Having Trouble Getting People To Join Your Band? I Have A Few Ideas For You.

     Let me tell you a secret that’s not much of a secret. Musicians are really flakey. It’s tough to get them to come to practice, and even if they happen to come to practice, it’s harder still to find the right group of musicians that are worth your time and energy. These are a few things you can do to get others to join your band.

1. Book shows – Is this putting the cart in front of the horse? Yes… but it also does a few things that really help us get moving. We have our deadline now, we must act! Musicians love to play music, duh, this helps to get others motivated to play. It’s not fun to be in a band that never plays, and if you are always waiting to get the perfect group together before playing, well, you might never play! Book shows in smaller venues, plan to play open mics with a full group. Email coffee shops. Stop waiting for the group to play shows. Fire up the old engine and get moving son.

2. Go to an open mic and local shows just to watch – Sometimes when we go to an open mic we get all worked up about performing, we are so focused on ourselves and our act that we miss out on all the other talent out there. Go to an open mic and pay attention to the artist playing. After they have played their short set, ask them to collaborate. That’s right, just walk right up to them and tell them you think they’re great and would love to jam sometime.

3. Utilize grassroots music website – Websites like Bandcamp and ReverbNation can be a place to find a lot of great, untapped music. It might seem strange to try to tap a band for some dissenting members. But these guys love to play! If you notice that you really dig the beats or drums in one album, go through the band page, find out who the bassist is, find out who plays keys, find that guitarist or singer. Then either message them and ask to collaborate or find the musician through social media. Many regions/states/cities have classifieds where you can find musicians who are looking for groups. It’s a mad grab, but not a bad idea. I just think you will save yourself a lot of time if you specifically are on the offensive in finding the musicians you respect. If you post on Facebook that you’re looking for band members, it is a nice step, but don’t fool yourself, you are really not doing anything, and you will probably get a lot of duds that way.

4. Do the things you can and should be doing now – An active musician gets attention – Once you get all the members in the same room, you will talk with them about naming the band and all that fun stuff. But that doesn’t mean you can’t start coming up with names, creating web pages, EPK, recording, writing music, write a draft of a bio. Do these things with the knowledge that it’s going to change. These things will evolve and become better. Ask yourself what you would be doing if you had a band, start doing those things now! You don’t have to have the others around to start doing things. I think you’ll be surprised to see that once you start doing these things that others will want to join you. Your motivation will inspire others to join you. The trick is to make sure others can see what you’re doing, and then to tell them that you still are willing to change some things in the name of true collaboration.

5. Step in as a role player for a while – Sometimes you have to work for a while before you can start your own group. Maybe another group is searching for a guitarist, and you happen to play guitar. Step up and play with them for a few months. Find these groups by searching open mic nights and local venues, and through those grassroots sites, I listed this earlier on the list. Be honest with them, tell them where you’re headed and what the plan is. I have played with a wide array of musicians, some of the best I have found were in other groups while role-playing as a guitarist. It doesn’t have to be forever, set yourself a time limit with the group, maybe you and another musician from the group really hit it off, and you both decide to break off and do your own thing, these things happen every day.

     A few things to remember. Everyone loves their own ideas if you’re looking to collaborate, be willing to give a little. The important thing is, to be honest with each other. If you or anyone else is holding back, the self-censorship or affiliative constraints (fear of speaking up and being rejected) and pressure toward uniformity (agreeing just to agree) makes for a poor creative space. What every band has is pecking order, but that doesn’t mean you should get a bunch of yesmen… unless that’s what you’re looking for. Which might make it harder for you to find members.

     Pitch yourself to these members as if you were pitching to a venue owner or a record label. Ok, maybe a little more personal than that. But take it seriously, if you seem well-prepared people will be impressed and want to join you. Be honest with what you’re looking for. If you want someone serious about music, willing to dedicate multiple days a week. You have to be doing that by yourself right now. If you’re playing with more of a casual thing going on, tell them that’s what you’re looking for. You might find a few musicians that will play a show or two with you. This is ok and is to be expected. Musicians are flakey, no two ways around it. Artists are notorious for wishing they had A, B, and C. But never doing anything about it. If you want to start a band, you have to be proactive. Start today, make mistakes, get terrible members, you can kick them out. This is not a lifetime commitment. I really want you to succeed! To succeed, you have to make things happen for you. Remember that, in this industry, no one is going to hand you what you want. You have to go out and ask for it. I know you can do it! Time is not a bad guy, it just wants to help remind you of your dreams, that’s why you’re feeling a little anxious.

Just Ask

     I feel that I have recently stumbled on one of the biggest reasons most bands don’t make it out of the basement, or garage, or garage basement?! Is that a thing? Did I just invent the next major innovation in architecture?! The number one thing holding a group or an artist back is that they don’t ask. What?! That can’t be right, well, let’s take a look at the graph.

     As you can see in this photo, my hands a looking old as shit, and I’m right (ignore the part that says financial plan in the heading).

