There are 3 local bands that often play in our area. My wife and I sponsor/manage one of them, a teen band. The other 2 bands appear to be struggling. They are mostly adult bands playing older songs and rely on having live gigs to pay their bills. Playing is their job/work, and some members don’t have other sources of income. Their instruments are mostly bottom of the barrel. Their sound systems are what more successful bands discard. Sometimes they start playing at 8:00 PM and don’t stop until the customers can not afford to buy any more beer, typically after 2:00 PM.
One of the other bands had a 19-year-old female vocalist that was consistently singing late on weekends. When the band was finally allowed to go home to the restaurant/bar owner, she had to wait for someone else in the band to drive her. Sometimes the other band members wanted to drink, so she would have to wait or call a family member in the middle of the night to come get her. Is it any wonder she was 19 and still only a high school junior? She was dead tired most Mondays.
How do I know so much about a vocalist in another band? I remember the first time I saw her. My wife and I were at a restobar checking out the competition. The band playing had 2 female singers, one of which appeared to be around 20 years old. She had confidence on stage, and I had to admit, was a more polished performer than the teen girls singing in our band. My wife added to my depression by informing me she used to actually play with our band before we took over sponsorship. (We pieced back together our band a few months after the former sponsor left town with his instruments.) She had latched onto a new band before my wife and I arrived on the scene.
Fast forward a few months and some of the kids in our band were involved in a school duet singing competition. A couple kids in our band brought their partners to practice at our house. They all looked so cute in their school uniforms. My wife poked me and said, “You know, that’s her. That’s the singer in the other band.” I had no idea what she was talking about. The girls I saw were tiny things, looking about 16 years old. Of course, my wife was again correct. It’s amazing how different some Filipina girls look when you remove the makeup, take off the tight dress, and remove the high heels. (“Hey… get your mind out of the gutter….you know what I mean.”) We got to know the new kids once they finished practice and we heard about what life was like in the other band for this young female singer. She also got to know us, and saw/heard first hand how a band could be fun, and not just work.
About two months ago my wife received a text from the girl in the other band. She asked if she could rejoin our band, as she could no longer handle juggling both school and being apart of her current band. Our kids were eager to have her back, so the decision was a no-brainer. I was proud of our kids as adding another person to the band meant that each of their earnings would go down. They apparently put their former friendship and the good of the band ahead of money. As it turns out, adding her to the band was a wise financial decision, as our band has earned much more money the last 2 months with our new vocalist.
Our band now has 4 female vocalists. On stage, they typically wear short skirts or shorts. On special occasions (town fiesta, private party) they wear flashy dresses. Sometimes I wonder if the reason two-thirds our audience is male is somehow related to this fact.
Each member of our band earns around 300 pesos per gig. What do they do with their money? Do they spend it going to the movies or at a Jollibees? No, based on what I’ve been told, they spend it on badly needed clothes, or braces for their teeth, or it simply goes to their parents. Have you ever seen parents on a motorcycle stopping at your house to ask their child for gas money? We have.
Recently, our band has been playing later into the night as the customers keep drinking and don’t want to go home. The band is often paid a percentage of the beer sales, so the longer it performs, the more it gets paid. It seems like a crazy system. A group of teens (that would be mostly under the drinking age in the U.S.) benefiting from over indulging adults. Such is the Philippine province music biz.
FYI: If you would like to see a video of the band, do a search in YouTube for ‘tidalvibe’, which is the name of our band.