The Gigging Musician Podcast

Cover Band Interview (3 of 3) With James Gross - Shirts and Skins

June 18, 2021 Jared Judge
The Gigging Musician Podcast
Cover Band Interview (3 of 3) With James Gross - Shirts and Skins
Chapters
The Gigging Musician Podcast
Cover Band Interview (3 of 3) With James Gross - Shirts and Skins
Jun 18, 2021
Jared Judge

In this final episode of his interview, James Gross, bandleader of the Shirts and Skins band drops some truths about being a bandleader. He also answers the question, “If you lose everything and had to get your new band a paid gig in 30 days, what do you do?”

Show Notes Transcript

In this final episode of his interview, James Gross, bandleader of the Shirts and Skins band drops some truths about being a bandleader. He also answers the question, “If you lose everything and had to get your new band a paid gig in 30 days, what do you do?”

Hey gigging musicians. It's Jared Judge. And this is the exciting conclusion to our interview with James gross. This is part three. If you have not listened to parts one and two, please listen to those before you listen to this episode. In this episode, he starts out with some wise advice about being a band leader. And then I asked him the question, you lose everything, and you have to start from scratch. You've got 30 days to get shirts and skins first paid gig. What do you do? And he tells you, let's take a listen. A bandleader has to do whatever it takes to make the show goal. So an example was, you know, one of our, our fiddle players had a car breakdown last Friday. And he called me to ask me, you know, what I do, I'm riding with so and so to the gig. And I say, Well, if he can't get a ride, and the guy that you're driving with won't go pick them up, you need to drive separate and go pick them up. Like it's, it's, you got to be willing to go the extra mile to be that person that they can rely on, you know, and it's not it's not for everybody, you know, I have a lot of people that that they want to be a bandleader because they get they make more money in this organization if they are a bandleader. But with that means that you might get a call at midnight the night before of somebody not not being able to do something. And I don't want to be bothered with that. I've got my, you know, like, this weekend, I went, we did, almost on the border of Montana, it was the 10 and a half hour drive each way. And I had two other units going on. I'm like, Whatever happens, don't bother me till Monday. I can't do anything. I'm in the car driving to Montana, you know. So it's having that problem solving. And, and, you know, that and then also knowing you know, you can't, you can't let the stress get to, you know, I've had a couple bad leaders where the alternator goes out on one of my rigs, well, you can't freak out. They're looking to you. They are, they're all freaking out already. Like, you need to be the guy no matter what the if you're gonna miss you know, whatever, you're gonna miss it. Like if you got a family birthday or a kid's birthday, you got to just be like, Hey, I got to deal with this. For sure. I think that's the biggest thing, you know, problem solving. Oh, yeah. That's awesome. All right. So this is a fun one. Imagine right now that you have lost everything. Except for your musicality and one unit. So you've got a full, whatever piece band that you have. But nobody knows where you are. In fact, let's transplant shirts and skins into another state, another city, you've never been here before, and nobody's ever heard of you, you have 30 days to get your first paid gig. What do you do? I would get on social media and look for open jobs would probably be the first thing and I would say okay, you know, hopefully, I'm transplanted into a decent sized metropolis. So that there is nothing going on. I would, that's what I would do first would be go to open jams as a full band. And then I would as I figured out where those were, I would start cold calling people and try to get them to come see us there. And those people would be like corporate people, yeah, like corporate people, or, you know, like just anything, you know, I would, I would go around to other places that have live music and be like, Hey, we're gonna go play here as a showcase, I would basically try to create my own showcase, built in someplace else that already has everything that I need. Because I don't have any place to set it up in play. You know, that would probably be the first thing that I would do. You know, and then and insert, you know, I would hit, you know, cities, you know, cities are great resources. They all have a Parks and Rec director, it's always looking for something. You know, and it's just get exposed to people as quickly as possible, you know, as many people as you can and realize that, you know, it's cheap advertisement, if you're not getting paid. True. That's awesome. I feel like you would get a gig within the first week, row a Let me see gigs there. You know, and one of the things that that has really changed for us in the last year was the concept of tipping. And, and for a long time, I was bashful about trying to push for tips. And I was down in South Padre Texas, and there was a guy named clay Underwood, who's a Nashville guy that, you know, is