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Touring Musicians: Gluttons for Punishment?

"When I was fifteen I swear it looked so easy" - Reuben.

I am sat trying to book a gig. I'm in two minds as to whether or not to bother, because I know full well that most people won't reply and a lot of the gigs will be a disappointment. I'll experience uninterested crowds, wrong notes played, misunderstandings with the venues, or worst of all, other musicians being unsupportive and appearing ignorant.

I speak of this as a solo artist and a band member. I've played to 3 people at 11pm two hours away from home, and to a thousand people supporting YouMeAtSix that was ruined by sound engineers.

Nothing makes you feel as low as a bad gig.

Not to say that every gig is a bad one, but once you start playing in front of crowds that don't know you the environment can turn a little hostile.


I'm still playing at the level where I'm not paid for every show I play and that can be a bit soul destroying. Not that I'm doing this for the money (I have a job to pay the bills) but if I've traveled 50 miles for an unpaid gig and I see others getting their cut for the evening I do get a little annoyed. They know how far I've traveled, how do they think I got there? Floo powder? I've done some work, at least throw a fiver my way to cover costs!

Drive for two hours, play a show to a bunch of heckling drunks, get some vague possibility of another gig in the future, drive for two hours, home. Out of pocket and out of confidence. You have spent months, maybe years preparing for these fleeting moments and it all seems like a waste of time. And there are thousands upon thousands of people out there trying to do the same thing. More established, more talented, more likely to get that next gig in front of a better crowd.

So here's my question; Why the heck do we even bother?

Because we love it.

No matter how bad the last gig was, the next gig could be amazing. The next gig could lead to something better, the next gig you might think that actually you're pretty good at what you do. There are promoters, bands, and even audiences willing to help you out. On the whole, people are NICE.

Who cares what other people think, you're a flipping rock star! You wrote those songs, and people enjoyed them. You are no different to any of the "famous" people who make a living out of performing. You might not have a dressing room, tour bus, or pyrotechnics…but apart from that…

Chances are every musician reading this article will at some point hang up their instruments and retire from live performances. I know I will, even if the tiniest part of me still hopes that one day I'll play an enormous stadium in front of an army of fans singing my lyrics back to me.

But does that matter? The feeling I get from a stranger telling me they like my music is enough. The fun I've had moving a full drum kit on the Parisian metro during rush hour is enough. Making new friends and seeing other people perform is enough.

So for those of you downtrodden artistes reading this article, think of the pleasure you get from doing what you do (even if it's not as often as you'd like) and above all else, recite the Jagger mantra:
"It's only rock 'n' roll, but I like it".

Kenny Cottam

Kenny Cottam is playing acoustic shows as www.facebook.com/manofglass

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