May 4, 2011

Week 32: What are you wearing?

Dress for work
Marshall Dylan rocks a look (in 2009)

I know… you got in to music so you didn’t have to have a “real” job. You started playing for the chicks and bar tabs and late nights and to keep the party going all night long. To quote Robert Earl Keen, “The road goes on forever and the party never ends!”

Not so fast.THAT’s the reason that the average band lasts about a year. Think about it.

Reality check.
Being in a band is actual WORK. You have to attend meetings, book gigs, practice, write songs, learn songs, work with other bands on promotions, talk with media, booking agents, tour managers, invite people to the shows, create merchandise, sell merchandise, and about 50 other things I didn’t mention…. Oh… and THEN you can hit the stage.

Street Sweeper Social Club is stylin'

This isn’t the rock-n-roll fantasy life. If you actually want to be successful, you need to do all of those things. It’s work. Hard work. And just because you can do it with jeans and a t-shirt doesn’t make it any less difficult.

Jeans and a t-shirt. It’s a uniform for most working bands when you see in non-performance mode. Heck, it’s what I prefer to wear when I’m not working. It’s comfortable, easy to put on, and most people have 30-40 t-shirts (I have about 100 and half of them are band shirts…and ¾ of those are black band shirts. Have I mentioned that I really like band shirts, but am really tired of black ones? That’s another column… really).

The point is, when you step on stage to perform, you are at work. The bar is your workplace and the stage is your office. The crowds are clients and the only way you’re getting paid is by selling yourself enough that someone wants to take a piece of you home that night. Be it a t-shirt, CD, buying you a drink, or tipping the band.

Jackie Bristow in Austin (2011)

How are you going to dress for work? When someone shows up to play in a t-shirt, it tells me they either don’t care about how the crowd sees them or they somehow lost their clothes and that’s the only thing they have to wear.

Faster Pussycat, Austin, 2009
Hey…it happens… I recall the lead singer from Faster Pussycat (pictured) playing Texas Rockfest 2009 in sweatpants because the airline lost his luggage. But in YOUR case… you’re likely playing a local show or arrived in a van.. so you have no excuse. Got it?

I’m all about expression and sticking it to the man. Yeah… the reason you’re playing music is because you don’t want to wear a monkey suit like Big Brother. I get that. I understand. There’s nothing wrong with it. BUT… if you’re interested in making it to the next level, garnering some airplay on the radio, getting the ear of touring bands (and their managers) who may want you to open for them, or looking.. I don’t know… professional… you’ve got to dress like you give a crap.

That means dress like you’re going to work, not like the kid who just paid 5 bucks to see you perform.

Take a look at your musical heroes. Chances are they have got something about the way they look that is atypical. Something that, if they walked up to the bar and ordered a beer next to you… you’d know he’s a musician and not just a fan.

Learn the craft of looking like the rock star you want to be. It will take some study. Find a look that you like… then go to Goodwill and drop $20 on a stage outfit. People will notice. You may get some negative comments from fans, family, and people who “know you,” but I’ll bet you get noticed by more people who are potential fans.

More fans is good. A wider audience is great. If you are trying to play for the same 50 people (if that many) whom you’ve played in front of for the last year… don’t change a thing. If you’re looking to expand your audience, make some contacts, and climb the next rung of the ladder that may lead to a lifestyle where you will never have to wear a monkey suit and can constantly “stick it to the man,” try dressing like you’re serious about your chosen vocation.

And for the love of all that is good, please print up some green or red or light brown t-shirts!

Don Chani on stage during ATX Wildfire 2011 in Austin.

Sean Claes is the owner of Austin's INsite Magazine and has been a freelance entertainment writer since 1996. For an introduction to his "52 Weeks of DIY Music Advice" visit this link - If you like what you read... please share. To visit Claes' homepage, go here -

1 comment:

Tony Barker said...

A good piece of advice I heard years ago was to "dress slightly better than the crowd you expect".

This makes everyone feel that they're important enough to dress up for, without making you look pretentious.