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POLEMIC – WHAT’S WRONG WITH THE PERTH MUSIC SCENE

Polemic
Polemic

POLEMIC
A strong verbal or written attack on someone or something
.

Don’t inflict yourselves on audiences if you’re not willing or able to entertain them.

There’s something really wrong with the Perth music scene.

I know I’ll get a shower of shite rained on me from on high by the self-appointed guardians of all that is good, the PC police for daring to deviate from the ‘just be nice to everyone in case you hurt someone’s feelings’ script and anyone who was ever in a band that thinks this is aimed at them, but this has to be said.

If you’re feeling aggrieved by the time you’ve finished reading this and you’re a muso, this probably is aimed at you, so send your vitriol to the usual address.

On too many nights in too many live venues across Perth and Fremantle you can see the usual four-band line up earnestly going about their business playing original music.  Often, the venues are sparsely attended and, as the night goes on, the crowds thin as musos from the bands on the early part of the bill, and their friends, pack up their gear and head home.  But that’s not the only reason the already meagre audiences thin out as the night goes on … and on.

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Usually, it’s because the (mostly) unknown bands are pretty much indistinguishable from each other.  And, within sets, very often each band’s songs merge into one long drone, each song no more remarkable than the ones before it.

Is this because the bands are no good?  Sometimes.  But more often it’s because, despite having a swag of great songs in their sets, most local bands just do not know how to perform, how to pace their sets and how to entice an audience.  They get up on stage thinking it’s good enough to have decent songs that they can play well.

Wrong!

If you’re just starting out, doesn’t matter how great you might become, you’ve got to get the audience onside.  You’re not entitled to a response. If you’re sceptical about that, check out the very early footage of Led Zeppelin playing songs for the first time to audiences that just stood there looking confused, hands by their sides.  No applause!

You’ve got to do something to get the audience on your side.  Have some character, wear costumes, play a cover or two to get the audience connected with you.  Do something!  Perform, don’t just play.

Play a cover?  Yes, I know it’s forbidden to play covers if you want to be a credible original band in this town.  But, guess what?  That’s just the bullshit your muso mates tell you.  Audiences don’t care how cool your mates think you are.  You’re giving them something they’ve never heard before and, unless you give them a reason to listen and watch closely, they’re very unlikely to come back to hear it again.  Your mates might, but that’s invoking the law of diminishing returns, a sure road to failure. A well chosen cover can help build a bridge for audiences.

The other thing is, pace yourselves.  Most bands play at the same level of intensity for their full set.  OK, so you’ve only got 30 or 40 minutes to get your songs across, but that makes the pacing even more important.  If you just stand there with everything turned up to 11 for the whole set, people won’t remember a single moment of your show when they wake up the next morning trying to recall what they did last night.  Light and shade, people.

…if you think selling yourself is an insult to your artistic integrity, give up now, because you’re never going to make it.

And one more thing.  Perform!  Live music is consumed with the eyes and the ears.  Don’t just stand there looking down at your instruments, greasy locks hanging over your faces.  You owe the audience a performance, just like with any other form of live entertainment.  Good performance comes from practice, artifice and contrivance.  It doesn’t just happen.  If you’re not including performance as part of your rehearsals, give up now.

One last thing, for now, anyway.  Engage with your audience after the show.  That’s the great thing about small venues, you’re close to the people you so want to love you.  Go talk to them after your set, engage them, maybe give them a sticker, or something to remember you by.  Get in amongst the people and sell yourselves.  In person.  Putting up a few posts on your Facebook page won’t make you memorable.  And if you think selling yourself is an insult to your artistic integrity, give up now, because you’re never going to make it.

It’s not enough to have good songs and be able to play them well.  Not even close.  If you want people to do you the massive favour of paying attention to your music, you have to give them what they want.  You have to entertain them.

If you disagree, give up now.  If you’re annoyed because you feel like I’m having a go at you, and you, and you and you … and you, give up now. 

Don’t inflict yourselves on audiences if you’re not willing or able to entertain them.

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Just for fun, here’s why you should never give a muso advice …

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