May 24, 2011

Week 34

(This is Week 34 of my Fifty-Two Weeks of Music Do-It-Yourself Music advice)

The Average Lifespan of a Band
Music is said to be a young person’s game. Mostly because by the time you reach your mid-to-late 20s you have things you want to do with your life that doesn’t include being out until 2:00a on a Friday night. There was a country song by a little-known country artist by the name of Rusty Schramm who I believe has retired from music (ironically) called “College Daze” (I think… it’s not online) that recalls the good times of college and mentions that is was all before “Kids, careers, and wives.”

Image by Gregfuqua

Sometimes music is just a hobby and you form a band to play in your garage for kicks and grins. That’s fine. When you try and get out and make money at it though… that’s when it turns serious because you’re not just involving the members of your band, there’s a whole music support system you’re feeding into that includes other musicians, bars, clubs, bartenders, sound guys, promoters, advertising, booking agents, fans, restaurants, taxi service, hotels, and much more.

I was talking to a good friend of mine, who is the booking agent for one of Austin’s clubs. He let me know that the life-span of a band these days is about a year. That’s the full life span. Getting together, gigging, recording, and breaking up.

It used to be that a club could be the home base of a band while they learned their performing chops for about six months to a year…they’d play weeknights and early slots on the weekend. The club would pretty much break even on them (pay for the sound guy and sell enough alcohol to regulars to pay for staff). Then the bands would improve, create a following, and end up “paying” the club back for their “investment” by killing it on a Friday or Saturday for about 5-6 months before moving up the ladder on the scene.

These days many bands are cocky. They expect instant success. They think they are doing the club a favor by playing there. They get hit in the face with reality a few times and quit.

While I think that’s a crappy ending for a band, I also think it’s survival of the fittest. 75% of the bands who are gigging this weekend will not be around next year. And that’s OK. Those are the people who shouldn’t be a band anyhow. If you can’t handle the business when you’re playing a dive bar on Red River in Austin, there’s no way you can handle dealing with all the pressures of advancing your musical career.

People idolize the wrong things. I was a fan of Nirvana and Alice in Chains, but Kurt Cobain and Layne Staley were not prepared for the life of fame. When the Seattle scene hit big time, they were propelled to the spotlight, which if anyone knows anything about that scene… it wasn’t about the spotlight… at all. It was about the dark corners where people hid NOT to be seen.

Those two didn’t need a tour manager, they needed rehab…or they needed to be left alone.

Don’t get me wrong. They made their own choices in life and chose death, so there’s nobody to blame for their demise but themselves. Fame just advanced something that was probably already going to happen.

Allow me to step off my soapbox.

The point is, if you are going to play music, commit to it. Realize that, while you are making music to satisfy yourself and your personal needs, you are entering a life that is bigger than just you and your 3 band mates. Realize that you are part of the great song that is “music” and contribute. There are plenty of people out there that will support you, and there are plenty of people who will try and exploit you.

Keep that head on your shoulders and make decisions with a clear mind.

11 Ways to be around in a year:
  1. Choose the members of your band wisely. Choose people who will work with your to make the band work.
  2. Don’t gig until the band is ready. You can do more damage than good by gigging early. Practice for a few months and develop a sound, set list, and performance feel.
  3. Have regular band meetings, at least once a week, where you talk about how things are progressing… this is NOT a practice, but it can happen after one.
  4. When you DO gig, never let people off stage know something is going wrong.
  5. Love the music you’re playing.
  6. If a member is no longer contributing and it’s a problem… make a change.
  7. Make sure the people who are important to your band members (loved ones) know what’s going on, but also know that this is a business where decisions are made for the band by the band.
  8. Decisions are made for the band’s sake… not for an individual member. The band is bigger than any one member (just ask Van Halen). Sometimes it’s necessary to step down from playing to allow the band to continue making music. That’s OK.
  9. Remember all of the people in the music world who helped you out… and make sure that you give back.
  10. Don’t have a manager until you’re so busy with the band that you can’t keep up. Most bands are 4-5 people… learn to handle your own business.
  11. Never play drunk / stoned / stupid. This is a job. Keep a clear head while doing it.
Now, don’t let me paint a completely bleak picture here. There are bands that are going to be around for the next decade. There are bands who have successfully integrated marriage and kids and life outside music with their musical career. It’s hard, but if you’ve got the music in your heart and soul, and a clear head on your shoulders… you can do it.

