A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

[MUSIC] “Don’t let Toronto’s buzz bands become bubble bands”

NOW Toronto‘s Jonathan Bruce offers advise as to what Toronto’s up-and-coming bands can do to avoid getting burned by overexposure.

I saw a band the other day and it wasn’t great. On a bill of five acts, they played the weakest set to the smallest crowd of the night. Forgettable songs, negligible stage presence. The visiting team was outclassed in terms of talent and originality by the hometown Toronto bands on the bill. But somehow, according to my insider intel, they got paid more than the other four combined.

This is how a buzz band becomes a bubble band.

The buzz band is the great hope in an industry plagued by falling record sales. Buzz bands are young, hungry and up for anything. The music biz is eager to sign them and send them on the road, and promoters love them because they sell tickets.

Like the overblown real estate market, buzz bands are out of hand. These acts often come with agents and managers that make dollar demands that are out of whack with reality. Do-it-yourself schlepping is out, and the pop factory is back in. But how much longer can the buzz band factory keep churning them out?

As long as streaming pays out fractions of pennies in royalties, artists will rely on performing live for the bulk of their income. This situation puts major economic pressure on promoters to pay big fees to bands in an increasingly competitive marketplace. And if the artist fails to attract audiences, they flame out and the bubble bursts. Pop!

Having booked close to 2,000 emerging bands for local music series Wavelength over 17 years, I have watched many buzz bubbles burst. We were lucky to see some alumni go on to international fame. We were in the right place at the right time to host early gigs by Broken Social Scene, Constantines, Owen Pallett and Grimes. Many others crashed and burned, but I’m too nice to name-check those acts.

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Written by Randy McDonald

February 22, 2017 at 5:00 pm

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