Radar

In my last blog post I talked about the importance of going to live shows, mostly as a way for people to get to know who you are.  If you don’t have any shows coming up, it’s just as important—maybe even more important—to attend other shows so your awareness doesn’t slip off the radar of your growing fan base.  As you’ll experience once your band starts rolling and you have a couple years behind you, the band experience is full of peaks and valleys.  I’ll share an experience that my band and I had, in the hopes that you don’t repeat the same mistake.

During our first few years, we played as many shows as we possibly could.  The problem was, we were starting to burn out and we realized that we needed to work smarter.  In addition, we hadn’t been able to work on new music because we were burning the candle at both ends by juggling our band and work lives.  The mistake we made was that when we decided to write our next record, we decided to focus as much as possible on the writing process and put playing live shows on the back burner.  Since we weren’t playing live shows, what use was it to waste energy on promoting a band who wasn’t playing out, right?  WRONG!

After the record came out and we starting booking shows again, we starting hearing that people had thought we had broken up. We had completely vanished from their radar.  Don’t make the same mistake.  Even if your show schedule is bleak, or you’ve chosen not to play shows because you want to spend your energy writing, still go to shows. See and be seen.  This will ensure you stay in the hearts and minds of your fans. It ensures your band stays fresh and relevant.  Also, keep up the promotions.  You don’t need to go out and paste flyers everywhere, but get on social networks and remain connected. Join conversations or start conversations. Your fans want to know what you’re up to.

When you have a show coming up, say within a few weeks or so, it would behoove you to visit that venue and start passing out handbills for your upcoming show.  This will satisfy four very important criteria to make your upcoming show, and future shows at this venue, go well:

1. You’re passing out handbills, thereby increasing word-of-mouth and recognition about your show.  You don’t need to be pushy. Simply tell people you have a show coming up and that it would be great if they could make it.  Have a nutshell description of your band ready because chance are, if the person with whom you’re speaking hasn’t heard of your band, they’ll ask you what your band sounds like.  Keep it simple.

2. You’re making one-to-one connections and meeting your future fans.  Having a face-to-face interaction with people is so very important.  If your fans like you or your band personally, or they feel a connection to you, they are more likely to follow you. They’ll want you to do well, and they’ll do what they can to support you.

3. The venue’s owners and/or booking managers and/or promoters will see you out there promoting for your show.  In the club owner’s eye, not only are you promoting your show, you’re also promoting his business.  The booking managers and promoters will see that you’re out there pounding the pavement.

4. Most bands are lazy.  So when good, hard-working bands see that your band is in the trenches doing the dirty work, you’ve instantly escalated your stature as a band with whom they would consider working.  If you have four bands on the bill for a show, and all four bands are promoting, it’s a beautiful thing. When one of the four bands is the weak link, it’s obvious. Don’t be that weak link.  Instead, be the band that leads by example and pushes all the others to try harder.  When it comes to promoting at shows, many venues will let you in for free if they know that you’re promoting a show at their club, so all the more reason to get out there and do it.

All bands, regardless of the level of success, are in danger of slipping off the radar screen. By promoting consistently and wisely, you are taking steps toward eliminating that risk and catapulting your band to the center of the radar screen.

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If it seems like all my posts are about getting gigs, that’s by design. So far, I’ve posted 5 1/2 chapters of a book I’m writing titled How to Get Your Band out of The Garage.  There are 16 chapters written so far, geared toward helping fledgling bands get their start. Chapters posted so far:

1. Find Cool People

2. Write Great Songs

3. Start Playing Shows

4. Investigate Local Venues

5. Investigate Local Promoters

6. Go to (lots of) Shows

If you know someone who could use the advice, won’t you please share? Thanks and I welcome any feedback.

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I can’t express this point enough.  One of the most important things you can do for your band, and for yourself, is to simply attend local shows.  Go to as many shows as you can, even if your own band isn’t yet at the stage of playing shows.

