DRUM BEAT BLOG - Buy On Band Tips
This article popped up a few times on my facebook feed yesterday... and quickly opinions came with it.
For those who don't know, a "buy on" is a spot on a show/tour a band can pay for hoping the slot will put them in front of similar music fans who might like their band... and become fans.
So what's the big deal?
Well... I think it gets down to how you see this "pay to play" opportunity.
The main argument against is that any band or artist could simply raise enough money (the richest wins!) to get on a tour... and that the headliner (the one actually selling the ticket fans are buying) only cares about cash and not the quality of the band that takes the spot.
This may be true... and money does talk... but in my experience, a few things factor (talent, sound, attitude, professionalism, team, etc) into the selection of a band looking to... pay for a slot on a tour that's for sale because the established headliner knows it has value.
Trust me, bands care about who's opening or direct support. The live show is more important than ever so the bigger acts want to make sure the bill is worth every penny... even if the entire crowd is there to see them (the headliner). You can't steal the live show. It has a price and it has an expiry date.
Another valid argument is bigger bands should help smaller bands since they have the audience to help grow talent.
I agree 100% and if my soapbox ever reaches that height, I certainly would!
... that's how I felt several years ago at least.
The problem is once you're a professional touring act (or a professional in any industry I'm sure)... there's tons of people wanting to ride your coattails... for basically nothing in exchange... you know, because they asked, you now magically owe them something.
Maybe they're trying to do it on the cheap, maybe they can't afford to run the band as a business, maybe they're daydreaming hobbyists just looking for that "one tiny chance" to hit the big time... because that's all they need right? Opportunity! They have the talent so that should be able to make up for the money they don't have (want) to invest.
Once you reach a certain level the tables turn and so does your focus... and you can no longer help the majority of those bands.
... because they can't help themselves... and they wave that flag, high and proud.
They tend to be pretty unprofessional (on several levels) and/or they can't afford (or not willing) to run the band as a business... and when you've made the sacrifices (I'm talking financially, since nobody cares about what your time is worth when you aren't willing to invest everything in your own idea), a band or artist knows the value of that spot on the bill and offers it up to someone who's going to make the most of it.
... or has a boatload of cash.
Believe me, if your band sucks (musically, professionally, and/or personality wise), you'd have to offer a lot of money... so much they'd be insane not to take it. In that case, the band (and crew) probably won't care to meet you, interact to you, etc. You're just around for a bit. You're just a wicked paycheck.
That being said... in my opinion, the costs (per show) for this arrangement probably just goes towards the headliners crew. Is it so bad to offset some of the production costs for the headliner? Again... they're the one selling the ticket, not the opening band. They're the one the promoter is taking the risk on to make a profit. Follow the money and things make sense... and this isn't a bad thing.
There's the argument it's just as bad as radio being bought and sold. Well perhaps, but my opinion of radio is it also simply gets down to advertising space.
Radio campaigns can be expensive and a huge risk if you don't have the rest of your musical machine cranking along in the background (single and/or album, touring, marketing/promo, etc).
I get asked often by bands if I think buying on a tour is a good use of funds. Well? Chachi's first point in his post... is it worth it?
Often it isn't.
Why? (... assuming your band is actually ready.)
The headliner isn't big enough, not enough dates, weak bill over all, terrible routing/dates, etc. Sometimes it looks like a cash grab and I don't want to say "go for it" knowing the band is probably going to end up paying $250/show to play to 17 people for 5 nights.
That's just not worth it.
When is it worth it?
When you know the headliner thinks your band is decent and you know they can sell tickets.
... back to radio for a second. When you service a song to radio, you're hoping it a) gets added to the rotation and b) someone hears it... and likes it enough to find out who the band was.
This is asking a lot. Not everyone checks the charts Tuesday afternoon like I do.
So say you were paying $10,000 for your radio campaign, this is high or low depending on genre/market, but it's easy math for the time being.
Your song is amazingly 3 minutes long. You're played 3 times a day for 3 weeks.
9 mins/day X 21 days = 189 minutes or 3 hours 9 mins total playing time.
(... yes we don't know how many people this station reaches... and yes we're sort of a assuming this is only 1 station, in 1 market... but keep in mind 21 spins (3 spins a day X 7 days) a week might get you into the Top 50 on Canadian radio! I'm not joking!)
