December 30, 2010

Week 15: Steps To Advertise on Radio

Unlocking the Mystery of Radio Advertising

According to the Federal Communications Commission, there are 14,547 licensed radio stations in the United States as of September 2010 [source]. No matter how much you think you’re losing people to iPods, Satellite Radio, and CD Players, the number of people who actually listen to radio number more than the number of people who access any other kind of advertising (like print, TV, and billboard).

And radio is intrusive. It gives you sound… a voice… it enables you to provide a sonic version of who you are and what you stand for. Radio is also mobile, it’s playing at the store, in the car, and even streaming online.

Radio can be very effective, but you have to be very careful. You can easily spend a lot of money and be totally ineffective.

To be successful advertising in radio, you’ve got to drive many things home. It’s a mix of things you have no creative control over (listenership) and things you are totally in control of (message).

Before spending dollar one, you need to do some research. Here’s a few things to consider.

In business this is called “frequency.” How many times is the listener going to listen to your commercial before they make a decision to remember the information?

The answer to that question is a little complicated. After hearing a commercial about 3-4 times, someone will be able to recall it. The trick is, getting that person to hear the commercial.

What Time Is It?
Consider your audience. If you are trying to get someone out after 10p, you should cater to those who are up at that time. I’m going to tell you something that not many people will. Buy night time (7p-midnight) or overnight (midnight – 6a). It’s cheaper and you reach people who are listening to the radio at the same time as they could be at your gig. Don’t let them talk you into spreading it out to run all day. Cluster your spots so they run in the same timeframe each night (this is called “rotation”). That way you increase your chance of the same person hearing the ad again.

Buy Bulk
If you are able to do this, buy a big chunk of radio all at once. The best deals are 52 weeks. Of course, you have to have the cash on hand to make it happen. If you’re a member of a group of indie musicians, perhaps you can pool resources. If you don’t have the money for that, know that you should run an ad for about 3-4 weeks for maximum effectiveness. And run the same ad. Don’t change the message. Even if you don’t get someone out to this particular show, there’s going to be a whole lot of new people who now know your band’s name.

How many people are listening to that station at that time? Radio stations have actual data. Yes, they skew it to sell… and they’ll try and sell you the most ”important” times (which oddly enough is also the most expensive). If you visit you can get a list of radio stations in your area and their format (what they play). You can pick some of the lesser known stations for less expensive advertising. Remember, you’re not trying to reach a certain person, you’re trying to reach as many people as possible who might like your music. If you can reach more people on a lesser known station, do it.

Station Identification
If you were selling plumbing or shoes you wouldn’t have to think about this, but you’re selling your music. This is something that you need to think about. What is your music like? Does it fit into one particular genre? I’m willing to bet that you can find 2-3 radio stations that fans of your music may listen to (I counted 46 radio stations in Austin alone). Even if you are heavy metal, there’s a good change that the local pop/rock station could cater to your fans.

Now, if you’re metal, chances are you don’t want to advertise on a country station or easy listening. But don’t get too involved in this…if the guitars plug in and most of the music isn’t twangy, you can pretty much buy ads on any station.

How Long?
There are varying lengths of time you can buy an ad. I would suggest :15 or :30 seconds. Yes, you can buy fifteen seconds. Don’t let them tell you otherwise. You’re buying AIR. There is no preset compartment air fits in. Want to play with the sales rep? Get a quote for :30 second spots and when you have it at exactly the right price… tell them to split it into :15s and double your repetition and rotation. Yeah, they’ll get pissed. But you have the right. Warning, if you’re not spending a good chunk of change, they probably will not care about your business enough to play this game, so reserve this for a big buy… not a 2 week run.

What about the Ad?
If you didn’t notice, none of the above has ANYTHING to do with the show you’re promoting or the actual ad you’re writing. Who you reach is as important as what you say. If you write the best ad in the world and nobody hears it, did it work for you?

Now let’s get down to the ad itself. I’m not going to write it for you, but here are a few pointers.

Note: I can write your ad, but I’m not doing it for free. Contact me through the Outlaw Entertainment Group if you’re interested in that -

Write It Yourself
The radio station may offer to let their writers take care of the script and record it using their people. They will make it seem like it’s part of the “deal.” Don’t do this. Not because they aren’t good writers (although most of them aren’t). It’s because they don’t know you, your band, or the important things you need to get across in your ad. They are not invested in you. They will write the most generic ad possible because they are just writing 30 seconds of words like they did for the furniture store and the car dealership before you.

Ever wonder why spots promoting a radio station are interesting? It’s something the writer is invested in. It’s something they know by heart, and something they believe in. You’re band is not that. Write your own ad.

Information to Include
Think about your ad itself. What information NEEDS to be in there, what information would be nice to have, and what information is just extra?

Basic information – Make sure you include these: club name, bands playing, date of gig, time doors open, and cost.
Would be nice – Website to go for more information and free downloads or to print out a discount coupon (something you can actually track)

No, this isn’t the order of songs on your album. This is how you can have hard proof that the ad worked. Put something in the ad that will enable you to see whether the ad worked. Like in the above paragraph. You can track if someone visits a Website and downloads a coupon or music. Likewise, saying “mention (Name of radio station) for $2 off at the door” and you’ll definitely know they heard it there. Use this to see if you wasted your money or spent it wisely.

