A Local Musicians Guide: Don’t be a Dick in a Small Town.

Posted: June 23, 2015 in Uncategorized

By: Christopher Horton

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Savannah is a tiny town. I say this from experience in places like Columbus, Atlanta, and Los Angeles. We are a wee little town. Chances are, if you are in the music biz in any capacity you know everyone by one degree of separation. That’s a tight knit group. If you know me, for instance, you are one step away from like 30 bands, a couple promoters in three states, a couple of music instructors, a producer, a studio owner, and a radio personality.

That’s a small town for you, though.

I have been at this shit for 20 years. 20 long years of shitty gigs, great gigs, festival shows, drug problems, drinking problems, recording albums, promoting shows, helping bands, teaching guitar, making contacts, going on little tours, playing open mics, dealing with A&R guys, making merch, setting up shows for venues, selling merch…..

Name it. I’ve done it in this industry.

So I came up with a rather short list of what you should do, as a local artist or band in such a small place. I understand that if you come from rural Iowa, Savannah seems huge. I assure you, its not. And worse yet, it is a rumor-controlled scene. Which is why….

1. Never talk shit about another band. Ever. Never……ever.

This is a sure fire way to ostracize yourself. You want to be the band that never gets booked? Then talk shit about a band that you played with, or saw live at a show. Once again, everyone knows everyone. You will get caught, and then you will be shunned. People will pelt you with salad ingredients like in the dark ages.

2. Better yet, never talk to shit to anyone.

Just a good rule to live by. Dick.

3. Treat your fellow musicians with respect, regardless of who they are. In fact, go out of your way to be friendly and helpful.

A couple of years ago, I answered an ad on craigslist that simply asked “What is the rock scene like in Savannah?“. I didn’t know who posted the article, but I figured if it was someone that wanted to move here, I would write them a short note and tell them why its cool to live here and be a musician. We sent emails back and forth a few times, and finally met up to have a beer in person. That person turned out to be Garrett Deming from Broken Glow, before they officially moved here. Which in my opinion, is one of the best rock bands around. He and Paul also supported IAMSOUND (my band) and played shows with us. I will be producing their album this summer and we have all become great friends.

Same goes for my friend Ryan, who had just moved here from Detroit with his wife, and was working out at the beach at The Rock House, several years ago. The band I was in at the time, Habitat Noise played there a lot. We all hung out there together, had good times. Always nice to the people at the Rock House, I have never had a problem getting a paying show there. Ryan turned out to work in radio, and is not only a good friend, but a great ally to have in the music scene that I try very hard to support. We share a common goal for Savannah, for the scene. We want everyone here to prosper. And we have a great time doing things like Rock camp, and The Battle of the Bands together. Not to mention spreading the word about bands and shows every way we can. I almost look to Ryan as a mentor sometimes, and as inspiration for our little scene when I feel like everything here sucks. * Editors note: If you are reading this, Ryan, don’t get a big head and shit. Plenty of people think you’re a dick. 🙂

Or John from J&S Guitarworks. Three years ago…..My guitar was fucked up, and I took it to him after being screwed over by another luthier. After a two hour conversation about guitar nerd shit, we finally agreed on a fair price to fix my favorite guitar. I have learned a whole lot about guitars, either just by hanging out, or by watching John work on his customer’s instruments.Turns out he is not only a great friend, but the best instrument repair guy around. He has always been fair with me, and even filled in on guitar in IAMSOUND for a while. We constantly exchange favors. He is now in the recently signed band Honestlie, working on their first album. 

There’s so many more examples. But those are two that stick out because they are people I recently been around. I’m not saying be cool to people so you can use them later. That’s not ethical. I’m saying you should be cool to everyone NO MATTER WHO THEY ARE. You may be invaluable to them, or vice versa. If you want a scene to work, you have to be able to move through all the cliques, and be helpful to everyone-in turn they help you.

Once again, you never know who you are meeting in such a small town. Could be your new best friend, your new band member, your new mentor, a talented album producer, a promoter….you don’t know.

Point is: You never know what contact you may be making, or who you may be talking to. So always be…..wait. That’s my next rule….

4. Always be professional and friendly.
When you are out buying groceries. When you are mowing the lawn. When you are having a beer by yourself after work. While you are using the bathroom. EVERYWHERE. You need to always have your game face on.

Have some business cards made. They are cheap. have your bands weblinks on the card and your phone number. Have merch at your show. No matter how small. Even if it is home-made stuff. Even if it’s origami frogs with your band’s name on it. Be like a fucking Boy scout. Always be prepared.

