It's a good thing i have these CDs; otherwise, there's a very good chance that i'd have forgotten about every last one of these bands, good and bad. It reminded me of something i wrote on our tour blog, something that i thought about a lot during our road trip:
As i stood around at the Caledonia Lounge on Tuesday night watching everyone drink, chat, and completely ignore our merch table (save the bartender and Chris Dragon's friend Sarah, who accounted for our first CDs sold in four days), i thought about the hundreds--thousands?--of touring bands i've seen over the years from the Concert Cafe in Green Bay to the Cactus Club in Milwaukee, and i'm sure that many of the ones i've forgotten were damn fine. Do any of the attendees at the Longbranch in Knoxville even remember the name "IfIHadAHiFi?" Or are they more likely to say "oh, man, that band...I Wish I Had A HiFi? They were great," their memories of the bands they saw on a random Monday night in August 2011 already fading into a jumbled mash of beer and feedback? As in love with our self-constructed image of the band too crazy to ignore as i am, i realistically get the feeling that by tomorrow it'll be "those bands with the crazy drummer" and "yeah, that night our pals played with some touring bands" by September, if not Friday.
I count twenty-one CD copies of our new EP remaining out of 50 we started tour with. That's twenty-nine copies out there along the East Coast. Assuming they don't get dumped at a CDMax in a few months, that's hopefully twenty-nine people who will, at the very least, have that same "oh YEAH!" moment i just had while eying my Anger CD for the first time in years. As i said elsewhere in that paragraph, this tour was a pretty inefficient way to encourage memorization of our band name, but for us, the biggest reason to play shows is to visit our friends and play music for them.
Unfortunately, that's not the most fair attitude to have when we have an awesome dude at Latest Flame Records mortgaging his future to promote bands he loves. If we want to move product (if we don't, it sort of makes us assholes, really), conventional wisdom would normally dictate that we have to tour more often than the middling two weeks per year we generally embark on. However, it's 2011, and certain truths have taken hold in our post-Napster age: people are buying less and less physical music, and the number of touring bands competing for that ever-shrinking fan dollar is higher than ever. Also dwindling rapidly is the number of people who value music, period, as evidenced by the basement show we played in Bloomington, Indiana that earned us a cool $13 in donations from about three of the twenty-some kids in attendance. "Hey, man, cool show! Your band is really good!" "Hey, thanks! Did you donate anything for the show at all?" "Aw, dude, i have like no money. *drinks BYO beer #5* So when ya coming back to Bloomington?"
It's obvious that young people don't put a price on music the same way that those of us who grew up with vinyl, cassettes and CDs did, and hell, many of them don't seem to value live performance over the beer they're drinking that night (though i doubt that's a recent development). Yes, money isn't the main reason that anyone should play in a band, but without it, producing recorded music--even the digital kind--becomes less and less appealing of an idea. Look, we can all talk until we're blue in the face about how we make music for ourselves, and how none of us are looking to do this for a living, and that may even be true, but let's be honest--validation is pretty damn sweet too.
So, assuming that there are still people who care about physical music products, and people who still care about seeing new or more underground live bands, what's the best way to reach through the sea of apathetic bodies and connect with those more "active" (for lack of a less douchey, less marketing-sounding term) listeners? I have some thoughts on this, but would love to read some in the comments too:
1) Quality over Quantity. Being able to tour three months out of the year would be awesome, but it's also unrealistic for dudes in their 30s with day jobs, and a lot of those shows would be of the Bloomington basement show sort anyway. But there are ways to tour smarter instead of tour harder. Coordinating with the label to see where the record's getting played; more aggressive regional touring (we could probably stand to hit Minneapolis more than once every two years, honestly); and working those bigger shows wherever possible. That one Archers show was probably more effective than a week of touring as far as getting the name out and about.
2) Teamwork, online and in the meat world. Videos. Twitterz. Podcasts. Facesbooks. Blogs. ENTERTAINING CONTENT. Yeah, establishing a solid base of followers on the internet is a long commitment, but at least you can do it from your living room. During a conversation with James from Police Teeth, he said he was pretty sure PT has sold more records online than via shows. "The Black Flag touring model is long, long dead," he said, and i think he's right.
So how do we coordinate that stuff? Like i said, it's got to be entertaining, and then shared like crazy amongst like-minded folk. The Latest Flame bands have been walking around saying "less of a label, more of a street gang" ever since NAP JUSTICE; maybe we should start acting like an online street gang? Heck, i wear the shirts of other Latest Flame bands at nearly every show i attend these days, and i wore Waxeater's shirt on stage at the Archers show. I dunno how much love that gets the other guys, but there's a mentality involved that puts me in the frame of mind to hype my pals every chance i can get. I was wearing the Waxeater shirt when we arrived in Philly on tour, too; when some of the other bands showed up, they reacted. "Oh hey! Waxeater! All right!" Familiarity compounds on itself and breeds more familiarity.
Any other thoughts? I'd love to hear 'em.