Going out of town?

As my introductory post suggested, these things will change topic each time. So here is the second installment of some rambling on the music scene in Detroit. I, with the band, have just gotten back into town from a weekender. That means playing two shows around the Midwest. Easy travel, when you play in Chicago and Fort Wayne. This post is somewhat related to the interesting problem of playing and booking in Detroit. So here it goes.

As stated in the first blog, I have been playing music in this area for a good deal of time and booking all along the way. The interesting thing about Detroit is how the clubs and bars look at the music that comes into their realm. Why is this interesting? Well, every time I play music out of town the owners and promoters are different in some way. What is this difference? It is called respect. Now, I am not suggesting that this relates to every bar owner/promoter in Detroit and around the country, but it always amazes me that within the city and suburbs of Detroit the people who book are somewhat different to locals than touring artists.

Now, maybe this is the case in every city where the locals are treated like something to be disposed of. Maybe I am a bitter old musician who is upset that he never “broke” it big. Maybe I am speaking the truth. Pretty much all of that is correct. I have always been fascinated when seeing bands like Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr., Against the Grain, and Wilson, play home town shows to 50 people. They all began just as any group of musicians. Then they toured. They left Detroit, claiming Detroit as their home rightfully so, and played with the feel that is Detroit.

Upon return, they were embraced by the local media, shows garnered more guarantees, and all of a sudden the crowds show up. This is not an immediate thing of course and the bands that do this deserve more credit for getting out there, but the point is that without leaving Detroit would they have got the same amount of attention?

This is the issue, at least for this installment, that Detroit loves their own after they leave. Why? We always have a great underground here, whatever the scene, and we have the best musicians in the world. Why then do we not have the same feeling as Austin, Nashville, or other cities who embrace their musicians?

When playing music in Detroit the feeling is one of fighting for every ounce of respect. This includes money, but also includes simple understandings such as communicating set times, expectations and professional attitude. I constantly see blogs about the “Top 50 things bands do to piss off promoters,” well what about a blog on how owners and booking agents treat bands? Maybe the next installment.

Anyway, I strongly contend that Detroit is the best city for musicians, but we lose them very quickly to other cities because they cannot find work here. They go to Nashville, Austin, NYC, LA whatever and are grabbed up by almost everyone because they are “from Detroit.” This does not come without being a great musician first but it seems like we literally do not value our own as much as we should.

What is the solution? Not sure really, just writing things off of the top of my head. Maybe developing a guarantee against the bar total? Maybe, musicians sharing the gigs that actually pay more, maybe just respecting what we have here in Detroit? Probably a bit of all of these.

So, there it is. Want to see better music in the city, local or otherwise? Talk to the owners and booking agents about treating Detroit musicians as the world class players that they are. Not everyone that plays music in this town is a great musician and not everyone deserves this. I am sure that owners have been burned by guaranteeing a band to only have 3 people show up. The problem is that if no one ever takes a chance, then we will continue to lose bands and musicians to other cities or they will remain “on the road.”
We need more bands like Wilson, Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr., Against the Grain, and others making it out of the city to spread the Detroit love, but we also need to remember that they started here and there are great musicians and bands at home. So, go to a local show, check out “that band at the bar,” they may be the next White Stripes or they may just be some people having fun playing music that they love. Either way, they are our home and they deserve to be treated like the world class musicians that they are, just for being from Detroit and playing from their heart.

That’s it for this month. Any ideas that you would like me to write on please feel free to comment. If not, I will just keep on rambling along. Cheers!

Eric Abbey

Read this blog for more on my background and such.

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