December 29, 2011

Week 51: To Play Free or Not to Play Free

That's this Weeks Question.

The first week of music in January in Austin, Texas has been known as “Free Week” for almost a decade. It started when Graham Williams (Transmission Entertainment/Fun Fun Fun Fest) was booking at Emo’s and was an attempt to get folks out to a bar during the cold weather in between college semesters.

From a marketing / bar standpoint, it’s a really good idea. And you know what? I’ll probably take a show or two in. There are a couple bands in town I’d like to see, but not enough to pay for them. Did I just write that? Ahem… I mean… well… I mean I’m a very, very cheap person. It’s true. I’ve often said that my family motto is “It’s All About The Free Stuff.” 

Of course, I’m a 38 year-old father of two that lives in Kyle, Texas who happens to have been an entertainment writer for the last 15 years. I’m really not your average music fan.

So, I’ve put my thoughts to paper on a few questions you may have (and should have if you’re trying to advance your musical career). It’s too late to be booked for Free Week 2012… but if you’re playing it… or hoping to play it next year, this may be for you. 
See the bands playing Free Week 2012 on

1. Does Free Week bring average music fans out?
There is definitely a buzz between the Red River/ 6th Street area during the first week in January. So, yes, there is a lot more people on the street this week because of the event, but they are all craving something free.

The question is, how do you get that average music fan* to see you during free week? Remember it’s not up to the club to promote you. YOU are in charge of getting butts into that club. There are going to be more than 15 clubs in Austin within a mile of each other with bands playing for free.
How are you doing getting people to your show? Did you use the social media? Did you poster up the area? Did you hand out hand-bills? Are you creating a buzz about your show? Did you e-mail media? Try to get on a radio show? Get some press on a local blog? Post your show on places like  and Showlist Austin? In short… have you done ANYTHING to tell people about your show?

If not, you’re just playing to play… and that's OK... it shows you’re not serious about the progress of your band, and when you’re done playing your show you can go back to the garage and tinker like you enjoy doing. There's absolutely nothing wrong with that. But, I write this article for musicians who may want a little more out of their musical career.

2. Do you really gain any fans?
You get out what you put in. I’ve seen bands play Free Week that have their entire merch booth set up, I’ve seen others that didn’t have a thing for sale and still others who gave away their album. Remember, there’s a BUNCH of bands playing at the same time. Last year I jumped between 4 different bars. The only bands I remembered were the ones I had something in my pocket from at the end of the night.

3. Who WAS that band?
As mentioned above, I checked out a few bands last year for Free Week. I probably heard 10-15 bands in one evening. I was taking photos AND video. There were a few bands I shot that nobody knew who they were. If you don’t have a sign up letting people know who you are… or at least mention it a few times (or hand something out), how are they going to find you again?
Eagle Eye Williamson playing Free Week 2011 @ Club Deville

4. Is playing “FREE WEEK” any different than the other free shows you do in town?
The ONLY difference is, there will be 15+ other free choices around you. Everyone is offering their talent for no charge. The question is….well.. #5.

5. How is your band going to stand out?
That’s more of a question for YOU. And you should think outside the box on this one. Here’s a few ideas:
a. Commission an artist to paint a piece of art during your set… and tell people that if they sign up to your mailing list, they have a chance to win a drawing to get to keep the artwork.
b. Give away your CD to everyone who wants it, and go by after the show and offer to autograph it, as an added bonus… or at least say hello and thanks.
c. Costumes. Funny hats. Something outlandish. WARNING, this only works if you have good music… or else you’ll be remembered as that crappy band in English soldier uniforms.
d. Be dynamic from stage. Treat the show like you’re trying to win something. You may be… winning a fan, or maybe a slot opening up for a larger band at that venue.
Art vs. Industry play Stubbs during Free Week 2011

My FREE advice
(worth much more than it cost you)
So, if you are asking me, playing for no pay is acceptable, as long as you and your band mates have a plan for Return-On-Investment (ROI). Make sure that the time you put into the night… lugging equipment, paying for parking, time away from loved ones, practice time, drinks, etc… is either understood to be a loss, or you have figured out a way to come in even or ahead. 

If you’ve read a few of my posts in this series, it should be no surprise when I say that you need to run your band like a business. It’s called the “MUSIC BUSINESS.” The clubs are your stores and your band is your product. You will not get very far if you keep giving away your product, but it’s a good idea to give folks a free sample now and again as long as you’re monitoring the ROI. 

Personally, if I were in a band that played the bar scene, I would probably rail against Free Week, unless there was some kind of deal going on behind the scenes with a promoter that promised a bigger (and paying) gig for a positive performance. I’d actually want to play a gig with a cover charge that week… and out-promote and out-rock the freebie clubs.

I asked a few Facebook friends what they thought of playing for Free. My friend Jose Santacruz made a good point, which pretty much encompasses my thoughts as a whole.
“I think as musicians, we sell ourselves short and we let others do it as well. A freebie for charity, for a good cause, for a friend... sure,” he said. “But to go to a club and not get paid while you are keeping the bar full? I don't think so. Owners will make it seem like people will stay no matter what, but what a coincidence that they are staying while you are there too? You did not run them off and you should be paid.”
Another friend chimed in with this sad, but true nugget. 
“Let's not forget most weeks in Austin are free weeks,” David Love said.
So, think about this bands playing Free Week: If there’s no ROI, you’re just feeding the bar some money and walking away with less money than you began with.