Attending local shows is the fastest way for you to become recognized and known among your local scene.  You’ve heard the phrase “see and be seen” right?  That’s not just some cheesy Hollywood party advice. It’s really important.  Here’s why…

The more shows you attend, the faster you learn how things work.  At any venue, you’ll soon learn who works the door, who the bartenders are, who runs the sound equipment, who’s in charge of booking, etc.  It doesn’t have to break the bank either. Many local shows are free, and if not, they’re just a few bucks.  Plus, many places that charge a cover will let you in free before a certain time.

You’ll be amazed how fast you start getting to know people. You don’t have to be the most outgoing person in the world either.  In fact, if you’re the quiet, introverted type, you’d be astonished to learn how many of your fellow musicians are just like you.  Take it from me, I’m not exactly the most outgoing person in the world.  But now I feel completely comfortable going to a local show on a Friday or Saturday night.  I know that a lot of folks going are also local musicians, and chances are that I’ll probably see someone that I know or that knows my band. Trust me, I don’t gallop up to everybody and try to shake their hand. I typically nurse a drink and hang out in one spot, or if I get bored, I may cruise around the venue a little.

Give it a try. Go out and have some fun!

Promoters are primarily responsible for publicizing, creating awareness, and getting as many people to a show as possible.  Promoters work with the bands, venues and booking agents to ensure that their shows will occur with a hitch. They typically decide each of the set times for the bands, they organize the sound checks and backlining (for venues that require faster setup times), and they schedule show dates with the venue. Sometimes promoters will also help you get paid.

Work with a good promoter

At the local level, beyond publicizing a show, a good promoter will know everything there is to know about his scene.  That is, what all the best venues are; which venues cater to which genres; venue contacts for booking; who all the best bands are and who to contact for booking these bands; how to pair bands together for a great show; and the layout, capacity and logistics of each venue.

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Bad promoters aren’t worth the trouble

A good live music venue will work hand-in-hand with a promoter, and even the bands, to advertise and promote shows. It’s in the venue’s best interest to do so.  The more people who show up, the happier the venue, the promoter, the bands and even the fans.  Fans love the energy of big crowds, bands love the energy of big crowds, and venues love the money big crowds spend.  Some venues, howe Read the rest of this entry »

Fans of both Linkin Park and Stone Temple Pilots got a huge surprise when STP performed with Chester Bennington as vocalist Saturday night at KROQ’s Weenie Roast concert. I’ve been a long-time fan of STP, and was fortunate enough to know for weeks that the secret performances (they also played Sunday night at Live105’s BFD concert) were about to take place.  I didn’t know, however, that Chester would be the new front man.  I knew it would be someone big, and I knew this “someone” was part of another major project.  But still, I would’ve never guessed Chester Bennington–and trust me–I tried guessing. And guessing. And guessing.  I also was aware that STP was scheduled–prior to Saturday’s news–to perform May 30 at Los Angeles’ Club Nokia for a benefit concert, and that Chester would be there.  The thought that Chester could possibly be the new singer crossed my mind for a second, but I quickly dismissed it because, let’s face it, Linkin Park and STP are from two different worlds.

Predictably, the know-it-alls in cyberspace are denouncing the move: “How could you STP?!” “You’ll have to change your names to something else!” Blah, blah, blah.  To be perfectly honest, I too was a little–how do I put this lightly–disappointed when I realized it was Chester who was fronting the band.  Nothing against Chester, I was just never a fan of Linkin Park.

However, I watched the entire concert via KROQ’s live concert stream on Saturday night and I attended Live105’s BFD concert on Sunday night.  Now, I’ve seen STP with Scott Weiland at least 5 times and I was skeptical that this combination could work.  I can tell you that Chester’s performance on both nights was better than I expected to say the least. His performance Sunday was even better than it was Saturday. Sunday’s performance easily had more energy. And the new song, “Out of Time,” rocks!