How can this be? This is such a simple thing, but so many people don’t do it. I recall a recent experience where I got a residency at a local venue. When I got the gig, one of the other local acts came up to ask me how I got it. I said, “I came up to the owner, told her I wanted to play as often as she would let me, and she gave me the gig.” The other artist acted surprised! Now I have had about 300 other stories that end a different way. But I have been lucky to play a more than 6 handfuls of awesome gigs, simply because I asked. I say lucky, but really it came down to me just asking. I feel like that has very little to do with luck.

Maybe you want to get onto a Spotify, or youtube playlist (and you should definitely be wanting to do that). How do you get on one of these? I think you know where I’m going with this… but just in case you started the article right here… just ask! Go to the youtube page or Spotify playlist and find an email address attached to it, then email them and say, “What do you need from me to make this happen.” Then do that thing! You will be told the word no often, like a lot. But that is ok! We are learning, we will make mistakes. Our feelings will be hurt. If you can’t handle that, seriously, don’t try to pursue this as a career and just make music for fun. There’s no shame in that! We can make this into more of a life lesson for you. So often we’re afraid to let our mouths say what our hearts desire. It’s ok to want to be a musician! It’s ok to want to be known for being a musician. Own up to what you want! I’m sure you have the power to change your life, motivational speakers making a living off of this. The fact of the matter is, they are right. Most of us just don’t verbalize what it is we want.

If you want someone to manage the band, just ask. If you are want to record an album, collect some funds, then ask to record somewhere. Maybe even ask for a discounted rate?! Huh! You can do that? Hell yes, you sure can! Seriously, just ask. What are you waiting for? Ask right now! Send that text, make that phone call! 

This Is How You Should Be Practicing Your Scales

As a guitarist, your bread and butter is the pentatonic scale, its the bare bones of every scale you will play. Every scale is derived from the five-note scale, seems simple, right?! I am saying you HAVE to learn this stuff.

Major and Minor follow a simple pattern that you can shift anywhere up and down the neck. Learning the scales can be exciting at first, that excitement usually passes after a few minutes though. We typically don’t think of practice as exciting, but it doesn’t have to be so dull. I’m going to list a few ways to keep this intriguing, to mix up the ways we practice so we can keep it fresh and stay tight!

A pentatonic scale means we’re taking five (pentatonic) notes out of the usual seven (diatonic) that make up most scales. If you’ve seen the sound of music, you’ll remember the song that goes, “Doe a deer, a female deer” that’s a major diatonic scale! We’re just picking five notes from that song. You can highlight five notes from any scale, the scales we primarily use are the major and minor. The major derives the 1 – 2 – 3 – 5 – 6notes from a scale. (or just the Do-Rey-Me-So-la) The minor looks like this 1 – b3 – 4 -5 – b7, means we flat the third and seventh note (or go down one fret from where it would be on the major scale). This pattern repeats up and down the neck of a guitar in what we call a box. A box is a row of notes from within a few frets (i.e., between frets 5 and 8). A box has a couple of octaves in it. If all of this seems confusing, don’t worry about it stop thinking about it and work on the pattern your fingers will fret! Once you start working on it, it’ll make sense!

  • Scales with a metronome –Ok, so this one isn’t something that will keep it feeling fresh. But it is imperative to practice with a metronome. I’ve heard someone say (… it was me) that practicing with a metronome means you’re getting twice as good, twice as fast! That’s four times as good if you’re bad at math! The metronome is your friend! It might not seem like it at first. God knows how much I hated it when I started playing. But it is essential to improving! There a few different apps you can download for a metronome. I use the app Pulseit just feels natural for me to use. You can also find an app with a looping drum beat if you can’t stand the constant click noise. Try to speed run through the scales. Set the metronome to the fast speed you can cleanly play, meaning your not missing many notes. You want to be honest with yourself. This is a neat way to measure progress. It’s not the most fun (or practical) way to practice, so check out some of the other ideas.

  • Download a jam track and groove –Going up and down the scale is good for starters, but very few songs are actually played this way (which is a good thing, haha). I’m sure you’ve heard of the term lick before. It has very little to do with your tongue in this connotation (you pervert). A lick is a series of notes that an artist will fall back on. That quick, familiar 4-2-7slid into a1that a musician will hit without thinking about it. So, how do you find the licks that you like to run? A jam track. They are easy to follow since they usually just jam on a single chord for eight minutes. I love using a jam track because they give you full reign to hit ANY note in the pentatonic scale and sound like you’re crushing it! A jam track is a private practice session where you are the star. If you youtube “Jam track key of ____,” about seven videos will pop up, you can do this in any key. Apple music/Spotify also has some jam tracks. I use Jamtracksmania on Apple music. It’s a peculiar kind of funny, but it works for me!

  • Run the exercise when you don’t have an instrument in hand –I’m sure you’ve heard the story about half of a basketball team practicing shooting free-throws and the other half the team thinking about making free throws? If you haven’t, spoiler alert, they both made the same statistical improvement. We’re going to do one better here! When you’re at school or work or are sitting in the passenger seat being driven somewhere, I want you to take your fretting hand (I’m right-handed, so I fret with my left) and wrap it around the opposing wrist. Then I follow the pattern up and down a row of the pentatonic. I saw this done in a movie called “The Soloist” with Robert Downey Jr and Jamie Fox (usually I can’t stand the acting of the latter, but he killed it in this movie) It’s quick, you can do it anywhere. It works in helping you improve!

