So this is a touchy subject for some, and I feel like the internet is full of people who say that bands should not use back tracks.
The “nays” have had their say.
So let’s go ahead and assume that you read those articles/blogs/facebook conversations and you are undeterred. Welcome!
Backtracks are great for a bunch of reasons:
And for the naysayers putting “100% Live, No Tracks” on your flyers; are you getting better gigs? Is Aerosmith putting that on their posters? Every band at a certain level uses tracks to some extent. Your job is to put on a show. Put on a good one.
The economics of playing for free
Dan Ray, guitarist and co-front man for The Clanky Lincolns
So you have a new band with zero name-recognition. You ask yourself, should I offer (or accept an offer) to play for free in exchange for stage time in front of actual humans? Or reduce my price in consideration of our newness, or some other reason?
The answer is NO. Don’t do that. Here’s why.
Remember “supply and demand”, from Econ 101? This is how a free market works. Bands supply. Venues demand. These two groups negotiate a market price. If you charge $0, then you just dipped the price for all other bands. Bookers now have the thought “Why should I pay X’s asking price when I can get Y for free?” in their heads. Your free show just hurt everybody’s pay.
You might say, “But my band’s brand new, I’m not really competition with those guys!” No, you absolutely are. Hard truth time: from the venue’s perspective we’re interchangeable. The bar doesn’t care about how you play, what they care about is the profit margin they earn on hiring you. On that crucial measure, some bands outperform others. And a free band is way ahead on profit margin before the first note—a good deal, if a venue can get it.
If you’re ok playing for free, it’s easy to get taken advantage of, and to never earn from your work. How much time did you spend in rehearsal? How much money do you have invested in gear? How many years of lessons did your parents pay for when you were a kid? Do you think that has no value?
I’m not saying there aren’t special cases. My band plays benefit shows. We are playing free at a party next month for a big local charitable organization. We took that gig partially because it’s a truly massive piece of exposure for us. If we don’t leave that evening with at least five leads for future gigs, shame on us.
Value yourself and what you provide. Don’t apologize for being new. Defend your scene. Set a rate that reflects your worth and supports a fair market price, and stick with it.
CBC’s Take: If your goal as a band is to make money, playing for free/cheap is the worst way to start. Your value as a group is based on your market rate. If you took $75 for a gig at a bar, that venue isn’t going to magically offer you $500 to do it again. Know your worth, know your competition’s worth, and price accordingly.
This one should be pretty easy: because In Ears are awesome.
Ok. I’ll be more thorough:
They help you hear better: Everyone has had the experience of playing a show with bad monitors and unbearable stage volume. The whole gig goes by in a blur and you go to bed with the sweet sounds of Tinnitus to lull you to sleep. IEM’s reduce hearing fatigue significantly. They also allow you to hear what everyone is doing regardless of where you are on stage.
They help you sound better: When you are isolated using IEM’s, you aren’t forced to use stage volume to compensate for a bad mix. You can turn your amps down. You can even get rid of amps altogether. Your singer can turn him/her self up so that they don’t feel the need to oversing and wear themselves out. You will be able to harmonize better because you’ll have more clarity and better mixes of yourself and your bandmates.
They help you play better: Playing guitar and singing with IEM’s was an eye opener for me. It really removed any pretense I had about my performance. It is clear and unforgiving. You will hear every mistake made with crystal clear precision. It was a great motivator for me as a musician to improve myself. On the flip side it also allowed the entire band to hear the click track the drummer was using. That allowed us to add cues and other tools to help us perform the songs tightly as a unit. It made a huge difference
They are cheaper than you think: The main complaint from people is that switching to IEM’s can be costly, and they’re not wrong. Custom in ears can be staggeringly expensive. They’re also not necessary. The majority of musicians today are using universal-fit earbuds. Any you know what? They’re great! The other component are the transmitters. The model I prefer is the Sennheiser ew300IEM2 G3. They retail for $1299. That one transmitter allows for 2 mono mixes; which puts the per-player cost at $650. If you are in the market for powered monitors, a QSC k10 retails for $699. Adding those up per player can get pricey. Not to mention the space they take up. From that standpoint it’s actually more affordable.
It’s easy to just point at big acts and say “you should do it because they do” but in this case it’s true. Some times things are popular because they are the superior solution. I have been using In Ears for the past 10 years at this point. With digital mixers it’s never been easier to run them. The time is now!