Does Chester have as good a singing voice as Scott? No.  Is Chester a worthy rock and roll singer?  Absolutely! Chester is simply a different type of singer than Scott.  It’s like comparing Bon Scot with Jon Anderson.  One is clean and the other is power, but their talents overlap in just the right places.  During STP’s performance, I longed for Scott’s voice but I found myself really impressed with Chester’s power and his stage presence–the man is stepping into some mighty shoes.  His screams alone got the crowd pumped.  To think that STP’s performance last night was only their second live performance together is scary.

This new incarnation of STP is worthy.

STP fans, before you start spewing vitriol at me, hear me out.  I love STP. Whenever I hear one of their songs, I feel a tinge of sadness because that band that created all those great songs that became part of the soundtrack of my life are gone.  When news broke that Scott Weiland was fired, everyone assumed STP was over.  I didn’t think so, and I publicly stated as much. Here’s why:  the DeLeo brothers and Eric Kretz are excellent, extremely underrated musicians who lived in Scott’s shadow.  Scott’s a tremendous talent, no doubt about it.  But put yourself in the band’s shoes.  They created great music time and again, and time and again they had tours cut short or they couldn’t record new material because of Scott’s shortcomings.  At their level, when a member isn’t functioning, it effects a ton of people: The band, the label, the road crew, the ticket agencies, and of course the fans.  Don’t forget the band as a business, as an employer.  If these guys aren’t producing new material and performing, they’re not making money and it ultimately impacts their families.  If I had someone keeping me from earning the living I deserved, or who was keeping me from doing what I loved, I would do something about it.  In fact, I did do something about it.  My band fired our first bass player for that very reason. We loved the guy to death, but he was dragging us down and not allowing us to live up to our potential.

It’s scary to make such a monumental change, but if you do nothing, then you have nothing. If STP kept going the way the were headed, we’d probably never hear new music.  Now, we have the opportunity to hear new music and see more shows. I’m stoked for the guys, and I wish the best for Scott. I hope he stays healthy, learns from this loss, and lands on his feet.

STP fan? LP fan? Am I full of it? Let me know. Thanks for reading.

Been out of touch for a while.  I hereby vow to post much more frequently than 1x/month.  The book, How to Get Your Band out of The Garage, is coming along.  I have 18 chapters mapped out, and 14 chapters written. So far, I’ve posted the first three chapters of the book, which are:

  1. Chapter 1 – Find Cool People
  2. Chapter 2 – Writer Great Songs
  3. Chapter 3 – Start Playing Shows

The fourth chapter assumes you’ve put together a band with people  you enjoy.  Perhaps you’ve also written a handful of original songs and have even managed to play some house parties for friends.  Now, it’s time to branch out a little further and…

Start Investigating Venues (Chapter 4)

9 Lives Gilroy

My singer scoping out the 9 Lives Club prior to soundcheck. Those chairs will have to go!

As you and your bandmates become more proficient at playing shows, you’ll soon start to feel it’s time to graduate from playing house parties to a real live music venues.   There are several ways to do this, but the very first step that I highly recommend you take is to start investigating your local scene.  That’s right, now you have a legitimate excuse to go out.

Before you start pounding the pavement, however, start thinking about your scene. Heck, maybe you’re already well-known in your local scene and you go out all the time. Great!  But maybe you’re not, and you don’t know how to go about it.  Ask yourself what you know about your own local scene.  Is it vibrant and thriving?  Is it lackluster and depressing?  If you don’t know, ask musicians you know for what they think.

A good resource to get you off and running is your local newspaper.  If you live in a larger city, your town probably has a weekly arts and entertainment newspaper.  Pick it up and read through it every week without failure.  Start becoming familiar with band names from your area.  Make a list of all the live music venues that you believe would be a good fit for your band. Check out the publication’s masthead to learn who the music editor is and follow him or her on Twitter. See if the newspaper has a Facebook page and “like” them. Your goal is to keep your finger on the pulse of your scene so that when you start booking your own shows, you come in armed with knowledge.

But wait…how do I start booking my own shows?

I’m glad you asked.  Once you get your list down to a few venues, start checking out those venues online or by going there in person. Learn what kind of bands they’re interested in having play there.  Learn what nights of the week they have live music.  Is live music their bread and butter?  Are they just getting into live music? Many live music venues have an information page on their website that tells you how to go about booking a show.  If they don’t, simply stop by the club and ask who’s in charge of booking bands.