Make it Interesting
You’re show is going to be a great time… right? Well, the ad should sell that. It shouldn’t sound like a typical radio ad that is selling shoes or alcohol. Make it memorable. If you’ve got a crazy loud member of the band, they are the spokesperson. The less they sound like they should be on radio the better. You’re trying to make people remember.

If you have to yell – “Kazzoo Zazzoo February 5 is gonna be a great night at the Red Eyed Fly, I’ll tell you what!” Make it happen. You’ll get people walking up to you show night asking what the heck Kazzoo Zazzoo means. You know what it means. They HEARD the ad.

And THAT is what you want to happen, right?

Good luck and Happy New Year.

Sean Claes is the owner of Austin's INsite Magazine and has been a freelance entertainment writer since 1996. For an introduction to his "52 Weeks of DIY Music Advice" visit this link - If you like what you read... please share. To visit Claes' homepage, go here -

December 25, 2010


(This is Week 14 of my Fifty-Two Weeks of Music Do-It-Yourself advice)

Week 14: Do You What I See?
OK y'all. This is the week of Christmas. Instead of writing an article, I'm going to share a few "music related" cartoons. You may think I'm slacking off (and you'd be half right) but think about it. You can actually learn from these jokes. THIS is how some people in the public perceive music and musicians (it's funny because it's true).

Could any of these comics be about you or your band?
Are you there stereotype or the exception to the rule?
Are you the punchline?

If yes... you need to reassess your commitment to music...unless you're cool with being a joke (some bands are cool with it... and that's fine).
If no... congrats, you're going to find these funny... hopefully.

OK.. I need to stop being serious. Just enjoy and have yourself a Merry Christmas.

The Buckets
From The Buckets
From: Toothpaste For Dinner
From: Super Poop

From Frazz

From Herman

Jump Start
From Jump Start

Big Nate
From Big Nate


What The Duck
From What The Duck

Sean Claes is the owner of Austin's INsite Magazine and has been a freelance entertainment writer since 1996. For an introduction to his "52 Weeks of DIY Music Advice" visit this link - If you like what you read... please share. To visit Claes' homepage, go here -

December 22, 2010

Sean Claes' Top Ten Austin Music Releases for 2010

The Top 10 Austin CDs I Listened to this Year

Those who have been following Notes From The Cubicle are aware that between September 2009 and September 2010 I took on a challenge to review one release from an Austin-based band a week for a year. At the end I reviewed 55 different CDs. Why 55? Well, there were 6 EPs in there and I count those as half an album. I have very strong feelings on EPs, which I discuss here (Click link).  

Anyhow. I thought since the year is wrapping up, I’d give you my Top 10 releases I reviewed this year. These are all Austin-based bands and I hope you have a chance to listen to each one at some point. I won’t explain my choices, but I’ll give you a link to the review which will do that for me. Also, if you’ve not heard that particular band, there’s a link to their site and, in most cases, a YouTube video of them playing live.

Now, this was a hard thing for me to cull down to just 10. I only review CDs that I enjoy, so every one of the 55 on that list is a keeper in my eyes. These are just representative of the ones that I find really, really stellar among really good CDs.

So, Merry Christmas and I hope you enjoy this little ditty.

Listed in order of 10-1 with 1 being my favorite.

10. Bobby Bookout - Bobby Bookout
8. Lennon's Song - We Love, We Learn, We Grow
7. Trashy and the Kid - Songs In The Key of Blow Me
6. Alejandro Escovedo - Street Songs of Love
5. The Jeremy Miller Band -  Way Too Fast
4. Ray Wylie Hubbard - A. Enlightenment B. Endarkenment (Hint: There is no C)
3. Terri Hendrix - Cry Till You Laugh 
2. One-Eyed Doll - Break
1. Dave Madden  - Open Eyed / Broken Wide

Dave Madden - Open Eyed
Dave Madden - Broken Wide

Thanks to all who make music for giving me the gift of hearing your craft. And thanks to all who read my musings for giving me a little home to share my thoughts and feelings.

God Bless you and keep you safe in 2011 and beyond.
Sean Claes

p.s. If you're interested, my new challenge for 2010-2011 is 52 Weeks of DIY Music Advice. Check it out and please give feedback.

December 16, 2010

Week 13: Basic Ground Rules

Basic Ground Rules

Treat your band like a business. I have mentioned a few times in past articles and will continue to mention this throughout this series.

Like most of the musicians I know, I have a day job. Making a living off of being an entertainment writer is just as difficult as making a living off of music itself. There is a big pond and we’re all small fish hoping to grow.

Anyhow, in every meeting room at my workplace, there’s a poster that states the “Basic Ground Rules.” It’s easy to ignore or treat like one of those stupid motivational posters (although I do dig the demotivational posters on but it really does give good advice for the workplace… and perhaps bands as well.

So... below are the words on the poster along with my suggestions about how this is applicable in DIY music.

Poster from a meeting room where I work.