... stay with me here... yeah I'm sorta pulling numbers out of the air and I know every case is different! It's more about the concept!
... anyway, in our example, you've paid $10,000 for just over 3 hours of airtime. You're hoping someone hears it and hoping they like the song enough to follow up and Google the band.
... keep in mind, if that single takes off... you really should have some money around to tour and support it. Don't pretend money will magically appear giving you the ability to tour!
Now with a buy on, let's say it's $500/show to open for a band you know is going to put on average 500 people in a venue per night.
Simple math again, we have $10,000 to put towards a buy on. $10,000/$500 = 20 shows.
Sweet... 3 week tour! Let's just round it to 21 days.
Now, you have a 20 minute opening set.
20 minutes X 20 shows = 400 minutes or 6 hours and 40 mins.
I know we're not factoring in the costs of touring at this point, but you can see a major advantage in time already... we could even cut that buy on budget down to $5,000, do 10 shows, and have $5,000 left for tour support and be back where we were timewise for our radio campaign.
Here's' the thing though... you're hoping someone hears you on the radio. They are passive listeners. I listen to music playing in the grocery store, but I don't stand around in the cookie aisle and rock out if my jam comes on.
Exception being if Tame Impala comes on.
Again, these are passive listeners, being exposed to the radio... they're doing something else and your music has to catch their attention.
The live show environment is a completely different story. Those 500 fans waiting for your band to hit the stage are primed! Just like if you've ever been to a comedy bar, those inside are primed to laugh. It doesn't take much to get people engaged when they're primed. This is the huge edge to a buy on situation over radio. Active listeners.
If you have a great headliner (the one selling the ticket), you now have a captive, paying, engaged audience who will endure your entire set... and in this case, that's 500 people a night, for 20 nights.
You have your entire set to win them over.
That's 10,000 people... people you can meet at your merch table. People who might buy your album, buy your shirt, tag your band in pics and videos they post, etc. I'm not saying they all will... but if you leave a city with even 5 new core fans (1% in our example)... those seeds will grow.
Do the math.
Consider the cost vs value.
With anything in business, stop thinking you can't afford it and start thinking is it worth it?
The opportunity is there for bands willing to consider the opportunity... the price is often too high for those that complain about how the system works though... and it's usually a trickle down effect of excuses throughout their entire business plan. With any basic business plan, below "concept" is "capital". You have this great idea, but how do we fund this great idea? How do we get it out there in order for it to grow?
If you are in a band and do reach the level you have bands willing to buy on your tour... all I can suggest is do what helps you sleep best at night. Bad business comes in all shapes and forms but I think even though the industry is incredibly wonky right now, it's all for the best... growing pains.
Bands and artists have never had more control over their own careers or direct and instant access to their fan base. Many of the traditional gatekeepers have disappeared or lost power and the (smart) artists are gaining more and more control over what will become their industry... shaped by the fan and the artist through the exchange of ideas, entertainment, and dollars between them.
If you made it this far... thanks for reading and feel free to pass along.
Chachi is an awesome dude and an awesome drummer by the way.
- Mike :-)
P.S. Yes I know many people could shoot many holes in my radio vs buy on math. Please do! I'm aware of the endless variables but at least it'd get people talking about it... the realities at least. This shouldn't be a conversation bands think is on the downlow.
P.P.S. Don't get me started on "promoters" who ask bands to sell tickets to play shows in support of a headliner that can't sell the ticket... because you know, you can say you opened for them. It's just sad... sadder because that headliner often gets paid.
Today I remind myself why I choose to do what I do for a living.
Back in 2001, I was sitting in a York University classroom with a couple dozen other wide-eyed kids buzzing with their newfound post-secondary freedom. My course was based around computer science with dashes of graphic design.
My goal was to complete the 2-year program, find a job somewhere on the US west coast in the game industry, and work my way into doing music and sound design.
I figured the gaming industry was booming, eventually overtaking Hollywood blockbuster budgets, so it’d be a safe choice. It seemed pretty obvious computers in general weren’t going away, so it was as safe as death and taxes as far as industries go.
The chair of our program knocked on the door before entering to tell us the news.
We were free to leave the class to go find a TV… nobody made the first move, so nobody did.
We were on the second day of the program and still very much trying to make a good impression on our instructors. Besides, I was pretty sure CNN would have it on loop the next week.