In a live music scene that is losing more clubs by the day, (the latest casualty is Momo’s Club on 12/27/11), is trying to pack clubs by offering the musicians up for free what will save it? Is that winning? I think not.

To paraphrase and misquote Trey Parker (all apologies to Team America)
“Free Week isn't free! No there's a hefty f’n fee.
And if you don't throw in your buck o'five who will?”
So, next time you go to a live music venue, pay the cover or if there isn’t, throw the band their buck o’five. They deserve it.
Happy New Year everyone. Hope your 2012 is amazing.

The most entertaining people at Free Week 2011 were in the crowd.

* I’m defining “average music fan” as one who hits up at least 1 show a month and pays the cover to see a show.. yes... they are a dying breed

December 20, 2011

Merry Christmas (CD)

The Claes4 Christmas CD Liner Notes

Those who know my wife Jodie and I... you know we have put together a Christmas CD every year for the last 11 years. What we try to do is introduce people to some of our favorite songs that motivated us in the previous year. Many of these songs are from bands/artists from the Austin, TX area.Of course, it's a Christmas CD, so we find a cool/different Christmas track to include (this year there's 3).

We burn 50-100 CDs and make a cover with liner notes. Within the liner notes we drop the link to the band so if you like what you hear.. you can pick up their work... and we sincerely hope you do.

Well.. here is our Christmas 2011 CD liner notes. Hope you enjoy. And if you're a member of one of the bands who are included and you'd like a copy, please shoot me a message.
  1. Magdalena - Ian Moore Band (The First Third)
    This is from a 1995 album that was shelved by the record company and was FINALLY released in 2011. ( 
  2. Racing the Angels - Matraca Berg (The Dreaming Fields)Matraca Berg has been one of my favorite singer/songwriters for almost 20 years. You hear her work on the radio, you just don’t know it. From “Strawberry Wine” to “You and Tequila” she writes a powerful song (and not all are about alcohol). ( 
  3. I’m Not Who I Was - Brandon Heath (Don’t Get Comfortable)
    It’s almost biographical about me. The good news is, I was able to reconnect with a lost friend this year and we realized that we’ve both grown up and neither of us are “who we were.” (
  4. Wiregrass - Stoney LaRue (Velvet)
    Stoney LaRue is one of those singers that has the Americana vibe streaming through his veins. A rock-and-roll storyteller with a country twang. (
  5. Lookin’ For A Job - Todd Snider (The Devil You Know)
    I began this year working for a company that had no respect for me at all. This could have been my theme song for that place (
  6. Back To The Country - John David Kent (John David Kent)
    Saw him at a recording of Ray Wylie Hubbard’s “Roots and Branches of Americana” a few months ago. Got his CD & an autograph. (
  7. Let The Good Times Roll - Brandon Rhyder (Live At Billy Bob’s Texas)
    If you’re used to getting our Christmas CDs, you’re used to hearing Brandon Rhyder. This is a studio-track bonus from his 2011 live CD. (
  8. In The Afternoon - Shawn Nelson (San Juan Street)Shawn Nelson was gracious enough to volunteer his time for a Movember concert in Austin I helped book. (
  9. Another Day - D.C. Bloom (New Man)
    A former INsite writer. He’s got a fun-quirky style that I dig. You should too. (
  10. Christmas in Austin – Shelley King (Holiday HAAM JAM V1)This is part of a charity CD that is benefitting the Health Alliance for Austin Musicians (HAAM). I downloaded this at If you like it, do me a favor and download another song from there. It’s charity. (
  11. Dinosaur For My Birthday - Will Dupuy (Dinosaur For My Birthday)“Mr. Will” was in a band Jodie and I liked…then in 2011 he was the music teacher at Harper’s daycare. If you have kiddos, pick this CD up -
  12. Deck the Halls - Steve Wariner (Guitar Christmas)
    A classic Christmas song done instrumental-style with Steve Wariner’s amazing acoustic guitar work. (
  13. Let It Fade - Jeremy Camp (Beyond Measure)
    Our pastor gave me this CD, which was released in 2006, to listen to about a year or so ago. This song jumped out to me. (
  14. Man Or Muppet - Jason Segel (The Muppets)You know that moment when your childhood meets your children’s childhood and they get along swimmingly? (
  15. Uki-Buki-Kuki-Duki-Fuki-Guki-Huki-Juki Island - The Biscuit Brothers (Get Up & Go)
    This song makes Jodie smile. It’s sung by “Tiny Scarecrow,” one of the supporting characters in The Biscuit Brothers’ kids show. (
  16. Realizando - Grupo Fantasma (El Existential)Our family was one of the few folks that ventured into the Kyle Music Festival this year from the fair grounds and we were privileged to see Grupo Fantasma perform their set. The kids danced. A lot. (
  17. Silly Things - Wild Child (Pillow Talk)
    Usually bands that are getting attention in Austin don’t do it for me, but these guys have that creeping music coupled with some interesting and tongue-in-cheek comical lyrics. (
  18. Postcard From Somewhere Cold -Dead Black Hearts (The Southern Front)
    One of the coolest things about working in Austin is the fact that I get to “discover” co-workers who are in bands. My co-worker Brian is the singer for the Dead Black Hearts. Neat song. (
  19. Beautiful Things – Gungor (Beautiful Things)
    This song has righted me many times this year as I struggled with being unsure of my purpose and potential. (
  20. Shake It Out - Florence + The Machine (Ceremonials)After Gungor sets me straight, this song really helps me get over the things that bother me. (
  21. We Three Kings - Full Service
    Full Service are one of those bands that I’ve come to know rather well over the years. This is a clip they recorded, not really meant to be released but they decided to share online. I thought it’d make a nice end cap to this CD. (

December 1, 2011

Week 50 - Are You In A Fan's Life?

