Seasoned drummer, executive chef and all-around nice guy, Chris DeMelo is no stranger to the music scene. Having lent his talents and time to several notable local bands like Drophanger, Ironboud, Mirage, Nostalgic Brightlights, Dustbin Flowers and Flight Of The Songbirds, he’s learned a thing or three about the ins-and-outs of the scene.
Without further ado, here’s what he has to say:
Originally this little excerpt was going to be geared toward the music business as a whole: what I believed it to be and how to maneuver your way through it. It wasn’t until I sat down to write that I realized I have no idea what the music industry really is. In fact, I don’t think anyone really does. It’s constantly changing. It’s not what it used to be and what it is today is not what it will be tomorrow. That being said, here are a few tips I’ve learned through the years for the starting musician to help guide through this beast we all love and hate so much.
This is huge and goes beyond music and musicians. This goes for any brand or business in my eyes. Having a positive attitude toward yourself, your brand, etc. is a good thing but there’s a fine line between positive, confident and being egotistical. If you don’t know where the line is, chances are you’ve crossed it.
Attitude goes much farther than just yourself. Your attitude towards the bands, promoters, venues, crowd and everyone in between is just as important. Word travels fast in the music community – keep yourself in check. Also, even if you don’t like them, don’t shit talk other bands. One day you may need them and you’ll have screwed yourself.
Depending what kind of reputation you want, you can choose to read or ignore this section. If you’re going for the Axl Rose thing than sure, show up late. But don’t be that band that isn’t at load in on time, on or off stage on time then leaves right after their set.
All of those aspects affect the overall show. If you’re late, you set the whole night behind. It’s not fair that headliners have to cut their set because you weren’t on time, or couldn’t get on/off stage when you were supposed to. Don’t leave when you’re done either. Stick it out to the end, always.
Always support the other bands in the bill. Share their music before the gig together, share gear if it’s needed (a point we’ll touch more on later). Give them a hand loading in or out.
When the bar clears out and they’re playing for no one but the bartender and the other bands, don’t be the asshole that leaves and shrinks their crowd. They wanna be heard just like the rest of us.
Now this is a touchy subject. Some people swear by it and some despise it. Personally, I’m all for it under the right conditions. For example, drummers, if you offer to lend out your kit for the night, make sure it’s not falling apart before you do.
This is an issue I’ve dealt with more times than I like to admit. Tune your kit, clean it up, make it worth it for others to use and, do not lend out your kit if the other drummers are not allowed to adjust anything. It’s a huge piss off. I’m not six feet tall so when I need to lower the cymbal stand, be cool, let me lower the stand. Same goes for amp heads. Write down your amp settings so you can find your tone again when needed. Don’t jeopardize someone else’s sound for your convenience. If that’s too hard for you, don’t offer to share and don’t complain when your forced to use someone else’s.
Over all, gear sharing sucks but sometimes it makes or breaks a show. Get used to it… Oh, there’s an unspoken rule not everyone seems to know – “if you break it, you buy it”.
In my experience getting ahead in this industry is 10% talent, 10% luck, and 80% who you know… Whore yourself out, work with as many musicians and industry folk as you can. You’re a musician now, you are a brand. Treat yourself as such and build upon that.
Consider getting gigs and networking like advertising or making sales in a company. You’re the product, sell yourself to who ever you can, just stay humble and keep your dignity.
All in all if I were going to try and re-write into a smaller piece essentially what I’m trying to say is; Have a positive attitude, no matter how shitty things may seem at the moment. Be on time. Support each other. Network. But most of all, have fun. Do it for your love of music, nothing else and stay humble. The industry that can make you can and will break you if you let it. I hope this has been helpful.
Thanks for reading, Christopher “The Animal” DeMelo.