Josh & the Empty Pockets (Chicago, IL) are living a double life. No, they’re not a rock band by day and a team of CIA operatives by night, not that we know of at least. What they are - a band who splits their time between touring in support of their own original indie rock releases and playing popular covers at weddings and other special events - is nearly as interesting. But is it such an anomaly?
Last week our friends at CD Baby re-posted our 4 Lessons on Pricing Your Entertainment on their DIY Musician blog. Written by David Roth of five-star GigMasters band Mighty Groove (Boston, MA), the post really struck a chord with CD Baby’s audience, as evidenced by its 100+ comments and 400+ Facebook likes.
Some commentators were quick to point out, however, that it was written from the perspective of, for lack of a better term, an ‘event band.’ As opposed to an 'original band' who mostly focuses on their own material, an event band is more likely to play mostly or all cover songs and be found at weddings, private parties, corporate events and more.
It’s true that getting booked for birthday parties and weddings is different than gigging at bars and nightclubs. For one, the special events often pay more and get you in front of a larger audience. But of course there is a lot to be said for baring your soul and winning over an audience with music you wrote yourself.
As an original band that doubles as a (very) successful special event band, Josh & the Empty Pockets are proving that you can have it both ways.
With impressive credentials like headlining gigs at SXSW and multiple singles in the Mediabase Top 100 radio chart, The Pockets have enjoyed success that eludes many original bands. When not on the road promoting their latest release you can find the quartet rocking out at corporate parties and other private events they booked through GigMasters.
We recently spoke with Josh about the band’s double life and how they have been able to strike a professional balance between their original work and gigging as an event band.
Striking the right balance between our event band and our "indie rock" original band is a challenge that we deal with on a daily basis. Over the past several years our social and corporate event band business, thanks in no small part to GigMasters, has created a financial stability for the band that is extremely satisfying. We work hard to understand what the goals of any given event are and then we find ways to help accomplish them while still staying within who we are as a music group. I think that is the key. In any given week we might play a birthday party, a public original concert, visit a radio station and then play a wedding. It's very important that we stay true to ourselves, both musically and personally, at all of those very different functions without forgetting that each event requires individual attention and thought.
It's clear to me that in any industry, but especially the music industry, each person or group's path is very different. I know some artists that have never played a private event in their lives but still manage to make a living making music. That being said, my opinion is if you're capable of being a wedding band or an event band, it can be very rewarding. As a group we have learned over 1,000 songs since 2007 and we play over 200 public and private events each year. We are a better group of musicians because of the thousands of hours we've spent learning and playing music and I believe we write better songs because of it.
So what do you think? Are The Empty Pockets in a unique situation? Know anyone else who supplements their career as an original artist by taking event gigs on the side? Leave a comment and let us know!