Are You in Their Life?

One of my favorite bands of all time is KISS. I got my first KISS album, Dynasty, in 1978. I’m not quite sure what would compel my parents to buy a 5 year-old a KISS album, but I’m glad they did. I spent the next 10-15 years trying to play air-bass like Gene Simmons. I’ve bought more records, then tapes, then CDs from KISS than any other band. Of course, they have a bigger discography than just about any band I know of as well. I never had a chance to see them live until the first reunion tour in 1996. All original members. I’ve since seen them three more times and got to photograph them once.
I am a Pittsburgh Steelers fan. I own hats, shirts, jerseys, a clock, figurines, stickers, a terrible Towel… and probably a bunch of other Steelers items. The last time they won a Superbowl, it was on my birthday. I’ve been following them my entire adult career. I’ve even got a jersey that says “CLAES” on the back. It all started with a winter hat with a pom-pom on the top that I was given when I was about 6.

Why am I telling you this? It’s not because I really want you to know me better (although Christmas IS coming up). It’s because I want you to be aware that fans are real people who somehow associate something you do with a memory or feeling or way of life. Don’t get me wrong… your music is important. It’s got to be good. BUT touching someone’s life in a profound way is how you gain solid life-long fans.

Sometimes you have some control over gaining fans by your actions.

This last month was Movember. It’s where men make a commitment to donate their face to men’s health issues by growing an ironic mustache. I’ve been taking part in Movember’s Team Austin for the last 2 years. This year, there was an event called ScandeMOnium, a high-tech scavenger hunt that culminated in a concert. All 4 of the bands who played donated their time. I personally asked Shawn Nelson ( and john Arthur martinez ( to play, and they did. I have been a fan of both of them before this, but by donating their time to support a cause I believe in, thy have solidified a fan for life.

THAT, my friends, is how you do it. Volunteer to play for charity events. Support your fellow musicians and their families by caring about them. Support YOUR music scene by going to shows. Be prepared to play anywhere and anytime. Take over a parking lot of a major show (Full Service did this and it net them a spot opening for 311).

Sometimes you are just an unwitting piece of someone’s life, like the Steelers and KISS is for me. Nobody within either one of the organizations made me a fan… but they have both kept me as a fan by continually representing themselves as I hoped. Sure… KISS is 40 years old as a band and they have changed out a few players, but they give the fans just what they want. Every night they go out there are they are the best KISS they can be. They are a rock show. Comic book characters come to life. KISS is songs that define young-adulthood and an image that defined a 1970s childhood. It doesn’t matter how old they get… the make-up means we never have to see the wrinkle. They are icons.

But, you know what? It was the music that got me into KISS. Everything else made me a fan, but their music was solid. I still think that 1992’s KISS Revenge was a great album. I think it suffered from aging musician perception. Then they put their make-up on again and forgot the previous 15 years of music. It’s probably best they donned the make-up again, but I’d love to hear Demon Gene do “Domino” is full make-up.

See what happens when I start talking KISS? Anyhow, Back to the point. Bands come and go, but if you can somehow become important in a person’s memory and life, you will be immortal.

So think about it. Are you on someone’s CD player/iPod, or are you in their life?

Five musicians / bands that have been important in my life through music and experiences.
Jodie and I w/ the Derailers 10/6/2001
The Derailers – They played my wedding reception. Well.. they played where my wife and I went after our wedding reception. We were married in San Marcos, Texas, had a reception in Seguin, and honeymooned in Gruene. We happened upon Gruene Hall on our wedding night and The Derailers were playing the Gruene Wine and Music Festival. We danced.. and had an amazing time. They played “There Goes The Bride” and we took off.

Monte Montgomery – His “Girl Like You” is my wife and I’s wedding song. He was the concert we went to on our first “date.” I’ve had the honor to chat him up a few times and the even bigger honor of seeing him in concert quite a few times. To this day, my favorite concert photo I’ve ever taken is him at Gruene Hall in 1998.

John Prine – A roommate I had and I were channel surfing one day and came across his “Ain’t Hurtin’ Nobody” and thought it was great. To this day, when I hear that song, I’m taken back to that dingy apartment and those days. When I went to college, and a buddy there handed me Lost Dogs and Mixed Blessings and I was hooked.

KISS – I was born in 1973. I grew up on KISS. They merchandised their way into my heart. The music remained awesome, their live show is still spectacular… and I think I gushed enough above to just leave it at that. I’m still hoping someday Gene will give me a battle-axe bass. I guess my “key track” from KISS would be “I Was Made For Loving You,” which is a HORRIBLE song, but it’s the one I used to act out while playing it on our record player when I was a kiddo.