  • The remix technique –The minor pentatonic scale is made up of the 1 – b3 – 4 -5 – b7 Getting used to the movement of the scale is a critical first step. After we feel comfortable with ascending and descending the scale patterns. We need to learn the value of each note. Meaning how it sounds juxtaposed to the root note. To do this exercise, write down a random order to these numbers (1 – b3 – 4 -5 – b7) and play them out. An example of this would be in the Key of Am b3 – b7 – 4 – 5 – 1 – 8 (the same note as a 1, but higher an octave) Do this over different box positions up and down the guitar. I think this is the best exercise to start getting a feel for the value or tone color of each note in a scale.

  • The flashcard technique –Set the metronome up for a slow tempo, start with 70 beats per minute (bpm). Every time a beat hits try to nail a different random note from one key in a pentatonic scale. When you can move around one box of the scale cleanly, then start adding octaves and maybe even ramp it up 5-10 bpm, and add in another box in that scale. Eventually, you’ll be able to play the entire fretboard without missing a note in tempo!

Remember rule number one! All of these techniques should be practiced with a metronome. I promise you will be blown away by how fast you improve when using a metronome. Don’t be discouraged! If you need any Help With The Metronome click on this link!

Everyone has a hard time with this stuff at first. I believe the most important thing is that you pick up the guitar EVERYDAY even if it’s just for thirty seconds. just holding a guitar will help you establish a habit. If you have a habit of playing, you will improve!

The Daily Workout Routine of a Musician

Desire is a mighty beast, It’s only the first step though. If you could make it just from wanting it… why haven’t most people made it? Don’t be naive and say its because they didn’t want it enough. You’re better than that. If you’re serious about pursuing a career in music as a musician, you need to be doing these things.

Who am I to write this? I’m a nobody, that’s who! I’m a “failed musician” just like you. I failed for a few reasons. These reasons seem like common sense. That because they are just that, common sense. Doing these things doesn’t guarantee the level of success you’re dreaming of. But failing to make these things as part of your routine guarantees you will not make it.

Craft your personal workout– You need to be picking up the instrument EVERY SINGLE DAY! What you do during your practice routine is up to you, which is how it should be. You can get ideas from others around you, but ultimately you need to create what you’re doing every single day. Maybe it’s speed running scales for 10 minutes, working a new song, then practicing technique for 10 minutes to finish it out. The workout needs to be personal, a mix of fun and tedious interval training. If you’re not playing at least 30 minutes every day, you’re not taking this seriously.

Learn something new– By this I mean you need to do something you feel a little uncomfortable doing. If you feel uncomfortable with improving over a track. (That’s a common thing) Dedicate a few minutes every day to learning the circle of 5ths. Start from the beginning. Youtube “Circle of 5ths for beginners,” the internet is overflowing with videos on theory, watch with a pen and notebook in hand. To sincerely study, relay the information to someone who knows very little about what you learned. If they can relay the information back to you, then you really know what you are talking about, and you are learning and growing!

Push yourself to listen to new music every week– Create an album of the week, study the greats in your field. Subscribe to a new playlist, if a song really sticks out to you, learn how to play that song!

Write Down Goals– Spend a few minutes every day writing down your goals for the day, week and month. Write them down EVERY DAY! You want to be repeating yourself here. You want to say the same thing every day, when we do this, it means we’re focused. We have that same goal in our mind for an extended period of time. If we have this same vision for a month, for a year, for three years. We will improve past what we are able to conceive! I find the problem is we lose sight of these goals. We write it down once in a notebook, then we forget about that notebook. Write down the simple, primary goals every day. It might seem silly. But it has real power over how we improve!

Have someone hold you accountable – If you can find a master of your craft, someone you can aspire to be. That’s great, but sometimes a mentor is hard to find. We need someone who can hold us accountable. A person we respect, maybe it’s a brother, an aunt, a grandparent, or even a fellow musician. It doesn’t matter, just someone you can contact every few days that will hold you accountable for keeping on track. There will be days you don’t feel like someone zapped all of the ambition out of your body. This is the day we need the champion of our dream to step up and help us through!

Don’t get discouraged! Remember that you don’t always love what you love to do!

The Real (and Only) Benefit of a Battle of the Bands

The BATTLE OF THE BANDS (BOTB) has been portrayed in many a film. I remember watching School of Rock when I was a pre-teen, I was blown away! It was in a movie, so that kind of crowd reaction must be real? My imagination would run, and I would play my songs and people would stop talking and turn to me and think “WOW! THIS IS AMAZING!” The entire venue would be packed. Most of them would be beautiful, screaming women, a couple goths out there as well. I would win them over with this great joke I tell. I would jump out and crowd surf a little. Han Solo would be on the side of the stage and shoot me a wink. “Great shot, kid! That was one in a million!”

