Six Reasons Your Band Should Not Play Longer Than Twenty Minutes

Categories: Nitpick Six

boredtomcoates.jpg
Tom Coates/Flickr
Imagine you're on a date and you're telling a story. It's a long one, but you know it's a winner. Everyone always loves this story. Three quarters of the way to the punch line, you notice a shift in your date's behavior. She's glancing at the door, bouncing her leg or messing with her hair. Does she want a cigarette? Does she need another drink to quell the anxiety? Has she been hit with a bout of explosive diarrhea?

Moments like these separate perceptive and considerate people from torturous, self-indulgent-asshole ones. The first will recognize the proper social cues and say something like, "Hey, let's grab another drink, and I'll finish this in a minute." The latter, however, will continue endlessly flapping their tight red gums, concentrating on themselves and their immediate needs.

See also: Six People to Avoid When Forming a Band

The risk with going to see live music is remarkably similar. There's a widespread plague of masturbatory steamrollers out there, lacking the concern necessary to be properly entertaining. Worst of all, these self-obsessed morons don't even realize they're sabotaging themselves as they watch their crowd mysteriously trickle out of the room.

You write music for yourself. You perform it for other people. Anyone who says otherwise has no business playing their meticulous mess in front of anyone but their dejected parents.

Yeah, yeah -- there are exceptions. We get it. Prolific headliners, jazz music -- which is already too esoteric for anyone to enjoy anyway -- and any act taking the stage an hour before the bar closes. But for the rest of you oblivious, plodding know-nothings, here are six reasons no band should play longer than twenty minutes.

6. Everyone Is Bored

Your set started out as a total ripper, but by the tenth minute we're all tired of watching your bassist whip his ratty hair around in circles while you take two minutes to tune your garbage guitar between songs. With that ridiculous pedal board, we wouldn't have been able to tell if you were out of tune anyway. Now, do the right thing and don't play your fifteen-minute Kraut-rock take on the Wipers' "Youth of America" to people who already feel bad about wanting to leave after your fourth song.

5. People Will Miss Your Set

Strange as it seems, there are some sublime advantages to having people miss your set. If they're your friends, you can guilt trip them for missing out while they were standing outside, smoking and talking to some asshole they want to have sex with who has a blue streak dyed into their hair. You can then use these feelings of guilt you've inspired in them for things like free drinks, food, smokes or even drag them out to see you at future shows.

If they're strangers and you actually do what you're supposed to (play from your fucking heart), they'll hear for the next month about how bad they screwed up by missing the legendary time your drummer drank a shot glass full of fire ants and head-butted God.

See also: Six Reasons Employers Should Hire Touring Musicians


4. You'll Look Good Even If You Aren't

Remember that band who played for an hour before you? Yeah. You're not them. You may be ill-prepared and have only one speaker on your guitar cabinet that works, but at least you had the courtesy to recognize your place in the lineup. Play a short set and watch as you evolve from "most hated band" on the bill to "second most hated band" on the bill, as easy as that.

Continue to page two.

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52 comments
back2thefuscia
back2thefuscia

Even though some of these things are dumb and seem to be added just so it fits the trending "list" format, I agree a whole bunch. I am a touring musician, and I understand my place in each scene I visit. In reality, the show would draw just as well if my band wasn't there, and I greet each show as a chance to gain new fans and to network with other musicians throughout the country. 20 minutes is a perfect amount of time for that I feel. If you are in your own local scene, and the demand for your band is a little higher (if you don't suck), maybe play your 30-45 minute set. Friends and family who pay to see your band deserve to see a longer set, compared to when your are sandwiched between some locals on tour. There is nothing wrong with getting up, getting your point across, and getting out. 

nkaluv
nkaluv

He's in the brain tumors. This dudes band sounds like straight up noise and their songs are like a minute long.

Its not that he thinks you shouldn't play more than 20 minutes its that he can't fill more than 20 minutes with the garbage his band plays.

joelgentry5577
joelgentry5577

sounds like some washed up hipster whos band just never made it. if you write complexed songs over 4 minutes long and more that three cords of progression, you would see why you should always use your allotted time.



P.S. if SLAYER only played for 20 minutes, there would be a fucking riot...

blimpfalilure
blimpfalilure

Lists are over done and for the weak minded much like you and your taste in music apparently

jrmeiring
jrmeiring

I think this is an attention deficit problem that a lot of people have now... sure, some bands have no stage presence and are boring to watch... but if a band is really on their game, 20 min is a joke.  If you can't appreciate a GOOD band, putting on a GOOD show for more than 20 minutes, that's your problem... not the band's... just my opinion.

bubsy
bubsy

What is the name of your band? I'd love to see how good you are at taking your own advice. 

bubsy
bubsy

What is the name of your band? I'd love to see how good you are at taking your own advice.  Also, you sound really strong.  Are you wearing a MMA shirt?

maxxshepard
maxxshepard

Is live music really that shitty where you live?

maxxshepard
maxxshepard

This is the dumbest article I've read in quite some time. Job well done. I don't think you have had any experience in a band at all. Good luck booking a show, especially a tour on a 20 minute set. I guess it must be more rewarding to spend your 20 minutes critiquing other people's artistic endevours.

tygerhardt1
tygerhardt1

I was bored after the first couple of sentences. Did not read.

kenya2porsha
kenya2porsha

Damn, I have not been to a club, or seen a band in years, is it that rough in the streets, only opinions, never personal.