Los Lobos – Every time I listen to Los Lobos I think of Laredo. I think of growing up, all of the interesting turns that took. Probably my key track to reminisce is “One Time, One Night”

November 29, 2011

MOVEMBER - Support and donate.

I call this my NedMOterhead
(Combination Ned Flanders and Lemmy)
It's DAY 29 of my luxurious ironic Movember mustache. It may look silly, but the fact that 1 in 2 men will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime is not funny... at all. 
That's why I'm growing this...with Movember Team Austin. I'm trying to get 20 people to be aware and to donate to my Movember page. I've got 10 donations thus far. If you have a buck or five to spare... please donate here:
It’s time men face some startling health facts:

-    In 2011, more than 240,000 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer
-    In 2011, more than 33,000 men will die from prostate cancer
-    One new prostate cancer case occurs every 2.2 minutes
-    A man dies from prostate cancer every 15.6 minutes
-    Prostate cancer is the most frequently diagnosed cancer in men
-    The incidence rates are significantly higher in African American men
-    Prostate cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer death in men
-    97% of prostate cancer cases occur in men age 50 and older
-    1 in 2 men will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime, 1 in 3 women will be.
-    1 in 6 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime.
-    48% of testicular cancer cases occur in men between the ages of 20 and 34.
-    1 in 271 men will be diagnosed with testicular cancer during their lifetime.
-    Men commit suicide four times as often as women.
-    An estimated 8.7 million adult men over the age of 20 in the US have diabetes- and a third do not know it.
-    Testicular cancer is the most common cancer in American males between the ages of 15 and 34.
-    Approximately 50 million men and women in the US have high blood pressure- almost 30 per cent of them do not know it.

Just for looking at my blog... enjoy this show of photos I've taken throughout the month of the growing of my Mo.

Donate -

November 1, 2011

CANDY REVIEW: Caramel Apple Sugar Babies

Candy Review for O'Ryans Village  

Happy Sugar Babies

Caramel Apple Sugar Babies
5oz Box
22 pieces per service (3.5 servings in box)

They did it. This candy tastes exactly like an inside-out caramel apple. Each one of the Sugar Babies is individually coated with a green candy coating that is flavored like a Granny Smith apple. The inside is the same caramel goodness you expect from Sugar Babies.

Let me tell you how to eat one of these.
1. You put one individual piece in your mouth and roll it around on your tongue. This will wear the candy shell down and release the apple flavor.
2. Then you bite down and “break” the shell (it’s not a hard shell). Be careful not to bite all the way down, you just want to release the inner caramel to meld with the apple flavor.
3. Enjoy until it’s dissolved.

I suggest you eat this way because the alternative of popping a few in your mouth and chewing the candy will make the caramel stick to your teeth and that’s just plain annoying (unless that’s how you roll). Also, eating them individually will make them last longer too.

If you are a fan of the classic caramel apple, you will find happiness in the Caramel Apple Sugar Babies.

The author enjoys.

October 24, 2011

The Kyle United Methodist Church will have a bake sale / craft sale booth at this festival. C'mon out!

October 13, 2011

Week 49 - Your Stage Self

Hi, I’m a Rock Star.
Who The Hell Are You?

Do you have a pitch? Do you know how you’re going to present yourself? Do you know how you’re going to act on stage? There is a persona. There is an “other person” you can sink your soul into when you hit that stage and those can lights shine down on you. You just need to find it.

The best performers I have seen live are the ones who flip a switch when they get on stage. They aren’t the same person I was chatting with 10 minutes before the show. And you know what? A crowd digs that. They feed off of it. They fall for that persona.

Kimberly Freeman, who performs as “One-Eyed Doll” is a prime example. She is the nicest person you could ever meet, gentle, happy, and lovable. Then she hits stage and she transforms into an anime-esque guitar slinger who acts as the leader of a legion of metal-punk-black lipped-rejected kids. If you’ve never seen her show, treat yourself. You’ll love it or hate it. 

Here’s a glimpse:

Of course, sometimes it’s the opposite. Edwin McCain is one of the funniest musicians I’ve ever talked to. When he launches into a song, though, you’re taken to another place. He presents a place of love, a place of loss, a place where he poetically and beautifully weaves in and out of personal stories. 

Then there are the ones who create a spectacle every time they hit the stage: GWAR, KISS, Black Veil Brides (who bear a striking resemblance to Mötley Crüe a la “Looks That Kill”), Alice Cooper, or Rammstein.

And the ones who play up their looks to gain attention: Backstreet Boys, Ashlee Simpson, Shakira, Ke$ha, Usher, or Bon Jovi.

Who are you? Think about it. Be yourself is a good thing. But you need to find the “yourself” that you can amp up a few notches in order to get that crowd going. You need to be the best yourself on your best day every time you hit that stage.

Believe me, I know how hard it is to get up on stage. I’ve done it a few times. Of course, for me I have a much more forgiving crowd. I sing in my church praise band. I know... it’s not the same… but when I first got on stage, it was really, really hard. I’ve been at it for over a year and I’m just now getting comfortable enough to move around and have fun. But… I don’t consider myself an indie musician. I sing in church. I’m not making any money, trying to cut an album, trying to get media to notice me, or trying to make this a career. You are.

Think about it. Would you rather go see your friend that you just had lunch with walk up on stage and perform the same way he acted while eating that burger and fries… or do you want him to rock out and get into his set? I know when I see a band perform; I’m as interested in the music as I am in the actual performance.

