“I don’t have a band to play with.” This is one of the biggest misconceptions in the music industry today. Since the beginning of music there have been soloists. For example, a medieval singer: all they had to do was go downtown or to the market and start singing. Take a trumpeter in present-day New York City: all they have to do is buy a cheap subway ticket and play for the people waiting for the trains. These two examples are related to street music, which despite its connotations has been the respectable beginning of hundreds of musicians.
Johnnie Mac is a great example of making a very profitable living by acting solo and creating the BuskerWorld website. Many restaurants have wanted the special atmosphere of live music but not the cost of a full band, so they will have a solo or a duet. This keeps the cost low for the restaurant and the artist. If a place is willing to pay $ 50 an hour, why have 10 pieces put together? If you’re a solo artist, $ 50 an hour is a great salary and more than most people make in other jobs.
If you feel like you need accompaniment for your solo performance, why not get some prerecorded tracks? Prerecorded tracks are available and can come as a simple drum loop or a full orchestral backing. You can download them to an iPod or MP3 player and have the band literally at your fingertips. These tracks can be found on iTunes and Amazon, which has tracks for public domain songs. Many of these tracks come with the option to license them for other uses.
As a musician, you must have a profitable business. This can be difficult, but by performing alone, you are eliminating the costs of other musicians, the need for more equipment, and other aspects that deplete a band’s profits.
One of the best aspects of playing without a band is a valuable lesson: entertaining yourself. It’s not just about playing or singing, but about entertaining the audience. When you have a band, you can turn to them, talk to them, joke with them, trust them, blame them, etc. Without the band, your skills as a performer, musician, and speaker develop exponentially. About 10 years ago, it was the norm for a renowned musician or singer to come out and sing a shortened, acoustic, or simplified version of some songs.
All the colored lights and additional band members would fade and the spotlight would highlight the artist in a simple circle of light. All the focus would be on that animator, if they hadn’t learned to entertain and capture the audience as a solo artist, it would be a disaster. Since most musicians start out as soloists, this isn’t the disaster it could be. Even though we see this spotlight, solo performance is increasingly fading because today’s musicians are not comfortable with being a solo artist.
Having a band is not an obstacle but a gift: monetarily, creatively and as a growing tool for entertainment. If you feel like you need accompaniment, you can download tracks, but remember that they should not be used as a crutch, but rather as a small pinch of spice for your performance. The best lesson a musician can learn is how to entertain as a soloist.
In my own experience:
As a singer, he had always sung with a choir, band, orchestra, or some other form of accompaniment. I never thought that I could perform as a soloist. My husband and I were asked to perform in a retirement home and of course we agreed. After we accepted, we realized that we really didn’t have musician friends in the area where we were going to play. So we set out to brainstorm: sing Capella, sing along to the singer’s original MP3s and song, or play karaoke tracks. My husband has had a successful career as a music recording engineer and had recorded tracks for himself to record his own music and singing.
These songs were paid for by him to record his voice and sell his own CDs. We removed the vocals and it sounded like a live band. So our first performance in that retirement home, we played to prerecorded tracks or karaoke tracks. This opened our eyes to a broader market: playing as solo artists or duos without hiring a band. Karaoke tracks now aren’t the cheesy-sounding synth tracks of yesteryear. Instead, sometimes it’s the original tracks with just the vocals stripped away. In the case of Taylor Swift’s latest album, a karaoke company has the original music played by her studio band – you can sing the actual Taylor Swift tracks! Since we discovered the music and prerecorded tracks, we have performed in hundreds of venues singing solo or in duo.