So You Want to Be in a Rock & Roll Band? - Phase 5 by Sal Canzonieri
Welcome to my fifth 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 5
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 5 - Going National

This is the point where you have to become a national act and start headlining in the major markets cities!

You should be playing out at the very least a year (if you're band is super amazing) or maybe even two years, but normally around three years at this point. This is most likely your most important moment so far!

It's time to stop, take a breath, look at yourselves in the mirror of reality and ask yourselves if if it worth it to carry on any further. Seriously! The definition of insanity is 'doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result each time'. If that sounds like what is going on with your band, then, sad to say, you guys are nuts and should give up at this point. It is really hard for some people to admit when they just aren't really that great or exciting enough to generate any strong interest in people (not counting your mates and family members). You don't have to be in a national band, you know, you can enjoy playing occassionally for fun at your local club. Well, one good sign that your band should hang it up is that your local clubs don't really want you to play cause you don't draw at all. You can be the best musicians in the world, but if you don't know how to draw (cause you haven't read my previous four columns) then there is nothing anyone can do to save you. In today's times, there are just too many bands around to sustain the system, the sheer enormous number of bands drag down the whole music world, it makes audiences sick and tired of going out to see boring bands opening, it clogs up the record stores with unsold records, it overruns the internet with tons of blah blah bland bands, and it divides the pie into tinier and tinier pieces each year. Do everyone a favor and just stop, you'll be much happier in the long run.

As anyone in the music business will tell you, today there is a not a shortage of bands, there are way too many bands, but a big shortage of TALENT! If there were a lot less bands, and the best possible people worked together to make the best possible songs there would be a wave of new and exciting bands making a lot of news, like The Beatles or the Rolling Stones did. Right now, that is just now happening.

The main reason for this is ever since Nirvana hit it big (after years of struggle by the way!), lots of really stupid people said "I can't that shit!" and started boring bands proving that no that can't do it. Lots of people make a band huge because their music responds to them emtionally and physically. They feel better after hearing their music, and they feel excited whenever they hear their songs, as if it was the first time.

Another reason is that it became "cool" for fake college marketing students to have a job in the music industry instead of doing something else. The worst phoney jerks and control freaks swallowed up most of the jobs and pushed out anyone that had any real understanding about what people really want to enjoy. We have assholes like the president of Interscope saying that people are going to like who he says they will have to like. These kind of people have taken over the major labels and changing them into a machine for force feeding shit into the throats of any morons that will eat it. The trouble is that they think we are all morons. But they are wrong, all they did was drive people away in the greatest numbers ever seen to seek out independent music and turn their backs on major labels product. The major labels have $54,000 a month of overhead each month that they need to pay their expenses. The make all their money from the back catalog of all the old records they sell. They don't want someone who will be super popular and will tell them what to do and will have a strong say in their contract terms. That's why there hasn't been another Elvis, Beatles, Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Bowie, etc., again! So, for spite, since young people know that the major labels are a rip off, they download the one or two good songs on a major label record from other people and they buy records from small bands instead online. The joke is that new vinyl and used record sales (including cd) are the highest they have ever been, and many people who buy vinyl are very young. Why is that happening? Because young people don't want to support the current system that thinks it can dictate to people what they get to hear.

Also, it is WAY TOO EXPENSIVE to tour in the USA (or Europe too) anymore, the price of gas and a motel has risen to the point of making it impossible for a band that is not getting more than $1,000 a night to even get close to breaking even. And gas prices are never going to go down that much anymore, every 2-3 years they will raise it another dollar a gallon. Even if your band is totally great, you are going to have to be a lot more creative about how you are going to pay for the expensive of touring  (which I will talk about at the end of this column).

If things are look great and it's decided that it is full steam ahead, then read on:

1. At this point, you should have 2 or even 3 albums out.  Some that you released on your own with people that you hired to work for you and with fan volunteer help and some with Indie labels that really like your music and care about your band.  You have to look at your record sales at this point. They have to be between 10,000 to 100,000 at least, or more (up to 300,000) copies.  If not, then you have to see why not?  Look over every angle that can be used to increase your sales.  Examine any shortcomings that have held back sales (such as the quality of the music and the band). Maybe your label sucks or is a crook, maybe the distributor sucks or is a crook? Find out before it is too late. Believe it or not, some labels want some of their bands to do bad so that they can either get a tax break or launder money by claiming large loses when there wasn't really any. There are way too many record labels around now and sad to say many are started because they are fronts for other things. And some labels sign bands to PREVENT them from getting popular and hurting the sales of their main act.

Also, some distributors have their own labels (a big PROBLEM in the music industry) and they will not do much to sell records from other labels that have bands that compete with their in-house labels best band. Happens all the time! A case in point, a recent band that became very popular had their album distributed by a distributor in another country. The person who was in charge of having the stores order product from the various labels they distributed had a mate who was the publicist for this band. So this person had the stores return all the competiing bands for this band and to overstock with this new band instead. It made it look like "everyone" was interested in this new band cause all the main stores were fully packed with their records (at the expense of all the other bands who had their records send back as returns to keep them off the shelves). So, the publicist made a big deal of how many huge orders this band was getting and the music press there made a big deal of that, and of course peopel became curious and grabbed a copy in case it got sold out. Thus, bingo, their big sales were engineered to happen. Then, they got even more press about how many millions they sold in that small country, and then our country's music press made a big deal about these sales and then when it became sold here, tons of people bought a copy to see why they were so popular there, and then they became popular here, and then they become even more popular because of all the stupid people that only kiss the ass of what is popular! All their success was on the back of ripping off all the bands that had all their records returned so that they would be on the shelves and competing this band's record. Nice crooks, eh?

Also, distributors that have their own label pay for their expenses by sucking money out of the other labels that they distribute. Man's Ruin Records, Junk Records, and others were labels that were doing great, but were destroyed by their distributors who never paid them for their sales. Stay away from smaller labels that are distributed by such much bigger distributors that have their own labels, or you'll be sorry!

(continued on next page)

(c) 2006 BGT ENT / Sal Canzonieri