Great Music Requires Hard Work
The thing that has been sticking out to me with our shows with Helmet and The Toadies and our show with Jane’s Addiction is how much work goes into playing music. With each new level of success, there is also a new level of performance you strive for. There are different reasons this happens.
Live music can be a profitable endeavor, but there are limits to what you can charge. If your fan base is not really growing and you want to make more money, your only choice are higher ticket prices. If you want to charge more you’re going to have to justify those costs to your fans, which in turn means upping the ante at your shows. This could be with lights, more musicians/sounds, etc. Likewise, you could try for a more intimate setting or trying some sort of theme. In any case, you can’t just go up and do the same thing you’ve always done and expect fans to pay more money.
If you fan base is growing then you can stick to what you’re doing a bit longer as it is obviously working. You may not need to inject a new light show into the mix or add extra props. That said, you also will be expected to play longer. You can’t typically headline a 1500 cap room with a 30 minute set. This usually is going to mean more gear and dealing with the logistics of having to play a 75 minute set. There is more merch to sell and settle with at the end of the night and more gear to move in and out. Sound checks are earlier and tours are closer to a month, rather than 2 weeks. A bus seems like a luxury, but the reality is that you can’t make a 3pm sound check with a 9 hour drive without driving all night.
All of these things are practical reasons bands have to raise the amount of work that goes into shows. I think any band would tell you the real reason they use a bus or need a quiet green room with healthy food is so they can put on a good show for the fans. We’ve always been extremely appreciative of the people that come out to shows. They pay their hard earned money in hopes of experiencing a band’s music in a powerful and interesting way. I’ve been at shows where I had a lump in my throat b/c it was such an amazing experience. These shows have been huge productions like Roger Water’s The Wall as well as small club shows as a kid. As a band grows in stature and gets more fans, there is a desire to say thank you by putting on a better show. It is more work and costs money, but when you experience thousands of people screaming for your music, especially when they paid to see you, putting the best show possible is really a privilege.