Be enthusiastic about everyone you meet. Be genuine. If you are not genuinely a nice person-a people person, with good work ethics and morals, then this is not the business for you. Get out now. 

I repeat: If you dont live and breathe the music business, quit now. It is more than just making music and playing shows.

Really, you will fail. Being fake will get you nowhere. Even Nickleback is genuine about their goals and aspirations. They wanted to sell out big time. They did. Don’t be something you’re not.

You will also fail if you think it’s time to start living the “rock lifestyle”. This includes drinking and drugs. You do not play better when you’ve “had a few”. Fact: You play shittier. You also come across as unprofessional. The chances of you being an asshole also increases by 90% if you are intoxicated at an event. We once fired a drummer that after a show, that was so trashed that he fell off a bar stool onto a concrete floor. Not only endangering himself, and putting the bar at an insurance risk….but most of all…he looked liked a total tool. That’s not funny or cool.

Be pro with the other bands you are playing with, even if you don’t care for their music. You don’t have to like their music, the crowd does. I have played with plenty of bands who played music I didn’t like. Guess what? They were nice dudes/gals, and we had a good time hanging out at the venue.

Be pro with promoters/venue owners. These people can make or break you. You never know how much sway a promoter has in a town. And if you piss off a venue owner, you may never play there again. Easy ways to piss these types of people off:

  • Cancel a gig at short notice
  • Talk shit about them to other people
  • Talk shit about them on social media
  • Get wasted before you play, and then play a shitty show
  • Feel entitled to certain things like food, a bar tab
  • Asking for more money than you and the promoter/venue agreed on
  • Asking for money if money wasnt discussed
  • Bringing a shitty draw, or worse yet: excuses for a shitty draw
  • Not listening to the sound guy, its his/her stage
  • Spending zero time promoting the show. You should be blowing up social media, calling friends, etc.
  • Not following up with a “Thank You”.

It sounds all very elementary, but I have seen some seriously bad behavior not only from local bands in Savannah, but from touring acts as well. Lastly…..

5. Quit playing every fucking day. Really.
Really. There’s a lot of you fuckers out there that are guilty of this. Your show should be an EVENT. It should be something big and interesting, a big deal. It’s hard for your show to be a successful EVENT if you just played two other shows this week. Once again guys, this is a small town. You have a limited audience, whether it is a bigger venue or if it is a house show….it’s downright disrespectful to overplay. It screws over the venues, the promoters, but most of all… IT SCREWS YOU OVER. Example:

Two of my favorite bands are Dillinger Escape Plan, and Every Time I Die. If they had a show here on Friday, I would go and be excited as hell. I would be over the moon!
But wait…they are playing Monday night too….HELL yeah! I will see them again!! I’M so excited!

Oh…they are playing again on Thursday. I think I am going to skip this one. I mean, shit….I just saw them do the same show twice in a row. I don’t care how much I like a band, I’m not going to see them over and over.

The same goes for your local band. No one wants to see you over and over. More so actually, because you are not famous. So if you play a show on Friday night downtown, don’t play another one on Saturday…downtown. It’s a dick move that doesn’t benefit anyone.

So that’s it….sounds easy right? Get to it, Savannah.

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Comments
  1. Hey! It’s Verge! I really enjoyed reading your article, and from your disclaimer I thought for sure I’d find something to disagree with but sure enough, you were right.
    The same applies here at my workplace for sure — you see the same people over and over again, so if there’s a personality conflict, EVERYONE knows about it.

  2. g.e. perry says:

    I like the article.20 whole years huh? I’d like to hear what you have to say after 50.like some of us.
    I’m particularly fond of #5.quit playing every fucking day.as originator and administrator of the savannah area musicians exchange I can tell you without a doubt-when you have a musician support page with over 450 local members to spread over roughly 60 venues,there’s going to be a lot of shit going down. as the numbers increase players are going to figure out they can cut a guy who gets $150 per night by offering to do it for 6 nights at $50 a night.what they didn’t consider is that the $150 a night guy leaves 4 more gigs to be had.and you left out the most important tool a musician will ever have- leverage. and the best leverage is a good day gig.it means not being over a barrel and taking what they give you.it gives you bargaining power and you don’t have to gig every damn week.but to some of these fuckers a day gig is beneath them. #1 best tip for getting work in sugartowm- flip flops-cargo pants-pineapple shirt-baseball cap and sunglasses and lots of jimmy buffet. bon apetit!

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