towards the back half of his career now. And he said, you know, the thing that we got to realize is we don't have a union. We don't have health care. We don't have retirement. And those are things that that we're never going to get in our lifetime. But these people want to help and they have money, but if you don't ask them for it, they will never give it to you. Because they don't know that they're supposed to. So We have started putting a tip jar out at everything unless it's corporate, and started really pushing it. And, you know, last time we were done in pottery, we made about 1500 a week and tips. Two weeks ago, we played two blue color bars that were just like, in a normal year wouldn't have taken them. And we made almost $1,000 in two days and tips. Like, these are bars, like, you know, and, and I think that that's something that people need to look at, too, you know, like, if you connect with people, they throw money at you, and want to help them, you know, especially now that we've all not been working for a year, like, don't be afraid of that, like, don't be afraid to tell people that and we did a huge push on merge, we, we upped our merge, and basically doubled the price of our merge that we would ever normally charge and are very much at the shows just be like, hey, if you can help we have all not worked for a year, like, and if you don't feel like just donating your own. We even have cards that have a Venmo you know, scanner that we just hand out that shows, you know, a little piece of card, you know card like that. And it's like, if you want to help, here it is. Yeah. And people don't understand. I mean, we lost a quarter million in revenue easily. You know, and, and a lot of people weren't able to get on unemployment for a long time. And then they're, you know, a lot of people are off of it already. And, and so it's not being bashful about things like that. Right, for sure. You mentioned showcase, I think this is the first time you've used that word. In the interview, do you put on regular showcases for potential clients, we so we we got a warehouse in February of 2020. and built a soundstage and 16 by 24 point stage, ordered tables, ordered covers for everything talk to caters, we were all about doing showcases, and then the pandemic hit, like so we're kind of on idle with it right now. I do want to do that, you know, some of our competitors do that. And I think that helps. And so now it's like, we've kind of dabbled with, you know, a while do we do it in the summer? Well, we're finding that everybody's out of town a lot right now, because everybody's loving vacation. And I do think we're going to start doing it about you know, on a Tuesday or a Wednesday, once a month, starting this fall. Because I do think, again, with with a weddings, it's about connecting with people, you know, if I can get them to come to a show, and stay and talk to me, I can get the wedding booked. You know, if they just pop in and see three songs and leave? I'm not going to get it, you know. So I do think that showcases are important. Yeah, for sure. And I imagine you design them similarly to the competitor that we both know where you're talking about. Yep. And and try to make it better. That that's, you know, that's the hardest thing that I've had, you know, is how do you go against? You know, I consider us a mom and pop deal. You know, I started from the ground up. And and how do I compete with a company that can spend $100,000 a year in advertising, that when I call a company like wedding wire, I find out they've got a partnership with like, like, how can I compete for that? And it's when I know my products better? Because I have people that work in that organization that worked for me too. And you know, so I think that that's a hard thing is, is you got to take what your competitors do and mold it for what you do and try to make it a little bit better. For sure. Yeah, it's kind of like you know, if you want to learn what the best practices for your website, go on a website of somebody who's absolutely killing it, and just a few things. Oh, absolutely. Awesome. Last couple of questions here. So what's next for shirts and skins? Obviously we're coming out of a pandemic. I know that one of your main goals is to break that 300 gig Mark Yeah, what what else? What Where are you going? I would like to get your idea of a touring band. You know, we are national so we go on the road but not as much as I want. I would really you know, one of the things that I that I tried to to get from my players is that to offer more than just a wedding company because we do a lot of weddings. You know, it's it could be anywhere between 30 and 50 or a year so sometimes a little more. But we also do street dances and resorts and we do theme parks and and given that my tentative plan right now in the fall is to fly to Maine and rent a car and drive down the whole coast till I get to Texas and stop in every town that has live music and stay till I meet the person to judge and find it you know the hardest thing for me is finding residencies anywhere like where I am blown away at the lack of places that have music five days a week. Like to where I you know, I spent hours there. On the Internet, and, you know, I'll pick a zone like, you know, South