I’ve seen a lot of bands. More than most people. I remember a few. Very few.

The Top 10 live shows I’ve attended:
Image from
- U2 – Pop Mart Tour (San Antonio, TX) 1997
Bono and Co. won me over with an AMAZING performance. I tried to hate the show because I really, really didn’t like their new music, but it was amazing.

- Grupo Fantasma – Triple Crown (San Marcos, TX) 2004
Picture an 11 piece (at least) band fit into the front of a single-wide trailer. That was pretty much what they looked like on stage (and pouring over into the front half) of the Triple Crown. They impressed the hell out of me and the 40-50 people who fit into the club. Now, they are Grammy Award Winners.

- One-Eyed Doll – Texas Rockfest (Austin, TX) 2008
I’d seen One-Eyed Doll on the smaller stages and she impressed, but this was a big crowd and she commanded it. It was amazing to watch. I posted a video from that performance where I mentioned her above.

- Darrell Scott – Cactus Café (Austin, TX) 2006 
He is one of the most amazing singer-songwriters ever and watching him perform is like seeing a glimpse of genius.

- Hank Williams III – Stubbs (Austin, TX) 2006 
I’d just finished interviewing him and he strolled onto the small stage at Stubbs and tore up 3 sets worth of material – A country set, hellblly set, and punk set. Amazing.

Edwin McCain w/ my wife, Jodie and I
- Edwin McCain – One World Theatre (Austin, TX) 2009 
It was like sitting in the living room and listening to a friend, except the friend would break into amazing and beautiful songs.

- Terri Hendrix – Cheatham Street Warehouse (San Marcos, TX) 2000 
A Terri Hendrix Show will change your attitude. You can walk in pissed off and walk out loving the world. She is a poet, a beautiful person, and a dedicated and amazing musician.

- Loblolly – Gordo’s (San Marcos, TX) 1998 
These guys were Redneck Punk at it’s finest. Songs like “Going To Jail (To Visit Dad),” “Love Is A Horse,” and “White Trash America” and a band that included a washboard player, a drummer named Mojo, and a lead vocalist that would spend the last song stripped down to his underwear and wearing a Tweetybird head. They were my favorite college band.

- Monte Montgomery – Gruene Hall (Gruene, TX) 1997 
Technically this was my wife and I’s first date, but it was masqueraded as work. We got in free w/media passes and I took photos and got mesmerized by the amazing guitar work and lyrics of this man. This is one of the reasons his “Girl Like You” is my wife and I’s wedding song.

Full Service @ Backwoods Bash
- Full Service – Backwoods Bash Music Festival @ ThunderMoon Ranch (Mannford, OK) 2008 
They drove up from Austin, Texas on my word that they’d have a great time and played the first ever Backwoods Bash… and it was epic. You had to be there. This video I got doesn’t really do it justice. 

Don’t get me wrong, I would probably list out another 10 easily, but these shows, to me, were them performing as their best selves on their best day. Impressed the heck out of me.

I don’t care how personable and easy going a person looks up there on stage, they’ve worked at that banter, they’ve rehearsed the stories, they know what they are doing up there. There is no room for “um” moments and there’s no use in getting up on a stage and trying to entertain if you look, dress, and sound like you’d rather be at home playing Madden 2012.

Of course, I’ve stated this before on this blog. I’m writing this assuming you are a good band who plays music people will WANT to hear and you’re trying to make music your full-time occupation. This column is just to try and give you some advice to get to that next level.

So, figure out who you are… and who you will be on stage. It matters.

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 -

September 23, 2011

Week 48: Which Comes First?

So, I took 2 weeks off… I’ve been busy being sick. Instead of writing the column, I’ve been sleeping. It’s amazing what sleeping for 8 hours a night for a few nights can do for you.


Which Comes First, The Gig or the CD?

About a month ago, a question was posed to me from a friend of mine, who happens to be a guitarist, Sonny Bihl. The question? Well, it’s the subject of my new column.
The question: Which do you recommend…
  1. Getting a band together, playing shows, garnering fans, build from live shows?
  2. Getting a band together, get a Website, market online, record a CD or EP, and mass promote all before the first show?
If there was a mixture of the two, I’d probably go there. But I’ll pick apart both scenarios as I see them.

Play Live First
I think this is the direction most bands take. You get yourself 3 or 4 other folks together and jam in a garage or practice space for a few weeks and then take your show to a bar or club. If you’re lucky, one will let you play there on a weeknight for a few months.

If you do your homework, promote the shows, get fans to sign up for your email list, and create a bankable draw (meaning the bar doesn’t lose money on you) you can ask for a weekend show opening for a bigger band. The more fans you get, the more clubs will want you to play there, and the more money you may make.
  • You’re honing your stage presence and that will take you far.
  • The more you play live, the tighter and better the band will sound.
  • You are getting the band’s name out there and, if you’re worthwhile, creating a buzz
  • Earning $$ that can be used to record debut CD, which you’ll have a demand for when done.
  • You may have begun playing before you have actually arrived at the sound you’d like your band to have, which means the shows will be rough.
  • If you aren’t giving people anything to walk away with. How are they going to remember you?
  • If you don’t have a Website, Facebook page, Twitter account, Google+ for the band… how are people hearing about you?

