Music Imports and Exports

I really enjoyed my run of showcases at Lancaster Dispensing Company from January to May and I hope you did as well!  The audiences were very appreciative and I’d like to thank my bands for playing their hearts out!  January: The Naïve Americans and The VCC Duo (aka Jeff Bryson and Leo DiSanto) gave us some fine folk and bluegrass.  February: The Lonelies Tour and Second Hand Suits shared some stylish performances.  March: Lovers League (aka TJ McGlinchey, Christopher Davis-Shannon and Dani Mari) and very special guests The KGB Trio (Kalob Griffin, Robert Dwyer and Eric Lawry) reminded us that the song rules and they live to serve it.  April: Jason Ager and C.O.P.O. and Angelo Melasecca are two great showmen who really know their guitars!

Me with Angela Michele Walker

Me with Angela Michele Walker

May: Ali Wadsworth and Satellite Hearts rocked and Angela Michele Walker Trio rolled.  It was important to me to have a night featuring women vocalists and these ladies definitely shone!

The tagline for the showcases was “Two Regional Gems and a Local Treasure.”  I wanted to introduce bands to Lancaster who I had seen in my travels and pair them with a local act with whom I thought they might connect on some level.  I also wanted the “import” bands to see what a great city and scene we have.  Several of the bands are already finding ways to share gigs and their audiences.  And I’ve had offers to take a version of The Gigspots Showcase on tour.

I “export” bands from Lancaster as well.  My client venues in State College, Williamsport, Wilkes-Barre and Harrisburg usually feature someone I sent them at least once a month.  I am about to begin serving other I-80 venues as well as possibilities along I-70 in MD and WV.  I believe I will be hosting showcases at both World Café Venues (Philly and Wilmington) by the fall.  I’m ridiculously lucky to associate with Gable Music Ventures in DE and NaptownMusic in Annapolis, MD.  Of course you’ve all heard me blab about Pirate Rob, music guru behind OneKoast Entertainment (based in Baltimore), Frozen Harbor Music Festival and Jam at the Dam in Weatherly, PA.  It’s one badass indie music festival that becomes a two-day affair this year.  Gigspots is a perennial stage sponsor.  Contact me or visit PirateRob.com for tickets!

Bjorn Jacobsen and Freeman White at The Factory: Underground

Bjorn Jacobsen and Freeman White at The Factory: Underground

When I go out to “recruit” venues, I often take Bjorn Jacobsen with me on an open mic night or a night where a band I know is playing.  He sits in and I immediately get more respect!  I guess they figure if I know a musician that serious, I must be doing something right.  I’ve seen him win an audience playing AFTER Mike Miz and I’ve seen dudes like Freeman White ask to sit in with him.

One of my favorite services is helping a band fill out a tour or a venue fill a sudden hole in their schedule.  When a venue calls, I know I need to find a good audience fit that will sell some tickets and beer.  When a band calls, they usually have their weekends booked but need gigs to survive the mid-week drives between them.  Sometimes, you get the best for everyone.  I have recently made two national bands (Silencio and Carsie Blanton) very happy by filling their tour calendar.  And I can’t wait for the hugs I’ll get from the venue owners and fans who will get a chance to see them within three hours of home at a reasonable price!Carsie-Blanton-truck-758x392

So send me your poor, hungry bands and fans!  My client venues are the best around and my list is growing.  Check them out for yourself and tip the staffs please.  We’re saving the economy one gig at a time!

Problem Solving: Pros and Cons

Problem Solving: Pros and Cons

I’m a problem solver.  Sure, I create problems too.  But I believe my creating/solving ratio is pretty low.  I work hard to solve problems as a parent, husband, friend and business owner.  My key is being a good listener.  Most people can solve their own problems if they believe they can.  All the help they need is someone to listen as they verbalize the problem, its cause and their solution.  The hardest problem of all, of course, is believing.  Self-doubt interferes with our most basic instinct: fight or flight.  But you gotta fight…

As the owner of Gigspots I solve problems for bands and venues.  My client venues contact me when a hole appears in their music schedule or when they want extra promotion of an event.  Bands count on me to help them extend their tours and find those crucial mid-week shows that pay for gas and food between the weekends.  I often help them find lodging too, typically with a local band willing to share a gig and a couch or two.  Those bonds lead to future reciprocal gigs, broader fan bases and more ticket/merch sales in fuller venues.  Everybody wins when you play like a team.

What causes problems in the music business?  It’s a risky proposition with high initial costs and few guarantees.  It’s an industry that has been cash stagnate for over twenty years.  Local and regional bands are getting paid the same today as they were in 1992: between $100-400 on average per night.  Divide by the number of musicians in the band.  I typically pay $5-8 and see two to three bands per night in most places.  So venues are earning no more at the door than they did in 1992 either.  What good will all our expensive phones, tablets and TV’s do us when all the starving artists out there decide to just stay home and make art for themselves and the clubs replace them with karaoke and jukeboxes?

Two interesting trends have arisen that keep me believing and fighting.  One trend is crowd-funding organizations like Kickstarter, Indiegogo, GoFundMe, etc. becoming viable.  I have seen a healthy number of bands raise the money they need to record an album, fund a tour or replace worn/stolen equipment. It’s fun to contribute and help these artists do what not everyone can do.

The other trend is the growing popularity of folk, bluegrass and acoustic music in general.  In our hyper-drive, all-the-bells-and-whistles world, people are rediscovering the pleasure of hearing and experiencing acoustic instruments playing genuine music built from the roots up and performed with a personal touch.  History and biology meet to foment a familiarity within you.  You know those sounds and stirrings inherently just as your ancestors did. They invented those instruments and that music to voice their joys and concerns.  Everyone knows the meaning of “the blues.”  Everyone cheered for The Soggy Bottom Boys and sang along with “Man of Constant Sorrow” in the film O Brother, Where Art Thou?

This brings me to Carsie Blanton.  A notable pop singer-songwriter, Carsie decided she’d always wanted to make a jazz album.  She moved to New Orleans to embed herself and started a Kickstarter campaign titled “Jazz is for Everybody.” Here’s her tagline: “A sweet, sultry, simply-produced album of great vintage songs. Play it while you throw a classy dinner party or make sweet, sweet love.”  Well, she gathered 1,287 backers and raised $60,526.  This is not a typical result!  I’m listening to an advance copy of her album Not Old, Not New for Kickstarter backers right now.  It’s remarkable.  You will know it.

Has Carsie Blanton solved all her problems?  No.  She’s made her record and will be touring behind it with a full band beginning June 24.  That’s when she’ll return to the challenges of finding enough gas, couches and pancakes to keep those wheels turning.  Get your tickets and follow the antics at CarsieBlanton.com.  I’m proud to have backed this project and can’t wait to serve meals to her and the boys on two central PA stops I’ve arranged for them.  Here’s a video from Carsie’s last visit (to Tellus 360) with the stalwart Joe Ploughman on upright bass to tide you over.

Can I solve my own problems?  We’ll see.  Until I can be at two or three places at once, and see every show, and help everyone, I’ll remain restless.

How can bands and venues keep the faith that music matters, that live music is better, when the risks (costs) keep outpacing the rewards?  Well, how do you quantify rewards and who do you want to see paid?  My biggest rewards come from helping other people and keeping the music playing.  Humanity gets paid.  Culture lives on.  Everybody wins.  Money comes and goes but Time only goes.  I’m banking on the arts to keep us separate from the animals.