Later that afternoon I was back at my dorm. CNN to the left of me, my Adobe Illustrator assignment (due the next day) in front of me. I started thinking about my motivations. I wanted to finish this/these assignments so I could go audition with a band on bass guitar downtown.
Work now, so I can play later.
I thought if I had a decent paying job, I’d eventually have enough time and money to spend more time and money on music.
I liked computers but I loved music.
I started thinking about how many people in those buildings were there simply for money… how many actually loved whatever game they were playing as their career. How many were hoping to make enough money to retire comfortably or at least afford the lifestyle they wanted to live around work and sleep.
Was it the gaming industry I wanted to get into or was it actually music? Something around music/audio was the end goal after all.
I returned from the audition later that evening and messaged a couple classmates still awake on ICQ. I made an appointment with the chair of my program the next day, and shared my thoughts with him. What he said always stuck with me.
“Education isn’t going anywhere, it’ll always be around when you want to learn.”
… it was the way he said it though… it was so casual… the way you give an old friend advice from the heart.
It was so f’ing cool.
He told me he’d dropped out early on and eventually went back in his early 30’s. He said he remembered me from the entrance test (I stood out a little at the time appearance wise) and he was planning on picking on me to scare the other students since he knew I could take it.
He said whatever decision I make, I’ll do well… and that I still had a couple days to decide… before the school wouldn’t refund my tuition.
There was no pressure to stay or go. It was just a much needed 15-minute chat about life.
Leaving his office, I’d decided to weather the potential storm. I wanted to do music… I’d rather fail in music than be just another with their prized pristine condition, American made Strat or Les Paul sitting on a stand in the corner of a room… who's perfected their delivery of the line "Oh, I used to", whenever someone asks them if they play.
I could do music.
It was a lot to take in at 17.
September 11 became my "New Year’s" in a way… or I guess my anniversary to remind myself what I’m doing with my life, and what “meaningful work” means to me.
My hobby outside of music/studio life is hockey... this is pretty clear once you get to know me. I love to talk about it and happy I'm surrounded by people who either share in the joy of adult rec sports or humor me by listening and asking... it is now (summer) playoffs after all!
I don't message (spam) people with Facebook invites about my games.
I don't invite (spam) people to like my team(s) Facebook pages.
I don't worry about how many Twitter followers my team(s) have so people take it seriously.
I don't daydream about how to play for a living.
I don't complain about how expensive it is.
It's my hobby. It's for fun. I love it. If I was running my hockey career as a business (attempt at a form of income) though... it's considered a money pit.
The topic came up recently, yet again, about bands and budgeting... and it got me thinking.
Here's the quick math on how much I spent the last year to play hockey:
Team 1 - $600
Team 2 - $600
Team 3 - $400
Team 1 - $500
Team 2 - $500
*This is obviously excluding things like sticks, repairs, new gear, skate sharpenings, etc. It really does add up though!
So easy math, over an entire year, I spent about $50/week ($2,600/52 weeks) on hockey, my hobby... which I love.
Feel free to do the math on what entire teams cost... but think about how much money that $50/week could mean to a band of 3-5 people. People who apparently love their band.
3 X $2,600 = $7,800
4 X $2,600 = $10,400
5 X $2,600 = $13,000
Now if you're in a band for fun, this might comes as a bit of a shock, especially if you've never really sat down and figured out how much being in a band actually costs you, even just for fun... or more importantly, how much money $50/week could've raised for recording, touring, merch, etc, if you're somewhat serious and career minded.
Something to keep in mind... if you're running your band as a business, this is money invested... not simply money spent... and these numbers are still quite low for career minded bands... plus it normally takes a few years to get things off the ground.
There's a great book called The Indie Band Bible (written by Mark Makoway of Moist) which has this golden advice under a "band tax". The cost to be in the band.
Bands cost money, businesses cost money, and you need money to get them rolling and keep them going. If you find a way to pool money in some way (in advance), you won't run into what I think is a common (amateur) mental roadblock of "we can't afford that"... without actually thinking more importantly (professionally) "is that worth it?"
What do you spend your $50/week on?
That's what your priorities are.
... and this gets factored in when negotiating budgets of any sort.
... and the same applies to how you spend your time as well.
