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Why the rock music scene in Tampa Bay sucks (and what can be done about it)

Since moving to Tampa Bay Florida in the mid-2000s, I've been in and out of a few bands. Some never went anywhere after the first rehearsal. Some would purposely withhold information such a conveniently not mentioning the fact it was a church band (if you're in a church band, say so up front or bug off, and I seriously mean that). Others I got kicked out of for "not playing well with others", and I'll explain more about that in a moment. And one turned out to have a singer who was nothing more than a pill-popping, stoner drunk. Of course I didn't find this out until after I joined the band, played a single gig where the singer took the stage in a high drunken state and promptly forgot half the lyrics to the songs he was singing. It wasn't pretty.

Tampa Bay is the land of 1,000 crappy sports bar bands that never go anywhere and never will go anywhere who all tell the same lies over and over again.

Here's a condensed list of those lies:

"We're pro"

This is said even though the band has no demo online, no web site whatsoever and not even a dopey ReverbNation page (tip: a ReverbNation page is the calling card of any band that sucks). Ask for a recent demo and you'll be lied to until you actually show up for the first rehearsal, only to be given a CD (who uses CDs anymore?) that was made 5 years ago from musicians not even living in this state anymore. Gee, thanks.

Anyone who says they can't make a demo because it's "too hard" is lying right through their teeth. If I can make a demo using a decidedly old webcam and my laptop, you can make a demo by recording a video with your smartphone. IT'S NOT ROCKET SCIENCE. The reason you don't do it because you're either too stupid to do it, too lazy to do it, and/or you just suck. And bear in mind there are 12-year-old kid guitar players who know how to post videos to YouTube while you don't. Yes, that means if you're a musician and haven't posted any video to the internet recently or none at all, you're officially dumber than a 12-year-old. Congrats.

"I/We have connections"

Knowing dive bar owners does not count as connections. All that means is that you're such a drunk and go to that bar so often that the proprietor knows you by first name. Your lie comes in the respect that all your 'connections' are worthless, because you're passing them off as good when they're not.

"I/We can get gigs anytime"

Same as above. Your gigs are all at those crappy dive bars. Again, worthless. A band cannot get known at all by playing Bob's Country Bunker over and over again.

I don't claim to be the best guitar player, but...

I want to make it very clear up front that while I can hold my own on guitar, there are plenty of other players out there who can smoke me easily. I am a solid believer in The First Rule of Being a Musician, which is there is always someone better than you. I understand this very well, which is why I don't try to be #1 at anything to do with guitar, because there are guys playing nylon acoustics on street corners in Spain that can absolutely destroy anyone here that plays guitar - and that's a fact.

However...

...there are so many subpar musicians in Tampa Bay that it's just ridiculous.

What do I mean by "subpar"? I mean drummers who can't keep time (the one thing they're supposed to be able to do) who keep slowing down and/or speeding up and/or not having a clue what they're doing behind the skins - yet still claiming they're "pro". I mean singers who are always slightly sharp or slightly flat yet INSIST they're in perfect key when you know they're not. I'm taking about bass players who take 30 minutes to tune a bass guitar yet still manage to always be out-of-tune (I can have one tuned in less than 15 seconds by ear). I mean guitar players that have $10,000 worth of gear yet can't play a f--king barre chord to save their lives. That's what subpar musicianship is.

Remember how I said I've been kicked out of bands for "not playing well with others"? I'll tell you why this happens. When I'm lied to with claims of being all "pro" and whatnot and then I show up to rehearsal and see and hear a bunch of subpar musicians, then oh yes, I will let you know about it. I will call you out on that. And yeah, you will get ticked off at me for doing so, but at that point I don't care because you cost me money. You wasted the gas in my car it took to get there, you wasted my time and now I'm calling you on your lies. You saw my videos and you know what I'm capable of, yet you invited me into a cesspool of mediocrity that is your rehearsal space... to what? Fool me into thinking you're something great when you're not? I'm not a fool, so yeah, screw you.

A list of stupid things almost all Tampa Bay bands do

Not talking to other bands. At all.

