I was talking to a buddy recently who's out there doing that thing. He does it on the side, and he's not getting rich from it, but it gives him enough scratch to pick up the gear he wants. He's a little different from me in that, I feel compelled to play and make music. He feels compelled to play, make music, and do it for someone else. The difference is that I do it to make me happy. He does it to make others happy. He's been doing it for years. At this point, he's retired. So he's been doing the weekend warrior thing longer than I've been alive.
He and I had an interesting conversation about making money playing. His opinion is that, unless and until you get to the point of being a big band like <insert the name of any really big band here>, your bread and butter is probably going to be doing covers.
I think he has a bit of a point. I can think of several friends and acquaintances that play in local bands. Music is their business. A couple of them supplement their weekend business (playing music) by having real jobs. Yes, they have those jobs, but they don't consider them their real jobs. The ones that don't have a "real" job, either teach lessons (which is sort of a real job) or they play in multiple bands so that they can be sure that they're playing practically every night.
The ones that seem to be making the most money and playing in the fewest bands are the ones that play more covers than originals. They play the wedding circuit. The VFW Hall circuit. Whatever circuit has people dancing, they're playing it. They play songs that the people know and gets them up out of their seats and on the dance floor.
Quite a few of them still play in an "our original work" kind of band (or two), but those bands play maybe once a week, have small followings, and, by their own admission, are never going to get them rich. I have seen a couple that have broken out a little bit, but they have managed to get on not just the local circuit, but the regional circuit as well, playing not only here in the Metroplex, but also in Houston, Austin, San Antone, OKC, and all around the ArkLaTex region. A couple of them have even managed to get those gigs that take them all over the midwest. They're doing their original stuff, but they've managed to get enough of it out there that people recognize it and want to hear it.
So what do you think? To make money in the business, especially as a weekend warrior, can you do it as an original band or do you have to do the covers thing so that people will get up and dance?
Snarf is a wannabe musician who currently resides in the great state of Texas. His wife is his favorite. He believes chocolate milk made from milk that is anything less than whole milk is basically water and deserves to be dumped down the sink so nobody has to suffer through it. He hates having to shop for clothes. But he has a thing for really cool bags, and, consequently, has more gig bags than guitars and a closet full of messenger bags and backpacks. He still misses his dog who was taken by cancer 5 years ago. Check out his Reverb shop and see if he has any gear he's trying to get rid of.