I'm Arion BabyBell, Blues Artist from Yazoo city.MS, i can't find people that are serious about music as i am. When i go and record i play Bass,Guitar and drums if real drums are there, if not i give the Tech my drum beats.almost always when i do a show i never have the same lineup of musicians. I recently started to be a free-agent, playing guitar for other people.
I feel your frustration Mr. Bell on this topic. However I do envy you to some degree that you are a musician and an artist. You are not totally paralyzed by the situation.
I have been having this struggle for years. I am somewhat bitter about it though; because, my career have been stunted. I appease myself in telling myself that it is not the right time yet. I have spent so much money and my time trying to assemble a band. I grew up during that era when the scene was full of great bands, Like Kool and the Gang, Tower of Power, Earth Wind and Fire, Mother's Finest, etc... My mentors. It has been my childhood ambition and dream to be a part of something so great.
I had released my CD and the reviews were great. I was in need in promoting it and had interest back then and I kept running in to stupidity on the part of Musicians. The stupidity was that I didn't know enough about the business then because I just wanted to sing. As for the musicians I was not taken seriously because I was a woman and could not get the respect. It is well understood that it is the job of the musicians to accompany. As the Artist they would disrespect my position and then turned to gross disrespect and down right insulting when the so called musicians who was deemed as the best that the county had to offer, would come to rehearsal and not know the material. Instead of learning the material they would be there on the fly rearranging the recorded lines and hooks when I would listen back on the recorded tapes that sounded nothing remotely close to what I paid an arranger and producer for. What an insult to the composer. I had to endure their criticism of someone else's work and my collaborative efforts as well. When none of them have credentials. Never published a thing. You don't do that! It's not professional. Because of my lack of music knowledge it was pointed out to me by one serious member that these guys were goofing off. He quit and told me to call him when I found some sho-nuff musicians They were even demanding money for rehearsing. And as soon as they would filter into rehearsal had to leave because of obligations else where choir rehearsal. Trying to please two master's by half as@## me and the Church. Two did not have transportation and expected me to get them back and forth. What employer would do that. I thought I had it all wrong when I think back in retrospect. I wanted to play so bad that I would have done that. There are serious musicians out there but do not get involve with foolishness. Just burnt out.
I made a second attempt and had a big band with a horn section. It felt so good because I was close to achieving my dream of having that kind of band. At least the horn section could read charts as I put my printed sheets in front of them. I could not read the dot's but they could. Never heard it, never rehearsed it and could sing some back up, taking me to another level with endless potential and some great shows to experience and boast about. By my standard some real professionals. The Club and label owner would phone his assistant conveniently during my rehearsal no doubt to listen at how things was shaping up. They dug me at least I thought. Then the male drama and ego trippin started. I was unfairly labeled as a bitch and hard to work with and I never said a word, just as happy to come to rehearsal to feel and do my thing. I went into this thing, this time a little wiser and taking the lead in a gracious way. The band decided that they wanted there own identity and be a separate business entity. The label/owner/establishment had put into their heads that they were going to be the house band for the now defunct Club and support all these blues artist on the label and some that would be coming through this club, who's maximum capacity could only house 30 people like sardines in a can. The club which was a converted old gas station convenience store and the stage took up half the seating capacity. Do the math. I knew it was some BS so I held a meeting and did not mention the truth to the lie but stood my ground. I was scheduled to have major surgery the next morning and over half of what I considered my band followed the leader right out the door and I was left with just a drummer,guitarist and my integrity because the leader wanted what was under my skirt and didn't get that! One of the members did call me that very night after the meeting and explained his position. He wanted to do his own thing in which he got much respect from me for manning up. He did form a little trio and fulfilled his dream. The others I don't know if they ever found some new cheese. I was so devastated by grown sensible men following after stupidity. They believed the lie in backing up all those famous people. The Club ran it's course in under a year. Only two known acts came threw.
Now I was left with trying to put together a least a Rhythm Section. The guitar player had wanted a bass player that he had jammed with at this club on open mic night to join. I took his word because of my lack of music knowledge and his enthusiasm. After many phone calls from this bassist, who was interviewing me and my seriousness, finally he came to a rehearsal. It was about a month and plenty of time for the cat to learn my material, so I thought. This cat only knew part of one song, and would act like something was wrong with the batteries and pick up on his bass. The same guitar player who wanted him so badly was suddenly having second thoughts and started testing his musical knowledge. I tried to help the brother and give the benefit of the doubt and offered him some fresh batteries that I just happened to have on me. I noted the guy had kept going to the bass head and acting like he was flipping buttons to make it appear as if it was something wrong with the clubs new ampeg rig at the times when he was not sure of his parts. After all on the phone he talked a good game. In the meantime he had invited a keyboard player who had walked in that I kneaded badly. So I had the band go back over some tunes that I felt they had down to incite this guy in joining; and, then I could clearly hear the disorchestration. I could see the hairs on the back of the keyboards player neck stand up everytime something went south and amazingly I could hear it first. I knew that the caliber of the musicians that I was dealing with was not cutting it. They were merely legends in their own minds and just week night full of liquor and whatever else jam session musician's. You know the kind that feel that they have to be so high in order to play like their idol. That keyboard player never got his axe out of his ride to sit in. He called me that next morning and gave me the sweetest proposition. He offered to teach me how to play keyboards and learn some theory so that I would not be taken advantage of in the future in such a way. I never really learned to play, but I got a ear out of it and could now at least communicate. I lacked the discipline that it takes to learn how to play efficiently.