Crappy sports bar bands don't talk to other bands because they're too afraid of "losing their spot" in the one or two crappy sports bars they play regularly. They feel that other bands will stomp them out of existence and therefore stomp them out of paid gigs.

I can't even begin to describe how wrong this is.

Everyone knows the old saying that there's no such thing as bad publicity, right? Well then, answer me this, Mr. Crappy Bar Band Leader, how it is BAD when another band shows up bringing along THEIR fans which will in turn put NEW EARS towards YOUR BAND? Hmm? How is this bad? Could you answer that for me? I doubt you could, because your brain is probably floating in Jack Daniels most of the time.

All ears are good ears, and most bands are just too stupid to realize it.

Oh, and let's not forget that a "double headliner" would add to the overall entertainment value. It doesn't even matter if the bands aren't that great because at least it adds in some variety.

And yeah, I know, your set won't be as long as it normally is by sharing a gig with another band so you won't get as many tips. That's your short-sightedness kicking in. Stop doing that. Take any new ears you can get, because it's very likely a few of those new ears will turn into new fans and then turn into MORE MONEY YOU WILL MAKE.

Old vs. Young

Bands with members over 40 avoid younger bands like the plague and won't go anywhere near them, again for fear of being stomped out of the scene (to which I would ask: WHAT SCENE?) This happens even if both the young and old band play the exact same style of music.

If you're middle-aged or older and some younger band approaches you asking to open up for them, ACCEPT IT GRACIOUSLY and take whatever traffic you can get. Remember, all ears are good ears - especially new ones. That younger band will bring in younger fans that may (gasp!) actually like your band and come back to see you again.

And let's say for the moment that younger band puts on a great act and totally stomps yours. SO WHAT? It's not like you'll be banned from playing that venue ever again because of that. Take your lumps and just deal with it; it's not the end of the world and you're still getting paid, so I truly don't know what the hell you're all in a twist about.

muffin-top3Having an awful manager

Let me guess. The band's manager is one of the band member's fat, ass-pickled, cottage-cheese-boobed "rock wives". Did I guess right? I'm sure I did!

While I'm sure that wife is a probably a lovely person, she's a terrible manager. This is the woman who thinks "manager" means "bossing people around" and not actually picking up the damned phone to call clubs and venues, make connections, and schedule gigs. The only reason she's "manager" is just to give her something to do - and do badly. And it doesn't help that she dresses in the over-the-hill rock wife look where she wears shirts exposing her flabby gut that's literally hanging off the beltline, and wears jeans so tight that her flab spills out everywhere in true muffin top style (see photo). And of course from those ill-fitting jeans you can see a perfect outline of her camel toe in the front which, sorry to say, is gross and probably scares small children. The horror.

When I see the rock wife "manager", I run for cover.

A manager (male or female mind you) is someone that truly knows how to connect with people and knows how to lay off the Twinkies long enough to get good gigs. I'll talk about that more in a moment.

Bitching that "things aren't like they used to be in the music scene"

I have two responses to this.

First, said again, what scene are you talking about? The one from FantasyLand? Because it seems you live there.

Second, if you got off your dead ass and did something entertaining when performing, things would go well. In fact, they would probably be a whole lot better compared to what you remember. You would believe it or not create the scene. Yes, you. It's totally possible with the right frame of mind.

The supposed magical awesome music scene that was around in the 80s and 90s, sorry to say, never was.

People who pine for the days of how things used to be all say the same thing. "Yeah man, I remember when we used to play a gig and then after that party all night, get stoned, get drunk and it was F--KIN' AWESOME man..."

Okay then, let's examine that for a moment. What you're pining for isn't "the scene". You're pining for the days when you had no real bills to speak of, no mortgage and could get drunk and stoned every weekend and not care about it.

That's not a scene. That's just innocent youth. You were in a crappy band back then and you're probably in a crappy band now, except it's 10 or 20 years later and you're fatter, balder and your body rejects all the crap you used to put into it. You got old. That's what happened.

