So You Want to Be in a Rock & Roll Band? - Phase 2 (page 2)

This month the column is about getting popular! Which means that you have to do a lot of hard work, especially write great songs that people will be excited about and start the word of mouth trail going.

Loud Fast Rules magazine issue 2
Continued from previous page.

Phase 2 - Getting Popular (continued)

Now that you have a bunch of great songs (at least 8!), you can move on to the rest of the steps:

2. Do a few local shows at the new bands nights - this is just to practice playing in front of people and iron out the kinks.  Once things are really working on stage, never play these shitty new bands nights ever again. Just do it only for yourselves to work out the stage show. Tape it, of course, to help refine it further. It is really important to tape these early shows and see what looks like crap and what looks great. Figure out who should be on which side of the stage, who should be in the middle or on the sides, etc. What moves look good, what looks dumb. How not to over do it or under do it on stage. These shows are your real chance to fix all this before you start playing in front of crowds.

3. Before you start doing "real" shows, and opening for bigger bands - record your best current songs for a single on vinyl (for rock and punk music genre) and a cd ep, so that you have something to give away or sell at your shows so that people that like the band can leave with something in their hands to remind them about the band and can let other people have a listen to it too. Work for or borrow the money to record a serious 3 to 5 song EP that can be used as a demo tape for clubs and labels and for giving away or selling at shows. Spend a lot of time making it sound great. Bring the records with you of things you like to at least give the engineer a chance to understand what you want to do. Make a lot of copies of this demo record, everyone is going to remember you from these songs, it is your first impression that you will be giving people. Also have at least one cool t-shirt to sell as well. AND give out lots of stickers and buttons. What's the use of playing in front of a lot of people and making new fans if they have nothing to go home with of yours? They will soon forget you. Feed them!!! You MUST have music for them to take home and then other stuff to reinforce your image to them.

4. Write friendly letters to the bands that you like and enclose your demo. Don't point blank ask for anything! Just say that you are a fan of their band and in return for enjoying their past releases, you are enclosing something of yours for them to perhaps enjoy.  This will make them interested in hearing it because you are not pressuring for a deal or favors.  Write follow up letters (or emails) and get friendly with them.  Within 3 to 6 months, you should have some exchanges going on, if your music is good.

5. Make friends with the better and more successful local bands and eventually ask them for contacts and if you can use them as a reference. This takes a while, but this type of networking is how most bands got their foot in the door - through another band.  Many bands were championed by other bands and will do the same for newer bands in return.  You would be surprised how much help other bands can be if they really like your music.

6. The smart thing to do next is to try to get a small label interested in releasing a single or cd ep so that you can have product to sell at your shows (without costing you the pressing fees). Contact by phone all the labels that you like that are small (hopefully you can say that another band recommended you to them and vice versa).  Small labels are always looking for gems or even diamonds in the rough. Don't bother with bigger labels (unless you have someone you know there are another band is championing you). Send them your demo in a priority mailer not a plain yellow mailer or anything like that. If you don't think your music is important enough that you should spend a little extra money on the mailer, then it certainly isn't and you shouldn't bother mailing it out then.Plain mailing envelopes sent the cheapest way are the ones opened LAST, if at all anywhere!

If they like your demo and want to release a record, tell them that you want to get paid in product (not money). Some of these Indie labels will give a band from 100 to 300 singles and/or about 30 to 50 or more cds in return for not having to pay for recording costs or an advance. This way you have product to sell at your shows and it shows people that someone else was willing to pay real money to release your songs, thus establishing legitimacy for your band in local people's eyes.  Don't sign any contracts that claim ownership for the masters.  If you pay for the recording costs, the masters belong to you only, unless you sell them to someone.  You should only be signing a limited agreement for them to have a "right of use" of your songs to release as records, nothing else. And NEVER sign something that says they can release your record "In Perpetuity", which means they own it forever!

