The Perils Of DIY Touring: There Are Too Many Goddamn Bands


Ian MacKaye’s the Evens at a not exactly Bowery Ballroom-like venue. (Nice lamps.)

Excellent,though somewhat dismaying, piece in the Washington City Paper about the increasingly overcrowded and booking-agent-besotted DIY touring circuit, which makes it tough for young bands to get gigs anywhere. Thesis:

In some ways, independent rock appears to have changed little over the last decade, only become larger: Almost all of the young independent acts that have emerged in recent years–including many of the ones who’ve parlayed blog love into record deals of every stripe–spend most of their time on the road, in clubs and in nontraditional spaces, just as bands have done since God invented punk rock.

But for the generation that in the ’80s and ’90s created a punk-rock community in the District that rewarded fearlessness and creativity (and a certain austerity), the new infrastructure of independent rock music can be somewhat daunting, and a little disappointing. In the new economy of rock–where the Internet has eased access, where records no longer pay, but tours sometimes still do–at a certain level, there are more bands competing for space in clubs. And they almost always have booking agents, once less common among independent bands. In D.C., for example, the Black Cat sometimes schedules out-of-town bands that self-book as headliners. At other similarly sized spaces it’s rare: I asked Steve Lambert if any of the out-of-town bands he books at DC9 (capacity 200) and the Rock & Roll Hotel (capacity 400) contact him directly. “I don’t think there’s a single one,” he said.

All the D.C. heavyweights (J. Robbins, Ian MacKaye) weigh in; as for our plight here in NYC, Todd P’s resourceful network helps a lot (his fairly new site, Ridgewood Masonic Temple in Bushwick, hosted Tuesday night’s Sleigh Bells spectacular and is pretty rad, actually). But still: too many bands, too many middlemen. And even if you succeed, it’s still quite a struggle: Just ask Ted Leo.