And of course the drunken stoner days of the past have absolutely nothing to do with a professional performing act. Zero. Zip. Zilch. Nada. The only reason you remember the past so fondly is because you were as high as a kite most of the time.

You could in fact have it so much better now compared to then, but the problem is your brain is working in reverse instead of forward.

A list of stupidly easy things Tampa Bay bands could do to be successful but don't do

Where's the act?

The vast majority of Tampa Bay bands have no act to speak of. Usually all you see is four or five disheveled people crawl their way up on stage, stand perfectly still (except the drummer who sits still), play crappy songs and... nothing else. No movement. No activity. No show.

Where's the entertainment there? It doesn't exist. You might as well put a DJ there with two loudspeakers because it would be the same thing.

An act is not hard to put together. Really, it isn't. Do a few synchronized moves, maybe dress in the same color shirts to give your band some credibility as an actual performing act, etc. Like I said, not hard to do.

And no, smoke machines and lights will not change the fact you're standing perfectly still on stage. It's no different than planting four or five statues and having a DJ in the background sending audio out of the loudspeakers. NO DIFFERENCE AT ALL.

Did EVERYONE forget promo?

Proper promotion is a foreign concept to bands. They think tacking a poster on the dive bar's bulletin board that they'll be playing next Saturday night counts as promo. Nope.

How does one do promo on the cheap? Free t-shirts, stupid. Yes, seriously. Make your fans walking advertisements. They won't mind.

Or maybe actually (gasp!) buy some radio advertising time. You know how all bands say that radio stations never promote local acts? That's because you're not bringing in the station any money. Pay the station to promo your band and Oh My God they actually will. Amazing concept, isn't it? Pay someone to do something and they'll actually do it. Wow, who'da thunk it? And yes, it's true that kids don't listen to the radio anymore, BUT THEIR PARENTS DO. Think about that.

And for any one of you dumbass bands out there that says "Hey! We're well-known!" No, you're not. I've never heard of you. I haven't seen anyone wearing your giveaway t-shirts (probably because you never thought of it). I doubt your "popularity" goes beyond your backyard, if that.

Almost no local band knows how to do internet right

Are you selling CDs on the crappy band web site you have that nobody knows about? I guarantee you're doing it the wrong way, and that's compounded by the fact nobody wants your stupid CDs anyway.

Aside from that, does your band's Facebook fan page have over 500 fans? Mine does, and I'm just one guy. Do you even HAVE a Facebook fan page? GET ONE. It's free and ridiculously easy to maintain.

Got a YouTube channel? That's the #1 way fans discover new music on the internet. I have over 1,000 subs on mine. How about you? Do you even have one?

A known fact concerning bands and internet is this: Without an internet presence, you will never get known outside of Tampa Bay. If the goal is to expand the band's presence as far and wide as possible (and it should be), then *duh*, get your internet stuff in check, use it and update it routinely.

Oh, and here's another thing - without a proper internet presence, you will miss out on potential gigs. Notice how my contact page link is plastered on every single page on this site? There's a reason for that - to make it as stupidly easy for people to contact me.

Business on the internet runs by email. Putting that address on business cards isn't enough. You need a site and you need to list contact info so when someone Google-searches your band, you're found and can be contacted easily. Doesn't that make sense?

One more thing concerning my fan numbers and YouTube subs. I don't even do internet promo that well, and I'm probably kicking your ass in that department. That should tell you something.

Too many musicians and not enough (right) managers

This is the unofficial list that disqualifies anyone from being a manager of a band:

  1. The person is related to any one of the band members in any way. This means no wives, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins or whatever... No, no, no, no, NO. A manager that's related to anyone in the band is a sure-fire recipe for disaster in short order.
  2. The person has no clue how to get around Tampa Bay at all. Managers have to be willing to travel around a lot in addition to making lots of calls and texts. I mean, with GPS being cheap and readily available, there's really no excuse, is there?
  3. It takes longer than 24 hours to get a text or phone called returned from the person. If that happens, the person is L-A-Z-Y, and that's no good at all.
  4. The person is a musician.

