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.

March’s Lions and Lambs: Week One

If variety is the spice of life, I’m living on hot tamales.  I’m enjoying a great month of shows!  If I had to sum them up in one word, it would be “Brave.”  I’ve witnessed CD releases, bands playing new venues, bands debuting new members or saying goodbye to founders, and a venue celebrating a one-year anniversary.  Perhaps best, I’ve seen veterans and first-timers sharing music at open mic nights.  These brave nights trigger your fight-or-flight reflex.  It’s easy to find those ecstatic moments where artist and audience connect.  Here’s a rundown of my first week of March.

Joy Ike at Lancaster YWCA

Joy Ike at Lancaster YWCA

3/3: Joy Ike brought her new CD and supporting act Kim Edwards to Lancaster’s YWCA.  Joy radiates warmth and emotion.  Her physical beauty strikes you first.  Her honest, genuine lyrics bare her soul and speak her mind.  She and her combo played most of the new album with confidence and satisfaction.  “Everything You Have” reminds us all how tenuous life is.  See Joy live and you’ll be glad she’s in your life.

Kim Edwards was a delight.  Her piano is deliberate yet delicate.

KimEdwards: delicate and deliberate

Her song “No Other” is destined to become a wedding song for thousands.  “Wanderlust” betrays that it might be a while before Miss Edwards settles down.  I bought CD’s from both ladies and have kept them in top rotation since.  New material, new venue, new tour partners and open emotions added up to a brave night.

3/4:  I caught a tasty little show at Chestnut Hill Cafe, one of Lancaster’s tastiest spots.  A young lady named Canyon was passing through town and hoped to find a gig.  She had really impressed crowds at Tellus 360 at last year’s LAUNCH Music Conference.  On this night, she and local band The Pig Merchants played a surprise Monday show.  It turned into a two-band birthday celebration for Bob Glick and  the lucky dozens who dropped by.

3/8:  I sent my friends Toy Soldiers to play for my friends at The Bullfrog Brewery in Williamsport.  It tore at me not to be there with them.  I know the magic of that place and could vividly imagine the spark that could ignite between it and this fine band.  Also absent that night: Bullfrog owner Steve who was delivering the first bottled batch of his beers to Philadelphia.  My reports say band, venue and beers all had stellar receptions.

I spent Friday night in Wrightsville celebrating the one year anniversary of The Burning Bridge Tavern.  You must do an awful lot of things right to make a year in the restaurant business.  The capacity crowd all weekend proved that BBT is doing a lot of things right.  Just as on opening weekend, Vinegar Creek Constituency played their rousing style of homespun, folksy blues.

The Vinegar Creek Constituency

They call themselves, “Lancaster, PA’s swashbuckling, pseudo-legendary pioneers of Amerikindasorta string band music.”  See them and you’ll get it.  They get some heels kicked up and heads banging at the same time.  It was a great night to celebrate taking a leap!

3/9:  I had to see The Wayfarer Experiment’s first appearance at First Capital Dispensing Company in York.  The band is always full of surprises and the place is like a cabin outpost in a beer wilderness.  The original building was constructed in 1790 and you feel the age.  When the place filled with forty or so people chugging craft beers and rollicking with the Wayfarers, it was like the wild west

Ronn Benway jumps into The Wayfarer Experiment

Ronn Benway came charging through the door with his washboard rig, jumped in with the band and everything just broke loose.   Nate played guitar, that crazy little glockenspiel again and on other songs played electric bass.  Bjorn at times broke out an electric guitar and a bullhorn.  Then it would be banjo, mando and even harmonica.  Matt actually played drums when not smacking his cajon.  He had a very clever touch!  These guys put themselves out at the frontier every show and really owned it that Saturday night.