... maybe some day I'll share with everyone how much I've invested in my business in order to turn making music into a living. It's pretty obvious that's where my priorities are if you look over my balance sheet... and I'm glad I wasn't afraid to run my business in the red the first few years.
P.S. Huge 3-1 win the other night by the way. :-)
I've been doing a lot of mixing the past few weeks and it's looking like the rest of this month will be much of the same.
One thing I love hearing (and questioning) is when bands talk about attending mixing and mastering sessions... then asking them...
"Why? What for?"
The answer is usually along the lines of ...
"So I can help."
lol... help do what? Be honest, you want to go and hang out... and it's easier to digest (and explain to your loved ones) spending $500 or $5,000 on your project if you're in a studio and around some gear with flashing lights and stuff. I get it.
Here's the truth. Most mix and mastering engineers prefer not having people around during 90% of the mixing and mastering process... and in some cases, it's clearly reflected in their rates by charging more to attend, or less for unattended, depending on how you look at it.
Because we feel you won't get our best work if you're around... so it's a subtle way of giving you the hint.
... but... but why?
Because... well, off the top of my head, here's the quick list.
You're going to talk/make noise/ask questions/etc.
This is a sure way to keep someone from getting in the zone. Even if you think you're being quiet... unless you can sit still, making very little noise, as if you're not even there... you might as well not even be there at that point.
Side note: With the honesty box open, if you're paying hourly/daily for a studio, they might actually love having you attend. They're banking on it taking longer, you not being happy with the mixes the next day, and needing to come back for tweaks... and that's more billable hours for them.
Remember what their business is... and most traditional studios are in the business of selling studio time along with the rock and roll fantasy camp experience.
You're that person in the band looking for a free lesson.
There's obviously stuff to learn from any studio experience, but past the hobbyist curve, there's often someone in the band that wants tips and pointers on mixing, recording, production, etc, so they can attempt to do it themselves to save money... so they want to attend to learn. This leads back to the first point, where there's lots of questions and comments, and it's going to cripple workflow.
(... especially guys like myself who will gladly go through the history of whatever you wanted to know because I love talking about crap I care about!)
Sidenote: Sometimes we factor in their plan (hope) might be to take one mix/master and apply it to the rest of the songs, on their own, to help keep costs low. That's sorta like asking someone to build you one room, and you'll just use it to help build the rest of the house. How hard can it be right? I totally understand wanting to cut costs... but this is not the way if you understand the Time:Money ratio in business.
You have no idea how the speakers or the room sounds.
The bass is too loud right? That's probably because you're sitting on the couch in the back of the room. In a studio, you might be able to listen in context but you don't really know how the room/setup sounds.
I do most of my critical listening in 3 places. Chances are you have 2-3 places you do most of your listening as well. We'd rather you listen on systems you're familiar with, and get a better idea of how it stacks up against other material you've been listening to.
You need your point of reference and it's always better to listen there first, then send/bring your notes in for tweaks.
Sidenote: A personal favorite is discussing sonics, only to realize someone is making judgements on computer speakers, iPod earbuds, or sitting on the left side of their car. I know it still needs to sound like music there because many people are listening to music there... but... nevermind.
You don't have much to contribute early on.
... and by early on, I mean before the first draft ends up in your inbox.
I mean this in the nicest of nicest of ways. Just like how you probably shouldn't show people your song ideas/demos until they're in a presentable form, you should give the mixing/mastering engineer time to get things in a form they feel are presentable.
After the first draft of an album, that's when attending makes sense, if necessary.
Mixing can be a messy and odd process.
How would you feel if your mix engineer spent 45 minutes on a bass guitar sound... meanwhile the snare drum (after they've been working on the drums for a while) still sounds way too loud. It's probably going to freak you out and eventually you'll crack and make a comment along the lines of "is the snare going to be that loud in the mix?"
Again, the "quiet" thing. Please.
Yes, I admit I've sat in on my share of mixes and mastering (hanging in studios is different when you're on this side of the glass for a living... since you're often invited), but I don't question anyones process or workflow. I'm often several steps ahead while I'm working on something. It's not uncommon for me to "compress, eq, balance" several times before feeling like I have something I'm happy(ier) with.
Imagine listening to a mix for 6 hours then seeing your engineer zero the faders and start again.
