Sunday, May 14, 2006

When Performing at a Coffee House

Coffee houses offer independent or up-starting artists outlets to show off their talents and gaining some grass root audiences.

Often these so-call artists break several basic courtesy rules I have, which automatically label themselves as “douchebags” in my book.

Using tonight’s performance by musician MB, the following is a list of things I thought I would like to share with everyone, perhaps independent musicians would learn something from MB’s wrongdoings.

1. Don’t Bash about the House Audio System/Music Choice

Ever wonder why the espresso machine is running extra loud when you are about to do that awesome solo or you are no longer booked at a particular venue?

Here is a fucking clue.

Unlike Starbucks, since most coffee houses are not equipped with Muzak, their music are most likely picked by employees or better yet, owner of the place.

By having such negative opinion of fellow artists and audience, you are actually demoting yourself as a musician. Especially when you do not know who is listening in the audience.

2. Talk Less, Play the Music

If the audience desperately wants to hear your opinion about current affair or social issues, they will ask later when you are out on your break. You are not here to be a stand-up comic, you are supposed to be a musician, so be one and play the music.

If you do have a joke that you really want to share with everyone, make sure it is going to be a good one and everyone would understand.

When I say “everyone”, I don’t mean just your groupies include your girlfriend, her sister, your parents, and your cousin just got released from the “big house” that needs to constantly call his parole officer to let him know where exactly he is at.

3. Stop Griping about how other musicians have "Sold Out"

Puhlease… The only reason that line still works is because you have yet got your big break. I want to see the day you turn down a fat contract by major music label because you want to keep your music “pure and free of corporate greed”.

By bitching about other musicians does not make yourself look any better or “true to the music”, you are just a little whining bitch.

Perhaps your girlfriend would agree with your choice about “being independent” now, but I am sure she would dump your ass as soon as she found out about when you have rejected a contract.

In case you did not know, the other name for “musician without girlfriend’s financial support” is “homeless”.

4. Garb Selling

CDs, websites, and mailing lists are great tools to help you to promote, but it is not necessary to announce them after every single song, by the way, playing with the whammy-bar for a minute and half does not qualify as a “song”. That should be taken care of during sound check.

What is even worse? Spelling out your/your band’s website URL over the microphone. No one here loves your music enough to bust out a BIC and scribble down your website as if it is the ten commandments.

Hosting your band on MySpace is almost like labeling yourself “Pedophile Friendly”. Do not be a cheapskate, spend the extra $15 and get yourself its own internet domain.

5. The Closing Set

Be sure to thank everyone during or after your closing set, not just your girlfriend (whom will later suck your cock because you just made $20 on tips). Thank everyone, do some name dropping if you have to.

Let’s start with the audience who gave up two hours of their lives listening to your jam. Then the employees of the coffee house, especially the one barista who is also an aspiring musician, whose music taste you just dissed two hours ago.

Last, you may now thank your groupies, even though they probably had better plans with their Saturday night, yet they still came out to show they support for you.


  1. great vitriol, Tian... sometimes people are so enthusiastic about having public attention that they have to abuse it.

    Spelling out URLs? Man, I'd just leave...

  2. Haha.

    Yeah, yeah, most of that is true.

    However, the only problem with a unique URL vs. MySpace is no one ever finds / stumbles on a unique URL, no matter how cool it is to have one.

    Also, as a starving "musician" myself, a) most people at a venue like a coffee shop will largely be ignoring you anyways, so what's the big deal if you chat for a bit to eat up some time, and b) no matter how hot a band or DJ is, if they're not major, you've got to do ALL your own self-promotion, which may include pathetically spelling out URLs over the mic, etc. Chances are no one will check out your website, but every so often someone will, so might as well not miss the opportunity.

  3. Good post Tian. Please, any of these mofos would give their mother, arm and dwelling providing girlfriend for a record deal. And I really hate when they've played at one big place in NY and the come back they sound as if they've made it. They thank all the little people and talk about how quaint this place is and how they are not all corporate because they have a paper mailing list that they pass around. If their session with the big wigs had gone well, would they really be here in on a Thursday night?

  4. If I see some shmuck playing at the coffe house I am about to enter, I go to the next one. No thanks.

  5. Unfortunately, coffee houses of the non Starbuck variety are few and far between here in Shanghai, and I've yet to come across anywhere except a few bars that'll let a local act jam (and I'm seriously talking about a FEW). So I haven't first hand knowledge of them, but it ain't hard to take an educated guess.

    Most such musicians are rather run of the mill, mediocre. And definately not too keen on sitting through a two hour set.