So You Want to Be in a Rock & Roll Band? - Phase 5 (page 2)

This month the column is about fully becoming a national act, with regular touring, regular album releases, more merchandise, and so on, AND most important how to finance your band the best way!

Loud Fast Rules magazine issue 5
Continued from previous page.

Phase 5 - Going National (continued)

Now that you have started becoming a fully national act, you can move on to the rest of the steps:

2. It makes no sense to do an expensive driving tour all over the country if you have not sold enough records and gotten reviews and articles and interviews in national magazines and fanzines.  To start playing national, you have to have enough people from these other areas of the country that will want to come out and see your act. You will know this based also on how many emails and letters you get from people in certain parts of the country.

Please don't be so stupid as to think that if you sold 500 copies of a single, for example, that people all over the country will have heard of you and will come to see you play, whether you are a support band or headliner on a tour. IT IS THE KISS OF DEATH FOR YOUR BAND TO DO THAT! Many, many people make this mistake over and over. Don't tour nationally until you are known nationally in the press and with sales so that the pressure builds up from demand for you to tour.

Also, another BIG mistake that bands do is to play in another country where no one has a way of knowing who you are yet because you think that people will come out to see you because they would be curious to hear a band from your country here. HA! Only a very very small number of people will go see a band they never heard of. Overseas bands do this all the time and go home totally broke and disillusioned, even bands that are very popular where they are from. WHEN YOU HAVE LOTS OF PRESS AND LOTS OF SALES, THEN GO TOUR THERE, until then, make sure that you get lots of press and sales so that you can go tour there eventually. COMMON SENSE, something that is always destroyed by false hope.

Now, the smart thing to do is to be strategic about shows.  There are primary markets, secondary markets, and tertiary markets. For touring, there are primary market cities (like San Francisco, CA; Los Angeles, CA; Austin, TX; Portland, OR; Chicago, IL; NYC, NY; Montreal, QC; Toronto, ON) and then there are secondary market cities (like Seattle, WA; Phil, PA; Boston, MA; Denver, CO; Milwaukee, WI; Atlanta, GA) that potentially have large club audiences to draw from.  These other cities are good too (sometimes better than the secondary market) as a third level market surrounding the other two markets, like: Detroit, MI; Baltimore, MD; Oklahoma City, Ok; San Antonio, TX; Dallas, TX; Raleigh, NC; Indianapolis, IN; Hoboken, NJ; Costa Mesa, CA; Long Beach, CA; Miami, FL.; Green Bay, WI; Wash, DC., Richmond and Virginia Beach, VA; Sometimes good are:  New Orleans, LA; Memphis and Nashville, TN.; Akron, OH; Minneapolis, MN; and others.

If you don't have much time, hit all the major market cities first and build your reputation up there. Next time, include most of the secondary markets until you are known enough in those cities. Once your are popular in these two markets, then people in the third (and fourth!) level markets will be interested in seeing your band play, then it is time to play them and grab many new fans. If you just play everywhere with no strategy to grow your popularity in places based on the size of their markets, then your tours will be all hit or miss per tour date, some places will have heard of you and some not enough, and it is demoralizing to keep hitting dud areas in between a few good ones. Keep the popularity ball rolling by working on the biggest markets first, because there is more potential to reach the most numbers of people to draw a percentage from. Play the smaller places nationally as you get more and more well known. This is the best way to do it when you have limited time and resources for your early national tours. Go first where your sales and press are the biggest, then work on the other areas. Why play places that it is too early yet for your to be popular there. It takes time to reach down into the smaller city markets.

The rest of the country is all hit or miss. Unfortunately, the more of a hick town it is the more the people ONLY come out to see the opening bands. The more of a snobby city it is the more people ONLY come out to see the headliner. Best places in Canada such as: Montreal; Quebec City; Ottawa; Toronto, Hamilton, London, Windsor, Calgary; Victoria, and Vancouver.