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I wish I had a time machine so I could burst my naive little bubble. Life is nothing like a movie. I was an idiot, I shouldn’t have thought this was how it was going to be. It’s kind of like watching The Notebook and thinking, “that is what love looks like, this should work for me!” You don’t look like Ryan Gosling. If you are that aggressive your love interest will rightly believe you are insane. Maybe not a bad thing, perhaps you’re shooting for crazy, and that’s part of your charm. Hell, It worked for me for a few years. My long-winded point is pop culture gave me an extremely high expectation bar to clear. When I watched School of Rock and thought, “This is how it’s going to be!” There is a popular meme that points out how funny it is that so many people showed up to watch the battle of the bands on a weekday in the MIDDLE OF THE DAY. If you’ve ever played a battle of the bands, this usually isn’t the case. I have battled more than a few bands, I have even won! … once, kind of by default. Ahem, it’s not important.

Perhaps you have played one, maybe you haven’t. BOTB’s are rarely what you think they will be. I firmly believe the only group that wins in a battle royal is the venue. Let me crush your dreams right here. You are talented, you deserve to be heard. Here’s the kicker, most of the groups you’re playing with are talented and deserve to be heard too. If you stepped into a room filled with clones of Megan Markle, which one is the most attractive to you? Why did I pick Megan Markle? I was going to pick Olivia Wilde… but I felt that she hasn’t done anything recently and seemed kind of old news. Man, that sentence is sad. Well, she still looks great to me. You’ll always be my number one, Olivia.

How can I make this work? Hmm, if you stepped into a room filled with U2 caliber talent groups, who should win? Does it really even matter at this point? You got to hear some great music! Most BOTB competitions have the venue making most (if not all) of the proceeds from the ticket sales, and whatever bullshit prize they are toting is probably just that. Bullshit. It is easy to make something sound great. I mean, Hollywood does this daily.

I’m sure your thinking alines with what I thought. “Well, I’ll be getting great exposure! We will win the fans over from other groups!” I’m not going to say you won’t have a couple people start to follow your band around. But most of these bands will not

A. Fit your genre

2. Their fans are their friends who have come out because they love and support them, they don’t really care about music as much as they care for their friend.

D. Who’s to say they will even stick around for your band?

(Some John Hughes humor for you) Most BOTB’s go on for HOURS. I have a hard time sticking around for some of the acts, and I LOVE MUSIC. Maybe you love it more than I do. If so, you don’t even need to sign up for a BOTB, just go find where one is and watch a few groups. I’m doing a shitty job of leading up to my main point.

The only real benefit to a BOTB is networking with other bands. If you’re going to play one, you should really only be going to meet other groups. If while you’re at the event, you are shy and refuse to talk with other bands. You missed the point of the whole thing. Meeting other acts is incredible! I cannot number how many extra gigs I got because I spoke with another band. Stop having a “US AGAINST THE WORLD” mentality and adopt a “COMMUNITY” attitude. Not everyone else will, some bands are just a bunch of pricks who like to make noise. Advertisers are always saying a person needs to see something SEVEN times before someone really SEE IT. That BOTB has several other bands playing. That’s a lot of information to take in. If you really want to piggyback fans, gain exposure into a circle you’ve yet to penetrate. Genuinely befriend a band, become a fan of their music, book gigs where swap open for each other. If you perform at a battle of the bands with this in mind, then you will always come out a winner!

If you only take one thing from this, just remember… You’re not hardcore unless you live hardcore! AND THE LEGEND OF THE RENT WAS WAY HARDCORE!!!!

Recording soon? Follow the link! Preparing for the Recording Studio 

How to Create a DOPE as HELL EPK

         Before you are able to book most places, you’ll need a dope as hell Electronic Press Kit, or as its better know, the EPK. How do you know if the EPK is good? Its kind of like Jazz, you will hear it, you’ll know it is awful. Ask yourself these question, “Is this easy for me to navigate, does it look like my ten-year-old nephew made it?”If the answer is, no and yes. Then your EPK is not dope as hell, it needs to be remade. If you don’t have the things in this list, don’t worry cuz! This then becomes a quick To-do list for the group! It is straightforward! I promise this will help your group start snagging more gigs! Just stay the course.

     An EPK not your website. This is a digital one-page flyer you will send a venue to help get your band through the doors. Primarily, will be seen by these folks. Its a little resume for your group. I’ve whittled this thing down a few times. If you are new to the scene, don’t get overwhelmed. I’ve been hustling for ten years, the best piece of advice I ever got was from a fortune cookie in San Fransico. “Breathe, stupid.” This is an ongoing process. You should regularly be updating this EPK, maybe you don’t have any live videos of your band performing yet. That is ok, make the EPK! Plan out filming a live video. Let this be your guide, start slow, you can book a gig without an EPK. It is tough to get a big gig one without it. So work towards gathering this stuff!

