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I played my first local gig with my band, Addiction to Affliction, when I was 14. We had played at a local pizza place, an open mic night, and our school, but playing the Red House in Walnut Creek was the first real gig we’d ever had. I was pretty stoked about the possibilities of bigger and better shows. Our show went surprisingly well, considering we’d been rehearsing for the entire day. However, the more gigs I’ve played, the more I’ve realized that the state of local music in the Bay Area has gone farther and farther downhill. Two of the most historic local venues in the Bay Area, the Swedish American Music Hall and Café du Nord, closed down in December. These are venues that have hosted some of the biggest bands in the country such as Weezer and Cage the Elephant. Although they are slated to reopen with renovations, this begs the question, what is happening to local music? One of the main issues right now is the Internet. Why would someone ever bother to g o to a local show when they could listen to all those bands on the Internet???? It’s this mindset that prevents people from coming to local shows. The truth is that you can find all the music you want on the Internet. But the best way to actually support the bands you listen to is to come to their shows. Maybe some of the venues aren’t as nice, clean, or reputable as some of the bigger venues such as the Fox Theater, and the Warfield, but that doesn’t mean the shows aren’t worth going to.
Another problem facing local music is in the bands themselves. Bands are simply trying to play too many shows. Throughout the years, my band has tried to stick to our area, the east bay. When we’ve tried to play in San Francisco, we get much less people than when we play in Berkeley. These bands get their fans in the mindset of “I’ll come next time” when they have too many shows. It’s a simple case of supply and demand. There’s too much supply with too little demand. Most bands have the idea that they can go right to touring and playing tons of shows without putting in the effort it takes to gain a local following. And then they complain when no one comes to their shows. So who’s at fault here? It appears that everyone is. However, after playing in a band for five years, it was never the shows that no one came to that were the worst. The worst shows were pay-to-play. Now there are two kinds of pay to play shows. The first kind is more obvious. You give the venue money and they let you play a show. We tried to avoid that at all costs. The second kind is subtler. It normally came in form of a “Battle of the Bands”. In these shows, the promotion gives you tickets to sell to the shows that you make no money from, but of course there’s a prize that’s nowhere close in monetary value to the money the production company makes. The band that sells the most tickets gets the best set times, and somehow always ends up winning. Wait. Shouldn’t the most talented band win? That’s how battle of the bands should be. However, production companies will always give the win to the band that gives them the most money. Sometimes, the companies won’t even offer a cash prize, don’t market the show as a Battle of the Bands, and still keep the ticket money. We’ve experienced this through Pinup Productions, the most evil production company imaginable in my humble opinion. A local band I know sold 25 tickets for a show with Pinup Productions, which effectively made the company $250 richer. However when they asked the representative if they were getting paid, considering they made the company money, he responded with “Naw, I don’t think so”. They had worked incredibly hard to sell tickets, and were rewarded with nothing. This is the kind of behavior that is ruining local music. So the question remains: what can the average person do to save local music. The average person can come to shows. It doesn’t matter how gross the venue might seem. By coming to local shows, you are helping local bands get off the ground and helping both venues and bands to make more money so they can put on and play more shows, respectively.