If you’re band has yet to play its first show at any of the live music venues in your area, your best chance of getting a gig is to be an opener for a show that’s already booked.  Check out the calendars at the venues where you want to play.  Notice how many bands they typically have play on a given night. If the venue typically books four bands a night, and you see some dates where there are bands similar to your genre, but only two or three bands are listed, contact those bands and ask if they need an opener.  Chances are you’ll be doing those bands a favor. If you don’t get the gig, at least you’ve made another contact and fostered a relationship in your scene. That’s a win. That’s progress you can be proud of.

You may be lucky enough to live in a city where there’s a thriving music scene. A good scene has a healthy ecosystem, and *you* and your band are an extremely important part of that system.  A healthy music scene ecosystem consists of many bands in all sorts of genres, several music venues that support live music many nights a week, promoters, instrument and records stores, a supportive city government, and of course…fans!

If you are lucky enough to live in town with a decent scene, heed my advice: Under no circumstance should you attempt to create a new place for live music. It’s not worth your time, and here’s why:  When you live in a town where the scene is good, people know where to go to see a live music event.  When you attempt to create a new music venue, you’re swimming upstream.  By attempting to create a new venue, you’re instantly doubling (at least) your work load because now you not only have to promote your upcoming show, you also have to promote this “new” music venue that no one knows about.  Also, depending on the scale of the show, you may need to rent a PA system, hire security and (in some cases) get a permit. In the end, you may end up losing money. Trust me, I learned the hard way.

If, on the other hand, your town is lacking live venues, you may need to get a little creative.  Don’t limit yourself to bars and restaurants.  I’ve seen, and participated in, some great shows in church recreation rooms, parks, colleges, coffee shops, music stores, record stores (a few still exist), basements and backyards.  The list is endless.  Talk to other bands in your scene. They’re not your competitors, they’re your partners.  By working together with your bandmates and other bands, you have the collective intelligence of a group of talented, artistic people. No challenge is too great.

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As always, please feel free to share this post with others. I’d love to start a dialogue and share horror stories and success stories. Looking forward to any and all comments and feedback. Thanks for reading!

 

corvallis basement

If you’ve stumbled across my blog, you’re aware I’m writing book, How To Get Your Band Out Of The Garage.  The first chapter discusses the first step aspiring musicians need to take when forming a band.  That all important first step, Find Cool People, is also the title of the first chapter of the book.  I trust that I made my point that it is more important to find cool people with whom to work, than it is to find virtuosos.  About a month later, I posted chapter two, Write Great Songs.  It seems obvious that a band would want to write great songs, but becoming a good songwriter is tough.  There are many, many elements to consider when architecting a song.  In the second chapter I recommend researching timeless tunes to gain a familiarity of how these songs are architected.

Now if the first step is to find cool people to build your band, and the second step is to write great songs, then the next step must be…you guessed it…start playing shows!

Chapter 3:  Start Playing Shows

Your first “show” doesn’t have to be big and fancy.  Just invite a few friends over to your practice space, or garage as the case may be, and run through a few songs. Then start playing house shows, basement shows, parties and backyard BBQs.  If you’re still in school, find out when the next party is, who’s hosting it, and ask if your band can play.  Enter your band into a talent show or battle of the bands contest.  Do enough of these shows, and do them well, and people will start asking you to play at their events.

But what if we’re not ready?  What if we’re not good enough?  You will never be as good as you want to be.  You will always be your own worst critic.  Do not rob yourself of weeks, months or even years of experience by waiting for some “perfect time” when you believe you’re ready.