Basic Ground Rules
Get it in writing
The problem with a “gentleman’s agreement” is not everyone is a gentleman. When you book a show or agree to appear on a show or at a function, make sure all of the details are in writing and signed by both parties (or at least in an e-mail you’ve printed and taken with you). Things to consider including are: the time, date, price agreed upon, price at the door, sound requirements, number of spots on the guest list, number of drink tickets, contact numbers in case any issues arise… anything you think you’ll need. It’s not that hard to do and it will come in handy at some point.

Be punctual and be prepared
Don’t show up late to your own gig. That should be a given, but for some reason bands get this one wrong a lot. And then they complain when the club doesn’t take their calls. Show up early, make sure you have everything loaded in, hang around and support the other bands on the bill. And when it’s your time to get on stage, BE READY.

Strive to reach consensus
Everyone in the band should have equal rights to have their opinion heard inside the four walls of the band. Each person in your band should be in it for the same reason, to play the music they love for people who dig it. Have band meetings before practice and keep your ego in check. You’re not always going to agree on every detail, but you better have a valid reason behind your decisions.

And when it is time to talk up and promote your band, make sure you all agree on the direction the band is going. Then, elect a leader or spokesperson for your band. This will be the contact clubs will use, media will reach, and fans will be talking to on MySpace, Twitter and Facebook. The spokesperson should be able to talk intelligently about the project at any time. And if you’re not the “elected” spokesperson for the band, you should know what your band’s story is and be able to share it if you have an opportunity to do so (to family, friends, or the stranger on the bar stool next to you that says “Hey, you’re in a band, right?”

One conversation at a time
When you have band meetings, make a list of things to talk about (mental or written) and cover each thing individually. This gives equal weight to all conversations and nobody who has a question will feel ignored or passed over. Its just good manners and it’ll make the unit a stronger one since everyone will know their being heard.

Respect the views of others
So, the local live music rag just trashed last week’s show. Instead of going off about it, why not shoot the reviewer e-mail and thank them for the mention, for coming to the show, and ask if there was anything they can suggest to improve it for next time. You may get a flippant response or no response at all, but you may actually get some good feedback. Always strive to improve and learn your craft.

Inside the band, make sure everyone’s voice is heard and ideas are shared without fear of being raked over the coals. Remember, sometimes the dumbest idea can be the million-dollar discovery. I mean… look at the guy who invented the “sun shade” for cars, or the “Shake Weight,” or KISS’ “I Was Made For Loving You” (rumor has it that song was written as a joke by Paul Stanley to prove how dumb disco music was).

Keep the discussion relevant

Much like this dog in UP, I’ve ALWAYS had problems with this. I’m all over the place mentally… all the time. While writing this I’ve stopped to check Facebook, go to lunch, start designing a Christmas flier for church, upload a video, answer a phone call, order a free bible online (you can get one too - from burn CDs, and check e-mail. When I’m in a meeting, I’ll get a little gleam in my eye and set the group off on a tangent… almost every time. I’m trying to get better though, because I know when dealing with a group, there has to be focus. Keep on the subject at hand and talk about “Red House Furniture” later.

Seriously. Have you seen that commercial for Red House? It’s awesome. I’ll post it at the end of this blog… because you really need to keep reading.

The group is responsible for the outcome
Whatever you create, you create it together. Your band is a partnership, a collective. I’m not saying you should credit the band for songs you’ve written or lessen your creative role in the band. I’m just saying as a band, you present yourself as a single unit and everybody is equal once you step up on stage. If the drummer is off or the guitar is out of tune, or the vocalist’s voice cracks the person in the audience will attribute what they saw to the entire band, not just an individual member, so take it seriously. If you have a problem with the group being responsible for the outcome… you need to go solo. You shouldn’t be in a band.

So... that's is for this week. Did you find this helpful or insightful? Let me know via comment (or click a box below).

Oh.. almost forgot. here's "Red House"

Sean Claes is the owner of Austin's INsite Magazine and has been a freelance entertainment writer since 1996. For an introduction to his "52 Weeks of DIY Music Advice" visit this link - If you like what you read... please share. To visit Claes' homepage, go here -

December 9, 2010

Week 12: Where’s Your Glass Ceiling?

Where’s Your Glass Ceiling?
Photo from Flickr by Christopher Baird

By Sean Claes
Some people flip burgers, some work at a retail store, and some may work security at night to make a little extra money. You play music. The difference is, “promotions” in music is 100% in your hands. You create your own glass ceiling. The amount of work you put into it = the amount of success you can have.

Now, I’m going to assume one thing. I’m going to assume you are talented. I know that’s a big assumption, but in order to make this article make sense that has to be a prerequisite. You have to have a certain skill set to take your craft to the next level. If you don’t have the talent to make it, nothing else in this article will help you. We can’t all be doctors. We can’t all be sports stars. And, we can’t all be musicians. And that’s fine. God created us with a certain skill set. If music isn’t yours… it’s best to accept that and move on.

Got it? OK, we can go on.

Here are five ways a talented musician can create their own glass ceiling.

