Friday, June 8, 2012

'Lil tour of gooders and goobers.

Oliver and I are settled into the guestroom bed at the home of our lovely Nelson hostesses, Alida and Crystal. We just played a show at John Ward Fine Coffee, a good-looking new coffee shop on Baker Street. I have learned many more lessons recently, and I am here to share my news and views, as usual. We had happy, fun, successful shows on Gabriola Island, and in Ucluelet. Successful for different reasons. On Gabriola we played a house concert to an attentive crowd of 17 who were appreciative and supportive. The coin-collection jar covered our expenses, and that is always good. In Ucluelet we played in the lounge/bar of an upscale resort. We were treated very well and got to stay in a very fancy suite. The resort’s payout covered our expenses for travel, and we had a fantastic time exploring Ucluelet and Coombs on the way home. We ate ice cream and bought strawberry plants and went on a hike. I picked up stuff for my smithy too. (ok, I’m going on a tangent now.) Those couple of shows were good. A couple of weeks ago we played in Victoria at a chain-style coffee shop on the outskirts of town. I’m not sure why the heck I booked this gig. I really wanted to play Victoria and I got to the point where I was trying to get anything I could. Anyway. Nobody was there. There were a few people clustered in the back corner of the oversized coffee shop, minding their own. They did volunteer their applause between songs, which was appreciated. But they did not put so much as a nickel in the tip jar. A couple wandered in off the street and bought a CD, despite my telling them they could get it all for free online. So that was nice. They wanted to support the music. They sat front and centre and listened attentively for almost the whole show. They gave us a reason to put a little effort in. So in the end, we impressed one young couple, made 10 bucks for a CD, which helped pay for the recording of the album and whatnot. Empty tip jar. Oliver had to pay for the brownie he ate. We got free tea. Oh ya, the coffee shop provided the venue free of charge. (I hate when venues say this, as if they deserve induction into sainthood for doing so.) About a week before Vic we played Vancouver. Also a let-down. We did stay with some great friends, and saw a handful of friends and family who turned out to say hello. I think we left with about $50 from the door – which means some of our expenses were covered by our friends. L The venue didn’t hang the posters I gave them or advertise our show on their facebook page. They mentioned it a few weeks before the show, but messed up my name badly enough that it would be impossible to search us out online. Anyway – expenses not covered. A very enthusiastic woman came in for the show, and proceeded to belt out Stan Rogers and Joan Baez songs over our performance. Her voice was a few decibels louder than the PA system. I have a very loud voice. Hers was very much louder. One of my friends went to the door where my friend Jaime (who is very shy and sweet) was working the tip jar, and asked her to tell the lady to take it down a notch. Poor Jaime. Obviously (if you know Jaime) this wasn’t about to happen. One of the venue staff ended up telling her to put a sock in it or something. Needless to say, I was feeling rather dreadful about leaving the coast and heading into the interior for a slew of shows with no guarantees. First stop was Kelowna. Once again, we stayed with some great old friends and the social catching-up part of the trip was great. Not a single person came to the show. Now – Nelson. Here, we did everything right, and as far as marketing goes, we lucked out as much as we could have given that I am our only promoter, and probably the worst self-promoter on the globe. We had posters hung around town by our friend Samara, and by the venue owner. We had a wonderful amount of support from Kootenay Coop Radio. (Thank you Bonnie Baker!) Bonnie pushed our show hard to the station’s audience, had us in for two interviews and played our stuff on the station repeatedly. Also, we got into the paper. I sent in a press release and they printed it, along with a coloured photo. If any concert was going to be a success, it would have to be this one. Ten people were there. I hugged 7 of them, because I knew them. Bonnie brought a couple of friends, six of our own friends were there (including all names above) and one man who came in off the street or who may have heard something on the radio or seen the advertising. He bought both of our albums – the one that is for sale in hard copy and the one that is not for sale, (only for free download) but he insisted that he needed it. These little things make my evening. We were well received by our huggers, who offered us many kind words. So, not a flop. But… what? After all of that success with promotion, only one dude who may or may not have been brought in by some of that promotion? Huh. So… I’m not sure what I’m going to do in the future. I really thought – if we only had some media support, things would go a lot better. But, I guess not… really. I’m just going to say this, even though it’s sort of a risky thing to say. It seems to be hard enough to get people we know to take a night off from their busy lives and give us a chance, let alone strangers. You have to start by impressing people you know, and if they don’t believe you’re going to be any good, they won’t come, and you have no seeds to start growing a career with. I am not the kind of person who busts out the guitar every time there is a lull in a conversation, or climbs on to a table at a party and belts out my best Shania Twain. I am not an extrovert. I don’t elicit a lot of attention from day to day. Oliver even less of an extrovert. I quietly ask “hey, if you’re around and you have nothing to do, and there’s nothing on TV and facebook isn’t very interesting, maybe you wanna come to our show?” This doesn’t work to my advantage. But dang it! I know we are actually good at what we do. I don’t know why I have to feel like a jerk saying so. A dentist would not feel like a jerk saying that s/he is good at what s/he does! I have to change my mindset on this. Because, people assume we suck, and they don’t come. Until they do come at which point they are surprised and happy that they did. But I honestly don’t think I have it in me to push hard enough to get even 10 more friends out to see us. (p.s. THANK YOU to our friends and acquaintances who have taken the time to come out. Even if what we do ain’t your thing – we really appreciate it.) Sigh. I need a new approach. I’m giving this touring thing a big long break. I can’t afford it anymore. I’m going to work on a kick-ass album for the next couple-few years and then try and do the whole marketing thing right; releasing one single at a time, as if each song is newsworthy and buzzworthy. I’ll see if I can promote the next album to death before it ever comes out – and then when it does – BAM! I’ll play a show on Denman Island for 200 people and in Vancouver for at least 12, and probably about 25 in Nelson. I know this is a lot of ranting. Sorry. I keep thinking I’ll just throw in the towel – but this is what I love, and it’s what I’m good at. And I don’t think I can just write songs and sing them to my family members at holidays. The tunes need to get out there. I have been told by many people outside of my circle of family and friends, including folks whose job it is to be critical, that I should keep at it, keep pushing it, that it’s worth it. And I know that in the past year we have gotten tighter and more creative and interesting as a duo. (Screw being humble for just a second.) I really don’t want to give up – I really, really don’t. But this shit’s hard and it keeps getting harder. I think I’ve tried everything I can afford to try. Schmargen. Anyway. Just being honest about the whole thing. I’m really not trying to whine here. I think people have a lot of ideas of what it’s like to be a touring singer/songwriter, and I just want to provide a little dose of reality. Also, for anyone else walking in very similar shoes. You aren’t alone out there! Please don’t feel like you have to leave encouraging comments. Perhaps instead, you yourself have a little bit of ranting to do. Are you an artist? Or someone trying to kick-start a small business? Let ‘em have it – right here on this comment form. After setting up in Kelowna, we ate a delicious meal provided by some very friendly gals, practiced a few tunes in front of our friends Dan and Anna, and packed the car back up. On a post-attempted-show walk we discovered we were competing with some kind of city party in the park.

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