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 -


Patrick Swift said...

A great post, Mr. Claes!

As someone who's been in the trenches for years and years, I have to correct and clarify one point, as I feel like it's somewhat misleading.

A contract with a venue can let them know that you're serious and you know what you're talking about, but if the night bombs and the guy doesn't meet your guarantee, it DOES NOT protect you. You can't sue the venue or take any kind of legislative action, and it wouldn't be worth it for your door money anyway.

Know this - the absolute best leverage you have when dealing with a club is to put the proverbial butts in the seats. If you hustle enough people in the door, they will take care of you, book you again, and a lot of times hook you up with free drinks or other perks that the other bands who don't draw just won't get.

Another small piece of advice - if you have a friend that's willing to help out for the night, have him or her grab a counter clicker (it's a cheap little thing with a number counter that goes up one every time you click the button, you can find them all sorts of places), because there ARE clubs that will screw you for any number of reasons.

I played a club with a friend's band whose manager was the booking agent at the place, and their numbers looked a lot better than ours on paper at the end of the night, even though our crowd was much bigger. It's just part of the business, but if you have numbers to dispute it, the owner in question will sometimes throw you more money.

At the end of the day, though, if you bring people, most clubs will take care of you. If and when you encounter the club that doesn't, Sean is right - Don't go bitching about the club to anyone that will listen. It makes you look like a whiner and club owners and bookers talk to each other . . . it will only hurt your band. Just take your alcohol-swilling fans to a club that will do the right thing, and everyone is happy.

Also, go to the venue yourself and hang up all your posters and promo material, and go to a few shows at the club you're playing a few weeks before and hand out flyers and sampler CD's. This will impress the owners and show them you're serious about getting people out to your show, and they will step up their own efforts. It's a symbiotic relationship . . . they WILL NOT DO THIS FOR YOU. Your band is your business, treat it as such and make the effort to make the show great, or someone else's band will.

Tony Barker said...

Hear, hear. The people that are in a position to make decisions are DONE with Stupid Rookie Crap in all forms.

Most of the decisions that affect your life are made without you being in the room (Book them? Book them again? etc.). You may be able to outrun the smell you leave for a while (the singer example), but there are too many good musicians out there for you consistently shoot yourself in the foot and still try to stay in this race.