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Discussion Starter #1
Hello all,

I'm the tenor player for a moderately successful ska band in the Raleigh, NC area. We are trying to expand our audience out of the triangle area and are finding it a tough row to how getting booked. The most common complaint from festival and club booking folk is that we are not engaged with the audience enough and need to become entertainers, not just musicians. Any ideas on how me as a horn player can go about accomplishing this?
 

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As a fellow ska saxophonist, I'd love to talk shop. It depends on what specific genre of ska you're playing... traditional? Ska punk?
 

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Which entertainers do you admire?

I would not copy any of them, but think carefully about what it is about what they do that resonates with you.

Then find your own version of that.

Bands get uniforms or costumes, and do mini stage shows or dances as part of the presentation.

Perhaps something along those lines would help.

Gathering a lot of different ideas about what might work seems like a good first step.
 

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Just from my own experience .... I’ve played in bands that were signed to a major label and went as far as to hire a couple of accomplished LA choreographers to teach the horns how to “move”. IMHO if the frontman and to a lesser extent lead guitar player (depending on the style of music) arent engaging the audience, there’s nothing you as a horn player can do that’s really going to make a difference.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
We play about 75% original stuff and our covers mostly come from the Specials, the Skatellites and we cover some Marley also. Our 2 major songwriters are each in a completely different vibe. One writes with a more laid back island vibe and the other sounds like he's coming straight out of the Clash.
 

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Maybe play a style of music people want to listen to?
Maybe you’ve painted yourselves in a corner.
My friend used to tell me once you start wearing costumes when you play, your career is over.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Just from my own experience .... I’ve played in bands that were signed to a major label and went as far as to hire a couple of accomplished LA choreographers to teach the horns how to “move”. IMHO if the frontman and to a lesser extent lead guitar player (depending on the style of music) arent engaging the audience, there’s nothing you as a horn player can do that’s really going to make a difference.
The feedback we got really surprised me. We draw pretty good crowds and we're booked a couple weekends a month. What I see is the audience is much more engaged, dancing, singing along to Marley's "3 Little Birds" than our originals and all video we have up is our original stuff. And during "3 Little Birds" we invite audience members up on stage and our frontman is out in the crowd. Familiarity I suppose.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Maybe play a style of music people want to listen to?
Maybe you’ve painted yourselves in a corner.
My friend used to tell me once you start wearing costumes when you play, your career is over.
One booking agent went so far as to say that in his town all the clubbers wanted to hear was "Wagon Wheel" and Bon Jovi and Journey covers. Our bass player immediately went to work writing "Skanking on a Prayer". There won't be any costumes. We're not interested in being a 70s cover band. We're gonna play island influenced music. We got a good base in the triangle area of NC Just looking for a way to expand to other areas of the state
 

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Maybe the original songs are just not quite good enough. The band could do fewer originals and more covers. All you can do is work on your solos. I agree with dctwells that the frontman has to engage the audience. The band could also bring in a hot female singer.
 

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I think you really need to put yourselves out there, both figuratively and literally. One of the bands I play in has everyone except for the drummer going out onto the dance floor A LOT- I'm talking 4 singers, bass, guitar, sax, etc. Interacting with the crowds, getting them hyped, leading dances, etc. is all part of the game. The performance is an experience not just something for them to stare at and listen to (it's not a stuff music venue!)

Also fun interactions on stage are important (between band members). Audience members dig it because when you're enjoying yourselves it helps them do the same.
 

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The feedback we got really surprised me. We draw pretty good crowds and we're booked a couple weekends a month. What I see is the audience is much more engaged, dancing, singing along to Marley's "3 Little Birds" than our originals and all video we have up is our original stuff. And during "3 Little Birds" we invite audience members up on stage and our frontman is out in the crowd. Familiarity I suppose.
So you’re saying the crowds respond better to songs they know than songs they don’t?
 

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Discussion Starter #15
So you’re saying the crowds respond better to songs they know than songs they don’t?
Yeah, I reckon so. One idea that I have is to reorder the set list to play some more familiar things early in the set and ease into some original music once the audience is engaged.
 

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Hello all,

I'm the tenor player for a moderately successful ska band in the Raleigh, NC area. We are trying to expand our audience out of the triangle area and are finding it a tough row to how getting booked. The most common complaint from festival and club booking folk is that we are not engaged with the audience enough and need to become entertainers, not just musicians. Any ideas on how me as a horn player can go about accomplishing this?
The first thing that comes to mind is “Do YOU make eye contact with your audience?” or are you the type that plays to the floor or your band, and avoids the crowd? Hats and shades may look cool, but they can also be a wall.

Have you ever asked anyone to video your live performances so you can see the band from out front? If so, do you enjoy the show, or do you close your eyes and listen to yourself play?

The bottom line is that you have to address your audience - that goes for any manner of public engagement.
 

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Yeah, I reckon so. One idea that I have is to reorder the set list to play some more familiar things early in the set and ease into some original music once the audience is engaged.
Depends on the audience. Is it a festival with a bunch of people who have no idea who you are? Or is it a club show with your fan base? For the former, we start with two covers, then two originals, then cover/original/original/cover going forward. I don't know if you guys do this or not, but people LOVE pop songs done in a reggae/ska style...
 

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Discussion Starter #18
The first thing that comes to mind is “Do YOU make eye contact with your audience?” or are you the type that plays to the floor or your band, and avoids the crowd? Hats and shades may look cool, but they can also be a wall.

Have you ever asked anyone to video your live performances so you can see the band from out front? If so, do you enjoy the show, or do you close your eyes and listen to yourself play?

The bottom line is that you have to address your audience - that goes for any manner of public engagement.
I admit that I don't do a good job of making eye contact. Another piece of feedback we got was that the band seemed to be playing to each other more than the audience. My wife takes video from her iphone at all the shows. I enjoy the vids but I can't say that I'm not biased. Have shared with friends and they seem to enjoy but again probably not an unbiased opinion. Thanks for the input
 

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Discussion Starter #19
Depends on the audience. Is it a festival with a bunch of people who have no idea who you are? Or is it a club show with your fan base? For the former, we start with two covers, then two originals, then cover/original/original/cover going forward. I don't know if you guys do this or not, but people LOVE pop songs done in a reggae/ska style...
Mostly in the bar scene. We do some covers in a reggae style. Steely Dan's Kid Charlemagne becomes Kid Skalemagne. We recently incorporated "The Tide is High" and even though I'm not particularly pleased with it, the song has been a mover in the clubs. A quick glance at our set list shows me that we are heavy on originals early in the set. Speaking to your last point, we just got offered to open a June show for the Talking Dreads in Durham. They play reggae covers of Talking Heads songs. Thanks for giving me some good things to think on.
 
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