Space to Suck and New Music Mondays
With any local music scene there needs to be space to suck. That space to develop, grow and learn how to promote either as a band or as musicians. That space has had many forms over the years. When I was younger it was small hall shows or house parties. From time to time DIY spaces but when I was first starting to play it was straight to the venue stage.
Over the years there has been a number of DIY venues in Des Moines but of late there seems to be none. Sure there is the house show from time to time but no dedicated space. I've gotten into number of discussions in the past of why we needed DIY spaces in the first place. The fact is that Des Moines has at least two to three venues that is willing to give new local bands there first show. I have a long history with giving bands their first show but often there was a lot of pressure on these bills. Opening up for a national touring band on a Saturday night really isn't the place where you want to learn your craft. Often the fans are not as forgiving as they would be on other bills, show up late or simply don't bother to watch the opening bands at all. When I came up with the Idea to start New Music Mondays, I did so for a few reasons in no real ordered.
- Monday is just a hard night to get people to pay cover.
- To give me a chance to see local bands I hadn't seen live and how they draw. Kind of like an audition.
- Allow touring bands a place to play on a Monday night and hopefully sell some merch. The fourth
As the shows progressed and evolved I noticed a few things. The first one was without the pressure of selling tickets that bands seemed more relaxed and more supportive of the other bands playing. Since often it was a mixed show there was a lot of audiences and band members being exposed to music they normally won't be. I began to see it more as a way for new bands and established bands to try out new material or members in a more open and forgiving environment. A place where young bands and established band could suck safely and grow. Kind of like a little DIY space but with professional sound, a real stage and lights.
There have been a lot of road blocks to this idea. The first being that a lot of locals feel it is a step backwards to play for free. I understand that if you are an established band with a long history of drawing, playing for free seems like a step backwards but I got the same reaction from a lot of bands seeking their first show. If money is your motivation for being in a band, you shouldn't be in a band. Take up some more profitable hobby, like selling junk on Ebay or leather belts. You will make a lot more money. The one thing that will get you to the point where you are making money is playing out, improving and getting a fan base. Playing for nothing or next to nothing is part of the business. If you don't get that maybe you have forgotten why you started playing music in the first place.
The second is unchangeable because it's part of the name thing, it's on Mondays. Which means it's harder to get people to come out. To me as a band starting out or with inexperienced musicians, this should be a plus. I've seen countless bands play their first show on a Saturday night in front of a huge crowd and just suck. Not because the music was bad or the people were untalented but because they weren't ready. By the time they were ready, everyone had seen them and decided that they sucked. So maybe playing a few times on a Monday to a handful of receptive and supportive musicians is a better option.
The third being that somehow if you play for free, you are being taken advantage of or devaluing your art. This one is the silliest of them all and I have to say that most of the bands that I've gotten this vibe from, didn't draw and didn't really have much talent to begin with. They have an inflated self worth that only seems to be based on what they got paid to play or drew on a Saturday night with no cover.
The other version is the cost of preforming. I had an out of town band contact me about playing a while back and they based their pay on how much the members made hourly at their work plus whatever cost was involved in playing the show. When I asked what the cost would include they stated gas, depreciation on the van, meals, hotels and "Musical Equipment" upkeep which I guessed was batteries, strings and drum heads. Are you a musician or a subcontracted traveling sales person?
A couple of months I eavesdropped on a conversation about the loss of a local DIY venue. They went on and on about there now being no place to play or put on shows while standing outside of Lefty's. I passed them both cards, mentioned New Music Mondays and explained the ideas behind it. Still waiting to hear from them. So, it got me wondering if the DIY thing for them was more about it being their spot and not about the music at all. The spot where they could BYOB, allow under age drinking and control who played there. Basically it wasn't about losing a place to play but losing a clubhouse. Something I understand but Lefty's could easily become their new one.
So, I'll tell you the same thing I did them:
- Anyone can play New Music Mondays. They just need to book it like any other gig.
- The show is run like any other event we would do at Lefty's. Booked in advance, and we cover the cost of having our sound engineer there to mix the bands.
- It's free and always will be.
- It is all ages till 9pm and I'm willing to adjust the schedule for bands that want to play all ages.
- You can sell all the merch you want and event put out a tip jar.
- There will always be a talent buyer from Lefty's there to watch the show. Meaning it could get your band on other bills.
- Mondays are one of the Lefty's College Nights. Meaning college students show their college id and get PBR drafts for $1.
So, do you need space to suck or just want to play out or trying out a new member or want to try out some material or simply love to play for the sake of playing, play a New Music Monday. To book one, just e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org