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By Susheel Gokarakonda
Starting out as a band has a lot in common with becoming a model; you set out with big dreams, artistic integrity and buckets of self-worth, and within two weeks you’ve sold all of your self respect and are your tits are on page three of The Sun.
Perhaps this is a bit of a hyperbole – I’ve yet to expose myself in my quest for musical notoriety (not deliberately at any rate) – however, there is a stage after first plunging into a music scene that becomes a desperate battle to break the surface of the water when a musician suddenly considers things they never would have before.
You’ve played your first gig and now you’ve got a taste for blood; but how, after the weeks of preparation that went into organising your debut can you possibly get enough bookings to sustain your newfound hunger?
It is this fear of losing your new calling that begins your descent into musical prostitution. Anything and everything asked of you, regardless of fee, you take without considering your own value as an act. My band in our greenest days took on everything from a grimy metal pub to the chino infested heat trap that is Came-rah.
Unfortunately, this hollow eyed, dumbly grinning, incessantly nodding stage of a musician’s career is vital. It gives you a road map of your local scene: which venues draw your sort of crowd, which promoters are good to work with and it introduces you to the other more established bands you’ll be supporting. And whilst you’re outside your comfort zone, you may just find something you like.
My favourite gigs have often been the ones I’d originally dreaded would be a mistake. The metal pub had one of the best sound systems and loveliest crowds we’ve had to date, and a gig a pub filled with toothless hippies gave us some of our most dedicated local supporters.
While it can get demoralising at times; agreeing to play for a pint after spending forty quid getting your drum kit to a venue, at least you’re somewhere new. Playing the same place again and again is an easy path to take: you know the promoter, you’re flattered that they’re eager to have you back on and they might even be paying you a bit; but trust me, they’ll be screwing you over in one way or another. You’ll drop everything to play a gig for them, thinking you’re earning yourself good favor, when all you’re actually doing is painting a sign for yourself that says ‘easily manipulated’.
It’s at this point that I’d like to say there’s a light at the end of the tunnel; however, I’d be lying if I said we were fully through it ourselves. We know the lie of the land a bit better and our phone books are a bit more useful, but unfortunately, every step up the ladder is roofed with another group of people who need to be charmed, and subserved, but never trusted.