Nobody said the music business was a walk in the park. The band Dire Straits took a sarcastic look at how some view the music biz with their 1985 hit “Money for Nothing,” with that infectious hook that said you “get your money for nothing, get your chicks for free,” but that sarcasm may have been wasted on the listening public. In all reality, the music business is tough.
The life of a touring musician is tedious and riddled with boredom. Likened to being a truck driver, you spend most of your days keeping it between the lines as you zip from town to town, with the work coming when you are on stage anywhere from 30 to 120 minutes, longer if you’re Phish or Springsteen. The red tape and business side is an unexpected pain that most musicians who suddenly “make it” aren’t the least bit prepared for.
A stepping stone for many a band climbing that ladder is a “battle of the bands,” and its safe to say that one of your favorite bands has competed in a battle. Traditionally a one-night event, bands come together on said night, rip through a two-song set and perhaps come away with a prize.
This summer, Animas City Theatre is hosting its own battle of the bands but are tossing the one-night-only method out the window: This battle will consist of a series of shows that will give competing bands a 30-minute set, with the winner of each night coming back for the finale. The ACT Battle of the Bands will kick off June 15, with the other nights being July 20 and Aug. 17. Winners of each night will come back for the finale on Sept. 21, with the winning act receiving $1,000.
With the bands playing 30- to 45-minute sets on the big stage with professional sound and lights, the overall atmosphere will be that of a typical concert. Tucked away somewhere will be judges from the events sponsors, which include radio and music outlets. This is a show that will give the bands a real-world, professional dose of the business, which not only includes the time on stage but the steps taken that are necessary to getting on the stage.
“Even with the application process, we’re asking bands to send in stage plots, bios, links on the internet to their pages so we can listen to the music,” said Gene Salaz, talent buyer and production manager of ACT. “One of the hardest things we have with bands that don’t have a lot of experience is following a tough regiment of opening up for a big headliner. This gives us an idea of bands that can listen to instruction, follow direction and, hopefully, give them an opportunity to make it to the final.”
Believe it or not, this area has way more bands than you would imagine. Right now, there’s a bluegrass band practicing somewhere on the south side of Durango, an aspiring metal guitar player practicing scales outside Bayfield, a cow-punk band ripping through three-chord tunes outside of Mancos and scores of singer-songwriters honing their craft.
One of the requirements for this series is no cover songs. As great of a version your band may perform of “Gentle On My Mind” or “20 Eyes,” this event is for bands playing all original music. It’s a great way for the venue to sherlock some talent they may have otherwise never known about in an effort to find some bands to play their stage in the future.
This is also an educational experience, preparing bands that are in it for the long haul for the necessary parts of the business bands deal with when not performing.
“This gives us an opportunity to train bands not only to work with us, but as they grow and develop, how to work with different venues,” Salaz said.
Bands performing at the June 15 battle include Playing With Skunks, Six Minute Suicide, Profetic Calaveras and NIL.
Bryant Liggett is a freelance writer and KDUR station manager. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.