Wednesday 27 July 2016


One thing that is often repeated by musicians and people working creatively in the musical field is how difficult it it in the current climate to be a gigging musician. It's a idea which has become so prevalent as to be taken as a universal fact: 'it couldn't happen nowadays'. So let's unpack this – is this the case? And what exactly does it feel like to be in a gigging band these days?

First of all it's necessary to point out that there are many reasons why the process of being in a band is different today than it was 20-30 years ago. The decline in attendances for live music linked to a general decline in the music industry has in turn led to a decline in the number of live music venues, both below arena level but also at the bottom too. The 'circuit' has for the most part disintegrated, with venues closing or changing hands; changes in licensing laws have also limited the number of venues who hold live music events. Not to mention the decline in pubs and clubs themselves, which has led to a lowering of intake which has in turn been passed onto the artists ('it'll be great exposure!). Add to that rises in fuel costs and decline in wages, and the end of the dole and art school cultures which the popular music boom in Britain was based on, and you get an idea of the challenges that performers on the circuit currently have.

So do we even remember what it felt like? Well, sometimes we get a remember. The DC universe heroine Black Canary was recently reinvented as a singer of a hard-gigging eponymous punk act in a new series of comics, in which the erstwhile crime-fighter channels her passion into music. Playing dive bars, confronting the audience, getting ripped off by promoters, and generally going at it full tilt.

Reading it you can get a strange vision of leather and fishnets, vivid dyed hair, bad personal habits, sweaty clubs, passionate creativity, stubborn integrity,driving to gigs around the country then working in the morning, hungover and imperious, music on and blind to the world, of being young and misunderstood and driven, of self-belief and escape and one constant last chance, of galloping drums and fuzzy guitars and screaming and the people who provided them against all the odds. Scratching around for jobs to make the money for gigs, going out on a limb for a chance, and doing it for so long that the rest of the world just melted away.

As vivid as such recollections are, how prepared are we indulge them? It's easy to get into a routine of a monthly gig as we get professional jobs, responsibilities. All-nighters to Hull loose their appeal if you have a meeting at 9am. We have more security but, strangely, more to lose.

So maybe it's a question of keeping touch with that spirit - be more uncompromising, intense, give less of a fuck. Maybe do the same things but be unapologetically ourselves. Maybe be more demanding and not given up so easy. Try and regain some blind ambition...but just keep an eye open just in case.

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