It was a few years after that before I tried again. It was the same thing. Me forking out my money for renting a rehearsal spot and apathy on the part of the musician's. The bassist would not take the time to learn the material and would change the bass line and phrased it how he thought it should go and changed the melody which threw the drummer into a whole other groove, essentially pissing on the arrangers composition. My lead guitarist who called himself Voodoo Child and refused to learn any material that took him out of his Rock/metal comfort zone. WTF!
Now, I record my sessions so that I can interpret for myself what is going on musically which I found is intimidating to musicians who are not confident or just flubbing it. I was accused of singing off key. He told me that I needed to get a tuner and sing into it and it would tell me when I'm getting off key. Because of what he perceived was my humbled-bility he was trying to groom me by constantly comparing my performance style, my artistic expression to another local artist that he had been performing with for years to suit his comfort zone. She's not even a recording artist. Just a local celeb. Not that I couldn't learn from her nor take from her because she is good at what she do and I do, well, what I do; and, that's good enough for me. I soon learned that the complaining musician had an ear problem or he could only play in major chords when the rest of the band would be in the minor chords as it was written. He was very argumentative about that and how I dealt with him was asked over the mic what key the song was in before starting and act like I was taking notes, Soon the other members would start to correct him during sessions. I didn't have to. Needless to say the pressure by his peers made him politely resign with the explanation of, "I'm not feeling this anymore" and blamed the drummer who was the most serious of them all. While all the time bragging that he has been a playing the guitar for some 40 years. How sad that he never took the time to learn his woman, his instrument more better. It's like a baby we all know that it should grow day by day mentally and physically. And if it don't we know that, that baby is a candidate for the short bus. Sometimes we come to know that right off. It was a case of Let a N---- fire himself. Rather, I would have preferred for the brother to take the time to really practice his craft and be the best he could possibly dream to be. He didn't, but he is content playing with those who provide him the comforts, his church and a local legend in his own mind.
I felt that I could attain some success with getting the job done with a mixture of musicians with different levels of experience with dedication and many hours of rehearsal to get it right and tight. Most of your better musicians are tied down by salaries from Church's that I could not began to compete with. And their is a negative downside to it in that many of the musicians ego's are messaged to inflated head length's because they play to a captive gracious audiences weekly in an emotionally charged pitch and fervor. Most lack in real ability, constituting glorified legends of the heart and mind. Being falsely reassured by the congregation: Bro-so-and-so, you knowed you showed played that instrument for da lawed today sir. Best gig in town when it comes to appreciation and compliments to feed the ego and leaving one to wonder was it a joyful noise or a joyful mess, but bringing joy none-the-less. Just cheating the lord and cheating themselves.
The problem in the shortage of musicans according to me when it comes to serious sho-nuff musicians is laziness. No one wants to put in the time to be the greatest anymore. Today in the world of instant gratification, everyone is so use to dialing up and sequencing synthesized greatness and half stepping. Even vocalist can be washed and cleaned with the help of autotune. Bonafide use to be the word in my day. Are you bonafide meant a great deal. To be the greatest takes a lot of sweat equity and discipline. A lot of living off one's past laurels and youthful glory days is what I am getting as the guys during each sessions stroll down memory lane recounting the those gigs from back in the day. I'm left thinking if you were so great in the day why today are you slacking off. You should be greater. How great thou art or aren't. Where is thou greatness when I need it. I'm your employer, your master and I hired you to do a great job and I want your best so that I may stay a viable entity. Shiftless and lazy. Cocky and crazy to me. . I prefer the company of older seasoned musicians for many reasons. Not too worried about chasing tale and more tolerance than temperament while on the job. They may be thinking it but don't readily act on it. Not that younger ones aren't seasoned. The younger ones I have found have a double agenda. They are out to make a name for themselves and steal the opportunity for your gigs, and your fans. I can usually sniff them out because they all are producers with home studios and take solo's throughout the entire song, just constantly auditioning. I hate it because I'm trying to create my own memories. I feel so stuck like a prized race horse at the gate. I'm dependent on them/musician's for their energy, a symbiotic relationship I hope. My mission statement is quality and that's all I want to deliver to the people who work so hard for their money and deserve the best in entertainment that I can present them.