1. Don’t Practice – Practice is key. Stevie Ray Vaughan didn’t roll out of bed in the morning the first day he picked up the guitar and jam “Rude Mood.” He practiced. A lot. You can’t become good unless you practice as much as you can. You don’t become great unless you do that for many, many years. So, practice.Take lessons. Always strive for improvement.

2. Don’t Play In Clubs – Clubs is where bands cut their teeth. It’s where you develop your performance style, it’s where you can play to a room full of people and test out your music on virgin ears. Many times you’ll hear about popular bands that play small clubs in order to hone their sound when coming out with a new album. THAT is how important it is to play intimate venues. You simply can’t make it to the next level (or stay there) without considering the listener. If you can get a crowd who doesn't know you jamming along with your music, you’re doing something right. You can’t go straight from the garage to the big venue and expect that.

3. Don’t promote yourself – The bands you hear about most are the ones people are talking about. Yeah, that’s a bit of a circular sentence there, but it’s true.

Think about the last 3 new bands you’ve heard. Now… how did you hear about them? Was it from radio? In a magazine? Online? From a friend? On Facebook? On Twitter? How did it get to their hands? Someone created a buzz that got to the right person who made decisions or someone reached a blogger you trusted. It’s all about promotion and with an indie outfit that’s got to start within the band.

4. Piss people off – Who you are as a band comes down to your most pissy member. Be genuine, humble and thankful wherever you go. You never know who's watching or listening There is a popular local band I won’t mention by name who puts on appearances that they’re all about the fans. I had a conversation with a person who was designing their album art and this individual told me the lead singer said something to the effect of “I don’t give a (crap) about the fans, this is my music and my vision and if they don’t like it, (screw) them.” From that day on, I’ve never gone to see them, never listened to one of their songs, and ignore all contact with them. (In case you don’t know, I own an entertainment magazine in Austin).

I’ve heard of quite a few bands blacklisted from certain clubs, or bands that refuse to play with certain other bands, or booking agents who refuse to book bands because of attitude. Put it this way, there’s only one W. Axl Rose and he became a self-centered ass AFTER he got famous… and it was the 1990s so it was acceptable. Now, with social media, bands are so transparent that if you piss someone in power off, the world can know about it in 30 seconds. So, every time you piss someone off, you’re lowering that glass ceiling.

5. Depend on critic’s opinions – At the end of the day, if you’ve giving it your all, done your best, and you’re happy with the result, that’s all that matters. Who cares if a critic compares your music to two drunk cats fornicating in an elevator? What good does it do to take THAT to heart? There’s always going to be negative people out there writing entertainment reviews who are waiting to get hold of your music so they can pick it apart (or be able to use the word “fornicate” in a review). Some people get paid really good money to tell people what they thinks sucks. That’s why music critics get a bad rap (because stereotypes are based on truth). That’s why I’m not that kind of reviewer…. But this isn’t about me. It’s about you. And at the end of the day a little person who feels they must demean someone in order to be read should me met with sadness for that person, not anger. If you’re proud of your work then stand behind it and don’t give the naysayers the time of day, much less a piece of your heart.

You’ve got to have the talent, will power, desire, thick skin, and ability to represent yourself in a good light in order to have the chance to make it in the music business. No guarantees. There are plenty of amazing musicians I know that never broke through. Sometimes it’s not in your control. But, you have to make sure you’re dong all in your power to make the right decisions about the things you DO have control over.

That’s what the glass ceiling is all about.

December 2, 2010

Week 11: Keep It In Your Pants

Keep it in your pants.

This week, I had lunch with a really prolific musician whom I’ve been following for a few years. He just keeps getting better and better musically. And because of this, he’s slowly climbing the ladder of popular Austin musicians. He’s being tapped for some pretty neat gigs. He played Austin's “Rally To Restore Sanity” and is going to play the “The Downtown Holiday Stroll” this weekend. His name is Dave Madden, but the name isn’t as important as the idea he gave me for this week’s article (although you really should check him out).

We were talking about new bands and musicians who seek advice. Many times a band will get ahead of themselves and assume since they are a band, they need to do some of the things more established bands do. Things like dynamic Websites, booking at larger clubs, producing CDs and selling merchandise.

ebay - where band shirts go to die (and where I got this pic)

I know, one of my first entries was on Merchandise, and I’m a big believer in merchandise as a money maker… but you have to make sure you will make a wise investment in merch… don’t just go buy shirts because you are in a band and have a logo. So, before you spend $1,000 on merchandise, answer these questions.

1. How long have you been a band?
2. Do you have a fan base?
3. Is there a demand for your merch?
4. What kinds of merch would your fans want?

And until you can answer all of these questions, keep your wallet in your pants.

How long have you been a band?
You’ve just started out and you may have a few gigs under your belt. Don’t assume since the bands you’re playing with have shirts and koozies that you will make any money that way. You need to come up a little bit more, get some exposure and build a following.

At this point, if you have to invest in something, invest in improving your craft. Take guitar lessons. Take vocal lessons and learn how to be a better front man. Spend the time and money to hone your music and make it something that a stranger walking down the street would hear and it would make him stop, look, and walk into that bar to see. Treat your music like a job. Take classes, workshops, find a mentor and soak up musical knowledge like a sponge.