Yup... glad you're paying for the mix (end product) now and not the process? This leads to what I think is the biggest reason mixers and mastering engineers I've talked to don't like attended sessions.
We're afraid to backtrack in front of a client.
Obviously past a certain point in your career you no longer care what people think... probably because those people don't question the results... but a big part of the creative process is knowing when you should undo/redo something.
Over the years I've seen (and also guilty of) some very creative approaches and explanations for backtracking when there's a client around. Bottom line, they decided, for whatever reason, to try something else... knowing full well they might even go back to what they had before... 2 hours later.
This leads to a big reality in the creative world...
Sometimes no schedule (with a deadline) gives the best results.
One of my favorite perks to mixing is I can can do it alone, whenever I want. I can work when forced too as well... but I absolutely prefer working on my own schedule for editing and mixing. If I had to wait for people to show up to start mixing, that's time/opportunity wasted in my opinion. If I feel like staying at the studio until 4am because I'm in the zone, I can, no problem!
The flipside is sometimes I'm not in the zone or not feeling a particular song/album/ep that day and I'll decide to work on something else.
Better yet, maybe I'll fire up the xbox for an hour to take an ear break, walk around the market, read some blogs, play guitar and watch a history channel doc, etc. All the things I probably shouldn't do if I have people (clients) in... well most people... the xbox usually gets turned on for vocal breaks.
... and yes I know I probably forgot another 50 reasons not to attend... and if you are on this side of the glass, feel free to submit them and I'll add them anonymously.
Don't get me wrong, we do want you to be part of the process... we need to make you happy, first and foremost... but we also want to show you our best work. If you're around, we have to do some form of entertaining and also cater to the experience you're looking for.
An awesome part of hiring a professional is trusting they'll take care of whatever you've brought them onboard for. Again, we want your input once we have a draft we feel is presetable... and we're always nervous waiting to hear back after we hit 'send' on that first draft. It's been over a decade for me now... and it still hasn't changed.
The thing is mixing and mastering is a lot like driving... especially these days where we don't need 8 hands on a console to manually automate a mix... a mix we need to nail so we can move onto the next. If you trust the driver, you're going to get to your destination so it doesn't really matter how you get there as long as it's on time and on budget... just zone out a little and enjoy the trip.
- Mike :-)
P.S. Yes I know that bridge support is actually helping the bridge... but I thought it was too funny to pass up.
"Why aren't people taking us seriously?"
That's basically what it gets down to when I hear people grumble about why they can't find shows, or a manager, or a label, or sell cds, or merch, or get more people out to shows... or find investors. You name it, there's a good chance it falls under this umbrella.
This video might seem a little harsh at times... and you can sense the hesitation they have on certain topics (so they don't come across as assholes), but in my opinion, it's right on the money.
I've decided to do a sort of "Coles Notes" version for those who might not have the 30 minutes to watch right now. Oh by the way, I tried to setup the link to start at 6:46... the time before that is spent talking about a dog, new born babies, and poo.
So... in a short... this is why people don't take your band seriously.
... and I'm putting the headings in bold caps so the super impatient can skim through... and so you feel like you're being yelled at. I know what your hearing is like... since most of you don't wear ear plugs.. and most of you reading this are probably guitarists or drummers.
1. YOUR BAND PHOTOS AREN'T GOOD ENOUGH.
It's the awful, honest truth, we judge a book by its cover. Life is too short not to. Make sure you stand up to what's going on (aka considered professional) in your genre. Hiring a great photographer doesn't have to cost a fortune and that one great pic can last you a year or two.
If you look like hacks, you get treated like hacks. It might not seem original, but at least try to look like a band... as much of the time as possible. You will anyway if it becomes your career.
2. YOUR RECORDINGS AREN'T GOOD ENOUGH.
We've entered a stage of very affordable record production. There's a lot of misguided carobbyists (career hobbyists) who think they can produce, record, and mix their own albums... or their buddy can do it for a case of beer in his spare time. There's been a few great albums made in the past this way (often demos remixed after being shopped for a deal), but most often they fall short.
Experience, time, and talent... those are three important elements to the outcome of any creative project. When it comes to recording, rarely someone with all three is in the band or doesn't do it for a living already.
Will that change in the future?
Are we there yet?
... lol. No.
I could go on for a while about this but bottomline... do your recordings stand up to what's out there?
