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Hail to the Almighty…WEDDING BAND!

I distinctly remember how close minded and self righteous I was as a young artist. (see my story) I was absolutely certain that I had to be touring the world and playing in front of thousands of people to be a success.  Looking back I neglected that one crucial element…  I never defined success. 

Wedding band can make 100 dollars per hour, working few hours, days a week

EACH member of this highly-demanded 'party band' makes a MINIMUM of 100 dollars PER HOUR. They 'work' between 8-16 hours PER WEEK, and make over $65,000 EACH per year.

But that’s part of this storyAt some point in his career every musician on the planet earth struggles with how they can make money from playing their instrument.  I heard the same advice time and time again from people much older and wiser than me: ‘Why don’t you try playing in a wedding band?  You can keep your long hair.” 

 
musicians struggle with how to make money from playing their instrument

My band 'Overkill' in 1982. Money was never a thought in my mission. Sometimes there is a fine line between perseverance and common sense.

 

 

 

 

 

I remember firing a machine gun of my know-it-all-at-21 arsenal of “metal or die” rationalizations. What losers they were!  They would be giving ANYTHING to be where I’ll be.  They WISHED they could play in front of thousands of people and tour the world like I will…  SOON!  You wait and see, I’ll show YOU and everyone else!  You’ll all be standing in the same line as the rest of my autograph seekers! 

musician Rat Skates never got paid, signing autographs

Yours truly, caught up by a bill collector...sorry, I meant signing autographs.

Well, God’s path unfolded, and of course thinking that it was of my own doing, I DID end up touring the world and playing in front of thousands of people.  And I also sold a lot of records.  And I never got paid.  And I couldn’t pay my bills.  And I was a slave to my tour itinerary.  And I became an alcoholic.  It was then that I experienced my first serious thoughts of suicide. 

Yep, I showed them all right…to think that I would trade up all the perks of my TENTATIVE rock-star celebrity status to only have to work 2 days a week, for only a couple hours each night, get fed fantastic food, have pretty girls in tight dresses dancing in front of me, and be able to go home at night to sleep in my own bed…  AND GET PAID EVERY NIGHT…Why would I ever want to do that? 

close-minded, play covers, work for minimum wage

"Aarrgghh! Why do they have to make so many different kinds of cat food?"

Now of course, I would never have lasted playing Bob Seger covers in a tuxedo, I was too rebellious for that.  But because I CHOSE to be close-minded , I opted to work as a supermarket stock boy for minimum wage instead of even CONSIDERING making money – a LOT of money – by playing my instrument because it wasn’t THE EXACT WAY THAT I WANTED. 

I heard Dave Matthews say it the best: “I can’t tell you how to get rich.  But, if ya wanna play…well, just go and play”.  I never realized THAT THE ACTUAL PLAYING WAS THE SUCCESS.  Don’t preconceive something in your head that you don’t know anything about.  I chose to put Campbell’s soup cans on shelves because I didn’t want to wear a tuxedo…  You’ll never catch me wearing one of those…  But, uh, yeah, I’d wear one for the Grammy’s… 

Wedding bands success, make a lot of money by playing instrument

So how DID we get any money to start up Overkill? Did I REALLY cover it all in 'Born in the Basement'?

 

 

 

 

 

 

THERE IS AT LEAST ONE MUSICIAN IN OVER 55% OF U.S. HOUSEHOLDS.

“Artists and writers experience two to three times the rate of psychosis, suicide attempts, mood disorders, and substance abuse than do comparably successful people in business, science, and public life.”

Study by Dr. Arnold M. Ludwig, a psychiatrist at the University of Kentucky Medical

THERE IS A SOLUTION.

Please help make it happen.

PROBLEMS CAN’T BE SOLVED WHEN YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND THE PROBLEM.


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5 Comments

  1. wedding bands that perform with classical instruments are the best! ::

  2. i think those titanium and silver wedding bands are great for my girlfriend

  3. Faza (TCM) says:

    While I would never advise discarding playing in a wedding band as an option outright, I have to point out that this line of work has its own share of problems.

    I cannot really speak from experience regarding playing weddings, since I have only played two in my life: my sister’s and my own – but I have played in a pub/function band for years and I am afraid I have to say that it is one of the most soul-crushing jobs one can do if one is passionate about music.

