8 Comments

  1. Wow. I think you finally have said, in a comprehensive fashion, what so many of us have been thinking and feeling.
    Fantastic post!

  2. Author

    Thank you to both of you, for reading and for your support!

    I hope our paths cross at some point in person!

    1. For sure – I’m surprised we haven’t already run into each other. I usually have a camera glued to my face. 🙂

  3. An excellent read Jason. Long, yes, but like you said this is a big city, and the perpetual struggle with the viability of it’s live music scene will continue as long as everyone involved continues with the adversarial mindset everyone seems to hold on to as if it was the proverbial last thread. It’s not just venues against bands against press against music fans, yes I said against fans, but in this town its also venue against venue, band against band, writer against writer, photog against photog, every step of the way everyone involved considers everyone else in the business as their foe, not their team-mate. Like you say Jason, there is plenty of blame to go around and everyone involved needs to remember that when they point their finger at one problem they’ve got three other fingers pointing back at themselves.
    Right now this town has all the ingredients for a thriving music scene worthy of world wide recognition. We have a stock of incredibly talented, diverse musicians, new venues designed for live music are opening up all over town, there has been a huge influx of young adult professionals relocating here for work because even with the oil slump, there more work here than just about anywhere. It’s like all the forces needed for a ‘perfect storm’ are present just sort of milling about, if they somehow would all align and cooperate symbiotically towards a mutual goal everything could be different for everyone so fast it’d make your head spin.

    1. Author

      Hey Steve,

      Thanks so much. You’re spot on. The pieces are in place…it’s just a matter of sewing everything together. Over the last few years as I’ve stepped away from the day-to-day performance side of my life, I’m able to look at things from the outside a bit and I do think there has been somewhat of a shift in bands’ attitudes towards one another. There seems to be a little less seclusion and resentment and more cooperation.

      We need to build on that. The more all the stakeholders (venues, photographers, bands, fans, studios etc) get away from the confrontational and cynical attitude and move towards a sense of cooperation the more we will see our community grow.

      What I take away from this past week of lively discussion is that there is a strong sense of “we’re in this together” and optimism that is really refreshing because for so long so many of us, myself included, always seemed to be quite crest-fallen and bitter. There was always a sense of “we’re never going to succeed here.”

      That seems to be giving way to “hell yeah we can succeed!”

      In the end, we all need each other. Bands, singer-songwriters, fans, venues, media, studios, service providers like you, practice space businesses, restaurants, photographers, graphic designers, promoters…all of them/us rely on the others in every way.

      This whole “we aren’t Austin” thing doesn’t matter. Houston doesn’t need to be Austin, Nashville, L.A., New Orleans, or anywhere else. It just needs to be the best Houston it can be and that starts with all of us as individuals deciding to do our part every day.

  4. Great read Jason. Your right on the money! I think the only topic missed was finding viable musicians. There are many “weekend warriors” out there. Weeding your way through can be quite frustrating. Trying to find musicians on the same path can be very difficult. And so as pro’s we find ourselves pimping ourselves out as “hired guns” to multiple bands just to make ends meet. But what we get with every band is ,”well we really need YOU to commit to OUR band. But they only want to rehearse once or twice a month. And perform even less. The other problem with this is we have to learn 40-50 songs for each band. If your with 3 bands as I am that’s 150 pieces of music that must be memorized and rehearsed constantly. I know this seems trivial , but it’s actually a large problem in Houston. Another thing is promoting other bands and performers. Anyone who knows me or my FB page knows I always push and promote local musicians. But it seems when I have a show ,no one will returned the favor. This can also be very annoying . I’ve also found that to promote a band or a performance on FB. You had better get out the credit card if you want you post to go to more than 3 people. I’ve tried tagging , creating events ,ect.
    Anyhow enough ranting lol. Again really good article Jason, and hope to see you out there. Feel free to friend me on FB.

    1. Author

      Hey!

      thanks for the kind remarks. You’re absolutely spot on. I’ve worked with “hired guns” in a couple different situations and it’s just so hard for them, as you say. It’s tough for top-flight players to find the kind of good paying gigs and committing to a band that doesn’t gig or rehearse often enough just doesn’t make sense.

      We found ourselves essentially paying retainer fees to keep these guys together to make sure our band was a priority but we were paying out too much.

      So then we were in a situation where when we had a gig coming up we were playing phone tag, finding replacements, having to provide lead sheets which was another expense in having the director draw them up etc.

      To make a good living here in Houston as a top shelf player is incredibly difficult because there just isn’t enough of that kind of work to go around. We have great studios but doing sessions provides only a small fraction of the kind of income that you’d find in a town like Nashville, for instance.

      I know a lot of the players in Branson Missouri who relocated from all over the country because there’s just sooooo much work there. Between the daily shows in all the theaters plus doing after-hours sessions work and being in such close proximity to other major hubs they make six figures. They work like beasts but they get paid well for it.

      In Houston you have to put in as much work hustling to actually FIND work as you do playing.

      But as the community comes together, as Galveston gets more traffic in terms of cruises, and as more venues and studios gain more prominence there will be the kind of work for players such as yourself.

      It’s definitely hard though…the days of “house bands” at studios and certainly at venues seem to be a bygone era. That type of work was the bread and butter for players.

      Nowadays the top shelf players I know have to do lessons, play a lot of solo shows at restaurants and bars where they make maybe 50 bucks a night to play synths in a corner, run sound a few times a week, and then hustle up a few band shows on the weekends and find any kind of recording sessions available.

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