Overall, this isn’t a bad direction to take. The more you play live, the more comfortable the band will be together and as long as you’re looking longer term and looking at actually making it, you’ll be releasing a full-length CD within a year of forming the band.

Produce A Record First
If you have OCD or was a perfectionist, I’d imagine this is the route you’d want to take as a musician. I’ve known a few bands that go this route as well and it’s not a bad one. What you do is assemble your band, work in the studio for a few months until you have an album together, then produce it, print it, and use that as your calling card to get bigger gigs and to have merchandise at the shows.

While you’re in the studio, you’re also establishing a Facebook, Twitter, Website, and using other outlets to start a buzz about your band.

Since you already recorded the songs, the band should be tighter from the get-go and the sound of your band will be established. With a CD you can pitch your band to bigger-named acts and perhaps get to open for them.

  • Having a CD shows you’re a serious band, one a booking agent can bank on being around for a while.
  • You have something to give or sell to people at shows.
  • You will have had time to get to know your band, so you’re going to be more comfortable playing with them.
  • You are going to try and sell a product having never played live, meaning you probably won’t sound great those first few shows.
  • If any of the band members quits, that CD is not representative of your band.
  • The money for the recording has to come directly out of pocket.

A Little of Both
My recommendation would be this… Once you get your band together and settle on a name, publish it. Make a Facebook account, twitter account, link to it from your personal accounts, invite your friends.

Then, start working on your sound. If you have one track in particular that you think it a good one, record it. Get some of your music out there.

When you’ve got a 30-45 minute set down and you think you’ve got a solid band together, hit up a few clubs. Maybe you have a few friends in bands that play at the club you’re hoping to gig at. Call them up, see if they’ll vouch for you and see if you can get a spot opening up for them.

When you play your first few shows, be sure and give away that track to anyone and everyone… include it as a free download if people sign up for your mailing list, or hand them an actual CD with it burned onto it. Make sure they leave knowing who they just saw play. There are millions of bands in the world… and you are just one. Make sure you are the one they think of when they wake up the next day.

Make sure you’re collecting e-mails for your mailing list and using all the social media outlets you can to reach new fans and keep existing ones informed.

Once you’ve got a few shows under your belt, you know how a crowd is responding to your sound. You have a better idea of which songs work and which songs don’t… you can use the crowds in the early shows as a test group for your music. If you have their butts shaking, you win… if you have their butts moving towards the door… consider revising the song.

After playing for a few months, you’ll have a good idea of what to record, and if you’ve been a smart band you’ve saved a little bit of money as well. Use the money to record the debut CD.

Once your CD is done, you should have a decent sized mailing list and a good amount of friends on Facebook and Twitter…. It’s time to have a CD release show.

Rinse and repeat if necessary.

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 -

September 6, 2011

Week 47 - Ian Moore

An interview with the amazing Ian Moore.
There are very few artists I can think of that have walked away from a major label and recreated themselves into what they desired to become, musically, and been successful.

Ian Moore is the textbook definition of DIY.
He began his career as an Austin-based blues axeman who was being poised to be the next Stevie Ray Vaughan. One small problem... he didn't WANT to be the next Stevie Ray Vaughan. 

So, after two successful blues-rock albums on Capicorn Records (1993's Ian Moore and 1995's Modern Day Folklore) he walked away from the label and started crafting his own sound on his terms. And the world is better for it.

This week, my column is going to be dedicated to Ian Moore, whom I interviewed for INsite Magazine.

Read the interview here:

And if you're in Austin, come out TONIGHT (9/6/11) to The Scoot Inn to see him play with his current outfit, Ian Moore and the Lossy Coils.

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 -

August 29, 2011

Week 46 - The Plan

3 Plans for Musicians

What do you want to do with your band’s life? I know.. you wanna rock. Thank you Dee Snider. But, really, if you’re serious about music, you should make a decision. You should make a plan. Are you just playing to play, or is this something you’re counting on doing for a long time, and/or as a career?

Ozzfest 2007 You want to play to THIS crowd? It takes a PLAN. (Ozzfest 2007)
Maybe you're not out for the big festival scene... that's OK.

It doesn’t matter if you got into music because it was anti-authority. It doesn’t matter if you picked up a guitar to piss off your parents, to win a girl, or because you have a special gift you need to share with the world. You’re sitting in the position of being 1 piece of a puzzle that is the size of your band. It’s no longer just about you. It’s about the band now. It’s about contributing to the one great song that is music.

The way I see it, there’s three basic plans that bands can embark upon. Argue all you want that there’s more… but for the sake of this blog, I’m limiting it to three.. and I’ll bet your argument, no matter how valid it may be… can fall into one of these big buckets below.

There’s the band that just wants to play music, in a garage, dive bar, someone’s party, empty parking lot… anywhere. This band doesn’t care if there’s 1 person or 1000 people in the crowd. They focus their energy into having a good time and playing music with friends. This band will likely never play in front of 1,000 people, though, because it’s not about that. It’s not about getting their music to the masses, distribution, labels, getting on MTV (or whatever station actually plays music these days), or fame. It’s more about having a good time with some friends, and everyone is welcome to the party. It’s just about the individuals who are in the band playing the music they love. You know, that’s fine. As long as everyone in the group KNOWS that’s what the band is about and is happy with that decision.