The first time around, it might make sense to fly to these places, use the guarantee money to pay for the tickets, and use the merchandise sales to pay yourselves for the shows (or the other way around, whatever works best for you at this point).  You have to make sure that they club can has a reliable backline, or that the opening band will let you use their drums and amps.  You can fly to one area, rent a van and equipment and do a short tour in that area (like all of Cali or all of Texas).

3. After doing a year of these major and secondary markets, record sales should increase, based on new people seeing the band.  Don't forget, you have to do promotions in those new areas that you are playing in just like you did locally, so that means radio, fanzine, instores (where you play live in record stores - even Virgin records does this for bands), giveaways, etc. IF you don't sell a lot of CD, shirts, etc., at these shows, then you are in big trouble and people weren't that into it. Soon as you are doing playing, don't go hiding in the backstage area! At least some of the band needs to get right into the audience, thank people who look interested for coming to the show, and ask them if they are interested in buying a cd or shirt (have them in your hand ready to go when you get off the stage).

4. Call your distributors and let them know that you are playing a certain area, so they can concentrate on selling your stuff there.  Network with fans and bands from that area and find out record stores and such that you can call and ask them to sell your records while you are in their area. Also, send them posters to put up in their stores , at least 2 to 4 weeks in advance of the shows.

5. At this point, it is smart to really get to know people that work at the distribution companies.  Contact and visit any distribution companies that you can and give the sales people band t-shirts and promo CDs to have as a courtesy.  Most of them are usually fans of the bands.  If they see a face and know a real person represents the bands, they will be more inclined to push your sales.  Also, network here so that when you release your own records on your own label, they will be inclined to sell it for you.  If they don't know you, they won't care about you.

6. Once you reach a level where you are selling over 40,000 copies a record, it is time to consider selling the next main record yourself.  You will make much more profit per record and a lot of the hard work to get the band known has been done.  You will have to hire promo companies and all such stuff just like an Indie Label, but by the time it is your 3rd or 4th album, you will be a known, proven, selling act and many good companies will want to work with you. Also, music consultant companies can help you at this point get a stronger focus on where you are going and what you have to do to get there.  You have to have a serious business plan that covers all your merch and record sales and helps plan out growing the business you have developed for yourself.

7. Or, you can get a bigger deal with a bigger label and continue to piggy back sales and promotions for the records they release with ones that you release to a limited degree (via live shows and website) yourself to maximize your profit levels.

8. Do more interviews in as many places as possible all over the world.

9. You will have to cycle through this step a lot of times until you are selling at least 100,000 records or more.

10.  Being that it is now TOO expensive to tour now, the SMART thing for a band or a promoter for that matter is to get SPONSORS to support the tour. What you need to do is this (PAY ATTENTION CAUSE I AM ABOUT TO TEACH YOU HOW TO FISH RATHER THAN HOW TO EAT A FISH):

a - Think of all the cool stores and companies that your audience would be interested in at all. Everything from tattoo parlors to clothing companies to liquor companies to toy companies to you  name it.

b - Make a cool plastic bag that contains your promo posters and some free cds, etc.

c - Contact these places and let them know that you are doing a giveaway bag that goes out free to everyone that comes to your shows. Tell them that your audience features the demographics that are right for their products and that you would like to feature free samples or promotional material from them in the bag, for a fee that will help sponsor the tour (to offset the tour expenses).

d - Tell the sponsors that you will also put up their banners on your website showing that they are one of your tour sponsors and you will do the same on your myspace page and you will put up their physical banner at the live show as well, if they supply you with one.

e- offer to print their banner in the cd booklet of your next album. You can even make the money to record your album using only sponsors and not a record label.

That's what Electric Frankenstein did for our latest album. In a week's time, we made $15,000 from sponsors that were willing to have their banner placed on our posters, cd booklets, website, etc for the album. We then recorded the record and with the leftover money, we had tour support for a whole year, and we flew to every show.

Well, if you've made it this far: Congratulations! You are now at the middle, along with thousands of bands, next
step the bottom of the top!

I'll pick up from here next issue! Click here for Phase 6!

Sal Canzonieri - /

(c) 2006 BGT ENT / Sal Canzonieri