Carolina, look up all the bands I can find in that area, click on their calendars and see where they're playing and reach out and try to find, and I'm blown away at the lack of anybody playing multiple places anywhere. You know, it seems like there's one or two places in California, a couple places in Texas, a couple of places in Arizona Vegas, but Vegas doesn't pay hardly anything. So, but I think too, it's also like some of the places you only find so that I'm hoping to get a band on the road, at least a week, every month is kind of one of my big goals. And we just, we just got another touring rig. So we've got three of them now. And I really like giving that opportunity to people to be in a touring band, because there's something that happens to a musician, when they're away from distraction. And they're on night, five to eight, of playing with a band, they just gel, like the whole unit just gels. And it's any and so many great players now never get that plan on the weekends. And it's like, no, that's one thing in my 20s that I just loved was being on a band being on tour for three months. I mean, none of the shows were good. Like, we didn't play to great crowds. But man, that band was slamming by month three, you know, like you're playing stuff that you never knew you could do. Yeah. So. So trying to give that to more people, you know, and then trying to just, you know, I'm really, I'm really getting a kick out of the longevity of some of the players and how long they're staying with my organization. You know, I've got a couple of people that are hitting their 10 year this year, which is just blows my mind, it just blows my mind that it's been around this long, right, you know, and to where, you know, we're on year 16. And, and I've got a couple people that have been here 10 years, a handful that have been here five? And I mean, for years, it was Can I keep six people together? That's incredible. Yeah. gratulations Yeah, it's just it's been a roller coaster? For sure. For sure. So, do you want to provide a way with people to connect with you afterward, or follow your original music, um, you know, the original music I kind of just do for me. So I don't really, you know, people find it that's provided. As far as you know, if anybody, if anybody wants some guidance, you know, kind of one of my, my things, I used to work for record, record label when I was younger, and I love contracts. So, you know, if somebody's got a contract, where they're just like, hey, this just seems wrong. Or this seems tricky, you know, if anybody wants to email me at, you know, shirts and skins, or at info at shirts and skins band calm, they totally can, if anybody you know, wants to do that, if anybody's in this region, and they want help making a video, we have a video suite, you know, we have a soundstage, we can, you know, things aren't cheap to do stuff like that. But, you know, I would say for bands, you know, get a killer video, find somebody in your area that and, and realize that even if every band member had to put in 300 bucks or 500 bucks out of their money, you will get it back. It'll change the, the whole world of what you get, you know, and, and, yeah, and, but if anybody, you know, wants, wants some guidance, or, or if they're in my area, you know, and they want to go up and grab lunch, you know, I'm definitely down for stuff like that. I'm a huge entrepreneurial spirit. And, and I'm always thinking outside the box. And, and I look at my industry as I'm at a war, not with, not with other bands, but with the industry as to where, like the industry is, is continually collapsing on us. And they're trying to push us out, and we're all trying to make we're all fighting for gigs that pay less than they did 20 years ago. And, and trying to, you know, get to that point of, you know, I've told, told bands for years, I'm like, if we would all unite and just pick a price. You know, they can't get anybody they'll pay it. You know, I mean, a bar can afford two grand a night, you know, all they need to do is have 30 people and they're drinking heavily. Yeah. And, and so we didn't we didn't start that union. It's just, uh, yeah, it's just it's, it's a tough market, and you just gotta stay optimistic and. And keep working on stuff you know, and don't settle like you can always get better at your instrument, you can always find something in a song that you didn't know, was there. That and one of the things for me that really helped a few years ago was trying to get in the mindset of the person that wrote that song. What were they thinking when they played that solo? What were they thinking when they play it when they wrote that book? You know, and try to tap into that, because it's all there. You know? That's awesome. Well, thank you so much for your insight, your advice, your stories. I really appreciate it. And I know that people that watch this interview, they're going to appreciate it a heck of A lot. So thank you. Absolutely. This has been the gigging musician podcast. If you got any value out of this, make sure to subscribe to the podcast. And if you're interested in trying to book live Pro software James mentions he uses to book is just about 300 shows a year. Go to book live bro.com and start your free trial. We'll see you there.