August 11, 2013

The Pete Kilpatrick Band: A sound business plan

Thanks to advances in technology, making it in the music business nowadays is easier for everyone – and, just maybe, harder than ever.

By Ray Routhier
Staff Writer

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The Pete Kilpatrick Band plays to a packed house at The Big Easy recently in Portland.

Photos by Gabe Souza/Staff Photographer

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Bandmates Matt Cosby and Pete Kilpatrick lug equipment into the Market Street venue before the show. These days, musicians often struggle to be heard above all the competition.

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When The Pete Kilpatrick Band showed up, a couple members of the Fogcutters, a Portland big-band swing group, were already in the space. There was a little confusion over whose turn it was to rehearse that night. No big deal, though -- the Fogcutters decided to stay, have a beer, and listen to Kilpatrick's band rehearse.

When it came time for The Big Easy gig, Kilpatrick left his home in Brunswick in the band's van, a 10-year-old Ford with a TV and comfy chairs. He spent some time with his son earlier in the day, knowing he'd be gone until early Sunday morning and would sleep late that day.

In the summer, the band may do three gigs a week, and in winter, they may be on the road for two months or so on their annual winter tour of ski resorts. As a result, Kilpatrick tries to be diligent in scheduling time to be with his family.

His wife, Molly, was a fan of Kilpatrick's music before dating him, so his work schedule is no surprise to her.

"He's such a good role model for Sawyer, working so hard to follow his passion. It's hard to find people as inspired by life as Pete is," said Molly in the couple's living room.

Kilpatrick, sitting at the table, looked up with a surprised expression.

"Wow -- I never knew you felt that way," he said softly.

It's was nearing showtime at The Big Easy as Kilpatrick and Cosby began unpacking the van. They took breaks while unloading equipment to make and take phone calls in an effort to line up an opening act. The band that was supposed to open the show was coming from New York, but its van broke down.

After an hour-long sound check, the band left The Big Easy and headed to the Regency Hotel bar a block away, where they have a ritual of having a drink and maybe a meal before Big Easy gigs.

Sitting around a table, eating burgers and lobster and assorted salads, the band members worked and played. Cosby wrote out a setlist on note paper and made copies by hand for the others.

When they returned to The Big Easy, the place was crowded, and Doubting Gravity -- a local band that had agreed to be the replacement opener -- was playing. A few young women came up to Kilpatrick, introduced themselves, and told him how much they liked his music.

Kilpatrick thanked them and made polite banter. He showed pictures of his son on his phone to a bartender before the band began its set.

The band started sometime after 10:30 p.m. and played until around 1 a.m. They spent about 45 minutes packing up all their gear themselves, and another 30 minutes chatting with friends and fans who had stayed late.

They didn't leave for their homes until almost 2:30 a.m.


Because of technology and the changes in music, Kilpatrick and his band have to have other revenue streams besides selling music to fans and playing gigs. For one, Kilpatrick licenses their songs to various businesses (one is called Aperture Music), which place the songs in TV shows and films.

Technological changes have led to a huge increase in content being created for the Internet and cable TV, and a need for cheap soundtrack music. Producers don't want to pay high fees to license songs from hit-making bands like The Rolling Stones. That opens the door for acts like The Pete Kilpatrick Band.

In addition to "The First Time," the band's songs have appeared on NBC's "The Office" and "Parks and Recreation," as well as the Fox sitcom "Ben & Kate." Sometimes a song is played for just a few seconds, but the revenue stream is extremely helpful.

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