An admission… For the past few years it has sometimes been hard for this old dude to write about and relate to the actual art and science of gigging cuz I have not been doing much of it. But that has changed in a very big way. Allow me to expand on that.
My family moved from L.A. to Las Vegas almost a decade ago which does not seem possible but it's true. There were a lot of adult type reasons. My then job was going to move to the Live Entertainment Capitol of the World at some point and the L.A. real-estate market was on fire so it made sense for us to take advantage and be the advance guard of that move. Plus the local high school my daughter would have been attending was a gang-infested nightmare. Bottom line is that we could sell our little 1953-vintage house in Altadena for like triple what we paid for it, buy a brand new home that was twice as big and in a really good high school’s boundaries and even put some money away for my daughter’s college — something we had not been able to do at all living in southern California.
Those are the adult reasons but I had an unspoken motive. Gigs for my band had fallen off in terms of frequency. We got asked back every place we played and got cool gigs at festivals and such. Hell we played at the Playboy Festival and I got to hang out with Hef at the Mansion. But we were down to one gig every few months. And I was under the impression that there was a lot more band work in Las Vegas. I met a guy who owned a sound company who is still one of my closest friends in town who seemed to think he could get us some work. So I moved to the desert with high hopes.
And it has been great. I love living here. And even though the job went away a few years ago and my kid did not adjust to the move well (which largely negated the better school thing) this has become home.
But gigs have been tough to come by. We have done some cool ones, just not a ton of them. But that has changed. A lot. As I look at my calendar for the next few months we have just shy of 20 gigs booked. To put it into perspective, I have not played 20 gigs total since moving here 9 years ago.
So, what changed? A couple of things. First, I stopped trying to tailor what my bands do to some ideal that agents and entertainment directors would respond positively to. That is not to say we got artsy and non-commercial. But we did start doing mixes of music and arrangements that were unique to us as in no one else in town was doing the same kind of stuff.
Second. We ditched the name I have been booking under since about ’84 and rebranded under a new name. Rev. Bill and the Soul Believers became Rev. it Up: Classic Rock and Soul… Rebooted. That made it more likely that we would get looked at with fresh eyes.
But the third thing is the big one. I stopped trying to do it all and run everything. I let go of control and allowed someone else to take over the booking and biz side. It lets me concentrate on music and arrangements which I am good at and leave the schmoozing and selling to someone else who does it everyday as his day gig and who is good at it and enjoys doing it. And that has made all the difference.
A caveat or two. This is not meant as cover for those out there who still think that the only reason they are not making any headway is the lack of a label or manager. People do things out of self interest. Period. That self interest can be anything from ego gratification to money to just feeling good about themselves, but there is always self-interest at play. In our case, the guy who took this stuff over is my drummer. So when the band works, he works. Self interest.
But this is important. The kind of people who can do this stuff and do it well will only do it when they think they can succeed. Hence the stories of bands who were already successful on their own when a label or manager came sniffing around and took them to the next level. In our case, we did a freebie gig for a charity event. One set. And we went over huge. This drummer had played with this band for a total of about a year but it took this kind of confirmation that people would dig what we do to kick him into action.
And all of that leads to a tough situation for most of us. We have to “do it all” as we are getting started until we can prove that we have something going that will serve the self interest of someone who can supercharge what we are doing. And once we find that we have to be willing and able to let go of those particular reins and start playing a specific role. We have to kind of stop doing it all and really concentrate on doing what we are good at.
I could go on for days about this but I really need to wrap it up. We have to learn 20 now tunes for all these gigs and i have arranging and song selection and charts to do. Because that is what I am good at.