Before we go any further, I highly suggest getting a templet to start you off. If this is your first EPK or if you’re feeling a little skeptical about your EPK right now, I highly suggest using Sonicbids.com or Adobe Spark. They have a few different pricing options.

Adobe Spark

Pulled from their website

  • A free version, Create stunning graphics, web pages, and video stories – Available on desktop, iPhone and iPad – Sync projects across devices

  • a $9.99 a month version where you can Replace the Adobe Spark logo with your own – Add your brand to Spark graphics, web pages, and video stories – Select colors and fonts that reflect your brand -Leverage personalized branded templates – Manage your brand in one place – Update branding across templates in one click – Live phone and chat support

  • a $19.99 per month version that has Company ownership of user license – Consolidated billing for all licenses on the account – Web-based license management tool with the ability to reassign licenses – Dedicated 24/7 technical phone support, email, chat, and forums

It can be a little intimidating to run at first. Here is a how-to video to help you out!

Sonicbids

  • A free version – This helps you to create an EPK, but you will only be able to send your EPK to five times via the free trial.

  • $19 per month or a one time/ a $132 annual subscription – which grants you full access to the Sonicbids domain. They have some connections with SXSW and other huge festivals, as well as smaller local festivals. They said it best on their site.

“…about 150-250 opportunities live at a time for artists to apply to – these are live local venue gigs, massive international festivals, songwriting contests, licensing placements, blog features, and radio opportunities.”

     Where this doesn’t guarantee you will get the gig, it is exciting and puts your band’s name in the race for some big name venues, like SXSW.

     I feel that one problem might be a group is trying to smack it out of the park. The EPK is not the only reason you will get the gig. What we’re trying to create here is something that won’t turn a venue away from your group. Which means all we have to do is not blow it. Just get out of your own way.

Ok, Ok, Ok… Bare bones, what does an EPK need?

  • You need to have high-resolution photos. A lot of high-resolution images.

Get the group together and get some photos taken. Don’t over think this! If it’s your first photo shoot the critical thing is getting the group together and taking the picture. I hear of too many bands that over conceptualize the photoshoot, they have a terrible time, it ends up taking like three hours (that’s WAY too long), and they never want to retake another photo shoot again. I like the idea that you always have a photo shoot date in the calendar. Meaning you have a photoshoot this weekend, then another one set three months down the road, that photoshoot can be excellent and enact some artistic ideas. This takes the pressure off the group. When you get the photos back from the photographer you want them at a minimum of (300 dpi) and lo-res (72 dpi) versions, 600 pixels wide. I like grabbing a 3,000 x 3,000version of the photos as well. That’s the requirement for an album cover. Use a legitimate camera, if no one in the group has one, then one of your friends should have one. If no one you know has one, just pay someone to take the photos. It is that important. We’re just trying to get the EPK made here. We want to have four or five pictures that we can use for this bad boy. Remember, they need to be high-resolution.

  • Contact information

I like putting this somewhere near the top or the bottom of the EPK, it depends on the format of the page. This includes an email address, links to social media pages, a phone number.

  • You need a band biography

     We want two separate pieces here, a short three sentence tagline to get people interested, and a short two paragraph full band bio. – When you write the short tagline piece, I recommend giving your music a scenario that it would be played in. An example would be “An eclectic soundwave, like finally meeting your biological mother” what the hell does it mean? I don’t know. But it sounds cool and better than “We sound like Coldplay mixed with Arctic Monkeys.” Give the reader a situation your music would score and an emotion that you feel your music displays. Paint a quick picture for the gig.

When creating a band bio it’s important to remember this, most people aren’t going to read the whole damn thing. We are sonic storytellers so we can be creative with it, but be sure to include a few facts.

  • Tell them where you are based out of (From Richmond, Virginia)

  • Name the folks in the band (Comprised of Mike (vocals) – Remy (Drums) – Bill (Guitar) – Jerry (Bass) – Jeff (Keys)

  • Mention some of the flagship songs/album you guys have made and if it’s made some traction. Its ok if you haven’t done anything as a group yet. Mention some of the individual member’s accomplishments

  • Just talk about yourself. You don’t have to start from the beginning when you talk about yourself. You wouldn’t approach someone saying “I was based out of Phoenix, Arizona. I have played the piano since I was eight.” You wouldn’t do that. If you told me that I would walk away from you.

     Let me give you an example of every band bio you’ll ever read… “Jack started playing guitar at the age of 12, he quickly developed a love for songwriting. Evan met jack in high school, and the band “Radioactive” was formed. I’m falling asleep writing this thing. Everyone’s band started this way. You’re not Prince, I don’t care where you were born and that you’ve played piano since you were six and listened to the Beatles with your dad growing up. Make it readable and for the love of God, make sure it is grammatically correct and has no typos. The thing is, there is no right way to do this, there are just a lot of wrong ways. It seems like lazy writing on my part, and maybe it is lazy. I don’t know, I don’t care.

  • you need a Live Video (the live part is essential)

     This doesn’t have to be at live at a venue. Just record a quality video of you performing in your practice space. You are just proving that you guys don’t suck live. If you suck live… practice more.

