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.

August 4, 2011

Week 43: What's In A Name?

What’s in a name?

It may be too late to talk about this for you and your current band. Chances are if you’ve played out in public, you’ve got a name. I hope you took the time to research and think about the name before you actually used it.

It’s important. It’s how people will know you. If your band breaks through, it’s a name that will follow you the rest of your life. So, I thought I’d give you three “Dos” and three “Don'ts” to think about when coming up with your bands name.

DO - Research the name to see if there’s another band by that name.
There used to be two Slayers. The Slayer we all know well, that was formed in 1981… and one from San Antonio, Texas that was formed in 1982. I never heard the San Antonio one, but I’ll bet that really put a hurt on their style… because they had to bill themselves as “S.A. Slayer.”

DO - See if you have a good Website Name.
Here’s something that bands before the 1990s ago didn’t have to worry about. When choosing a name for your band, check to see if you can buy the Website domain of the same name. Make sure you don’t have to put the word “music,” “band,” “online,” or “rock” after your name. When people look you up, you want them to be able to find you as easy as possible. They shouldn’t have to guess and your band’s name shouldn’t direct them to a convenience store in Coldwater, Michigan… or worse.. to another band.

DO - Make your name easy to spell
Quick… without looking at this screen, spell Evanescence. How about Okkervil River? You can’t… can you? Do you think ANYONE can? Now, that hasn’t exactly been keeping them from making it big, but do you really need an extra problem?

DON'T - Pick a name based on current news.
If you choose to be funny, make sure it’ll last. Don’t base your name on a joke, unless it has staying power, or is an iconic name. You know… like Mufreesboro, TN’s Tony Danza Tap Dance Extravaganza (saw them at Emo's last year). You’ve got to know that In a few years the Irish band named “I Got Shot By Dick Cheney” is going to have no people recalling the reference.

DON'T - Get sued for Copyright Infringement.
Did you know that Green Jellÿ used to be Green Jellö? Seems “Jello” took exception to the name. The band Chicago was originally “Chicago Transit Authority” before they were threatened with legal action. Do yourself a favor, don’t name your band after a product or group.

DON'T - Use the auto Band Name Generator or pick a random word in the dictionary.
Your band name should have SOME meaning to you. If it doesn’t, you better come up with one because reporters will ask… and I don’t think “aw.. I just threw open Webster’s Dictionary” (Evanescence actually did this) is a sound bite you want as part of your band’s history. And the Band Name generator. It’s a fun game, but if you’re serious… leave that to the laughs when you get “Phat Crayon” and “Meaning of Stool” (I actually got those from to twitter posts about band name generators.


Actually, if you’ve been reading this column all the way through, you may have noticed I made up a band name for an example. The name I came up with is “Dog Faced Cow.” It’s a little funny, the URL is available, and easy to remember. My wife called me this a few times (I think it was as a substitute for “you bastard”). Love you darling.

Of course, you could throw all of these suggestions away and just use your last name. Nobody can fault you for that. 

From xkcd

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 -