Don't just ask your friends and family what they think of your recordings. Actually put your best song between two successful songs on your iTunes playlist. How does it sounds? Then factor in the time/money spent, and people involved on theirs versus yours.
Does it stand up?
Do you need it to? <-- be honest
If it doesn't and it does, perhaps change your formula, and try again.
... backing up for a second... how are the songs?
3. YOUR SONGS AREN'T GOOD ENOUGH.
Now a good song is subjective... but... if you know your genre, and you know a few people with "great ears" within the genre, you'll know what your best songs are... and if they're in fact, good enough at all.
I've met a handful of people over the years who I think have "great ears" regarding "great songs". My old assistant Tyler, even at 17 years old, could pick out hits by new artists well before anybody else I knew. He loved discovering new tunes and has a real ear for it.
This is the #1 piece of advice for bands out there trying to do something serious with music... you can write cool songs that are self serving and please your imaginary fanbase... but you'll learn to love those "hit" songs that put you on the map... they're what can actually launch your career. It's hard to name a successful band that doesn't have a "hit" song behind them... regardless how far in the rearview mirror it is.
4. YOUR WEBSITE ISN'T GOOD ENOUGH.
Update it often. Constant quality content is queen these days.
There's also this misconception that simply buying your domain name and linking to your FaceBook or Reverbnation page is good enough... well it's not... and it's stupid to rely on these things in the long run.
What if they disappear overnight or fizzle out? What happens when people move on? You want these sites to feed into your main, personal website. The one you have ultimate control over. That's where you need to direct your core fans.
I use Weebly for my site... it's easy... and at least someone in your band should be able to figure it out in an afternoon... if not, you've gotta know at least someone who can help you.
I'm gonna go out on a limb though and say a weebly site is better than majority of the dated and clunky sites I see built by friends and family. Keep it simple and don't pad your content if you have nothing to talk about in your bio... nobody needs to read 37 paragraphs about a band that hasn't done anything worth mentioning.
You need three paragraphs basically... who are you, what have you done, where are you going. Your blog/YouTube/Twitter updates are for what you're doing.
5. YOU DON'T TAKE YOURSELF SERIOUSLY.
So many bands play the "we just want to get together in the jamspace and see what happens... it's just for fun... if it goes somewhere, cool" card. Well... as long as you know it's just for fun, have fun! My men's league hockey is just for fun... despite all its glorious moments (W 3-0 yesterday, 1 G) I ramble on about to friends and family.
If that's your attitude, it'll go nowhere... or the people in the band that want it to go somewhere will eventually dump the rest of the band once they find better people to work with.
Lots of successful bands are a collective of what I call "heavy lifters". The ones who get sh*t done... or at least don't make things more difficult for the ones getting things done.
The successful in any industry are hardcore lifers. If you want to do something that's hard, you have to make your goal not to simply "accomplish it", but to see it through... it's the difference between having a kid and raising one... since there's no real end goal if you're in it for the right reasons.
P.S. It was a garbage goal... but that isn't what they mark on the gamesheet. :-)
For the record… no pun intended… I'm on Team Grohl.
I agree 100% with the idea that musicianship should be viewed not only as an art form, but a discipline. As musicians, or creatives in general, we're always striving to be better… and despite how good we are, we'll always hear or see someone better than us, that makes us smile and inspires us to keep learning.
With that out of the way… I haven't seen Sound City yet. I've heard mixed reviews from "It's amazing! It'll change the way you feel about recording… Dave Grohl is a genius!!!" to "It's basically a 2 hour promo for Dave Grohl to start producing albums… oh, and he's also got a boner for some recording console."
I'm cool with the overview my friends have passed along… which is sorta why I haven't watched it yet.
One thing that's evolved from Sound City, is this current movement Dave's spreading about keeping things raw… you know… just getting in the jam space, hacking out some songs, playing loud, and keeping it real! Play from the heart! That's the way it should be! Just go! Just hit record, giv'er, and go!
That's cool Dave… but there's a lot of bands out there who now have this idea that whatever they come up with, if they care about it enough, and work from the heart, it'll get noticed, and should do well. That "keeping it real" is better than that overproduced, co-written (or worse, pro-written) Nickelback garbage on the radio.
Over the last year, there's absolutely been an increase in bands choosing to shy away from production, having no idea what the word actually means.