Do you have a fan base?
What does your mailing list look like? How many people come out to see you on a regular basis? Are they the same people or different? When you can bring new faces into the crowd each gig and have a mailing list of a few hundred people, THEN you can start thinking about merch. Otherwise, you’re spending your money on something that has no customer. If people won’t spend $5 to see you play live, what makes you think they’ll spend $20 on a t-shirt? Build the fan base.

Is there a demand for your merch?
Other than your girlfriend, brother, sister, or cousin, is there someone out there that wants to wear your band’s shirt? Make sure there are folks out there who are aching to spend their money to walk out of a club with something that bears your name. Until then, if you feel you have to hand something out… hand it out. Don’t sell it. Give them a demo.. or a business card with a link to a place they can download your music. Give them something that will strengthen the bond between listener and band.

What kinds of merch would your fans want?
Every band I know that sells merch has CDs and t-shirts. Most have koozies, and some have posters. Now, when is the last time you used a koozie? When is the last time you spent $5 on a koozie instead of getting the free one someone handed you at another show? Is there really a band out there that you want to promote by using their koozie? Think about it.

Now let’s talk t-shirts. I’ve got a vast collection of black concert shirts that have been given to me over the years. Most of which are from bands that don’t exist anymore. Now, don’t get me wrong folks, if you send me a t-shirt (I’m an XL) I’ll take it without complaint, but I’ve only bought a handful of shirts in my lifetime from bands. About the only one I can recall buying is Los Lobos. I wear a few from local bands as well… but I’ve become a t-shirt snob now and only wear shirts I think have cool artwork… and I prefer non-black. Think about someone like me when you’re considering shirts. Because… your fans are likely thinking the same way.

I’d much rather get something useful. A hat, bracelet, sticker, keychain, or poster. Mostly something I can spend a few bucks on to support the band and stick in my pocket.

But, that’s me. Check with your fans and ask if they’re interested in merch and if so… find out what they’d want to buy. I’ve seen some cool stuff. Necklaces, rolling papers, condoms, doll parts, and stuff like that. Be creative as you like, but make sure your fans will get enough of a kick out of it that you can make your money back and then some.

To wrap up
Don’t invest in something that you haven’t done the homework on. I’m not saying don’t go spend your money on things to promote your band. I’m just saying, if you are treating your position as a musician like a job, you have to be accountable for the things you spend the band’s money on. And in order to be sure it’s time… think. And until you do… keep you wallet in your pants.

November 25, 2010

Week 10 - What's the Point?

What’s The Point?

Image Credit:
So, I was talking to a friend about this series and he offered a topic… and it seemed that it would be a nice one to throw out during Thanksgiving Week… so here goes.

If you’re not enjoying yourself, quit.

If you are playing music, it’s because the music bug bit you a long time ago. At least at one point in your life, it was really something you enjoyed doing. You practiced, sought people who played a similar style, connected and formed a group to express your art.

If you find yourself in a band that is no longer making you happy, it’s time for a change. What’s the point? You are an entertainer. That’s your job. On stage you are in charge of a room of people who came to be moved with the emotion you create. If your heart isn’t in it, what are you doing it for?

To quote Edwin McCain:
“It ain’t about the money, it ain’t about the time
It ain’t about the love you lost or the things you think you left behind
It ain’t about your losing streak, makes you feel like you’re falling apart
What matters is the heart.”
- What Matters

So, I beg you. I don’t care how big your band is, how close you think you are to a record deal, or how many fans you think you’ll disappoint. If you’re not happy, make a change. If you don’t, you’ll end up bitter and that is going to show in your performance, your writing, and your personal life. And THAT is not properly representing you as an artist.

Plus, if you aren’t enjoying it, what makes you think that if you DO become huge, you’ll be happy? If you don’t like playing music with this group now… think about living with these folks on tour, during interviews, photo shoots, before shows, after shows, during shows, sharing hotel rooms. It’s not going to get better. Something will give… you will either pay with friendships, sobriety, family, or complete loss of self.

My friend who suggested this topic has been in several local bands in the last 5 years that I’ve known him. He told me that, while he enjoyed all the others, the current project he’s playing in is just amazing. He’s having more fun with this group than he ever has in the past. The members all click together, they took the ego out of the group, and are just playing fun rock and roll music.

Now, previous bands he’s played in have played big showcases, headlined and done well at larger clubs, got great media attention and even graced the cover of an entertainment magazine. But, none of that is important if you’re not in the moment enough to enjoy it.
Consider Metallica. These guys are perhaps the most famous metal band out there. Those guys are a major brand – Their faces and logo appear on CDs, posters, shirts, koozies, Christmas ornaments… you name it. And one of the things they’re most ribbed about is the thing I admire the most about them. They've been incredibly transparent about fame. They have worked HARD to keep it together and they decided to show their hand and have it videotaped for the world to see. Twice. (1992’s A Year and a Half in the Life of Metallica and 2004’s Some Kind of Monster) Even though Lars Ulrich said they shouldn’t have released Some Kind of Monster, in Rolling Stone earlier this year, it should be required viewing for any band that is striving to play music at any level higher than local clubs some day. It really shows how living your life as part of a major brand can tear you apart if you aren’t careful.

