Being In A Band In NYC
Being a band in New York City is hard, no one pays, every good band ever comes through so no one
cares about local shows, and opening slots for these big shows all seem to go to the same three or four bands. It's a really awful reality that a lot of musicians have to face, even the truly great ones who break rules and have massive legacies. In a city where celebrities are a dime a dozen commanding any sort of fee as a local can be challenging. Of course, our hardcore roots mean that even if you do think your raw deserves pay a lot of people think you're being a domineering and pretentious asshole for not giving everything to the touring bands. That isn't exactly an easy thing to deal with when you're struggling to pay for your rehearsal space and want to be able to record a half decent sounding album with your buddies. So what is a young band to do in this city of so many broken dreams and shattered illusions? Simply suffer? The short answer: No, just think different.
One of the big mistakes bands make when they are based in New York City is that they should just remain exclusively New York bands and only try to play the sickest shows in the city. This is exactly the wrong attitude to have. The bands that benefit from being in New York are the ones who use New York City for networking purposes but rarely play shows there. There are so many goddamn opportunities out there to grow your brand in New York City. All the cool managers are there or visit there at least a few times a year. Countless good tours go through with bands who want to meet you and hang out with you. There are all sorts of exclusive one off events too that attract countless industry figures to the city and if you can figure out how to get into those events by trying a few connections then your network is only going to grow. That's the beauty of New York City, and it's overplaying that ruins so many of these bands.
While this sounds crazy look at it this way – in New York City more than anywhere else you need your shows to feel like events. If you're playing here once or twice a month then you're not really doing yourself any favors. For major markets like this one you need to only be hitting it once every three months or so, so that you can make sure you're on a sick show and that people will actually bother to come out. New York City is an unforgiving place and people have so much going on that if you don't respect that then quickly people will stop caring. If they think 'Oh we can just see them next month” about your band and your live show isn't good enough to justify going to see the band EVERY month, and odds are that isn't really the case for you, or at least not yet. The point I'm trying to make is that New York City isn't exactly the best place for a burgeoning band to be gigging non stop. The scene is far too busy.
This doesn't mean you shouldn't be playing a ton of shows though, you just need to look elsewhere. That's how I came up with my '12 promoter theory'. Basically my view is if you can find 12 promoters all in different cities reasonably willing to book your band within a 250 mile radius of New York City then you can do 2 weekend runs a month and not repeat markets more than once every three months. Once you start getting into a rhythm of doing that you suddenly make yourselves into regional badasses and people will continually come back wanting to hear more from what you can do. People are a lot more interested in seeing a group who gigs almost non stop around their city but rarely plays their city than one who get out only once in a blue moon. Now I know this can be tricky with the beast that is rising toll and gas prices but this is the best way to keep getting your name out there even when not on a tour cycle, and if you have this level of dedication people WILL notice.
Now I know that getting 12 promoters isn't easy, but honestly what you should do is hit up your buddies who have done regional tours recently. For a New York City band its probably best to be targeting Philadelphia, Baltimore, D.C., Pittsburgh, Rochester, Buffalo, Providence, Boston, Portland (Maine), North Jersey, South Jersey (Two very different scenes) and Long Island as a starting point. Obviously that shouldn't be your be all and end all, and some of those spots are pretty far out, but those cities in and of themselves make for a pretty decent tour routing. The fact that they are pretty much all within an 8 hour drive of Brooklyn is just an added bonus. Now this isn't necessarily self evident and like I discussed above, finding people all over here isn't going to be easy all the time, however I can guarantee it will be worth it. It starts to get you worked on to the cooler parts of whats going on in your genre in the Northeast and once you get that you're going to start to see some real success.
So yes – giving it all up and moving your band to New York City probably was the best thing that you could do for your long term success as a band it's just important to realize that there is a whole lot more that goes into it than just 'playing shows' and 'finding crowds'. There is a lot of blood sweat and tears you need to be geared up to give in to if you want to start finding a path that makes sense for your band to walk. I mean – yeah you could be like countless other pretenders and only play weird Brooklyn house parties, but do you want to drive your band to a whole new level or do you just want to remain a staid remnant of a broken dream?