I WANT you to become better. I want you to record an album. I want to review it and recommend it to the world. The issue is… you need to be around to promote the album… or it was a waste of your money, and the world’s time.

I want an invitation to the band’s 5 year-anniversary show at the club that gave you your first gig. If you and your band make it to five years, to me… you’ve made 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 -

May 17, 2011

Week 33: Tell The Truth

(This is Week 33 of my Fifty-Two Weeks of Music Do-It-Yourself Music advice)


Me getting my swagger on.

So, last Sunday I played a gig. For all of you musicians out there, that’s not a big sentence. I know. But for me…. It is. You see, I’ve written about music and interviewed bands, and helped good people in the entertainment world become better known for their craft for about 20 years… but I’d never actually performed a full 1-hour gig in public.

Up until a year ago I didn’t even sing in public, other than at karaoke bars and jumping up on stage at a few weddings for a song.

Of course, on paper I COULD look like a seasoned pro.

Sean Claes' Musical Resume:
Ah.. but look closer and learn:
Fenway Park: I actually got up on stage and sang “Mustang Sally” at Fenway Park 10 years ago… during my sister’s wedding reception.

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: They have this booth (or had it in 2003) where you feed $4 into it, pick a song, sing, and it gets recorded onto a tape. I chose Hootie and the Blowfish’s “Let Her Cry.”

Red Eyed Fly in Austin, Texas: At Austin band, The Banner Year’s, final show they called me up to help sing “Monolith” which is my favorite track from them. I've also been slapped by One-Eyed Doll on stage at Red Eyed Fly.

Radio Play: I wrote ads for a living for a few years. It was a small agency, so I got to voice a lot of the ads myself. I’ve played a single guy for an online matchmaking site, a married guy for several jewelry stores, a plumber for... well… a plumber, and the voice of introduction for dozens of companies (As in.. “we’re speaking with ____ ____ of____ Pharmacy” I have likely had more radio play than most rock stars. Here’s a link containing a little YouTube of me as “Nacho Weiner

BUT.. I’d never actually performed a live show. What changed this? Well.. about a year ago I joined our church’s Praise Band. We play each Sunday at the 11:00p Mixed Contemporary service.

My neighborhood has an annual event called Front Porch Days. I’ve booked the music for that event for the last 6 years. Last year I booked the Praise Band (none of the members from last year are currently playing) to play. Well, while booking this year, I booked the Praise Band to play again… and sandwiched us between two fantastic acts (Kevin Daniel Smith and Matches for Memories) whom I respect a lot.

Back to my point that I didn’t quite get to. You see… my resume could look impressive if I wanted to pad my musical bra… but as soon as someone paid attention to what “PLAYED FENWAY PARK” actually meant, my credibility would be totally shot.

Bands do this. And it’s wrong. It’s wrong 100% of the time.

Just because you got up and did a drunken stage dive at a Lamb of God show, that doesn’t mean you’ve “performed with.”

The singer and guitarist have been married for 10 years…. That doesn’t mean the band has “been together” for a decade.

Just think about it. If you are asked in an interview about something you claim as a band accomplishment, are they going to laugh or be impressed?

Many years ago I reviewed the debut CD from a band (who will remain nameless) and their website made some WILD claims about their experience. I thought the CD was OK, but didn’t sound like it came from a band with as much experience as they claimed. The lead singer called me out and told me off for saying the things I did… since they’d only been in that band for a few months before the CD came out… although they’d performed as a duo playing a completely different style for years. I pointed the singer to the Website and the response I got was, “You should have told me you were going to look at the Website when you reviewed the CD.”

Make sure your information is up, current, and accurate.

Make sure you don’t make any claims that are untrue or “stretched” to sound much cooler than they ae.

It’s simple really. Tell the truth. It will set you free.

OK... just for you... here's a video of me and the Kyle United Methodist Church Praise Band performing "Spirit in the Sky."

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 -

May 9, 2011

Front Porch Days 2011 - Plum Creek (Kyle, Texas)

What are YOU up to next Sunday?
I'll be here.

Front Porch Days
The Plum Creek Neighborhood in Kyle, Texas

I'm actually performing at 1:45p with the Kyle United Methodist Church Praise Band.

It's going to be a great time.