And it also shows you how a single member can leave a band and the unit can still survive if they remain to be driven in the same way.

Sure... that’s a drastic example… but think about it. Sit down with yourself and figure out what you want. If you want to go out and be a part of a band that sells 1,000,000 records, are your band mates the ones you want to do it with? If you’re just in it to have a little fun and blow off some steam… that’s fine. Are these the guys you want to do that with? Think about it now, before it becomes a bigger issue. Because, I assure you, it will at some point.

The point is, do what’s best for you. Make sure you are happy with the music you are playing and the people whom you choose to play it with. If you play your music with heart… it doesn’t matter who’s in the crowd listening. You win.

Duarte at Triple Crown in 2003
I remember seeing Chris Duarte play The Triple Crown in San Marcos, Texas a few years back. His “landmark Texas Blues Album” Texas Sugar Strat Magic was 9 years old and in that decade he had struggled with all sorts of dependencies and relationship issues along with fleeting fame. At that moment in 2003 he was doing well as a person (Haven’t seen him in a while so I hope he still is). Anyhow… he was playing this small club to about 5 people. The man blew the place up. It was quite possibly the most intense I’ve ever seen a guitarist play in my life. This man was definitely in the moment and enjoying every second of that stage. I’d seen him play to about 500 people a few years before and he was good, but on that night in 2003 he was on fire. I could myself as lucky for seeing it in person.

THAT is what music is. If you’re don’t play with 100% heart when you’re playing to just the bartender… you really need to think twice about your vocation. If you’re a real musician… you can’t help it. And if you can’t help it.. you need to find a band who you can join to make you happy. Get it?

Sean Claes is the owner of Austin's INsite Magazine and has been a freelance entertainment writer since 1996. For an introduction to his "52 Weeks of DIY Music Advice" visit this link - If you like what you read... please share. To visit Claes' homepage, go here -
FYI: After writing this I looked Chris Duarte up to see what he’s doing these days. He released a CD in October and he’s on tour the next month or so (including playing Austin’s Antone’s on 11/28) in support it. Maybe I’ll get a chance to see him… you should.

November 18, 2010

Week 9: The Rock Star Treatment

Kirk Hammett IS a Rock Star. (Photo by Jay West)

You are not a rock star. You want to be one someday, but you are not a rock star yet. You don’t get to treat people like dirt, give bad interviews, and show up drunk to performances. Want to check and see if you are a rock star? Do these three things on a regular basis. See if you can book a show at the same club. See if you grow your fan base. See if the people who have come to your shows return.

These days, even rock stars can’t act like stereotypical rock stars. Sure, there are a few out there, but really… what has Noel Gallagher done lately? I mean besides being assaulted on stage in 2008 and leaving Oasis in 2009? Yeah.. he’s “working on a solo album.” So am I. Pfft.
(If you must watch.. the assult is at about 1:30)

You are in an independent band. You need to take control of that fact. You will make the band what it is, there are no groomers feeding you lines and there are no labels booking your tours. All you have is your image. Don’t ruin it.

See, you are at the point in your band where you’re begging people to spend $5-$10 to see you and 4 other bands on a Saturday night. You need all the fans you can get. Anything you do to negate that poses a serious threat to your band.

I read an article this week by Vinnie Ribas (founder and CEO of Indie Connect that was all about respect. It’s a good article. You should read it. I’ll pull the first paragraph for you to read here.

“There is one area of the music industry that often gets overlooked when an artist is building his or her career, and yet it may be the most vital contributor to his or her longevity. I am referring to respect – respect for your craftsmanship, professionalism, fairness, work ethic, performance standards, personality, ethics and every other area of your personal and professional life.” – Vinnie Ribas

Read the rest on -

Here’s a few pointers I shouldn’t have to point out, but based on some of the shows I’ve been to… I will.

Play Sober
Your songs may be all about drinking, but before you step foot on stage, you better not get a buzz. You are WORKING. The band is your JOB. If you showed up to a regular full-time or part-time job with alcohol on your breath, you’d be sent home / fired / reprimanded. In a sense what you’re doing is worse, because the people who are paying you are the fans. When you show up and are unable to perform to your full potential… they know and they may elect to not come back.

What’s worse is, you aren’t just doing it to yourself. You’ve got band members who are counting on you as well. You’re making them look bad.

Learn Your Craft
I remember judging a battle of the bands once where the lead singer was an egomaniac and all-out ass.

Also, vocally, he had no business fronting a band. He has fronted a few bands over the years and I don’t understand how he keeps getting a front-man gig. I won’t mention his name because he’s still out there singing. With some vocal coaching he could likely improve his voice, but wow he’s hard to listen to. So bad that someone who came to support his band (friend of the guitarist) came up to me WHILE they were playing (which means WHILE I was judging) and said how crappy he was. That says a lot.

Anyhow, his ego is the biggest problem. Because of ego, he’ll never get vocal coaching. He’ll never find a band that will take his crap for more than a few months. He’ll never impress people and gain new fans. He thinks he is a rock star and he acts like it. Little does he know, the buzz of people he’s got surrounding him are all giggling, not talking. Don’t be that guy. Learn your craft.

