So You Want to Be in a Rock & Roll Band? - Article 8 by Sal Canzonieri
Welcome to my eighth column in Loud Fast Rules magazine. This column will be all about being successful in the music business based on my experiences from playing music since 1975. I'm going to be real and no holds barred about every facet of the music biz from the top to the bottom. It's pretty much advice and discussion, what sucks and what is great. I'm going to tell you what other people won't. Feel free to contact me and let me know what worked for you, if you have some good advice for people.
There are many aspects to the music world, and every one of them has things that happen in them that can either totally fuck you up or can be great if things work out right for you. These are: the people in the bands themselves; the booking agents; the promoters of the shows; the clubs, halls, etc.; the lawyers; the recording studios; the record producers; the A&R people; the radio stations and the DJs; the internet and music websites; the music shops that carry supplies and instruments; the record labels; the distributors; the record stores; the merch manufacturers; the music press and the fanzines and newstand magazines; and the audience. So, in each column I am going to talk about one of these aspects and it ain't going to be pretty!

Article 8 - Some Smart Tips!

This column I'm going to give a series of things that are good to help a developing band get stronger. Like I said a million times before, most bands have no idea how to really do the work of being in a band and becoming successful. It is a LOT of hard work that most people don't feel like doing, hence the average band last less than 3 years. Here's some good "how to" advice:

1 - One resource that has a lot of pointers for bands is this website: . Also check out:

2 – There are three words that help you make a strong email or myspace bulletin, and so on, that will entice people to buy your music. As you've probably found out, it's not just enough to have a web site. Just because you've built it doesn't mean people will come. To say that would be like saying people will call you just because you have a phone number. It just doesn't happen. (Unless you just want junk mail). The name of the game is to sell the most music. This used to mean CDs, but now for some type of music Vinyl is back, while for other type of music, downloadable songs are what's necessary. Also, that certainly means LIVE music as well, no live shows, no new fans. No matter what format it is presented, you need to reach people. Communication must be clear and must offer people something of value.

You need to maximize every single opportunity you have to position your music, get more gigs, and earn more fans.  You need to concentrate on selling yourself and your music to the people you come in contact with on a daily basis. You need to know Who are your fans?  You need to have a clear idea about this, otherwise you are on a wild goose chase, shooting arrows without a target.  Learn and get to know your fans, chances are they are a lot like you, or else wouldn't be making to kind of music that you are doing now (you sure would be a big fake, that's for sure! What motivates your fans?  Why would they spend money on your music? What are you offering them that other bands are not? 

The three words or concepts to keep in mind are: a Feature, an Application, and a Benefit.

- The Feature is what you are presenting to people, what aspect of your music, such as it being funny, or exciting, or wild rock & roll, or old school Punk, or the most brutal hardcore, or the heaviest metal. A Feature is more than just that though, it is more specific. For example, a Feature would be “12 special unreleased songs from your vaults that have never been released, an hours worth of exciting manic Punk Rock from your band”.

- The Application is what your fans can do with this special music? Well, sure, listen to it, big deal. The Application has to be enticing, like “Putting this record in the stereo at a party would cause the majority of people to Rock their asses off.”  Or “putting this record on in your car stereo will get your mate hot”.  You get the idea.

- The Benefit is What is in it for your end user?  That's why you need to ask yourself.  How is getting people to Rock their asses off going to help you?  Get it? That means the person who has this record would become more well liked and people would remember having a lot of fun when they were at a party hosted by this person. That's where you have to close the selling process by getting to the BENEFIT.  The Benefit you tell people is that your record “will help everybody at your party to get loosened up and have a great time. They'll remember you for it and you'll feel great that everything was a success.” And, that's all because of a $10 investment.

Get them warmed up with a feature, help them out a little with an application, and focus on the benefits to close the deal. 

3 – DON”T NEGLECT the main stay of the music business for the Internet. Yes, the Web is hot right now, the mp3 format is hot right now, and email communication is at an all time high, but don't let that be an excuse for you to neglect other aspects of your promotion. In the long run, being popular only on the Internet is not going to get you live shows and grow your audience. Regardless of the bullshitter like iTunes are saying, Live music is still the staple of the independent music business and no one sees it going anywhere else soon.  People want to get out and see bands.  Be there for them. People want to be excited with amazing shows and amazing music. Be there for them. People want to feel inspired. Be there for them.