'Production' - It's basically hair, make up, and lighting for your recording.
Yes, it can be overdone… but typically "overproduced" is the result of someone who doesn't know how to use the tools, and/or abused them and/or chose the wrong production style for the song altogether.
Recording to 2" tape involves its own style of production and if you don't know what you're doing, there's a good chance you'll throw it in the weeds. The right amount of cleaning up and complimentary production style is what separates pro from demo… or worse… the insanely expensive professionally recorded demo. There's an analog equivalent to most of the "studio magic" we can do in digital these days. We can simply do it much quicker in the digital realm. Use the technology as a tool, not a crutch.
Even with Dave swingin' from the rafters shouting "we didn't use Pro Tools! We didn't edit anything! We recorded on tape! We kept it real!!!" There's still a couple crucial things to keep in mind... besides the talent level and experience of the people involved on that last album.
Foo Fighters has done really well. They played by whatever set of rules applied at the beginning of their career and now they can afford to do whatever they want. Foo Fighters have a lot of value. Dave's already made his money.
…a similar case could be made with Radiohead releasing the first really talked about "name your price" album and Beyonce's recently released "overnight, zero promotion, iTunes video album"… these are established artists. They already have a fan base… arguably more to lose if they mess up but more to lose means you had something to start with… again, they've already made their money… and they can still fall back on their old hits if need be.
Back to Foo Fighters… I can remember my brother commenting on how much better The Colour And The Shape (1997) sounded than their debut album (1995). I would've been 13 years old at the time… and I heard the difference in production. But it not only sounded better… it had more, "good" songs.
They say you learn the rules so you can break them. That's this in the real world.
… what a great lead up to my last point about Grohlology!
"because the deep [album] cuts don't keep the mansion running."
I was trying to find the quote I read a while ago where Dave basically said "I only record songs I think are hits… there's no point in recording anything else."
This should kinda feel like a gut punch to a lot bands out there waving Grohlology flags.
Does that mean you shouldn't record those other songs anyway?
... even though they might not be hits?
I still believe if it resonates with you, there's a good chance it will with others. But when Dave says "don't bore us, get to the chorus", and encourages bands to shove their idea in pop structure to start… I'm laughing on the inside when a band waves the Grohlology flag in my face and argues boring pop structure... meanwhile they can't even identify their own chorus… yet they're thinking their song should be a single… and should get them noticed... and help get them signed... and should be able to get on the radio... because it's that good. It's that much better than all the crap that gets played on the radio these days.
I encourage people to read the article above or at least check out the video that's included.
Just to clear things up, yes, lots of music out there is not aimed at radio and is quite successful despite never having a "hit". Music needs to resonate and I think that's what we all love about Dave… regardless what he's doing in music, he radiates the passion... he's giving 100%… or I guess 1 Dave Grohl Unit. Just don't confuse passion and hard work with a ticket for attention and riches. Dave's done well because he came from a great band in a booming pop culture trend that *cough* figured out how to write a hit *cough*, and then went on to figure out the formula to start writing hits for Foo Fighters.
… anybody want to tally up the similarities between Foo Fighter and Nickleback songs… err hit songs?
- Mike :-)
October 16, 2013
... 1:58am... I'm only doing this tonight because I know people are reading it... I'm wicked tired right now... which is either good for the blog... or bad for the blog.
Everyone slept through their alarm this morning. The plan was to get up around 8am and head down to breakfast for 8:30am. I heard the bathroom door slam around 8:45am. I guess my pillow fell off the bed, knocking my phone off the chair beside me and onto the floor... unplugging it... and somehow ending up under said pillow.
Bottom line... I didn't hear my alarm go off at 7:45am.
I showered before going to bed so I wasn't in a total panic... but I basically woke up, got right out of bed, and went straight downstairs to breakfast.
Breakfast... most important meal of the day!
It was decent... although I spotted the oatmeal too late... already committed to raisin bran. The "omelettes" were ok... but they put Kraft singles in them and that kinda ruined it. Eggs at these kinda things already taste a bit funky... but adding processed cheese is too much funk.
Back on the road for 10:30am.
Nothing too exciting... only highlight I can remember was wishing I had a megaphone. One of the pee stops we made had these little kids playing soccer or something on the other side of a fence/trees. Part of me wished I had a megaphone so I could yell at them (old man style) for fun. Next time... I'm bringing one... I know L&M rents them... look out kids.