See, you are at the point in your band where you’re begging people to spend $5-$10 to see you and 4 other bands on a Saturday night. You need all the fans you can get. Anything you do to negate that poses a serious threat to your band.

Don’t Trash Talk
So, you booked a club and the booking agent, in your terms, “screwed you over.” So, you spend the night and several times after that talking trash about the club, the owner, and the booking agent. Suck it up, you immature little brat. Normally when this happens, it’s because the band doesn’t fully understand the booking process. If you had gone into the club and agreed on all of the terms in advance, and got it on paper, you’d be covered. You didn’t. Learn from this mistake and don’t let t happen again.

Don’t talk trash about other bands. Music is about inclusion not exclusion. When you talk bad about another band, you’re not only dogging on the band, but you’re making enemies of their fans. You can’t afford to lose potential fans.


So.. the baseline is... treat a gig seriously, treat people right, and concentrate on making good music. Perhaps someday you'll be flipping off a crowd of 10,000 adoring fans.

Sean Claes is the owner of Austin's INsite Magazine and has been a freelance entertainment writer since 1996. For an introduction to his "52 Weeks of DIY Music Advice" visit this link - If you like what you read... please share. To visit Claes' homepage, go here -

November 15, 2010

Brand Haiku

This Guy Aaron Stout
Came up with a Haiku post
And challenged others.

The name of the game
is Brand Haiku, want to play?
Post, blog, tweet, or write.

Share your brand Haiku
Could be about anything.
Food, service, or biz.

Examples do sit
at Citizen Marketer
Follow link to see.

Below I will try
To post my own #brandhaiku
Hope you enjoy it.


Sonic shakes are great.
Butterscotch makes my toes curl.

Want more? Go to Twitter and check the hash tag #brandhaiku

November 11, 2010

Week 8: How To Release Your Music (Part 3 of 3)

(This is Week 8 of my Fifty-Two Weeks of Do-It-Yourself Music Advice)


Part 3 – Get Media Excited

Technically, there is no order to this three part series because you should be working on getting media coverage of your band long before the CD release show (and long after as well) and the idea of what format you’re music will be presented in is really a fluid process as well.

But, getting media involved may be the most important step. The length of your band’s shadow only goes so far. Although you are (hopefully) adding new fans each show, you need to depend on outside people to really start a movement.

Read my review of The Banner Year's Release and see them Saturday
By “media” I am talking anyone who has a group of dedicated people who read what they write. It used to be media meant exclusively print – magazines and newspapers. That was before the electronic movement really took a foothold on the genre and blogs like Perez Hilton, The Huffington Post, and Blabbermouth are now considered viable media connections.

Think of it this way: In this world-at-your-fingertips instant gratification life we live in, if Perez Hilton mocks you or if one of your videos goes viral… you’ve made it.

So, how does this wrap into releasing your music? You can’t “make” a video go viral and you can’t force Perez Hilton to mock you. But… you can work your darndest to make sure you are noticed.

If you’re looking at moving from booking the coffeehouse down the street up to playing a 2,000 person capacity show you need to whore your music. Put it in the hands of anyone with a blog that panders to your genre and can write a complete sentence. Bloggers, other musicians, writers, people who have written for magazines and newspapers, radio personalities, television mangers and morning show hosts. ANYONE who has the ability to say your name and reach an audience of which you currently don’t have the ear is your target.

How Do You Do This?
Research, research, research. You should have yourself a media list with contact names and addresses. If you don’t… get one. Compile it yourself or ask another band (who likes you a lot) if they care to share theirs. You can even buy one if you want to go that far. Also, you may ask a media friend. I get several e-mails a day where the “sender” forgets to “BCC” media. That means me, and every media person on that e-mail can see whom they are sending the e-mail to. Instant media list.

Google things like Top Music Blogs and know the publications in your area. Know who reviews music and even better, who reviews the music that is similar to yours. Chances are the person who reviewed the newest Neil Diamond record would not be interested in your grindcore band. Neither would Country Weekly. Perhaps you find the guys who reviewed the 2010 release (The Peel Sessions) from your genre-mates The Locust and send your album to them. Do your homework and you’ll likely be rewarded.

That Personal Touch
Media folks can get about 100 CDs a week from bands that want a review of their music. You need to do something that sets yourself apart.

Here’s what impresses me. When I get a CD in the mail that includes a hand-written letter to me (even on a post-it). Something as simple as “Dear Sean, thanks for taking a look at this CD. I really hope you enjoy it. – “Lead Singer Guy” will do the trick.

But why stop there. Look the reviewer up. “Dear Sean, I really enjoyed reading your review of The Locust’s new album. You have a good grasp on the genre. It made me think I should send you our new release. My band Dog Face Cow just released Utter Times. I hope you give it a listen and please let us know what you think. We’ve got a gig in Austin on November 27 at Red Eyed Fly with Under The Gun. I’ll put your name +1 on the list. Hope you can make it as I’d enjoy talking to you about the music. Feel free to e-mail me at or call 555-555-5555 – “Lead Singer Guy”

You can also do the same by sending something extra in the pack.. a pick, a t-shirt, some promotional swag, a pack of Pop Rocks… something.

