November 25, 2010

Week 10 - What's the Point?

What’s The Point?

Image Credit: www.nataliedee.com
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 - http://www.tinyurl.com/Claes52DIY. If you like what you read... please share. To visit Claes' homepage, go here - http://www.seanclaes.com/.
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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


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 - http://indieconnectmagazine.com/your-most-valuable-asset-vinny-ribas/

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.

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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 - http://www.tinyurl.com/Claes52DIY. If you like what you read... please share. To visit Claes' homepage, go here - http://www.seanclaes.com/.

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)

Three Part Series: HOW TO RELEASE YOUR MUSIC

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 vocals@dogfacecow.com 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 DO512.com.

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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 - http://www.tinyurl.com/Claes52DIY. If you like what you read... please share. To visit Claes' homepage, go here - http://www.seanclaes.com/.

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 DoubleStereo.com. Follow this link to get it: http://www.doublestereo.com/items/the-banner-year-the-banner-year

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 http://nerdyapplebottom.com/ 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.
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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. 

November 4, 2010

Week 7: How To Release Your Music (Part 2 of 3)

(This is Week 6 of my Fifty-Two Weeks of Do-It-Yourself Music Advice)

Three Part Series: HOW TO RELEASE YOUR MUSIC



So, you’ve decided how you’re going to present and package your music. Now you’ve got to plan a killer CD release show. You have got to dream big. Knock the cobwebs out of your brain and come up with something that will make people want to come out and celebrate with you. Put some honest thought into this and it’ll likely pay off in a big way.

The CD Release Show (Part 2 of 3)
Snake Skin Prison CD Release Poster



Can You Touch It?
Have the CD in your hand BEFORE going any further. Don’t assume the company producing the physical product will make deadline and have t for you. I’ve been to quite a few shows where the band is hosting a CDless Release Party. It doesn’t look good for the band.. at all.  People have chosen to be with you, pay the cover price, and help you celebrate this occasion. They’re probably even willing to drop a $20 to buy your music. The LEAST you can do is have it available for them.

You can only have one CD Release show (well… per town your band calls home). Make it count.

Booking A Club
There are a couple of schools of thought here. Do you play a club where you’re a regular or try and shoot for the stars and book a club a little bit bigger than the ones you’ve been playing?

If you are a local band, chances are you call a certain club home base. It’s where you play the most gigs. In my thought process, this is where you should host your CD release show. It tells the booking agent, bar owner, and club manager that you see them as an important piece of your band brand. 

If you take the bigger is better route, make sure you’re taking a step as a band and not just doing it as a one-off. There’s a good chance that the club who’d always book you will see this as a little bit of a slap in the face and it may be harder to book there the next time. But, if you’re trying to step-up to the next tier, go for it. Use the CD release show to announce your arrival.

Please, if you do the latter, make sure you explain things to the club that gave you our first chance and helped you develop the following you (hopefully) have earned.

The Line-Up

Again, there are a few ways to go about this. I’ll present three. Depending on the club you’d like to play… you may not have an option, but just in case you do think about these.

 

Get on a Line-up


Find out if the club you’ve chosen has a good line-up scheduled or a headliner that works with your style of music. Sometimes you can get lucky and a national act or a popular local act will need an opener and if you play your cards right, you can promise the club a few more folks through the door than any other opener (you ARE going to have a good crowd to come support you… right?).

Provide Your Own Line-Up

Assuming you are not selling out clubs right now… come to the table with a headliner that is one of the top local draws in your genre. Do your homework on this one. The idea is to find at least one band that provides a much bigger draw than you and have them play directly AFTER you. That way you get the benefit of their fans who are ready to party and a few more heads through the door which will likely mean a few more dollars in your pocket from CD sales. I remember there was a band I did some promo for called Loss Rayne. They released their CD Fragile Mind in 2005 at Alligator Grill (an unconventional spot but nice) and booked Malford Milligan to headline. It was a packed house.

It’s a Party… Right?


It’s your CD release show… wouldn’t you like to pick three other bands who are buddies of yours to help you celebrate? This will work best with a smaller-club scale release. It’s just a big-ol party and you are as much of a participant on stage as in the crowd. Just keep in mind, if this is your choice you’ll probably give away more CDs than you sell, but darn you’ll have a good time.

Promotion

I’ve already done two stories about promotion. You can read them here - Week 1 and Week 2. The addition to that is… this isn’t just another show. It’s a CD Release. Treat it special.

 

Something that has impressed me is bands printing physical tickets to a CD release show. Most recently, the Austin band Snake Skin Prison has gone this route for their CD release party that is happening on November 19 at The Parish Room in Austin (see poster up top). The bonus cool thing they’re doing is lead singer Matt Ballengee is posting photos of people with their tickets in a special album on his Facebook. Buy tickets for this show here. 

 
A band that always seems to impress me on the promotional front is Full Service. They’re actually releasing an acoustic album on November 27 at Stubb’s and they are offering a download of the album for free in exchange for ordering an advance ticket. Show information here.



I’ve made the statement before and I’ll likely use them as an example again. Watch these two bands. They are doing a lot of things right in the band promotion game. If you want to learn you should watch, listen, and follow them (Also follow area folks like One-Eyed Doll, Dave Madden, Trashy and the Kid, and Three Kisses).
 
Another impressive thing for me is when bands go out and push the album through conventional media. Sometimes this takes many attempts, but if you’re playing your cards right, you can likely get booked on a TV or radio show, get a review or interview in a magazine, do a few podcasts, and get some bloggers to rave about the show. Now, if you’ve not given a crap about any of these things before your CD release show is planned, why should they care about you? This is why making good contacts in media is important.

Finally, sink a little bit of money into design for the CD and promotional posters. Your CD is a big achievement. If you want people to drop their money on the product, you need to drop a little bit of money, time, and energy on the materials you’re going to be handing out to promote the piece.


Lagniappes
When I was working for a federal grant, my boss always wanted to throw in a little extra at the end of a presentation… something unexpected but appreciated. He called it a lagniappe (Click the word for an actual definition).

What does this involve for a CD Release show? I don’t know.. they sky is the limits. Announce from stage that you’ll buy a shot of J├Ągermeister for the next 3 people who buy a CD. If it works… announce that you’ll do the same thing for EVERYONE who buys a CD during the last song (What better way to end a CD release show than with an audience participation shot?). Throw a few nice t-shirts out to the audience. Make a package deal just for the show, free shirt with CD purchase, or an “everything is $5” sale. Play a song you have never played before live just for your diehard fans. Give everyone who buys a CD a raffle ticket and give away the drumhead from the show signed by all of the bands who played. Something big.. something that will be appreciated.

Cheers to Jagermeister
(This is from my birthday bash in 2006)

FYI: If you do the shot thing… warn the bar… and work a deal with them.)

Finally
Dream big. It’s a HUGE deal. You’re birthing a CD and setting it free to the world. The more of a big deal you make about the release the more people will take notice and maybe do a little talking you up to others.

Also, remember, the CD release show is the BEGINNING of the promotion of a new album, not the end. After the show, you have got a long way to go.. so get some sleep (the next day or two) and get ready to hit the promotional trail hard the next week… because you’ve got to get some press on this bad boy so it can grow some legs and run on it’s own.