Author: Compton, Cliff

Getting Hired

By my calculations, there are about 250 California bands listed in the California bluegrass association’s band index. Now those bands encompass everything from bands that tour nationally, to local favorites, to four buddies who played a party once in the basement of a church on a Wednesday night when the accordion player didn’t show up.

If you are a local band with aspirations of someday being able to make enough money to keep yourself in macaroni and cheese at least three nights a week, you may be wondering why folks are gonna hire you instead of the other 250 bluegrass, swing, old country, gospel, folk, django, old time whatever bands, that are available for booking.

Well….I’ve got a few opinions…and my opinions and a well placed smile, if not money in the bank, at least ought to be fodder for a column or two.

You ever notice how many of the same California bands get to play a lot of the same festivals, concert gigs, local venues etc.? The cynic would say, “they know somebody important”, or “they’re married to the promoter.” Maybe so. Probably not.

Is it because they are incredible musicians? Or have a tight ensemble. Maybe, but there are a lot of great musicians in good groups that don’t get hired.

These kind of questions can go on forever, but the column can’t. so think I’ll speak a little about matters of the heart. If all other factors are equal, most people would prefer to listen to people they like.

I remember sitting in the audience of a festival watching two members of the band on stage doing their sound check. They were snarling at each other and looked like they were about to go a couple of rounds. I thought to myself “I don’t like these guys”. I got up and left. They may have been wonderful musically, I will never know, I haven’t gone to see them since.

There’s another big touring band, the leader of which has a reputation for treating his band members poorly. I’ve seen him disrespect his audience by refusing an encore. I’ll never see that again…because I won’t go to watch him play.

On the positive side, Marty Raybon hugged my wife when she told him she liked his set. Somebody took a picture. She treasures it. She bought his C.D. She don’t even much like bluegrass, but she likes Marty Raybon.

A couple of years ago in Bakersfield at the 48 hr. jam the Steep Canyon Rangers played at the doubletree Thursday night. When they finished they came down to the presidents suite where we all were jamming. They shook hands with everyone, with warmth and appreciation, and they stayed and jammed with us. This is Steve Martin’s band. One of the biggest bluegrass bands around currently, but not so big that they couldn’t hang out with us, dial it back, and treat us with respect and kindness. I like those guys I’d go see them even if they weren’t all that good.

Some folks have a measure of success musically and withdraw into a musical world of their semi-successful peers and seem to forget about the people they are hoping to have come and hear them play.

Sort of getting above their raising so to speak. Well, you can be a member of the mutual admiration society and play to the same 14 people every Saturday night, wondering why you never seem to make it to the main stage of whatever festival or venue you have cast your eyes upon, but if you’re lookin’ for a bookin’ it might help to treat you’re audience with respect and appreciation around their R.V.’s and campsites as well as when you are playing to them.

When people hire you, that’s a blessing my brother. You’ve connected at some level with somebody enough so that they are willing to pay good money or potluck or barbecue just to hear you unzip your heart and sing them a love song, or a murder ballad.
The more people like you the more likely you are to be hired.

The more you appreciate people, the more they appreciate you.

They want you to play good, buy more important they want you to touch their lives and connect at the heart level.

There’s a reason that goes beyond the red suits, that the Central Valley boys get hired. Might have something to do with playing all night in the parking lot with anyone who happens by.

And When the crowd was chanting “MAIN STAGE…MAIN STAGE. When Snap Jacksons bunch was playing Vern’s stage. I wasn’t because they can sing like the temptations. Sure they are master musicians…but that there comes from love. Love of the audience. Appreciation…and confidence with humility.

And that will get you hired.

And that’s all I’ve got to say.
Posted:  7/13/2012

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