Buffalo’s music scene not kind to aspiring young artists

Joe Morganti, Reporter

In Buffalo, when a band first starts out and declares they want to play shows, they usually will start playing at bars. I know, because this is what I did.

After that, if a band enjoys playing music, they’ll typically want to play more shows. So, the only real option is to reach out to promoters in Buffalo. The two main promoting/booking agencies in Buffalo are After Dark Entertainment and For The Music Productions.

When I and many other bands reached out to some promoters, we immediately went for After Dark due to the fact that After Dark can get some pretty popular bands to play at their venues. However, what we didn’t realize is that After Dark doesn’t do anything for local bands. No promoting, no cheap tickets, and hardly any pay.

As young musicians, we’re all very naïve, and we don’t realize that people are taking advantage of us until at least a year has passed. So, let’s say a local band finally gets a show at The Waiting Room through After Dark. Let’s say everyone in the band is fifteen.

This means that they’re still in high school and quite frankly, no one is going to want to watch a band they have never heard of. Finally the show date is announced and it’s on a Wednesday with five other local bands. The problem is, none of their friends will be able to go due to the fact that it’s a school night, and no one knows the show exists since there is absolutely no promotion for it.

The tickets are 10 dollars, and let’s say each band sells 10 tickets which are all to relatives since it’s a Wednesday. The relatives only show up to watch their relative play on stage, and then leave before watching any of the other bands. So, each band will only have ten to fifteen people watching them, which kills a musician’s spirit.

Finally, when pay is due, each band only gets ten dollars because of After Dark’s pay policy. For the first 10 tickets sold you only get 10 percent of each ticket. If you sell over 10 tickets then you get 30 percent of each ticket after the first 10.

I finally went around and asked some local musicians how they feel about After Dark’s policies and the local music scene in Buffalo. When I asked John Vaughan of Holkampany on how he felt about After Dark’s policies, Vaughan responded:

“When I first started playing shows with my band, I was super excited because we were going through a booking agency,” he said. “But once we started playing more and more shows, I realized how much they scam the artists that actually play the shows. The percentage they take away from bands ticket sales is way too much, and they do not self-promote shows.”

Vaughan continued,“They’re in it for the money, they are not in it for the music. They are also super uptight with security and their rules at shows bands play.”

I then asked Jorian Holka of Holkampany on how he felt about Buffalo’s music scene. Holka replied,

“In all honesty, I am not a huge fan of the Buffalo music scene,” he said. “That’s not to say that I don’t like a lot of the bands that are in it, because I do. However, there are a couple things about it that irk me: 1) Kids and young adults usually only come out to local shows if they personally know one or more of the musicians playing.

“2) Shows have (for the most part) become more social events than opportunities to discover new music; I love the scene for the opportunities it’s given me to put myself, my band, and my music out there, but I definitely don’t believe that it’s a fantastic/flawless scene.”

My advice to local bands is to practice constantly, promote yourself like crazy, and never give up. This means that you have to play out of town constantly (once you get a decent sound), and that you have to promote every single show of yours to every human on earth in order to gain a following.

Only play an After Dark show once early on. Then, once you establish yourself, only play their shows if it’s opening up for a major act. For shows around Buffalo, go through Greg Burt of For The Music Productions and ask to get shows at Mohawk Place, if possible.

In my opinion, Greg is one of the few promoters in Buffalo that actually cares about the bands rather than money. My final advice is to support every band you meet and play with. Just make connections and keep trying until you’ve reached your goal.

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