May 6, 2011


Plum Creek Neighborhood in Kyle, Texas
May 15, 2011

Washers Tournament @ Plum Creek's Front Porch Days 2010 (Kyle, Texas) by seanclaes
A shot from the 2010 Washer's Tournement..
Front Porch Days 2011 will be held on Sunday May 15, 2011.
My church, the Kyle United Methodist Church will again be sponsoring the Washer's Tournament.

If you are in the area and want to play washers.... come on out.
Here's the information -

Sign up ahead of time... or show up and sign up in person.

The first 24 teams signed up will play.

This year the proceeds will go towards 2 different but equally great charities.
1. Hope & Love 4 Kids - They help children in the Kyle community by providing basic necessities, comforting them in their time of need and uplifting them through service and outreach.
2. Soles4Souls -  a shoe charity that collects gently worn shoes and monies to provide shoes to those in need. The KUMC has collected over 200 pairs of gently worn shoes... and the proceeds from the washer's tournament will help defray the cost of shipping the shoes.

May 4, 2011

Week 32: What are you wearing?

Dress for work
Marshall Dylan rocks a look (in 2009)

I know… you got in to music so you didn’t have to have a “real” job. You started playing for the chicks and bar tabs and late nights and to keep the party going all night long. To quote Robert Earl Keen, “The road goes on forever and the party never ends!”

Not so fast.THAT’s the reason that the average band lasts about a year. Think about it.

Reality check.
Being in a band is actual WORK. You have to attend meetings, book gigs, practice, write songs, learn songs, work with other bands on promotions, talk with media, booking agents, tour managers, invite people to the shows, create merchandise, sell merchandise, and about 50 other things I didn’t mention…. Oh… and THEN you can hit the stage.

Street Sweeper Social Club is stylin'

This isn’t the rock-n-roll fantasy life. If you actually want to be successful, you need to do all of those things. It’s work. Hard work. And just because you can do it with jeans and a t-shirt doesn’t make it any less difficult.

Jeans and a t-shirt. It’s a uniform for most working bands when you see in non-performance mode. Heck, it’s what I prefer to wear when I’m not working. It’s comfortable, easy to put on, and most people have 30-40 t-shirts (I have about 100 and half of them are band shirts…and ¾ of those are black band shirts. Have I mentioned that I really like band shirts, but am really tired of black ones? That’s another column… really).

The point is, when you step on stage to perform, you are at work. The bar is your workplace and the stage is your office. The crowds are clients and the only way you’re getting paid is by selling yourself enough that someone wants to take a piece of you home that night. Be it a t-shirt, CD, buying you a drink, or tipping the band.

Jackie Bristow in Austin (2011)

How are you going to dress for work? When someone shows up to play in a t-shirt, it tells me they either don’t care about how the crowd sees them or they somehow lost their clothes and that’s the only thing they have to wear.

Faster Pussycat, Austin, 2009
Hey…it happens… I recall the lead singer from Faster Pussycat (pictured) playing Texas Rockfest 2009 in sweatpants because the airline lost his luggage. But in YOUR case… you’re likely playing a local show or arrived in a van.. so you have no excuse. Got it?

I’m all about expression and sticking it to the man. Yeah… the reason you’re playing music is because you don’t want to wear a monkey suit like Big Brother. I get that. I understand. There’s nothing wrong with it. BUT… if you’re interested in making it to the next level, garnering some airplay on the radio, getting the ear of touring bands (and their managers) who may want you to open for them, or looking.. I don’t know… professional… you’ve got to dress like you give a crap.

That means dress like you’re going to work, not like the kid who just paid 5 bucks to see you perform.

Take a look at your musical heroes. Chances are they have got something about the way they look that is atypical. Something that, if they walked up to the bar and ordered a beer next to you… you’d know he’s a musician and not just a fan.

Learn the craft of looking like the rock star you want to be. It will take some study. Find a look that you like… then go to Goodwill and drop $20 on a stage outfit. People will notice. You may get some negative comments from fans, family, and people who “know you,” but I’ll bet you get noticed by more people who are potential fans.

More fans is good. A wider audience is great. If you are trying to play for the same 50 people (if that many) whom you’ve played in front of for the last year… don’t change a thing. If you’re looking to expand your audience, make some contacts, and climb the next rung of the ladder that may lead to a lifestyle where you will never have to wear a monkey suit and can constantly “stick it to the man,” try dressing like you’re serious about your chosen vocation.

And for the love of all that is good, please print up some green or red or light brown t-shirts!

Don Chani on stage during ATX Wildfire 2011 in Austin.

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 -