials.

That's what I imagine and I know better. I'd be willing to bet that most people picture a similar nightmarish scenario and I'm willing to bet it's why folks won't even try to go see anything called "Local Music".

Now, we obviously can't control poorly run venues, but we CAN control ourselves. So, here are 5 ways to take the "Local" out of your music and hopefully attract more fans.

5 Ways to Take the "Local" Out of Your Music

1. DO NOT PLAY SHOWS UNTIL YOU ARE READY. Practice for 10,000 hours and then do a test run (or 12) on your friends, family and maybe your enemies before you venture into the world of live music. Even If you are lucky enough to land an opening slot for another band with no prior experience, if you run their crowd off, you WILL NOT be invited back.

2. Start on time (at a decent time). "Big Boy" concerts start at 7:30 with the headliner going on at 9 pm. I've been on many bills where the show was supposed to start at one time, but the opening act complains that there is nobody there yet and lobbies to push the show back which pushes the headliner's slot to Monday morning. I know it's not as fun to play in front of very few people, but it's not fair to the fans that DO show up when the flyer says to show up. Set a new precedent for show times. Eventually the crowds will catch on that if they want to see your band that they will have to show up earlier to do so.

3. Have reliable gear. It doesn't have to be expensive, just reliable. Being in-tune will take care of itself if you're doing this one right. Of course, even when you do have reliable gear, "stuff" still happens. It's inevitable, so...

4. Have reliable back-up gear. If something goes awry, you need to figure it out, fix it and be back up and playing within minutes with as little downtime as possible. Hopefully, the rest of the band will do something to keep the audience entertained and engaged.

5. Manage your volume appropriately. This is possibly THE most important one. I LOVE playing loud, but it's important to remember that you are there to entertain and NOT hurt peoples' ears (unless that's the gig). It's not about YOUR TONE or how YOU sound, it's about how the music sounds as a whole. A good rule of thumb that I like to try and live by is that, just like professional, studio-quality recordings, the vocals need to be the loudest and clearest thing in the mix. Just below that, should be the BASS and bass drum because that's the part that makes people dance as long as they can hear it. NO OTHER INSTRUMENTS should be as loud as those two things and if they are, you're doing it wrong.

That's about all I've got this week and if you read the whole thing, you're a champion. I would like to get rid of the term "local" in front of any music, but since that probably won't happen anytime soon, let's work on the public's expectations of what "Local Music" can be. Even the BIGGEST bands of the past and present are local to some place, right?

Oh, yeah...and my 3 loyal readers should check out PLVNET's new EP. "Syzygy" will be available worldwide for downloads and streaming on June 3rd. It got a GREAT REVIEW. Don't you want to listen now?

-Jonas Nathanimal Luttrell - MU Columnist
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