Charity & Local Bands
Why do you play music? Honestly, the more I think about it, the more mental it seems. It’s the question everyone should ask themselves when they start to figure how much they’re spending on practise rooms/gear/studio time. Some people I’ve asked have just told me “cos it’s fun”, “it’s something to do” and “I was like 5, right, when I first ‘erd the solo on that track by that band, and I was, like, just hooked from there on mate”. That’s all good, but, like most of the explanations we give ourselves for the stuff we do, it’s a bit brief and doesn’t really stand up when you consider just how much arsing about and stress that regularly affects the life of the local band. Maybe the people I asked wanted to get rid of me quickly?
Either way, every band and artist needs to find their own answer to THE QUESTION, either collectively agreed or individually decided, and there are probably some pretty eloquent answers that have already been discussed at length during valuable practise room time. The more extroverted among us might love the attention, the introverts might find that it’s the easiest way to interact with other people, their confidence boosted after having fret wanked in front of the whole room for 40 minutes.
I’ve got no problem with people telling me it’s fun by the way. When I’m not in my Internet writing mode it’s the answer I’d give too, and I can’t find a single argument against having as much of it as you possibly can. The problem is, outside of the all too brief moments where stick hits drum and finger meets fret most of the time as an unsigned band you’re not doing anything fun. Maybe I’m biased as a drummer, but I spent a great deal of my time shifting gear, driving around looking for obscure venues and worrying about whether I was a tad too hasty lending out my drums to the giant currently beating seven bells of Satan’s shit out of them.
But I did it, and if you’re reading a music blog, it’s pretty likely that you spent, or spend a great deal of your time living the fun of being in an unsigned band. So when you talk to people and they tell you it’s fun, when you hear that little lie slipping past your own lips too many times without a second thought, and you really think hard about how much fun you get for the effort you put in, playing in local bands starts to look like an addiction.
So lets take a quick look at some of the literature. The primary theory that’s dominated the thoughts of the people tasked to come up with theories about these things; the act of playing music was an evolutionary accident. A happy one, but one that’s arisen from complex systems in our brains and bodies originally intended to keep us alive happen to combine together into something of a magical coincidence and form music. This is, in a word, bollocks as far as I’m concerned. And I feel quite confident saying that, because I’ve read loads of issues of the New Scientist and can therefore sound clever without trying too hard.Anyway, they’ve written about recent archaeological finds in Turkey, that point to people developing religion, and therefore culture, as something that came before, and maybe even inspired the agricultural revolution, which was quite an influential revolution due to it being the reason why you’re reading a blog instead of foraging for berries and shitting in the woods. I’m tying culture to religion, because we’ve got no record of music specifically, but we have the remnants of what looks like shamanistic gatherings places and carvings of animals. And what did these tribal people do on the few days of the year when they could let their hair down? Probably the same thing people do at Glastonbury – get fucked up and dance about.
Yup, looks like they found the first example of human hippies coming together to talk about nature and make some music, which (based on looking at the tribal music available via Spotify/Youtube) was repetitive, with a heavy and complex rhythm and chanting over the top. Taking chants as simple phrases hypnotically repeated. This would have created a disorienting atmosphere which swept people up in the event. Hypnotic sounds, disoriented people and simple lyrics?… Sounds like a basement gig or a rave to me. Ok we’ve got better tech, and more tropes to draw on (probably) than they did, so your modern performance might sound more digital, but the point is hulking gear about has been a human pastime for as long as there’s been humans. It’s not going to go away anytime soon, and it bloody well didn’t come about as a result of evolutionary accidents. To be honest, the VERY first time anyone bashed a stick on a log to make sound was probably just to stave off this emotion called boredom that existed before Guitar Hero and Dance Dance Revolution appeared.
But all that isn’t to say that interesting and emotive subjects like politics can’t be a part of good music. I’ve chatted to people who say they are whether you want it or not. But being in a local band doesn’t really afford your opinion much of a voice. I mean, you could spend your days down at the local club shouting angrily about Cameron’s broken Britain, but you’re gonna have to try harder than the current crop of local bands doing that, and trust me, some of them are trying VERY hard.
So your band could give to charity.
You don’t get paid much, but the overall rate might increase if you give percentages to charity, especially if your audience/label/employer share your concerns. If this sounds like cynical profiteering to you, stop worrying so much. This could help local bands do more good, get more from their music and could increase donations to charity. It also shows that bands are at least partially engaged in the world beyond their own egos (although if you need to convince people of this you’re maybe indulging in one too many costume changes) and it will increase the awareness of a band’s background. Even if they choose to write nothing but love songs or ambient drones.
You might know someone who expresses deep cynicism surrounding charity singles that are likely to chart. Even if the artist in question donates all the money to charity, the added exposure may boost sales of t-shirts and other albums…you’ve probably heard the reasoning before. However, if you’re doing this on your local scene, why not? Tons of bands are giving their CDs away for free anyway, or making it all available online, so asking people donate to a charity instead can’t hurt, and it might just help a few people out. When a few more people know you, make your next set of merch/CDs slightly more expensive and you’re doing well for yourself more directly as well. The counter argument to the cynic is anything that creates the best wellbeing for the most people is hard to argue against without sounding like a dick – so why not increase the amount of people who benefit from the music?
But even if it is all a big load of teenage egos and sexual competition, there are still worse things to do with your weekends. It’s always a good method to get laid, keep you out of the house, and it used to get you into loads of pubs without the anxious handing over of fake ID.
So that’s one reason. Another one is because you can get paid for it.
Also, (and I’m definitely not saying this will happen to your band) if a local band splits, they’re left with the record of the donations made in their name. If nothing else, giving to others helps to increase happiness, which will even make Goths play better music, and so if you’re just focussed on the sound, maybe a bit of outwards love towards society will boost yours and the audience’s moods and it’ll all sound better anyway. We’re trying to convince society to buy our music after all.
But then it’s true what people say – this shit is fun. And playing fun music makes you better at your instrument, which is kind of the point of practise. Maybe now’s a good time to define fun – the rush of dopamine you get when your own fumbling digits manage to coax something beautiful from something in the world. Whatever beautiful means in this context is up to you. Anyway, if you play lots of music you like, you’ll be listening better, so you’ll play it better, and you’ll get more out of your practise. The constant practise gives your brain an excuse to secrete the chemical that makes you happy (dopamine) and this process is the same thing that gets people hooked on coke. That’s what happened to Keith Richards…too much dopamine.
At the end of the day though, if it wasn’t such a convenient way for any teenager to get themselves into the beds of their beloved(s) and almost everyone on earth had an opinion and taste for something else… Just take a moment to put yourself in the shoes of someone with amusia… Continue reading