For anyone that has run a venue and hosted DIY shows, you know how exhausting the work can be. For anyone who has traveled and played DIY shows on the road, you know how exhausting the work can be. What do we all need more of? Sleep!
Smelly traveling musicians need a place to crash while on tour, certainly most of the touring DIY musicians aren’t springing for hotels each night nor would dream of breaking the code or tradition of sleeping on floors, couches, and unknown beds along the way. Sometimes musicians have friends along the route that are happy to house their far-flung friends but often the responsibility of housing falls on the person booking or hosting the show. Whether that expectation comes spoken or unspoken, it can be a burden to add “one more thing” to the task list of the person who is already most likely taking care of the lineup, the door, the soundboard, the food, etc. I have found that even if I have floor space or extra beds, at the end of the night I just don’t have the emotional energy that goes into inviting strangers into my home. I’m sure others have felt similarly.
One thing that has been a focus for my wife and I as we enter our 5th year hosting DIY shows in the current space is that sharing the task list with others is imperative to keeping the effort going on a long-term basis. It may not be obvious that there are other folks around you willing to buy into the community to the extent of letting bands stay in their homes. But I find people to be much more hospitable than I expect and I only find that out by asking the question. Building a list of folks that are willing to host musicians and leaning on those folks to help out not only helps spread the workload, but also gives those folks a sense of duty or involvement with the community that they might not have otherwise. Keeping track of important details like whether or not certain people are willing to host last-minute, or if they have pets that touring folks might be allergic too will help hone in on potential hosts. Ask around, keep a list, rotate through your list and give people the opportunity to contribute.
I like to extend this concept to other aspects of hosting shows. Did you know there are people that would be happy to come help you vacuum the venue? What about folks interested in helping by creating a flier a couple times a year? Traveling folks are often seeking food and there are empty-nester moms and dads in your community that would love to cook for people. A local handyman recently came early to a show and hung new stage lights for me. These are all things that I COULD do and I’m likely to just take care of them because I have the ability, but I spread myself thin in doing so and deny others the ability to gain ownership in the bigger ‘thing’.
Now that I’ve spent all this time suggesting that we take burden off of the folks who put together shows, let’s zoom back into the question of ‘Where is the band staying?’ and consider this from the artist’s standpoint. Unless the artist is fortunate enough to have personal friends to stay with in a given area, they are really poorly equipped to find their own place to stay. The best tool they have is a microphone to blast a plea for help to whoever will listen. Perhaps some show hosts don’t feel quite as responsible for the band housing as I do, but we are often the best-equipped people to make that connection for them. As we each play our role on the DIY community, we put a lot of trust into each other and allow ourselves to be vulnerable and rely on others to take care of us. Sometimes this isn’t natural and takes a lot of effort to accomplish. There’s a beautiful conversation happening in the background here about how to incubate community so this sort of cooperation is natural and takes less effort. Stay tuned for some exploration on that in future blogs!