  • You need your Music

     Include a quick preview of your music, or attach a link to a youtube video of a song you have posted. This is different from the live video, it probably should be near the top of the EPK. It is your product! Nike makes shoes, Pizzahut makes pizza, you make music.

  • Some Press Clips/HighlightReel of accomplishments

     Don’t worry if you don’t have any, we will get there! This is a one-sentence press clip, something like a movie review that you would see. To get one of these when you play your next gig, ask the sound guy or owner if you can quote them about your band.

“A must see!” – Lance Dossett, Zest Bar

Maybe you won a battle of the bands, put that up there!

  • A Schedule of your Upcoming Shows 

         I know it seems kind of funny that you have to list shows if you’re creating this to get shows. If you don’t have anything lined up yet, don’t worry we will fill it up! This is a part of the EPK you will regularly update.

    Make your EPK today! Don’t wait for it to be perfect! By simply creating one, you’ve already got a leg up on many other bands. No excuses, make it today!

    Voltaire: “The best is the enemy of the good.” Confucius: “Better a diamond with a flaw than a pebble without.”

    CHECK OUT MY LAST POST ABOUT SOCIAL MEDIA

Social Media – The Illusion of Progression

   

     Let me tell you something that might surprise you. Or maybe you already knew it, and I need to brush up on my music history. The last live Beatles’ touring performance was on 29 August 1966. Obviously, that excludes the rooftop concert because they were not touring then. McCartney announced that they were broken up April 10th in 1970. They hadn’t even released Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band yet?! (May 26, 1967) When you think of the Beatles, you should think of the quintessential band! Obviously, they were still creating and recording during that three year period. But it’s still just fascinating to me that they were not on the road performing during that time.

     What I’m trying to say is, the Beatles were always artist (duh) not always performers. Today we have another example of this. Frank Ocean doesn’t get around and play very often. I’m sure you can think of many more examples of this. We rightly idolize these legends, even though they do not always fit the mold we put them in. Any half decent artist is this way, and these folks have changed the game. Today it is easier than ever to get your art out there. You always hear how important social media (SM) is to your craft. I think it’s important to make sure you are using the right avenue. For example, Facebook is not always your best bet. Sure, it is overflowing with a billion people. (That number is correct by the way, which is absurd. Good for Zuckerburg.) Posting something on Facebook in the hopes that someone will pick you up and take you where you want to go is as irrational as going to a football game and yelling “LISTEN TO MY MUSIC.” This is an incredibly stupid idea, literally, everyone else is already doing it and they are probably doing it better than you are.

     I am going to backtrack and say that you should definitely have a Facebook presence, but that it shouldn’t be your sole focus. I want you to really sit and think about it. If all you’ve done is post something on Facebook today. Then you are on par with a fourteen-year-old girl and her social status selfies. Actually, you’re a few strokes behind her. Don’t trick yourself into thinking you’re staying busy by posting a photo or a link to a single you released three months ago. You desperately need to have a paradigm shift here because this mentality will kill you. Posting something on the big three SM platforms (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter) is STEP ONE of what you need to d today. So don’t spend too much time or stress over it for hours. I highly recommend setting up a SM calendar to keep the whole thing focused and flowing. I use monday.com as my SM calendar at the start of my week, It’s free and easy to use. I’ll hook you up with a link here. Monday.com

     To gain a real following, start traveling down and using the more artistic SM platforms. Tumblr, Deviantart, Behance, Pinterest, Soundcloud, Vimeo. I know what you’re thinking. “Dean, most of those don’t have shit to do with music and isn’t SoundCloud dying?” Hang in there buddy. How many likes are you getting via your facebook post? Who is liking that post? Is it your aunt and your old high school buddy? Maybe part of the problem is we are trying to get people to want our music, except, honestly, they don’t give two shits about art.

     

     I think it is time to take our work to other artists! Sure, maybe they won’t like it. Perhaps they are more talented than we are. Hell, in my case they are definitely more talented. I’m not suggesting you have to post anything to these sites. Just be a fan of other artists’ work. Don’t just go onto the home page and start liking posts. Find the stuff you really dig! Find the guys that have five little hearts on their photos, the ones that definitely deserve more than that. Befriend these artists, tell them what you like about their work. Branch off and talk about that movie you watched the other day. Start being a SUPERFAN, that’s how you get superfans. If these artists don’t like your stuff, then who the hell is going to love your stuff? Still, don’t be too hard on yourself. Always keep your vision but accept that we can learn a thing or two from these guys. We can always improve. One of my favorite stories comes from the Beach Boys and the Beatles. When Brian Wilson from the Beach Boys heard Rubber Soul, the sixth album from the Beatles, Brian went straight to his piano and started writing God Only Knows, eventually crafting the masterpiece Pet Sounds. Of course, in 1966 the Beatles came out with Revolver and forcing Brian Wilson into a nervous breakdown. Later in his life, he said

     “It wasn’t really a rivalry, though. I was jealous! . . . It was really just mutual inspiration, I think. I would get to hear their records before they came out and I was totally blown away by Rubber Soul. And Sgt. Peppers? I was totally blown away by that. But it was inspirational, too. Then I did “Good Vibrations” and Smile, and it was exciting. I got into it and really produced my head off.”