Itunes, by the way, is the biggest rip off of all. Those people that run it could not care less that you will most likely never get paid for any of the thousands of sales you are bring them. All that these technocrats care about is how much web traffic they get. They could care less if you are being treated fairly, or about the quality of the music they present. They are the Walmart undercut and oversell  of the music business. I know many bands that have sold thousands on iTunes  and never have seen a penny of that money. In fact, they never even gave iTunes permission to have their records there for sale. Just who is getting the band's money, certainly iTunes and maybe the record label they got them from. BUT NOT THE BANDS.

Itunes SUCKS for a variety of  important reasons: Itunes cuts into your live show sales, it makes music fans lazy and not bother going out to find new great music. It makes people forget the importance and value of an exciting and inspirational live show. Can you imagine only experiencing bands like Minor Threat, Black Flag, Guns & Roses, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, Motorhead, The Ramones, Slayer, and so on by computer downloaded music> NO WAY!. None of these bands became famous from their computer download music, they were hot shit live bands! This is an important thing to understand and learn from!

4 – CD sales are disappearing. Look into selling special things that no one can get anywhere else. Like vinyl versions of your music. It only costs about $1,600 to make  500 vinyl copies of your record. You don't need a label to do that. Make them yourself and sell them live and online. Do special records only for your fan club too. If you do make a CD, make a special one that is only available live if they come to see your band. Have it contain songs that they can not get anywhere else online or in stores. Electric Frankenstein not only sells records live that you can only get through me, but we make EF art books, EF Tattoo Flash Books, and special shirts, and so on. Make a lot of press about this.

5 – The fact is that most demo CDs that bands send to record labels gets thrown in a big bin. Many labels have three: total crap, boring, and could be good. I have been to record labels and they were moaning the fact that some huge band sent them their demo in a horrible boring package and they never even looked at it. Now they have a whole box of demos by popular bands that they overlooked. It took this bands years more to get noticed (the good thing was that it was forcing them to make their live show great enough to attract a bigger audience each time because no one was opening their demo package). Listen, record labels, big or small, even people like me, get hundreds of packages every day! How can they possibly spent their whole day listening to demos? They have to do their everyday label work!

So, DON”T send labels shit looking manila envelope with scribbled writing, NO ONE WILL OPEN IT. First, you must contact the label and tell them via email or whatever that you are sending them a demo package under the recommendation of someone that they might now (which means you have to do some homework and contact someone like this and let them hear your music first). Get the label people interested in you as a person first!  When your package arrives not only does the envelope have to look great and cool, but it has to contain information that is easy to digest and are esthetically pleasing. When packages arrive with prolonged bios (more than one page) and tons of press clippings in a not very attractive package it can become quite cumbersome and delays their curiosity about the release. You should put your best foot forward. If it's a sampler give them 4-5 songs, with a brief paragraph or 1 page bio on you the artist and some Important press quotes or additional info (music been used in other films or commercials; someone's they would know's favorite band or singer) on another page. You Don't really need photographs if images are included in the CD artwork. USING COOL ARTWORK BY A GREAT ARTIST IS MUCH MORE ATTRACTIVE THAN A STUPID BAND PHOTO line up of the members. I know for a fact that some labels get so many demos that they make up excuses to not listen to the demo based on the band photo, especially if someone is wearing a shirt of another band that they label owner might not like. Also specifying what TYPE or variation of music it is can be very helpful: Rock, Rap, Country, Alternative, etc. Knowing whether a song or songs master AND publishing can be cleared easily is most important. The difference between One stop or ten stop shopping is huge when considering your music budget and expenses. After that, follow ups with a phone call or better yet an - e-mail reminds them to pull that package out of the stack (if one exists) if they haven't already reviewed it. You have been warned, not following this advice will  for sure keep your demo from every being listened to.

6- This goes also for when you send music to the press to review, the same exact rules apply. Except, there is one extra rule, WHEN SENDING STUFF TO THE PRESS< make sure that in the cover letter and band description you are totally specific about what your music is, what bands you are like or have your roots in, and just what you call your music. OTHERWISE< the press will write whatever comes to the top of their head, which is often total crap that will turn off any reader from being interested in your band. The music press can be your best friend or your worst enemy. They will 9 out of 10 times will just print exactly what you said about your band in the cover letter, bio, band description, etc. Why? Cause they are often lazy, and most of them time they write their stuff at the last minute and are rushing to me a deadline. So, use this to your advantage.  Be their best friend and give them exact words to use about your band. Just like with record labels, Get the media interested in you as a person first.

