08.05.2006 08:00 - The Big Gig
So, there you are, you've just landed a hard-to-get gig at "Ye Olde Badger Molester" pub, only to find that the landlord's idea of promotion is a lone, badly-photocopied A5 poster behind the bar where no-one can read it and charging you fifty quid for a load of tickets, which you then have to sell.
It's quite clear that if you want to only break even, you're going to have a long, hard battle ahead of you.
It is at this point, you turn to your friends, asking them if they want to buy a ticket to the much-lauded gig, which they promised to attend - your "anything for a pal, anything for a mate, I'll be able to say I was there at your first gig when you're famous" mates. Who, when they discover they have to pay, suddenly find that they have something urgent to do on that night - shaving the cat, or extracting the budgie from the vaccuum-cleaner - "Poor Maurice, we were cleaning out his cage, and before we knew it, Suck! Plop! There he was, doing 500 rpm in the transparent bit of the Dyson". Well, these things happen - Conveniently.
So, what do you do?
Well, you can flypost your neighbourhood. Of course, when you have a following, you can organise street teams, who will gladly print out your poster and go and stick it all over the neighbourhood for you. Unfortunately, the members of your would-be street team are currently poking at the innards of their Hoover with a butter knife, whimpering "Maurice? Maurice? Who's a pretty boy, then? Speak to me!" Furthermore, flyposting costs money, because it's not enough to have a crappy little black-and-white Xeroxed poster, you have to have a nice, full-colour poster at fifty pence a sheet, done on a proper colour photocopier, because if you do it on an inkjet, the first sign of rain will turn it into an illegible mess. Of course, all your flyposting may be in vain, because if there's another group with a gig on the same date, they'll go round and rip your posters down. What ever happened to musical solidarity, eh? Sod musical brotherhood, we're fifty quid out of pocket and getting worse by the minute. It's a dog-eat-dog world out there.
There is one alternative.
The local paper.
Now, I have nothing against local papers. I have nothing against local reporters, except perhaps one thieving sod and another complete bastard, both who shall be nameless, and which are other stories. However, local papers have two kinds of reporter - the young, ambitious type who wants to work for a national or a magazine, and the "I'm going to be a local reporter for ever and ever and ever" chap who's basically started off as the former, but never made it out of the stalls, so to speak. (I'm probably doing a lot of journalists a terrible disservice here, but what the hell, over the years the buggers have done it to me, so they can have a taste of their own medicine). Guess which one usually gets the "local band" page?
In their justification, these poor idiots then have to listen to reams of half-baked demos, and find something good to write about them. They have to be polite, but withdrawn, and find something nice to write about it. They have to humour the locals, because there's a good chance they could be drinking next to them in the pub.
Local "scene" magazines, however, aren't so polite. Some evil sods will do their best to savage you to death, unless, of course, they're on your paylist (Oh yes, that goes on as well..). If they do savage you, they're probably doing you a favour, because if you can't survive a savaging from them, you'll never survive a savaging later on, at the hands of the music paparazzi. But, back to the local paper.
The local paper journalist will, if they're a bit keen, either meet you at the office, arrange a meeting elsewhere, or phone you. You will then have to squirm in embarrassment whilst they ask you all sorts of stupid questions. What is worse, they may bring along the band's worst nightmare : The Local Press Photographer.
Mr. (or, in one personal case, Miss) Press Photographer will have spent months, weeks, or even worse, years, of taking photos of local non-happenings - Mayors presenting large fake cardboard cheques to Laughing-dogs for the humour-impaired, Local MPs pointing at a memorial bench for the last local MP (who was found dead in his mistresses bed dressed in a tutu and rubber mask, which the local paper reported on their front page, with no small measure of schadenfreude), the local playgroup's nativity, consisting of four-year olds wearing blankets and dishcloths on their heads, and local bands like you, so their lives will have taken on a "Waiting for Godot"-like Tedium. He will, therefore, be bored out of his skull, and will , to pass the time, suggest a number of remarkably naff postures which will make you look complete idiots, such as hanging off the climbing frame in the local park. This is because, at the back of his mind, there is a little voice going "Astrid Kircherr ....Astrid Kircherr....", and he will be stashing the negatives away as a possible future pension, so that if you ever gain some national notoriety, he can sell them for a pretty penny to the Tabloids or Boulevardzeitungen.
Worse still, he'll want to take pictures of you holding your instruments.
Even jazz bands try to avoid this.
But you didn't, did you?
So, next week, you will open the paper to find a picture of you looking terminally gauche, whilst awkwardly holding a cheap chinese copy electric guitar and hanging upside down from a climbing frame. The text next to this picture will read pleasantly enough, but will lack just the right amount of enthusiasm, so that the whole text might as well read "This terminal bunch of losers are kidding themselves that they have a future with their sad little pop group, and you can see what I mean when they empty the bar of 'ye olde badger molester' next wednesday night in five minutes flat."
Oh yes, I've been there, and so have you. Don't deny it. I have the press cuttings.
So, after managing to sell some of the expensive tickets, you turn up at the gig, to find that no-one else has. The newspaper put the wrong date. You are performing to a crowd, the total size of which is less than the band personnel, and you're a trio. Even the people who bought tickets haven't bothered to show up. Never mind, treat it as a rehearsal - albeit one which has cost you about two-hundred and fifty quid. Do the gig, pack up whilst trying to avoid problems with the local bouncer. You can easily recognise him, because he's the one who looks like a strategically-shaved gorilla, wouldn't let you in earlier, and attempted to pick a fight with the drummer.
But what about the groupies, you ask? Surely you can take consolation in the groupies? Well, you could if any had turned up, but groupies are a long way in the future, if they even feature in it. For groupies, dear reader, are attracted to fame, and you are not famous by any definition of the word. Infamous, probably, a laughing stock, definitely, but famous, no.
After all this, you will arrive home, tired, knackered, fed-up, broke and out-of-pocket, and have to start the whole thing over again.
Let that be a lesson to you.