Dear Indie Girl,
This weekend I had a perfectly pleasant gig at Ecclesia church in Muskegon, MI. I met new people who were excited to become fans, buy CDs and invited me back to sing in the future (I mean quickly wanted to set down a date). This seems like like such a boring update maybe, but to me, it’s a huge victory.
About a year ago I played a gig at a bar in Ann Arbor and I brought my dad along with me. I’ve played lots of bar gigs, and they’ve never been my favorite, but I put up with it… after all, it’s part of the job, right?
While playing song after song and pouring my heart out to a crowd of people talking over me (who were actually watching a football game and yelling at the ref) with my dad sitting at the booth in the back of the bar, I got this strange feeling of shame. Like I was giving away something precious, and my Father, who has always encouraged me to write and perform my music, was witnessing this reality for the first time. That night on the drive home, he encouraged me that I deserved to be treated better at my shows. That I deserved shows where people would listen because I had something important to share.
Nothing against this bar in particular or any other bar for that matter. I just hate, no, loath playing at them (coffee houses aren’t much better). Why? No one is listening. No one buys anything or signs the email list. And most often, I don’t get paid. I might as well be playing songs in my living room at home… where I also am not building a fan base or making any money, but the bathroom is clean, it doesn’t smell like beer, and the only guy that hits on me is the one I’m married to.
I’ve learned in the last year that any show I play must do one of two things. 1. Build a fan base. Get the word out to new people who will sign the email list, follow us online, and tell their friends about us. Without fans, I have no career. 2. Pay me actual money (like that stuff that buys gas for my car and keeps loan sharks away). This is not a hobby any more. It’s fine that it started that way. But now I have a degree in music, and I have bills to pay (largely because of that degree), and money is essential to do this. I also have to eat, and pay for gas and travel expenses. And I need to save up for future expenses like recording more albums, and buying more merchandise to sell… without paid gigs, this is impossible. Now, I do have a day job teaching music lessons, but honestly, what’s wrong with asking for money to do what I’m skilled and trained to do?
Because of this, I’ve decided, unless the above requirements are met, to stop playing at bars and coffee houses.
Sometimes we just have to draw lines in the sand.