      I love that story. If you are John Mayer, Maroon 5, A Day to Remember, Young the Giant, Taylor Swift. Then you probably can solely use Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. The rest of us need to extend our reach. Be truthful and honest with other artists. Be frank and honest with yourself. If all you are doing is posting a song to Facebook and hoping it’ll take off. Then you will likely have the same success as shouting at a football game and trying to gain everyone’s attention. Refine your search so you can get to the point where you’re playing the halftime show. It will take time and you will need to gain true fans. Not ones that are related to you! Haha! I’ve been there so I can laugh.

Preparing for the Recording Studio

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The weeks before recording are almost always stressful, but they don’t have to be. Here are some tips to help you have a great time in the studio!

1. Have IN TEMPO scratch tracks – The tracks will benefit you in more than one way. It will help your producer understand where you’re trying to take your song. It will also solidify your parts as sometimes an idea will sound better in your head than on a track. The studio should also be a place for creating, so don’t over do it with the scratch track and be willing to change things when you are sitting in front of the big board.

2. Write out your music – This doesn’t mean you have to write it out in notation. I mean, if you can read sheet music, then sure, write it out that way. If you like to read chords or tabs, then write it out as chords or tablature. Write your lyrics out with plenty of space to make notes. I recently recorded with someone who liked us to write every breath out as it’s own individual line. This reckless abandon for trees is actually now my favorite way to do it. It makes it really easy to review the vocals and get the best take.

3. Band meetings – You can’t do this all on your own! Every band member should establish what they are going bring to the studio or any prep work that needs to be done beforehand.

4. Have open communication with your sound engineer/producer – Don’t’ be afraid to send an email asking what they need to help keep the recording process on track.

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5. Have realistic expectations – In my experience, even if you have everything planned and you’re armed to the teeth with everything you’ll need, it takes about 10 hours per song you’re working on. Let me put it down simply… DO NOT TRY TO FIT FIVE SONGS IN A TWO DAY SLOT. You’re spending your time and your hard earned money here. This should be a fun process, that kind of stuff bleeds through the recording. Just don’t rush it, you have your whole life to record thousands of songs. You don’t need to fit all of the songs you have in one recording session.

As an idea of how it usually goes. First, you will lay down the drums. You can have the drummer play live the with the band and just have only the drummer being recorded (just in case that confused you) and have him play to the scratch track. There are benefits to both paths. After that you’ll have the bass track, then the guitars or keyboards. After all of the instrumentation, you will lay the vocals over the top. Now, obviously you don’t have to do it this way, It’s just comforting to know the way most people do this.

Coming Together – Be careful who you pick to be in the band

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I don’t think you should ever blame someone else for your own failures… except when talking about this subject. If you have unmotivated, talentless, selfish bandmates. It is their fault you are not getting to where you want to go. Although the argument could be made it is your fault for playing with this group

Cracking the industry is really, really, really (I cannot stress this enough) REALLY hard! But it doesn’t have to have that many “really’s” – we can make it easier by surrounding ourselves with people who are motivated, talented and have asolid vision of what they want. It takes time to find these people. It’s worth the wait.

I’ve played in enough groups who knew they were hot shit. But here’s the thing, we were not hot, we were cold shit. Our front man was arrogant, a one-note chump (one of the worst things you can be) who burned through most of our contacts with his pride. Our drummer was crazy and not the fun kind of crazy. Our bassist missed almost every practice, our rhythm guitarist practically lived in another state. Do yourself a favor, learn from us! Be honest with yourself about the guys you play with, if it looks anything like this, quit this group right NOW!

Now, everyone in the group could play. We didn’t sound half bad, but we also didn’t sound half good. That is a perilous place to be because you end up wasting a lot of time.

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Even if you’re a solo artist, you need others to help you get to where you want to go. Burning out creatively is a real thing, and it happens all the time. If you’re trying to solely pull your band through a tough unmotivated time, you might last a couple weeks. Hell, maybe even a good couple months (good god, you’d be a deity to last that long) but you will end up hating music for a while and you’ll remember this time with blue flame rage.

These folks you swore had your back will go to whatever job they had as a backup, and you will be right where you were a few months ago. Sure, maybe with a few new songs and if you’re lucky, some places to contact. That is if you didn’t turn them off with your old wishy-washy band and if those members don’t threaten to sue you for using the songs they “helped” collaborate on.

 

Apparently, I’ve had some bad experiences.

You’re going to meet some of these people pretending to be musicians on your path to your dreams. Nobody is perfect, especially not you or me. Let me given you a few tips on easing the road though.