It's the last point I'm going to expatiate on.

Most of the time (but not all and I'll explain that in a minute), managers are who are musicians are the absolute worst people to manage a band for several reasons because they do not have the band's best interests in mind. That manager will try to shape your band into what his or her "vision" is and is guaranteed to screw everything up, citing "I'm a musician too and I know what I'm talking about" or some other nonsense like that. It's just a bad, bad idea to have someone that plays an instrument as your manager.

The only time a manager who's a musician is acceptable is if it's someone older who used to play but doesn't anymore regularly, has no interest in being on stage but does enjoy the process of managing a band because he or she likes being in the scene (for what little of it there is). That's an okay situation because that former or now-hobbyist musician has been in the scene, hopefully has experience, probably has some genuinely good contacts, and most importantly is not a drama factory. This type of dude is calm, cool, collected, and serious about what he or she does, but at the same time is fun to be around. That's a good combination because a manager who's your friend (as long as they're not related to you) can go a long way.

It really isn't that difficult to be a very popular act in Tampa Bay in a very short period of time

Musicians throw around the word "dedication" a lot when it comes to bands, but few truly understand what it means.

I'll tell you what it means.

It can be argued that the best gigs in the State of Florida are theme parks (Disney World, Universal Studios, etc.), because they pay well and you're exposed to a lot of people. However the second best gig is usually a county fair.

Some of you will instantly think, "Pff... no way would I play a county fair." Then you're an idiot. There are lots of ears at fairs. Ears of the people that actually matter concerning your musical career - families and kids, and NOT the drunks at the local watering holes.

Stop being just another crappy band and start being a professional performing act. Don't be musicians. Be entertainers.

When it comes to being a true entertainer, this is where most musicians fail when it comes to dedication. They think "being dedicated" means knowing your songs, not going any further than that and having no act to follow it.

Are you dedicated to putting on a good show and entertaining people? That's the question you need to answer. If you answered that with a "yes", what's your act? Do you even have one? If not, put one together. If you don't, you'll always be just another lazy-ass crappy sports bar band playing craptastic garbage that nobody cares about.

County fairs like acts that can draw big crowds because it means more cash for the event; it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure that part out. To draw the big crowds, you need a good act that's entertaining and fun. If all you do is "play music" and nothing more, you'll never get the big gigs unless you luck out and get one by chance.

However - and this is where the manager part comes in - the best act in Tampa Bay won't go anywhere without good management. A good manager knows how to get in contact with event organizers and has a cell phone full of contacts for gigs all over the region. That manager should be calling and texting organizers and venue owners constantly to get the scoop on where the better events are, flying out the band's press packs left and right and getting the job done.

Fact: Most bands in Tampa Bay are afraid of big success

By now you're thinking, "Okay dude.. you have good points. You've given me the confidence to really move forward with my band."

Maybe I did - but let's go even further than that. Let's say you get your ass together, get your band mate's asses together, put together a solid act, get good management, start getting known and are getting the big gigs. Suddenly and seemingly out of nowhere you start getting calls from the big venues. Things are going well.

Then something happens: The Fear.

Things are moving way too fast for you. You're getting a bunch of calls, people want your band to play everywhere and you feel you're being stretched beyond your limit. That's when your dedication shrinks into a little ball and then *poof*, gone. You quit even though things are going great.

There are stories strewn all over Tampa Bay from guys who "almost made it" with their bands but never did because they were too scared to really go the mile, so to speak. Success was happening, things were going along great and then one of the band members got The Fear, and it was all over almost instantly. Success, oddly enough, is what killed the band.

Guys like this when they tell their tales of woe blame everything but The Fear. They'll blame the record industry, or bad management, or the economy or whatever. Nope. It was The Fear, and it's a killer of bands everywhere.

To be successful as a performing act not only in Tampa Bay but pretty much anywhere takes a huge set of balls, or said more politely an iron nerve. This doesn't mean to have a "no fear" attitude, because you should always be cautious, but you can't let success scare you back into hiding. If it does, you'll never go anywhere.

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