It’s time to create another entry into our ongoing Nightclub Audience Training Series, and this entry is directed towards aspiring and/or up-and-coming musicians.
THIS IS BASED ON ACTUAL EVENTS. CAN’T MAKE THIS SHIT UP.
A couple walks into the club. They scope the scene, the grab a seat close to the stage, and start listening to the band…well, they aren’t really listening, but they’re more or less observing each individual member, and commenting amongst themselves. In all honesty, they’re looking kinda suspicious. There’s an obvious hustle that these two are trying to implement; the only questions are:
What this hustle is (drugs, prostitution, undercover police, or a combination of all three), and who the “mark” is.
At the end of the set, the band takes a break, and heads outside. The couple follows the band. The male in this couple hangs nearby, like a shadow. The woman, flirtily approaches the band members, and strikes up conversation. In this conversation, she repeatedly mentions that she’s a singer.
Then, she asks if she could sing with the band. The bandleader politely informs her that this is not an open mic situation, we’re doing our own rehearsed material. The rest of the band chimes in with venues, location and times for blues, jazz, and singer/songwriter open mic/jam sessions. She thanks the band for the info. Everything’s good, right?
She won’t take no for an answer.
Break ends, the band goes back to the stage, and begins to play again. This woman, whom we informed earlier that she will not begin singing with us, begins to attempt to sing over the band. From the bar. She hopes that we will hear her golden voice, and bring her on the stage. It’s almost like something out of a movie.
The only problem is, this band is not playing acoustically. We’re going through a pretty meaty P.A. The only way that anyone can tell that this person is singing is:
- You’re right next to this woman, or
- You can hear errant notes from someone singing in the spaces where there isn’t much going on in the song. It almost sounds like there’s a small tv or radio hidden somewhere while a band is roaring.
This goes on for the entire set. Then, things get even more silly.
At the end of the night, when all music has ceased, and the club is in the process of closing tabs and calling cabs, and the musicians are tearing down their equipment, take a wild guess who saunters up to the stage asking to sing with the band?
If you guessed Adele, Erykah Badu, or another singer that you may have heard of, why did you read this far down? How high are you?
Yes, it’s the same sketchy individual and her boyfriend. This time, she’s waving around a $100 bill.
“I’ve got a nice crispy $100 bill for you guys if you let me sing.”
She stands there, waving around the bill. At this point, I leave the stage, and pack up my horn. She stands there, trying to convince the bandleader to let her up on stage. He asks, “Ok, fine. What do you want to sing?” Her response: “Why don’t you guys just play, and let me make something up?” Bandleader: “No, if you’re going to sing with us, you need to sing a song, not make something up.” They argued back and forth for a few moments, and the bandleader eventually grabs his gear and leaves the stage.
She eventually got the drummer, and two horn players to stand on stage with her, while she sang.
It sounded as bad as one would expect: no style, shaky pitch, and the rehashing of the same three notes, over and over again, in whatever it was that she made up. When it was all over, she paid the guys on stage $100, to be divided amongst themselves.
There’s an old adage in my head about a fool and their money……
Look, here’s the protocol:
If a band wants you to sit in with them, they will ask you. Asking to sit in with a band is fine, but you can’t get your jimmies rustled because they said no. Badgering them into letting you do your thing doesn’t help your cause, either. It’s not your gig! Plus, it’s beneficial to know someone in that band that you plan to jam with. Coming up to complete strangers who don’t know you, or have never heard of you can make things more difficult, unless you are at a jam session. If you’re at a jam session, its come one, come all, within the confines of their structure (signing the sign-up list, etc). But for the love of all things sensible, attempting to bribe a band so that you can walk on stage with no prepared material and sound terrible on THEIR GIG is poor, poor form. The people on stage are professionals in a rather tight-knit community. Word will get around about you. This will not help you. It’s like giving a four-year old a megaphone. Sure, the kid is happy. However, everyone else is reaching for aspirin and earmuffs. Learn your craft. Practice. Correct. Perfect. Go see live music. Meet people. Politick. Hand out business cards.
Most musicians are willing to help other musicians, and believe it or not, as harsh as this post may seem, it is an earnest attempt to correct that which is not. I also don’t want to see people get cussed out, or taken advantage of, particularly because of their ignorance of how things work. With that, I’m going to stop typing.