1. Don’t be afraid to regularly change some members of the band. I’m not a fan of rotation, but MOST times it needs to be done. If you’re playing with someone who rarely shows up to practice, you know the one, always an excuse an hour before everyone gets there, just tell them it isn’t working out. If someone in your band is consistently a raging dick, they can and should be kicked out. You know how many people are out there that plays the drums? SO MANY PEOPLE. When changing people, It helps to get a recording of what you’re looking for and to write tabs (or chords) for the next person who comes into the group. It may seem time-consuming, but it’s not as slow as sounding out an instrument to the new musician trying to learn a part.

2. You’re not going to like everyone else’s ideas, and that’s ok. If you’re in a band, then you’re going to play a song that someone else wrote that you don’t like to play. We’ve all been there before, “you are my ocean, and you are my stars” what the hell is that Mikey? It’s a group though, and the sound of your band comes from that collaboration. Always be honest with your bandmates, but remember that if you are consistently shooting them down, they’ll be useless to you when you need help. Creativity is funny like that. You need to write some terrible songs to find the good ones.

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3. Many hands make light work. I am a firm believer in the jack of all trades when it comes to the work behind the scenes. Sure you might usually drift to booking shows, but that doesn’t mean it’s YOUR job. The others should help! The “assigned band job” is another thing that will quickly burn you out. Someone will always get the tough job of making a ridiculous amount of phone calls every week, and the other guy gets packing the truck or driving. Both have time, but the amount of work is drastically uneven. This is hard to fight, you will want to just drop into a role. Fight it! Have everyone do a little of everything. If you have five people in the group and everyone does two things, you’ve got ten things done, no one broke a sweat, you’re all fresh and creative. You can’t be burnt out and create. You will burn out if you have to do ten things by yourself on top of whatever else you have to do in life. That’s a full-time job on top of your full-time job. If you’re a solo artist, you still need to find others who will help you with the work behind the scenes! I know from personal experience that there are so many music lovers or just friends who will be willing to help you on your journey. PAY THEM!! Give them more than they think you should! If you’re serious about playing music, then you will not get far without rewarding those who help you. By giving them so much, they will be even more driven to help you.

4. Your first band will not make it. Hell, the first few bands will not make it. Just think about the odds of it. You know why we love groups like “Kings of Leon” (maybe you don’t, that’s a shame) because they’re the exception. They just happen to all be related! But even for them, Caleb and Nathan were in a group before the other two joined. If you are going to do anything in life, you need to stop hoping you are the exception. Much like your first love, it’s a learning experience! You’re not meant to end up with your first song as a hit. The sweetness, the joy of life comes from the missed and mistaken. I get that I sound like an old man now. But I’ve watched it happen to me and let me tell you. It would have been the worst thing that could have ever happened to me to have gotten to the next level with my first group and our stupid songs! The point is, don’t put too much pressure on it and if it’s your first group, just have fun! Play lots of shows and learn as much as you can!

 

5. Consistently talk about your goals with others. Make sure you are all on the same page. You’d be surprised how often plans are when expressed aloud. If they don’t meet up, that’s ok! Something might be categorically necessary for one member and feel like a waste of time to another. You are creative people and should be able to figure a way to compromise. If someone is unwilling to compromise to even a tiny level. It is time to find a new group (seriously, there are so many out there). You know what you’re deal breakers are, stick to your guns! That being said, if someone what’s a photo shoot in all plaid, it’d not going to kill your music. Go through with it with the stipulation that the next photo shoot will be something anyone one with eyes would actually enjoy.

6. Stop playing with people that play a radically different genre than yours. I was once recruited to play in a grunge band. I like grunge, but I don’t love it. It would have been a terrible fit. Sure, I could have played a couple songs the way they wanted me to play them. But with time, I just revert back to my sissy rock (meaning soft dad rock) roots. The group will all hate me, and I’d hate myself. That’s not to say that even in the little I did play with them I didn’t learn something. You should play with others outside your group often! But for heaven’s sake don’t join them. Think of it as a community! The best music thrives that way. Look at Seattle back in the 90s or LA back in the 80s! Just because you play with someone doesn’t mean you’re stuck for life, or even anything passed that night.

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7. Money. You have to spend money to make money. I heard this great talk given at the DIY convention from ——– Where the speaker talked about the 50/50 rule. Meaning that if you spend three thousand dollars on recording your songs, you should spend three thousand dollars on marketing. Maybe you don’t agree, (you’d be wrong) but that is a HUGE point for collaboration! It’s ok to disagree with getting sleeves versus a CD jewel case (my question is, who buys CDs anymore) but if you fundamentally disagree with any lack of spending or excessive spending. Quit.

The point is just to stop wasting your time by giving others YOUR time. I’m a firm believer that each of us knows when we’re doing something we shouldn’t be doing. Just because this guy plays the drums doesn’t mean he should be your drummer. Instead, take the time to cultivate a functional group of musicians or business partners who come close to sharing the same vision you have of your music and how it’s presented.

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A special thanks and photo credit to Jay Wenning, Juan Di Nella, Tom Rogerson, Markus Spiske, Zachrie Friesen, Matthew Lejune and Eszter Biro. I am blown away by your talent! Thank you for letting me spruce up the page with your touch.