Here's some advice from Drunk Ted, a writer for the now defunct Flipside magazine, that every band was dying to get into. If Electric Frankenstein never got on the cover of Flipside back in the early 1990s, we never would have gotten more popular.

Says Drunk Ted: “In defense of the reviewers of magazines, you literally get HUNDREDS of CDs/LPs to review every month.  There is SO much stuff out there, it is literally impossible to listen to it all and give it a fair review.  If you did, you wouldn't have the time to listen to the stuff you like to listen to.  There are only so many hours in a day.  How it worked for Flipside, was we would go to Flipside HQ, and there was a stack of stuff.  If you got there first, you got the cream of the crop (i.e. things you may have heard of and have a reference point for reviewing).  If not, you just pick out whatever "looked cool" to review becuase all that was left was "no name" stuff.  Not that "no name" stuff is not good, but it's that much harder to weed out the good stuff from the bad.  That's how I "discovered" Zeke.  I saw a cassette that said "produced by Stephan Egerton & Bill Stevenson".  Saw that and grabbed it. Been a fan ever since.

Here's a couple tips for lesser known bands out there:

Lesson 1: when sending stuff to a zine, ALWAYS address it to whatever particular writer who you think will like it.  They will usually get it and you're usually going to get a more "fair" review from someone who understands your music.  If you don't do this, it will just get thrown into a pile and it's first come, first serve.

Lesson 2: Have a good cover or presentation.  I know that sounds hokey, but if you're an unknown band and no one knows who you are, the only way to get attention is by your album cover.  I got turned onto a ton of bands by going through a stack of 7"s or CDs by a cool album title or artwork.”  (I know without a doubt the Electric Frankenstein's record covers have gotten us a shit load of reviews and interviews, enough to make us one of the world's most featured band in the indie music press.)

7. In essence there are 7 Steps to Creating a Buzz about your band in the press:

1. Know the Project and Understand your Marketing Goals

(i.e., The project is a regional CD Release Campaign with a tour for your rock-n-roll band. The goal is to gain public awareness about your up-coming shows and your new album- resulting in an increase in show attendance and CD sales in those markets. This makes another goal, which is to get quality features, reviews, announcements, and interviews in regional and national press, internet, radio and television.)

2. Understand the Audience and Target Market (Demographics, how to reach them and what are the best ways)

(i.e., Local Weeklies and Statewide Papers, Regional and National Magazines, Modern Rock Radio and Local Radio Programs, Internet E-Zines, fan sites, chat rooms & select Local & National Television Shows)

3. Develop a "Message" that best translates the Marketing Goals of the client to their intended Audience

(i.e., ”A high-energy Rock Concert is just the ticket to an escape from your normal everyday life. With the release of our new album, you can take that escape home with you.”)

4. Develop a Marketing and Publicity Plan, with Timeline and Budget needed to deliver the Message

(i.e., 14-week Publicity Campaign with Press, Radio, and Television Coverage. Including interviews, feature stories, album reviews and calendar listings announcing the up-coming concert, CD release & further developing the artists' name and image in each market)

5. Implement the Plan

(i.e., Begin by writing and sending press releases announcing the show and CD Release tailored to fit each media outlet. Aggressively follow-up with writers and editors to ascertain interest in coverage via telephone, email, & fax. Send press kits with the new Album & special media VIP invites to shows; arrange interviews with the band in person and via telephone, etc.)

6. Monitor the Progress

(i.e., How are we doing? Press, Audio and Video Clippings should be stacking up and Concerts should show an increase in attendance and positive public response. CD sales in those markets should be showing a positive response as well. Cowboy Mouth's name should be on the tongues of every concert-goer for weeks after the show! Fans can't wait until the next time they play that market.)

7. Assess and Adjust the plan, as is necessary.

That it for this month. If you want to read all the past music advice columns I have done for Loud Fast Rules, you can read then here:



(c) 2007 BGT ENT / Sal Canzonieri