“Have You Paid Your Dues?” “Yes, Sir. The Check Is In The Mail.”

Written by Mike Deitzman*

There’s a TON of ego in this scene, but that part doesn’t necessarily bother me. A lot of you are incredibly talented, and sometimes that can go to your head whether you realize it or not. I’ve heard a lot of stupid things come out of local bands’ mouths over the years. One thing I want to touch on today is self worth versus actual worth.  What you “deserve” versus what you put into it. This isn’t about how good your songs are, or how good of friends we are. It’s about how many people pay to see you play those songs.  

 

Many bands around here, (and I can only assume this happens in every scene, but since I can’t speak on “ Local band A”  from Sacramento’s scene politics, I’m going to call out our scene specifically) have used the term “I’ve paid my dues”. Let’s get incredibly real here: You paid SOME dues. You learned an instrument, joined a band, and wrote some songs. Awesome. I think that’s great, as biased as I am around here, I listen to more local bands than I do national these days and you guys sound great. But doing all that doesn’t “entitle” you to anything. Even if you’ve been doing it for years. At the end of the day attendance is super important. I’d like to say no matter what, you deserve $500 for playing a 30 minute set in front of 12 paying customers, 3 other bands and their girlfriends. I love to actually pay bands what I think they’re worth musically. It just doesn’t work that way.  Again, attendance is super important. As a promoter I’ll do my best to get a crowd there, but if you don’t work WITH me, you end up working AGAINST me, and ultimately, yourself. 

 

It’s tough in our city to get people out to shows. It seems like these days most of the crowd is made up of bands who weren’t booked on that specific show coming out. Plus, there’s an oversaturation of shows. Seems like every single weekend there’s 2-3 shows, and sometimes, they end up conflicting with one another. But hey, as a promoter, I’m still trying to get people out to your show. WORK WITH ME. Work with a lot of the promoters in this city, (maybe shy away from a few) because at the end of the day, we didn’t take a financial risk of you being on the show because we wanted to see you fail.  

 

Again, yes, You have paid *SOME dues and you’ve made some dope ass music. That’s amazing, but, that’s half the battle. Whatever your reasoning for being in a band, (be it to join a major label, tour, or just gig locally for fun) these days, it’s all about what you can accomplish ON YOUR OWN, because thanks in part to technology, nobody wants to  build up new bands anymore. It seems like the term “artist development” is an obsolete phrase when it comes to labels and sponsors. When you can do everything on your own, (draw a  consistent big crowd, sell merch, etc.) that’s when good opportunities fall into your lap (whether it’s a major label deal, tour offers, or just well paying local gigs).  

 

One of the things I’ve started doing with bands is making funny videos as opposed to giving bands fliers/tickets to hand out/sell. It’s a newer promotional tool I hope takes off and it seems to be working well. People hardly look at fliers anymore, they typically can’t get their noses out of their smart phones and you end up seeing half the fliers I paid an artist to create, then paid to print up, on the ground.  SO, I thought let’s appeal to those people who would otherwise throw out an actual flier, and make short funny videos promoting events. Let’s see how it works. At this point, nothing we try at this point can even be a failure.  

 

To bring it all full circle, you have not paid all your dues. Yet. Things are changing and we all need to get our hands dirty to build this back up. But make no mistake about it, it’s arrogant and disrespectful to say things like “I paid my dues” or “We shouldn’t have to do this or that, we’ve been around long enough.” The scene is completely different now, and nobody cares what you did 5 years ago, or 10 years ago, or 2 years ago, or even what you did 3 months ago. There’s such an oversaturation of shows, especially featuring the same 10 bands around here in various line ups, people forget about what show happened last month. Most of the time they forget what shows are even coming up, and have to rely on the few places around here who keep a log on whats going on all the time.  Even me, as a promoter, I should know every show that’s happening in this city, but I can’t keep up without help.  

 

I’m not telling you not to get paid, I’m telling you to respect the process. If 25 people paid $10 to get into an event you’re playing, understand the promoter has 3-4 other bands to deal with who have the same egos, and in most cases has a sound guy, a door guy, and a venue that are also in line waiting to get paid. Have you ever tried to split up $250 between 5 bands, a sound guy, a door guy and a venue all while wondering how the fuck you’re going to make it home when you know your car just hit low fuel on the way to the show? No? Lemme tell you, most promoters can tell you a story like that.  

 

At the end of the day, from what I’ve seen, there are 2, maybe 3 bands that move the needle in this city in a significant way. Meaning, there are only a few of them that when you put their logo on your flier, you KNOW a lot of people are going to come out for it. But it’s only the beginning of the year and by year’s end we can double or triple that number if we all work together.  Nobody is better than anyone else and everybody deserves the same respect. I WANT TO PAY YOU WHAT YOU THINK YOU “EARNED”, but you actually have to earn it. Past accolades don’t mean dick anymore. Some of us are beginning to sound like Al Bundy out here when he threw 4 touchdowns in a single game for the Polk High Panthers. We’re better than that. We proven it musically- that’s a big part of the battle!

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