So You Want to Be in a Rock & Roll Band? - Phase 4 by Sal Canzonieri
Welcome to my fourth 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.
Loud Fast Rules magazine issue 4
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!

Phase 4 - Now or Never: Grow your Following

Last issue's column #3, I told you about what to do to once you have WRITTEN GREAT SONGS and more and more people are coming to your shows and fanzines are writing about you (a great example of a great new band that has been doing exactly this, whether on purpose or not is the Nashville Tennesee based band, Be Your Own Pet. They are a perfect example of a young band writing great songs that get more and more people interested in their live shows and their music, I know that they got me hooked). I concentrated on advice about intensifying the band's popularity, which was Phase 3. You are now ready to enter Phase 4!  Ready? Go!

This is the make it or break it point for your group.  If you can get out of this local band ghetto, then you have a strong chance of going national. The most important thing to do now is keep growing your audience. You have to grow your following at this point so that it reaches a critical mass.  You have about 12-18 months to do so when you are at this stage.

1. Since you have great songs and your following keeps growing and growing, if you have been following all the steps I have given you in the first 3 columns, you now have some power that you can use to your advantage. You ONLY have power if you have a large and dedicated audience. No club can push you around if they know that you are good for a full house whenever you play. You'll see that you will suddenly get a lot of respect that you didn't see before from the clubs and other places to play.

DON'T be stupid and weak at this most critical point or your band will be doomed to always having been an "almost" band.  You have to realize that the clubs need you now that you have a strong audience that keeps growing.  Clubs can only exist if they sell enough liquor to pay the rent and they can't survive if they don't partner with popular local bands to bring your audience to them. Your job is to sell liquor for the clubs, simple as that, in the eyes of the clubs. And, a popular band can make a bar pull in from $3,000 to $15,000 (or more!) of sales in one night.

The first thing a club will want to do is to always have you play early in the night, so that your audience will cover their ass. They will be able to make a profit, pay the headliner their guarantee, pay the staff, etc., all off of YOUR back.  SO, DEMAND that you only go on right before the headliner. REPEAT! Play only right before the headliner if your band is bringing in over 300-500 or more people whenever you play. You will evntually LOSE your core audience if you play too early in the night. AND, don't overplay! Don't make people irritated that you are playing AGAIN. Be smart and take the best show dates, where you might make even more new fans.

By now you should be spread all over your state and even neighboring states, so that you only play live once every three months in a given area that does not overlap. If you don't do this, I swear you will disappear very fast. The locals places where you have been playing have to be AFRAID that if you rent out your own place the same night that they are paying a high guarantee that they will lose a large part of the audience to your competing show and they will lose money. You should be getting paid a minimum of $2-$3 a head now too, if you can steadly bring in 300-500, maybe even over 800 people each time you play, and if the word of mouth about how great your band and songs are is continuing to bring in more and more people each show (people from further away places will go out of their way to see your band from hearing people talk about your band's greatness).

The best thing to do is not be a dick with the club owners/manager and blow a good deal by pissing them off, but instead take them out to dinner/lunch, give them some free shirts (give some away to the bar tenders too), and sit them down and offer to make a deal with them. Tell them that you will play exclusively at their club in a certain mile radius every 3 months in return for them letting you play right before the big headliners. Being that you have a large audience, you can also tell them that you will able to bring in well known headliners and convince them to play there with your band (since these headliners will want to have a band with a big draw open for them).

(continued on next page)

(c) 2006 BGT ENT / Sal Canzonieri