July 9, 2014
by Brandon Gepfer

Being in a band costs money but honestly, who other than people in bands really care?  Do you ever go to a show that has a draw of maybe ten people and really just feel bad for the band?  Here these musicians are, up on the stage (or floor) expressing themselves in front of a handful of folks that really don’t give a shit.  Most of the crowd attended because their friend, the promoter guilted them into it after a series of desperate Facebook posts. The show ends, the poor band pack up their gear and the promoter hands them $20 from the door. Some weird street punk gives them cigarettes and some buttons to soften the blow. Then it’s over, time to drive five hours for the next show.

No problem, dude.  We just wanted to play a show!

This has happened to me. I’ve played shows that just sucked, I get handed a couple of bucks and I fake a smile and say thanks. The promoter shrugs and says, “You’re a DIY band, you understand,” and as much as I want to speak the truth, I say, “No problem, dude.  We just wanted to play a show!” I was angry and I thought how ridiculous some promoters are for not promoting their shows but, is it really entirely the fault of the promoter?  Does the band bear any responsibility? I think so. My band wasn’t ready to tour straight off a demo. We weren’t ready to crisscross the country in a tin can. I find that to be true of most bands that send me an email to play my town.  

Tour less. Grow more.

It’s a rite of passage to play a bunch of terrible shows and then gradually get better. Trust me, there are plenty of terrible shows to be had. Some of the ‘hype’ bands you think ‘blew up’ still play shows to 20 unimpressed teens. I think bands should try something new: Tour less and let your local scene grow. Be selective about hosting shows with out of town bands; try not to drain your local spot of interest. As cool as it might sound, a show every night isn’t *that* cool. No one can keep up with the next random group coming through; who honestly has $5-$10 to spend every night on going to a show. The more you have, the less invested people become. It isn’t special anymore.  

I don’t want to stop people from living their dreams; I just want to give a little dose of reality. If you only have a demo and it isn’t pressed on a physical format (CD-R doesn’t count), I really don’t want to book your band. I have no interest in wasting my time if you can’t even take the time to invest in your own band. Seriously, you are detracting from bands who are actually ready to tour. There is no shame in simply playing local shows and honing your skills, and there is certainly no shame in building a positive scene and show environment in your town or city. Book bands that are growing. Promote the shows, get your band to play and make friends (“network” for the industry types). When the time is right and your band has played out locally and regionally (and hopefully there’s been some demand out of your area that warrants this) then try your hand at booking a tour! No one likes making a couple dollars at a show. Bands can’t put ‘I tried my best’ in a gas tank. The promoter feels bad because no one came, and anyone that did come to the show is embarrassed that ‘you drove all the way from (insert your city here) to play this?’ No one likes failing. So, try something new and actually try! Being in a DIY band or any band isn’t just about touring, it’s about creating and supporting a community. So, start with your own first.

Brandon Gepfer fronts Placeholder, whose most recent LP I Don’t Need Forgiveness was released in Sept. 2013 by Black Numbers. Gepfer also books DIY punk shows in and around Lancaster, Pa., and swears he isn’t a pessimist.