Band tour life: Overcoming issues of touring
With a live band keeping recording artistes on their toes on tour, it becomes a long series of negotiations getting them to travel together, when a promoter is not quick to agree to pay for the entire team to travel and perform as a unit.
According to artistic consultant Teddy Laidley, it all boils down to economies of scale for the persons executing the event. If there is a band available in the city or country that is able to play the music, there is no need to book the musicians that the artistes are accustomed to perform with.
"If I can see you bringing numbers through my door, then I will pay for the band. But what you are working with globally, and especially in the United States, is that there are persons that can play the music, so they now want to go the direction of only giving the singer or deejay the booking," Laidley explained.
That is where the competition is, and debates start that UK or US-based reggae bands or backing bands are taking away the spotlight and jobs from local bands who depend on these overseas dates to gain recognition and make a living.
There is not much that can be done unless the artiste is willing to pay out of pocket for the band members' airfares and accommodations, in addition to a per diem.
"We have to fight that, because there is a synergy or a relationship with the band." He noted that sometimes the artistes' performance styles are impacted by the absence of their own bands in a way the promoter cannot understand. "The unfortunate thing in Jamaica is that many bands or members of a backing band will be working with three or four artistes because one artiste cannot support a band financially," he said.
"Artistes usually want to know when a gig comes up that the band is ready and not have a member missing due to being on tour with someone else, and to date the only entertainer I know who paid his band members a retainer is Shaggy back in his heyday," he added.
Other backing bands such as Blak Soil, which is mentioned in almost every show with Tarrus Riley and Dean Fraser, and the iconic Ruff Kutt Band that has supported Spice, Bounty Killer, Beenie Man, Shabba Ranks, and Jahmiel are two of the few backing bands that have overcome these issues. These brands are built, but this happens by creating profiles for the members and acknowledgement from the artistes.
The issue, as Laidley explains, is acquiring work permits. Backing bands need to strive to create a paper trail not only to be seen on stage (which is not always achieved) but in pictures, print and for their own resumes.
The consultant notes that it is important for band members to build their resumes with newspaper articles where the band is mentioned, get images taken with the artistes while at events, and use online platforms to build profiles for a correlation.
Laidley says, "It is important to treat the band and each performance like a job experience you place on your resume. When you have an accreditation from a college to prove you are a qualified professional, there is no question."
Having a resume is another way to show the significance of a backing band to the artiste. It is automatically easier for show bands (comprised of a lead singer which may also play an instrument, bass guitarist, drummer, keyboardist (all of whom may contribute to the vocals) that record music together to get their permits. This is because the group name serves to expose each member as an artiste. Hardly, if ever, will a lead singer [of a show band] get booked separately from the team.
However, within the local music fraternity it is different. From the artiste to the sidekick who lifts the instruments for the band he says, "a lot of these persons in the business did not go through a school of performing arts and some may only serve technical purposes as proof of a professional career."
He added, "The authorities want to see where and who you have played with. Make sure there is enough material when putting documents in place for a permit so the officials can make accurate judgement."