There are many, many bands out there that aren’t trying to grab the brass ring. Most of the bands in Austin would fall into this category. Some of my favorite bands fall into this category. They’ll never be famous, but they throw a heck of a good party.
  1. Write and learn songs that make the band happy.
  2. Play when invited to play.
  3. Find a few clubs that caters to your sound.
  4. Record CD of originals.
  5. Goal: Make enough money to supplement the money you spend on your music, and remain happy about playing.

Some bands have something loftier to prove than just playing music. An example of this type of band would be Rage Against The Machine. They had a political motivation. They were trying to change minds, get people plugged in, and make a difference. If you’d like to prove a point and use music as your tool… that’s fantastic. Make sure everyone in the band is on board… then pull the trigger.

Please do me a favor and have something worthy to say, and be informed about the machine you’re raging against. Don’t do it for shock value or just because you heard Public Enemy once and thought it’d be fun to rattle some cages. Nothing is sadder than an ill-informed drunk front man trying to pontificate on a subject he learned about by watching Fox News.

  1. Get informed and know the subject you’re talking about
  2. Write informed songs about subject.
  3. Use songs as a platform to voice your opinions.
  4. Find groups, clubs, and individuals who will support your right deliver your message.
  5. Find controversy, find injustice, find your niche in the world
  6. GOAL: Play until you’re heard. Play until you see the change you are trying to achieve. Play to shine a light on the things you wish to see changed. Then play through the change.

This is what most people think a band’s mission is. To become wildly popular. To sell a million records and land on the cover of Rolling Stone. In order to do this, chances are you’re going to have to “sell out” in more ways than one. You have to promote, pander, pucker-up and parade around until the whole world sees you and invites you into their lives. You are likely going to have to work your way up the ladder and change and adapt at each stop along the way. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with taking this track if you know this is where you’re heading.

Of course, you have to be moldable. You are working to get into a position where someone is going to “help” you achieve the sound and look that may propel you into mega-stardom. This is why I mentioned that most of the bands I know are in the “Just Play Music” category. You’ve got to be OK with losing your soul a little.

Now.. this isn’t how every star is born, but the wheels of the music industry are always looking for another band they can turn into another Katy Perry, Coldplay, Garth Brooks, or Taylor Swift. Heck.. Imagine if they found another cash cow like KISS?
  1. Find out what music is selling.
  2. Write to the largest demographic of fans.
  3. Make videos, play benefits, eat, sleep, and drink the band.
  4. Cut a full length album and promote it like it’s the new Bible and everyone’s soul is going to hell unless they listen to it.
  5. Find similar bands, more popular than you and open for them.
  6. Bother booking agents, talent agents, labels, magazines, newspapers, and blog writers until they see you live… and have a favorable reaction.
  7. Be prepared to change your music, ditch band members, do special “favors” and completely give yourself over to a person who will turn you into the music superstar you never knew you wanted to be (i.e. become a sellout).
  8. Do everything you can to avoid being spit out of the wood-chipper that is people’s waning taste in popular music.
  9. GOAL: Sell out major stadiums worldwide, make millions of dollars, and get the cover of the Rolling Stone.

So, which plan do you fall into? Do you like it there?

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 -

August 19, 2011

Week 45: Promote From Your Phone

Is That A Promotional Tool in Your Pocket?
Hey, got a Smartphone? Pick it up and look at it. Do you know you’re holding what could be the center of your band’s promotional efforts? With what you’re holding you can e-mail, call, surf the web, and interact with the world at large, or just one person at the tap of a screen.

Confession time. I just joined the ranks of the iPhone, so I’m pretty new at this. And yes, “Angry Birds” was the first app I downloaded. But, I quickly realized that this is a much bigger animal than an app about flinging birds at pigs and monkeys. PLUS, it has some great social and promotional tools. So, I’m dedicating this week’s column to a few thought on how you can make that phone work for you.

NOTE: All of these things are free, or included with your service plan (provided you have a data package and unlimited texting…which I think I may be one of the last people in the world to get).

5 Things You Can Do To Promote
Your Music from Your Phone

1. Store Media contacts and USE them – yes, you can store thousands of phone numbers on that little device, but do you use them to promote yourself? Shoot a text to the writer at the local newspaper/magazine/entertainment blog when you release a new song or have a show… or just to tell them you enjoyed their review of Dog Face Cow’s new album. Tip: ALWAYS include your name and band name.

2. Use Gowalla and FourSquare – When you’re doing band things, “check in” on one of the apps that let people know where you are and what you’re doing. If you’re checking out another band.. share the love.. and share the pictures too.

You may even use one of these for promotions. “Anyone who is coming to the show and checks in here can get $1 off cover if they show the doorman when paying.”

3. Photos – Use them, take them, and encourage them. When you’re at a show, take photos and post them to your Facebook page, Twitter account, Flickr… anywhere you can. I use a free app called Instagram (the “free” version of the popular Hipstamatic). It takes “square” photos and gives you the option of posting it to Twitter, Facebook, Email, Flickr, Tumblr, Foursquare, and Posterous. I don’t use all of these... but if you did.. it’s one stop-shopping.

