The Humo(u)r Mill
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The Humo(u)r Mill

10 Sins of Unsigned Bands

Please stop doing those annoying things you’re doing…

Photo by Hans Vivek on Unsplash

Being in myriad unsigned, under-achieving and terrible bands that have toured the London toilet circuit for years, I feel I am somewhat versed in the mistakes unsigned bands make. I sure made enough of them.

So, for no other reason than a cathartic release, here’s a list of 10 shitty things unsigned bands do that ground my gears when I played music.

Don’t be fooled, this isn’t one of these “how to promote your band using social media” type posts, but there are probably a few nuggets of good advice hidden amongst the vitriol if you really want to look hard enough.

Now read the damn article:

1) They have a mate as the band manager

Got a band with your friends? Like hanging out having a laugh at each other’s houses whilst having a jam? Want to include your bezzie mate in the party but it turns out he’s as talented as Peter André on a bad day? Well don’t worry, make him your “manager”. How hard can it be? Is he able to turn up at your pub gig, annoy everyone by being “official”, attempt to get 50 people on the guest list by consistently haranguing the newbie promoter and explain at the top of his voice several times that he’s “The Manager”? Then he’s the man for the job.

2) They make personal shout outs or in-jokes on stage

We’ve all been there. You’re in a club watching some band, everything is going swimmingly and then between songs the singer saying something like “This is for everyone who goes down Oaky’s on a Saturday night!” before a group of baying idiots near the stage respond with a collective “wahaaayyy!” The singer feels great for having a supportive crowd, the crowd feels great for “knowing the band” and everyone else in the room wants to kill them with a blunt spoon. It’s amateur and makes you look local.

3) They act like they’re the next big thing

Well, this covers a myriad of crimes but it boils down to being a collection of super-arrogant arse-hats that will treat promoters, other bands and even fans with such contempt that the only thing they’ll be remembered for is being a compendium of awful cunts that think they’re Oasis in 1995 (it’s normally those sorts of Gallagher influenced bands that are most likely to do it). Leave the ego at your parent's house Sunny Jim, this is Kilburn on a wet Tuesday night, not Wembley.

4) They allow bastard promoters shit all over them

The flip side. For every twenty or so genuine music-loving promoters out there, there are one or two absolute twunts. To spot a twunt promoter, this will involve a few or all of the following: No guest list, no expenses paid, more than four bands on the bill in one evening, no soundcheck, no coherence in styles of the bands playing that night, no actual attendance of the promoter or representative thereof on the night, no cash return despite getting a large crowd attendance (“I’m sorry but 27 people on a weekday just isn’t enough for a return”) and most importantly of all: No actual evidence of any promotion of the night at all. Not even a listing in the back of Time Out or the Guardian Guide (which almost happens automatically). Of course, you wouldn’t catch me naming any bad promoters on here. Dead or alive.

5) They play way too loud

There is no need for this. It’s difficult enough to get people to come and listen to what you call your “nu-funk sex rock” as it is without punishing their ears with volumes that make people want to puke. It’s a small room, they can all hear you, trust me. Cranking your Marshall Valvestate slowly up after each song isn’t helping anyone. All the audience want to do is enjoy a weak pint in a squidgy glass without developing tinnitus. Don’t push the few people attending out the room, otherwise it’ll be another gig playing to your mates from the local.

6) They Exit the stage with a ten-minute feedback wail

The last point is normally followed by this point. Remember: You’re not Sonic Youth, anyone can do this, it’s fucking annoying, boring, at most of all, rude.

7) They charge for their CDs, USB sticks, download codes or any other shitty merchandise they’re trying to force onto the 15 people in the venue

Do bands have download codes these days? Fuck knows. I haven’t gigged in 3 years, mate. Things are probably streamed on Instagram now or made into Snapchat stories or whatever. I dunno. Who cares. This point still stands: Don't charge for your promotional tools. It's like charging someone to look at your advert.

Here’s a picture: I quite liked your band. You were great in fact. Can I have one of those CDs* you said you had as I know I’ll forget to look you up when I get home drunk. £10? Ah, how about you stick it up your arse? And there goes a potential fan. I mean this wholeheartedly, and I don’t care what other people say: If you’re in a band to make money, you’re in the wrong business.

*P.S. As CDs are becoming more obsolete than synth-wave, I’d be genuinely interested to hear how bands give away their music at gigs these days. Please let me know, if you know.

8) “Hey, can I borrow your amp?”

I love my amp. It cost loads. I’ve tweaked it through sound check to get the perfect tone. Listen to how warm those single coils sound running through this baby. Oh hang on, it’s been mullered by some twat-factory who wanted to borrow it because they couldn’t be bothered to bring their own equipment down as that meant they’d have to drive and couldn’t drink whilst chatting enormous amounts of shit to their three friends. I mean fans.

9) They argue on stage

Well, it’s rock and roll, isn’t it? No, it’s amateur. No-one wants to hear you and your mate whine at each other between songs because you’re still annoyed he wouldn’t change the intro to some song no-one cares about anyway. Unless you’re going to have a full-on fist fight (now that’s entertainment) keep the moaning to a minimum.

10) They act like this is their art and it’s this or death

Passion is one thing, acting like Billy Corgan going through primal scream therapy on stage is another. Want to cry into the microphone / windmill into the crowd screaming (I’ve seen this) / destroy the house equipment on stage, then go ahead, but don’t think anyone’s going to be thinking “man he really believes in what he’s doing”. They might remember you but it’ll be in the way you remember a difficult bowel movement. A funny story perhaps but not something you’re not interested in seeing again.

11) *Bonus Sin* Don’t wear a suit jacket and jeans on stage

Ever.

Got more? Let me know.

The live music scene is becoming more removed from my personal experience as music acquiesces to family life.

Also one can only be in so many bands before exasperation sets in. You can read about that whole journey in this article here.

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Jamie Jackson

Jamie Jackson

Between two skies and towards the night.

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