Why Start-ups / Rock Bands fail

Why Start-ups / Rock Bands fail

Survivorship bias in the start-up world makes it difficult to learn from other people's mistakes.

Most advice you get comes from people who have overcome incredible odds and have also been extremely lucky. Success stories rarely seem to discuss higher than normal divorce rates among entrepreneurs or how most successful entrepreneurs rely on family or spouse to support them.

Rock bands are the same way.  You mostly hear from magical bands that have been very lucky, had solid connection and are mostly competent. You sometimes even hear about bands that were unsung in their day and are re-discovered later. You rarely hear about the bands that kick around their hometown for 15 years and for some reason or other fail to build a substantial following. 

Oversharing on Stage

I love live music but don't make it out to shows as often as I used to. Lately I've been trying to do some networking for Evrywhr so I'm trying to get out more often.

I recently attended a show and I was really struck by the amount of on-stage banter happening. The bands were mostly local and they sounded great; the music was right up my alley. But I noticed that several of them had the habit of stopping after every song to introduce the next song and then explain what it was about. I'm not exaggerating they did this after every song. At some point it was so bad I couldn't help but laugh. 

This next song is about Donnie McDonald, my best friend from 5th grade. It's called 'Donnie'

Back in the early 2000s I saw Pedro the Lion play several times when they were on tour. It was pretty common for David Bazan to ask the audience if they had any questions between songs. He was an interesting guy and it was cool to hear the informal Q+A but after a while you kind of just wanted him to get back to the music. 

I also love listening to John Darnielle of the Mountain Goats talk but even he knows that we're there for the songs.

Explaining the meaning of every song is a good indication that you're not finished writing the song. I'm sure there are folks out there would argue that no song is ever truly finished but let's table that for now. Let's also assume that we're discussing traditional pop songs that aren't experimental, improvisational or avant-garde in nature.

If you're going to write, rehearse and perform these pop songs for an audience it is safe to assume they are finished. Of course, songs can and do change as they are performed live over time but most of these changes are related to the performance and not the actual song.

Don't get me wrong, it can be good to preface a song or two during the show. It's part of the performance to engage with your audience (this is something I've always had a hard time with).

Nevertheless, if you're confident in your ability to finish your songs you need to trust they can stand on their own without explanation. Your lyrics should be interesting enough so that they don't require you to explain them.