My newest saga, get this! The guys want to be a group and not accompanist. My response is, I was an artist first and why should I take the back seat. I asked members to provide me with any published material to help me accept them as solidified artist instead of back ups and put their money where there mouth is and I'm still waiting and have no problem in sitting in the pocket in the back seat. I just want to be a part of something that is greater in my life time and I don't really care how I get it. It's just that I have been spending the years branding me, because that is all I have and laid the foundation for. It is arrogance vs arrogance and ego battling ego. In the mean time the cries from both sides for satisfying jobs and passion goes unanswered. It is a luxury in this world today to make money and satisfy your passion at the same time. No body is gaining either with this mentality.
I know that in the past and present, musician's are mistreated; but, I am not guilty of this by no means. To keep my band together and gainfully employed, I joined forces with another artist, grouping or branding per say. We were promised a certain amount of money equally each, to do the job. The agreement was that I was to be the featured Artist and the dude and we all got paid the same. I did my 45 min set and stayed on the stage working back up vocals while they worked up a hard sweat three grueling sets with the most difficult audience in a packed house. After the show we were called in the back room and you know the story. Yes the money was funny. With an un-divisible remainder amount left over and the look of how can I and what am I going to do with it since it can not be divided equally look on his face. I was the only person who stood up in disdain as an artist who just got played first and for my guys insisted that the left over go to the sound man before the joker could put the money back into his pocket. I looked my guys in their face and none of them spoke up for themselves as if they were conditioned to the blatant abuse and submissive, like a battered wife. I got so pissed at them because I have been over paying them to do for me 45 mins worth of work than what they grossed for three hours worth of work that night. They agreed to do the job of 3 one hour sets for the price that I pay for 45 mins. It was an insult to me as well as to them and none of them said a word. They worked their behinds off to pull off this show. They said nothing about what they received just held their heads down looking stupid. I did not answer my phone as they called looking for more work with me after that either. I could not understand why some even played other shows for that guy after that with the mentality of some money is better than no money rather than the principle. It is not the first time that I have been played.
I know that education in both my craft and the music business have helped me to overcome some obstacle. I can a least smell the fox before he enters the hen house now. I wish that I could devote more of my time to my craft other than the business. All I want to do is make good music. The local scene is cluttered with musicians who don't want to commit a little hard time in getting right and tight. They jump around from band to band with the same stale material so that they don't have to take the time to learn anything new, for beer money, when I'm trying to make a living just as you out of what I love to do. Venue owners are hip to this and keep the price down and milking it. They know quality when they see and hear it. Yet they are in business for a profit so as long as they no that they can pay lower wages they will and the poor drunk patrons bombarded with substandard's is oblivious to it all. They just want to have a good time. They deserve better, while musicians are lowering the standards. These musicians don't seem to mind degrading themselves for the opportunity to satisfy their passion and free bear. It's a win win situation for them. While on the other hand it is suicidal if they were all full time musicians. You can't make a living off of that. That old slogan, "don't quit your day job" rings truth in this situation.
So Bro. Bell you are fighting the fight of ignorance, apathy, and egos. Cream rises to the top man. Keep getting better at your craft and take your instrument to a whole other level that it was not designed to do. That's what it's gonna take for a serious brother like you to enjoy the interchange of some like minds that you desire to surround yourself with. They will seek you. I will take my own advise as well. Only then my brother, only then. The world is hungry for something new. And I believe that their is some serious musician who are still out there . I wish you well. I 'm interested in the topic of having songs stolen and anticipating reading someone's horror story.
Much success to you and be about your business.
Your story and mine are almost identical,i even pay my musicians (split the money evenly with them) on every show just to have a live band behind me and they still won't come to rehearse. the last show i did ,i used instrumental tracks of my songs and the covers i did, it turned out great. My promblem is i love having live people behind me. I never had any songs stolen (that i know of) because when i finish recording i send my music to the Library of Congress and get them Copyrighted.
Thanks for sharing with me and i pray GOD ALMIGHTY blesses both our efforts, maybe you and i can get together and record one or two and perform live together,
GOD BLESS YOU SISTER,
I am seeing one man shows more frequent now. As for myself I don't feel right performing by my tracks. I need the energy and interaction from the band. I feed off of the audience as well. There are things that you just can't do with tracks. It works better for and musician. I'm thinking of putting an acoustic show together to lessen the headache.
Question, are you using tracks along with your band? If that is the case why should they rehearse. I have heard musicians complain about that. They don't feel respected and they feel used, Although you may feel that you don't have a choice.
I know that I was a bit wordy but I was making several points and hoping that musicians take heed to what is being said.
You said that your gig turned out great with the use of tracks... Do the math. At least 3 musicians missed out on a job and the opportunity to satisfy their passion.
I've have been sitting back regrouping an organizing my business. I have been spending more time in writing and collaborating on other peoples projects. I am working on two projects right now from Florida and Texas out of my own simple studio and it is working just fine. Texas is challenging because I am doing what the producer wants. Florida my lyrics to his music kind of thing.
You never know what God Almighty have in store for us. In the meantime do your thing!