4. Play Games – I’m currently playing “Words With Friends” and “Hanging With Friends” with members of several Austin bands. It‘s fun, it’s relaxing, and it’s keeping me top of mind with these bands. Nobody has pitched anything to me while playing, they’ve shot me some Facebook invites (like every other band that’s vying for my time out there) and you know what? I read theirs. Why? Because we have a bigger connection than an ominous e-mail or Event Listing. I play Hangman with them. Yes, on the surface it seems trite, but think about it. If you had the ability to play a game with your fans one on one… and it brought them closer to your music… would you?

5. Is there an App for that? – I have seen a few bands that have their own apps. So, I googled and found a few companies who do this service, there’s Mobbase, who has, among others, a Rebelution app, Mobile Roadie, who handles the likes of Train and Xenodium has several bands represented on their “Artist” page. I used Xenodium to create a version of what an app for my fictitious band Dog Face Cow could look like.

I didn’t get a Smartphone for a long time because I thought it was too expensive. I still think paying over $100 for a phone is robbery, but I’m doing my best to make things happen to allow it to earn it’s keep. Now, I just came up with 5 things you could do. I’ll bet you could come up with 20 more. If you do, let me know. Oh, and if you friend me on Facebook, you can challenge me to Words with Friends and Hanging With Friends. As long as you’re not Dave Madden or Twinky P (from Full Service)… I think I have a shot at beating you.

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 -

August 12, 2011

Week 44: Treat People Right

Treat people right.

Take a tip from Santa... ALWAYS pose for photos.

If you can’t look people directly in the eye each time you deal with them, you better fix yourself. It only takes pissing off one person to ruin your name in the music arena. And if you’re still struggling to get a foothold becoming a band that covers its own expenses (you can MAKE money later), you’ve REALLY got to be careful.

I’ve been the recipient of some pretty crappy attitudes in my years as an entertainment writer. Sometimes I think, “Lucky for you I’m not the media person who writes about this kind of stuff” after witnessing a particularly A-Hole move by a band member.

And it only takes one member of your band to anger a media person to get blacklisted from a publication and/or have a really unflattering review written up that will likely have nothing to do with the music and everything to do with the personality of the musician. 

I’m a blacklister. If someone gets to me that bad, or offends me directly, they will never be mentioned by me or any magazine of which I’m a part. Want to know who they are? Well.. search my website or INsite’s website and they are the names you WON’T find. 

Of course, in these times with instant access to everything, you can be called out by anyone and it may go viral. So, now more than ever you have to be careful how you treat people. Add to that the fact that when someone is sitting in front of their computer typing into a screen, they are more honest, angry, negative, and resentful than in person. Filter comes completely off for some.

Think about it. You’re living in a time where Big Brother (a show that is a train wreck of negativity) outranks America’s Got Talent (a show about…well.. showcasing talent) (read the story - on People thrive on negativity and thumbing their nose at someone. Every “reality” show has to have an anti-hero, the villan people love to watch. But, the “reality” is anti-hero’s that aren’t self-promoting media celebrities are NOT celebrated. They are quashed and forgotten. 

And, sometimes being an ass, or pissing people off can be a career ender. On a large scale…think Sinead O’Conner ripping the pope’s picture up on Saturday Night Live. Remember what she did next? Nope… me either. *Poof.* 

But you’re not there yet. You are struggling to make it. You’re trying to tour and make a living as a musician. Believe me, while you’re playing your dues in the small clubs and benefit shows around your town, if you piss one owner or booking agent off (provided they have a decent reputation), you aren’t getting to the next level. Here’s a hint, WORD GETS AROUND. 

One thing I learned early, as well, is local bands tend to know each other. I learned this the hard way, too. I was interviewing an Austin band by the name of Caddillac Voodoo Choir in 1998 around the time of the release of their Boomtown Flood. While talking with them, I thought I’d be a “big guy” and mention another band by name as an example of music I thought was unoriginal and bad (This is before I adopted the “don’t talk negative” rule in my career). The band I mentioned just so happened to be personal friends of the members of CVC and they didn’t appreciate my comments. The rest of the interview went downhill from there.

What can you take from my blunder? Well, local bands tend to know each other. If you’re opening for a band , don’t trash talk them. Be appreciative. If they trash talk you, make a note not to play with them again. They won’t be around for long.

In this instant-access to information time, when anyone can be videotaping or posting about anything and that can be shared to a larger audience… choose your words and actions carefully. You might be the next viral video or next name trending on Twitter.

You don’t want to end up on TMZ like Katt Williams,  Perez Hilton like Lindsay Lohan, or on a Yelp like Snow Patrol.

You want to go viral like OK Go, Holstee’s Manifesto poster and Ted Williams.

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 -

Just for kicks and grins… and to beat your friend at trivia… Do you know which video has been attributed as being the first viral video ? You probably got it as an e-mail attachment at some point. It’s called “Bad Day.”  - Watch is here

Oh.. this video I’m in didn’t go viral, but it proves the point of this week’s column… SOMEONE is always videotaping. Watch how you treat people.

If you look at the photo pit, you’ll see me taking photos ( In the still before you start the video, That’s my arm in the middle of the screen). I shot the show in San Antonio when Avenged Sevenfold walked off stage about 3 minutes into their set in 2006. Luckily for them, they overcame this. I don’t know the backstory (I heard several backstories, don’t know which is true) but the fact is, to the 5,000+ fans out in the crowd at this RADIO gig, Avenged Sevenfold came out bad, really bad.

But, it’s San Antonio. Ozzy peed on the Alamo. They’re used to controversy.