Most original bands in Denver are classified as "hobby bands," as opposed to "working bands" that attempt to eke out a financial existence playing out. This is not to say that the quality of musicians in either group are superior, but there are differences to note between the two categories of bands. Here are some distinctions of a hobby band:
- band seldom (if ever) practices more than three times per week.
- band seldom (if ever) tours and more than likely tours are vacation in disguise.
- band plays out less than once per week, and often averages once per month or less.
- band has not registered as a business entity and does not file a tax return.
- band usually does not have (cannot afford) some of the basic personnel: band manager, booking agent, promoter/PR/marketing agent, producer, business manager or lawyer. If someone is available to help them, they are typically many responsibilities rolled into one. Often a friend or family member takes on this role, or the leader of the band.
- band plays for the fun of playing first and foremost.
- Most band members have significant day jobs and/or other obligations that have to take priority over band life.
Recognizing that you are in a hobby band is the first step towards getting all of the band members on the same page and working towards the same goals/expectations. Certain realities surface that should be acknowledged:
- Money should not be the main motivation for playing out.
- Playing out should be somewhat limited. Most bands in Denver would be best advised to play out once per month or less because...
- Without proper marketing and promotional efforts, you are highly dependent upon your social capital (fan base - primarily friends and family) to have success playing venues (they have to make money to keep the doors open and this fact should not be ignored).
- A significant amount of time for original bands should be spent working on new material and recording material. You will maintain your social capital if you can assure your fans that they will hear (and see!) something new each time they come out. Constantly work on your show.
- The ratio of bands to venues is staggering. It's as simple as the Law of Supply & Demand. To keep from burning through your social capital and eventually letting down the venues, bands need to fight the urge to play out constantly for the sake of playing out. Performances should be event-based and promoted as well as your resources will allow. If you can't afford to spend at least $10 on flyers every week, you simply shouldn't be playing out that often.
Original bands are significant - they are creating the "covers of the future." But it would help Denver's scene overall to recognize the realistic limitations of a hobby band. Have a great show!