7. Look for the better compilation and band tribute records in your genre that are around and contact these labels to get on them. Try to get on as many of them as you can. But try to stay away from ones that are just a general hodge-podge of bands.  Try to get on ones that have some known bands - national or local. And NEVER pay to be one any compilations, that's retarded! Those are a sure scam. Don't believe anthing they tell you about them going to big level people everywhere, etc. What do you think those "big" people will do with something that has a million bands they never heard of? Throw it away or give it to their interns to listen to, if they don't throw it away at that point

8. Once you have something in your hands as a demo then you should start looking for good local shows.  Clubs will take you serious if they see you have a record out. Same thing here, get friendly with the club booking agent if possible (many are hard to make friends with though). Most of the time, don't bother to play any other days except Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.  IF there is a national act playing on a weekday and IF you can play right before them, then do it, otherwise don't bother taking the gig. Clubs look for dumb bands to use to fill in the weak nights, don't be one of them or people will never take the band seriously locally and will never get out of the weeknight rut.  Also, always play clubs that are too small for your audience (I learned this one from the Rolling Stones!). It is better to have a line outside the club than a half empty club!!!! Move on to the next size club in such kind of increments.

9. Since it is more important to get popular (than rich) in the beginning (it does cost money to get popular though) make a giveaway item of some of your songs at the shows.  It would be smart at the early shows to have a cassette or cd EP that you can give away to anyone that shows an interest in the band.  Also, you can pass out samples of your music for a few weeks before your shows to people that you see at other shows in areas near where you will be playing that you know already like the same type of music as yours. Include a flyer with it.  This is much more effective than just putting up flyers around town, they get covered up fast and people don't look at them anymore anyway. But, people always like to get gifts, so pass them out!  See if you can work it out with the club that if people come to the club with the promo item they get in for half price and tell people this as you give them the item.  Clubs want a lot of people to come there to drink, that is the only reason that they have music playing. SO, the more ways you can figure out how to get a lot of people there the better it will be for you in the long run.  Your band will get the reputation for being a good draw and both the clubs and the trendy people will like this and word of mouth will spread fast. DO this about half a dozen times and your audience will grow enough to be able to sustain itself.

10. Don't play too Long! This means keep your sets short in the early days, 20 minutes to half an hour is enough, until people ask for more, eventually building up to 45 minutes. Headlining shows are 60 minutes or more, depending on how many encores you get (but that's way later). Make people feel like they wanted to have more but don't give it to them.

11. Don't play too much!  Also, in the very beginning play once a week until your audience builds up and then taper off, don't ever play more than once a month (unless the first show is opening for a much bigger band and then new fans made here can come see the second show that month).  Once they band has established itself, taper off to once every 3 months in the area and the rest of the time spent building up your following in the surrounding areas.  The goal is to build up your following in a 50 mile radius. You must do this before you can move on to shows outside of your area or state.  You have to build it up so that you can have a sold out show in your 50 mile area.

12. Get to know all the local fanzines and magazines and try to get reviewed in all of them, live shows and recordings.  Get in as many as possible, no matter how small. THAT is how a buzz starts, seeing a bands name all over the place. Do as many interviews as possible, they are more important than any reviews ever would be.  The more interviews you do, for your whole life of your career, the more popular you will keep getting, because like minded people will connect to what you are saying and will go and seek out your records. Your interviews will tell people about you and what your music is all about and how it relates to their life and so on. Then will then seek out your music. (Make sure to give your website addresses and contact information in every interview!) Reviews are just some stranger's opinions that are often ignored and forgotten, but interviews are your best chance to reach potential new fans.  

13. Get to know the local DJs and have them play you stuff on college radio, in clubs, etc.  Also, local commercial stations have specialty shows on the off hours and days and will play local bands that are popular.

14. Don't say anything against other bands. Don't make it look like other bands are competition for you.  Just keep talking to the audience as soon as the show is over and keep looking for people that will help you out in some way. This will keep you too busy at a show to be concerned about any thing negative from other bands.

Congratulations! You are now at the bottom of the bottom, along with literally almost a million bands, it was hard work getting here, next step the middle of the bottom!

I'll pick up from here next issue! Click here to go to Phase 3!

Sal Canzonieri - /

(c) 2005 BGT ENT / Sal Canzonieri