Are You Ready?
Always have 4-5 of your band’s CDs with you. If you’re at a bar and someone mentions they write music for a newspaper, magazine or blog, give them a CD. If they mention they work for a radio station… give them a CD. If you know they are involved in media or entertainment promotions… give them a CD. If they are a journalism student at a college and might be able to submit a review to their student paper, give them a CD. Get the idea? If you have any indication that they can get a review done of your CD.. make it happen.

That’s pretty much the basic idea. Treat your new musical release like a major project and make sure you give it all of your attention when promoting. Be as passionate about releasing the music as you were when recording it. Anything less would be selling yourself short.

And come on out to the final show of one of my favorite Austin bands, The Banner Year, this Saturday at the Red Eyed Fly. You see the poster above... Here's the show information via


Sean Claes is the owner of Austin's INsite Magazine and has been a freelance entertainment writer since 1996. For an introduction to his "52 Weeks of DIY Music Advice" visit this link - If you like what you read... please share. To visit Claes' homepage, go here -

November 9, 2010

CD Review: The Banner Year

“Remember that night you told me as long as I have faith in something I won’t be on my own?” - Bottomless

The Banner Year
TheBannerYear (2004)

This Saturday marks the final show for The Banner Year. Lead singer Jason Small is moving to… well.. not Texas. This is a pretty sad thing. I’ve made no bones about stating how much I really enjoy their music. But life goes on and I’m going to be standing there at the Red Eyed Fly this Saturday as they play their last chords as a band. Join me, won’t you?

The band has decided to have a digital release of The Banner Year’s fist album, 2004’s TheBannerYear. He sent me the songs, and I’ve been enjoying them for the last week. Now, the line-up from this album isn’t the current folks…. It’s just Small and others who he ended up working with.

But, if you have enjoyed the last two releases by The Banner Year (...And Straight On 'till Breakfast and What You Won’t Get) you’ll likely enjoy TheBannerYear as it’s the same style, same lyrical content, with some of the same self-deprecating humor for which Small is known.

Take, for instance, the first song, “Minute Of Your Time,” which is appropriately one-minute long. Then there’s “Circuits and Wires” which is where Small admits that he’s not quite human. “Night After Night” showcases Small’s signature slightly whiny voice (that’s a good thing). There’s a great cover of "Simon" originally be Austin ska legends The Impossibles.

The lyric I posted above the review is from the track, “Bottomless” which pretty much typifies a Banner Year song. It’s could be a break-up song. It could be a song about faith. It could be a track about finding a place in life.

The gem of this album has to be the final track, the ballad “I’ll Kill Everyone In This Bar” that leads off with the fantastic lyric: “Goodbye it seems our time is over now and I best be getting home because this bottle has run dry and if I have to be sober than I’d rather be alone.”

If you’d like to pick up a copy of this album, it’s being release electronically through Austin’s Follow this link to get it:

And please join me in saying Goodbye to Banner Year at the Red Eyed Fly this Saturday November 13, 2010. It’s a good line-up with The Banner Year (midnight), Benny Versus The Beast (11p), Waiting For August(10p), Grenadier (9p),Oh No The Radio (8p).

November 5, 2010

Response To "NerdyAppleBottom" 11/02/10 Blog

This is a blog response to a blog posted by someone I don't know... the site is and the blog title is My Son Is Gay. The writer blogs as "Cop's Wife" or "Nerdy Apple"

Please go read that before reading below. Really.
I post this as a blog because... well.. I wrote this response to her.. and I bet she'll never get to read is since this morning she's got over 21k responses. So... it's an ego thing for me.. I thought SOMEONE should read it.

I feel so sorry for.... the parents who had that kind of attitude towards a six-year-old child who just wanted to dress up for Halloween. My favorite line of this blog has got to be "Thirdly, I am not worried that your son will grow up to be an actual ninja so back off." 
I have 2 daughters (3 and 6) and my wife and I have been adamant about not stereotyping their toys and activities Girls don't always have to play with dolls... and boys aren't always going to roughhouse and play basketball... And girls who play with dolls can ALSO roughhouse and play basketball... or not. It's all up to them.
It always saddens me when parents thrust their "grown up preconceived notions" upon kids. I've heard little kids make racist remarks and call other kids names they couldn't have learned on their own.
I'm not a "hippie" parent or a overbearing one.. and it seems like you're doing the same thing. The parents who objected were not "concerned" about this child.. they were projecting the way they felt about a boy dressed as one of girls from the Mystery Machine gang of super sleuths who have saved the day since they were kids. They have let go of the imagination they once possessed as kids and the thought that "YOU CAN BE ANYTHING YOU WANT."
(By the way...I know.. we can't all be doctors or superheros or firemen or princesses... I'm talking within the capacity of the person)
And he would have gotten away with it if it wasn't for those meddling adults.
I hope the kids were more accepting than their adult counterparts. At least we can hope for the next generation.

Oh.. and reading people's response that this woman is being a bad mom for posting her child's photo on the internet in "drag" is just sick. HE'S IN A HALLOWEEN COSTUME! THAT'S THE WHOLE POINT.