Jeff Keniston
Jeff Keniston

By the way, Drew Ailes, you FAILED to post the complete group name. You left off the "scientific facts and discussion" part. Your blatant disrefard and failure to provide complete accuracy makes you a prime candidate for a journalism career with Fox, MSNBC etc.

Erica Jenkins
Erica Jenkins

Why would you refer to your readers as plodding know nothings? Tsk tsk

Cody Allen
Cody Allen

Drew Ailes liked a comment claiming his article was 'the most important music article of the century.' Then attempts to denigrate commenters by scrolling through their pages and gathering ammo to ridicule. It's all we need to know about this shit writer.

Jay Linhardt
Jay Linhardt

This is so so so dumb. Let's go pay ten bucks to watch 9 bands switch out gear for four hours. Way to promote one of the problems destroying live music.

Dionysus Rich
Dionysus Rich

Drew is a douchebag who is a member of a group dedicated to "Dark Minnesota Music" and maybe needs to see better bands.

Ethan Heller
Ethan Heller

wow RFT, way to support your local music scene...

Steve Mincer
Steve Mincer

there's a lot to be said for "leave them wanting more". much MUCH better to play 4 killer songs than 10 shoe-gazer mid-tempo crap.

Erick Sims
Erick Sims

Drew, no offense but that article was kinda lame...more of a "hey look at how cute and clever I can be" than informative in any way. We get it...bands that suck really suck. Articles where dudes try too hard to be clever as opposed to bringing anything meaningful to the table suck just as much.

Rob Spicer
Rob Spicer

I don't even have a band and I quit

brilliantgenius
brilliantgenius

Thanks for sharing your opinions about music. There might be some people out there who agree with you, but I'm not one of them. If you're at a show and you don't like it, you're welcome to fuck off. 

doctorums
doctorums

you forgot the part where some club promoters require you to play 30-40 mins. 

labelbro
labelbro

Sounds pretty solid.  A band should play 20 minutes.  If the crowd is enthusiastic, then a band should ask the crowd if they want more.  If the crowd energy is low, then exit stage left..

mniederberger
mniederberger

One reason you should stop writing about music:

1. You obviously hate music.

Bill Vehige
Bill Vehige

Bang-up job, as usual, RFT! Really interesting article! Also, I love lists.

Mike Craft
Mike Craft

I agree Johnny O'Neil. If you are a local band and you get on the the cover or an interview there is a giant chance you are terrible. I haven't looked at an RFT in years because of exactly what you said.

Jeff Keniston
Jeff Keniston

LOL....a "journalist" who cant tolerate their "work" being critiqued. Hi Drew! Nice to meet you. (Not)

Nick Christie
Nick Christie

Spotting a religious nut 101 - 1. "GOD" in bold capital letters is pictured in cover photo 2. Believes a band that can play well, and hold your attention for THREE hours didn't "evolve" from something less complex and organized, using a long process of trial and error.

Johnny O'Neil
Johnny O'Neil

You guys love writing hater-laced articles. What I don't get is why you love to shoot people's bands down for readers... It's almost as if you don't support the arts in anyway shape or form. What would you rather have these kids in these bands doing instead of attempting to learn how to play music? Selling drugs? I don't get it.

Barry Bean
Barry Bean

Who gets hired to play a 20 minute set?

Drew Ailes
Drew Ailes

Josh Cerar also listens to Gogol Bordello and has liked two different Rage Against the Machine Facebook pages

zell0077
zell0077

I lovedrew, drew. great job!


Drew Ailes
Drew Ailes

Jeff Keniston belongs to a group called "Chemtrails and HAARP"

Drew Ailes
Drew Ailes

Brad Galaske listens to Gogol Bordello and a band who wears tie-dye headbands called BLUE FRUIT SNACKS.

Mark Bland
Mark Bland

OMG Chad Garrison...my experience has finally met the RFT music guys need to be informed and this article is technically AMAZING...and i didn't write it. That blows my mind even more!

Mark Plant
Mark Plant

The most important music article of the century.

Jeff Keniston
Jeff Keniston

Dumb article. If a band cant hold an audience beyond 20 minutes, they simply shouldnt have taken the stage to begin with. This goes without saying; no article needed.

jaco1175
jaco1175 topcommenter

Drew Ailes is a walking colostomy bag who can't write and listens to shit music. I shudder to think of what his music is like.

jaco1175
jaco1175 topcommenter

Drew Ailes has crabs in his beard that he caught from a colony in his girlfriend's beard

jaco1175
jaco1175 topcommenter

Drew Ailes has the words born to lose on his knuckles

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