    As a function player, your role is essentially that of a human jukebox – producing the music the guests demand at the drop of a hat. It is seldom inspiring and repetitive ad nauseam. It requires limitless reserves of patience, cool and people skills, because your audience will be random people who have no particular reason to be friendly towards you (save common human courtesy, which isn’t quite as widespread as we’d like), a large portion of whom are likely to consume considerable amounts of alcohol during the course of the evening. A typical gig might consist of three or four hours of playing, with ten to fifteen minute breaks between sets – which is pretty exhausting physically, as well as mentally.

    (Disclaimer: I have to admit that my experiences apply to playing in Poland and need not translate to what one’s likely to encounter in the States, for example, but I assume that people are people everywhere, so the realities won’t differ too much.)

    I have seen function – and especially wedding – players develop pretty much the same sorts of problems as those who aspire to stardom, but in their case they were the result of lack of job satisfaction combined with work conditions. Playing weddings tends to be universally considered pretty much the opposite of a dream gig for a reason.

    Playing weddings and functions is certainly a safer bet financially when planning your musical career, but I cannot recommend it if you are truly passionate about music. If you think of your playing as a skill to be used in a job (with all the connotations associated with the term ‘work’) – the playing functions may be the right option for you.

    If, on the other hand, you consider music a passion and an art, it might actually be a better idea to stack soup cans (or better yet: get a real skill and a better job) and pursue music as a hobby.

    I agree that simply being able to play music should be considered a success, but you might also want to have fun while you’re doing it.

    • Skates says:

      That is one of the best comments I have ever read Faza! Thanks for taking the time to post something of such value…

      Yes, those kinds of gigs DO have their own unique set of problems, as you colorfully pointed out. My thought with this article is to have musicians – primarily younger ones – to give this scenario some thought when complaining about how to earn money from their playing skill. The way I see it, if the gig sucks that bad…you can simply QUIT. BUT, the experience and mandatory humility that the tux-jukebox gig can bring MAY also throw some much-needed kerosene on to their dwindling fire of pursuing what they TRULY want to do…

      Another thing that inspired me to write this a while back: every indie filmmaker gets calls to shoot weddings. Same exact scenario. GREAT MONEY- TOUGH PILL to swallow, having “Ceeellll-a-brate good times, COME ON!” blasting in my ears at 180db by some part-time D.J. who is forcing himself to act all perky while watching drunk Aunt Betty gyrating around the dancefloor with such a big smile that her dentures are ready to fall out.

      Personally, I’m thankful that I can choose which freelancing gigs to do, but: at my age, I’d rather shoot the dancefloor than sweep it. I hope we can all help young musicians realize the opportunity that they have when they’re young; to seize and embrace it. They have a choice to be one of three different types: the one who MADE it happen, the one who WATCHED it happen, or the one who went “WHAT HAPPENED”?

  4. Joe says:

    Hey man,

    First of all, thanks for being a huge drumming inspiration. The songs ‘Feel the Fire’ and ‘Powersurge’ were lasting blueprints for me. At the time it came out I was in Rush tribute and prog metal bands. Your music and later opening my eyes and ears to funk, soul and fusion changed everything and got me out of that silliness. More importantly, I saw the future of what the music business would be back in 1987, and opted out of that whole lifestyle, because that’s what it was – after being in a few limos with A&R sleaze, watching the substance abuse of everyone, I wanted no part of it. Your quote above: “I never realized THAT THE ACTUAL PLAYING WAS THE SUCCESS.” really jumped out at me because it was something I realized without even knowing it.

    I went to NYU and FDU, graduated, got married early and was successful with software engineering ever since – which I love. I played on the side all these years in different styles but it wasn’t until 2012 that I formed my DREAM band Lion-Hearted (http://lion-hearted.us/) playing original music I love to play, not caring about money and not answering to anyone, no “image” and no compromises – that is art, that is SUCCESS. So at least I can say with pride that I am successful as a hard rock/metal/funk drummer. . I play in NJ/NY, mostly at places that my family can attend and it’s become a very satisfying way of life. Is it a hobby as some would ask? No, it’s an integral part of my life, To quote drumming icon Dave Weckl : “Drumming is not a sport or a competition, it is an art form”.

    Also, we as a band, manage ourselves completely (totally DIY).

    I also agree with you in that I can’t do the tuxedo and playing Bob Seger all night. Nothing against them, I know plenty of career musicians who do it, and they are often miserable doing it – most of them complain of the sheer degradation of playing the same Bonjovi songs 3 nights a week for years. (that just made my skin crawl BTW).

    Thanks again for all of your contributions to music, film and the community. Keep at it man!

    Joe

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