The killing moon
Will come too soon
Up against your will
Through the thick and thin
He will wait until
You give yourself to him
- Echo and the Bunnymen, The Killing Moon
The killing time has come. The local band scene will struggle against another coming dark age. Bands will slowly find themselves pushed into corners unwillingly, like a trapped boxer, forced against the ropes. Blinded by the fleeting glory of being in the spotlight, they will all too soon realize that they are losing out at the scorecards. The next well-landed straight jab could very well cause a knock out.
In the face of the sudden wave of band ‘commercialization’ sweeping through our pop culture of late, you won’t need to study societal trends or statistics to predict that the bubble will soon burst. Yes, it is a natural cycle but helped along just the same by negative forces like Echo and the Bunnymen’s metaphorical “killing moon”. Bands won’t realize until it is too late that the biggest killer of the music scene isn’t the media, or the critics, or the tasteless and faceless ‘masa’. Funny enough, all too often, the reason why the band scene gets killed is - drum roll please - the bands themselves.
History repeats itself yet the problem isn’t that history is a poor teacher; it is that musicians are poor learners. And what does history teach us? Plenty.
Bands are born in clubs and they live off clubs. Deny him that and he starves, musically and financially. The biggest bands no longer need the quintessential club. They play for much larger audiences and gigs already. But nevertheless, most of them will have started playing in the small clubs. Even the biggest bands still sneak a quick bar gig every now and then not for the money but for the fun of it. A venue where music can be regularly showcased is absolutely essential to a scene.
But the bands themselves are killing the clubs, or at least some bands are. By allowing themselves to be exploited by club owners by agreeing to play for free or for measly fees, they set an ugly precedent that slowly erodes the quality of gigs. This, since decent bands typically never play for free. Audiences never come back to the same venue to watch bands that suck. Why should they when they pay good money for a good show. Keep putting out bad shows and the audience will be a no-show. It’s as simple as that.
I’ve seen this cycle many times before with the big clubs and venues of Cebu’s famed old band scene. Not surprisingly, none of them are around anymore by the way.
Aside from clubs, radio can also provide that essential venue for showcasing music. But as local musicians here know, radio sadly is rarely trend-setting. Blindly relying on billboard charts and other dictates of the pop culture, radio rarely takes the driver’s seat in supporting genres or movements and will often be content to ride on the latest wave. The usual cycle is that a music form will start underground and will slowly permeate pop culture. When it becomes too big a scene to ignore, radio will play it and claim it as its own.
Radios often claim you “heard it first here” when really all they can claim is they broadcast it ahead of the other stations, if at all. More often than not, you really only “hear it first” in the small clubs and venues. Like I said, bands are all born in clubs. In any case radio is still radio and although bands aren’t born there, they grow there.
But the bands themselves are also killing radio, or at least some bands are. By submitting substandard music to the stations, either awful recording or just plain awful songs, which still makes it awful recording since you’re not supposed to record crap, they set an ugly precedent that slowly erodes the quality of radio. You know the rest.
Bands that don’t put value into their music or their performance will end up being exploited. A band has to define its worth. If not, a band ends up being worthless. A band’s value then is dictated by the band itself. Not by the promoters or the club owners nor the audiences. Let them dictate your value and it would be like letting go of your end of the rope in a tug of war, you lose by default.
As a closing message to all bands, whether newcomers or the more-established ones, it is not a question of knowing your place. Really, it is a question of choosing where you stand.