The Ramones’ first British concert, at London’s Roundhouse concert hall, was held on July 4, 1976, the United States Bicentennial.  The Sex Pistols were playing in Sheffield that evening, supported by The Clash making their public debut.  The next night, members of both bands attended the Ramones’ gig at the Dingwall’s club.  Ramones manager Danny Fields recalls a conversation between Johnny Ramone and Clash bassist Paul Simonon. “Johnny asked him, ‘What do you do?  Are you in a band?’  Paul said, ‘Well, we just rehearse.  We call ourselves The Clash but we’re not good enough.’  Johnny said, ‘Wait until you see us–we stink, we’re lousy, we can’t play.  Just get out there and do it.’”–from Punk, by Stephen Colegrave and Chris Sullivan (p. 234)

But it’s scary!  Yeah, but good scary.  Like dropping into a half-pipe, or down the face of a wave or riding a huge roller coaster.  In a word, it’s a rush!  It makes you feel alive.  Don’t rob yourself of the purity of this energy by having a drink (or four) before your gig.   I know you may have seen tons of bands do this, and maybe it even looks cool.  But let me tell you, it will dull the experience.

Feeling nervous about playing in front of actual people? Good!  That’s a gift.  Use the adrenalin boost to your advantage.  People want you to do well–even strangers–so try to be loose and have fun.  Remember, it’s a live show.  Things break and go out of tune even for the biggest acts.  That’s part of the adventure for both you and the audience.

The best way to combat nervousness is to face it head-on and often.  Pretty soon those feelings will dissipate and you’ll learn to enjoy that little twinge in your gut–like when you’re about to take that first drop on a roller coaster, or drop into a wave, half-pipe–and you’ll start to look forward to it. You’ll live for it. It will become all you ever think about.   So get used to playing in front of people.  Mistakes will happen. Strings will break.  Instrument cables will stop working.  Drumsticks will break and/or inadvertently fly out of drummers’ hands.  The more you play, the more experience you will gain when Murphy’s Law rears it’s ugly head. Your goal is to learn how to prevent the mistakes and equipment malfunctions in the first place.  Books won’t teach you that, but experience will.  Where the rubber meets the road is when the inevitable malfunction happens and you and your crew handle it in stride.

There’s no such thing as a perfect show.  If you’re having fun on stage, your audience will have fun too.  Guaranteed.  On the other hand, if you and your bandmates are standing in one spot, stiff as bricks, staring at your shoes or with your back to the crowd, your audience will sense the tension and no one will have a good time.

The best live bands know that a show is never one-dimensional.  It’s a dialogue between you and your audience.  Your band and your audience are interacting, exchanging feedback with one another.  Your band performs songs and the crowd reacts to the experience.  If you pour your soul out on stage, your audience will return the favor—in spades.  It’s a great feeling! There’s really nothing like it, so don’t fake it.  If you do, your audience will know it and that will be the last time they bother to come and see you play.

As always, I welcome any feedback or comments. I would love for people to talk about their first show experiences. Thanks for reading. And by the way, the picture above is a basement show in Corvallis, OR, on my band’s second tour.  The tour stop was so epic, we wrote a song called “Corvallis.”

The Boston Marathon

Posted: April 16, 2013 in Uncategorized
Tags: , ,

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Tonight I was going to post another chapter from How To Get Your Band Out Of The Garage. But I’m not in the mood.

The events that transpired today in Boston were heartbreaking. Athletes and artists and the spectators who support them are special. Sport and art transcend geography, race, religion, culture, and even ignorance. It’s at cultural or sporting events where we often witness the utmost in human abilities, and as spectators we become inspired by super-human talent. For a brief moment we become one, transfixed by the performance and oblivious to the outside world and the ugly side of humanity. We lose ourselves in the music, or cheering for the athlete as she shatters a world record. Today was all the more devastating, because it targeted an innocent event–no, a celebration–that attracted people from all walks of life. There were runners from 96 countries I thought I read.

As today’s news unfolded, I was inspired by fearless actions of those rushing to help, and of the runners themselves…no longer running to cross the finish line, but running to help the victims.

I don’t really even know why I’m blogging tonight. Maybe I just need to get some noise out of my head and onto the screen. I know I’m not alone. Maybe in some small way, all of us out here in the blogosphere sharing our feelings will somehow console those who need it most now. Maybe.