We arrived in Youngstown around 4pm. The venue (Rodeo Music Hall) is pretty large... a huge boomy box. It had a massive stage as well... which is nice since the last couple shows have been a bit tight for us and Pop Evil.
Tim, in usual Tim fashion, was asking me a boatload of questions about things I had just as much idea about as he would... one of them being...
"How do we get on/off stage?"
Well... I'm assuming there are stairs on either side. It's a huge ass stage... 6ft high, maybe 50ft X 20ft... it's large. They gotta have a few sets of stairs and whatnot to get gear and people on and off it.
I saw some of the Papa Roach crew (PR Crew from now on) talking to some of the venue staff about loading gear so I wandered over and listened in.
Apparently... there's only one set of stairs.
They have a couple ramps they use to bring gear in and out. I took a quick trip backstage to see what else was going on... there are stairs everywhere... not good... well... not as bad for us because our back line can be easily carried by a person or two. Pop Evil's gear is a lot more serious. Their guitar rigs aren't light.
I went back to Tim and let him know my assumption was incorrect... and that they indeed, had built a big ass stage with only one set of stairs.
So after a bit more discussion... we were to load down the ramps, down another set of stairs, through the basement (basically), and out the side door in to the parking lot. Pop Evil got to load their gear down the ramps... through the crowd... and out the front door.
All I can say is when I saw that happening in real time... bless their crew. Everyone loves dragging gear through a crowd... even more than packing up in a parking lot... after it's just been raining pretty hard... and you aren't sure if it's going to start up again.
The show went well... solid crowd... and I think it was the best we've played in a few shows. I counted two hiccups. Everyone was sweating buckets on stage... the lights up top were cooking us while the lights on stage were blinding us. It's a horrible combo in case you were wondering.
To the photographer who was trying to get me to give him my cell phone during Papa Roach's set... I honestly had no idea what you were trying to say to me besides of "gimme your phone". I know realize what you were probably trying to say was "gimme your phone so I can give you my contact because I took a bunch of pics of you guys during your set and you might want to use some of them for personal and/or promotional purposes."
We headed out around 10:!5pm... just after Papa Roach started. They were killing it again... but we wanted to get a bit of a leg up on the drive to Atlantic City. It's 6.5 hours away... even if we do a couple hours, it'll make a big difference tomorrow... which we did... and now I'm sitting in a Days Inn lobby while the girl at the front desk is... I'm assuming... watching a horror movie... it sounds like a horror movie.
It's 2:26am... breakfast is 6:30am to 10am... they have waffle makers... I don't know much but I do know one thing... I'll be on the business end of that waffle maker in about 5 hours... back in the van for 9am.
Tomorrow nights show is supposed to be pretty good... you know it'll be good when the crew is looking forward to it.
P.S. I didn't take many pics today... and I couldn't get many decent pics inside the venue... too dark.
P.S.S. I had a salad today... it was awesome.
October 13, 2013
... we made it out of the hotel parking lot at 5:57am.
I slept most of the drive to Minneapolis today. Tim nudged me in the van to wake me up once we got close to the border... the officer there seemed pretty easy going... didn't make fun of us too long about our van and sent us on our way.
... I think we drove a couple more hours until we stopped for breakfast... breakfast at IHOP! We've been trying to hit up one for a while now but finally... we made it!
Pancakes! Pancakes with everything! Pancakes with a side of Pancakes!
... you'd think the highlight of IHOP would be the pancakes but it wasn't... it was Marvin our waiter... he was awesome.
A lanky black gentleman with a tight afro and a peppy line for every single question you could throw at him... always delivered with a straight face.
Wanna know about drinks? Marvin will fill you in. Sides? Marvin has the inside scoop. Can't decide what you want? Marvin knows what you need.... and above all that... he will tell you how many pancakes your meal comes with.
... IHOP... known for their fluffy pancakes.
The food was good... I really liked all the berry flavored syrups they have on the table. Marvin brought us out hot maple syrup but go with the berry stuff... it's all sugar anyway.
After we finished eating... Marvin kicked into high gear.
"Lemme get that outta yo' way."
As if our empty plates and dirty cutlery were mobs of people crowding our space... Marvin took care of them... he cleared the path... and every time he leaned in to take something off the table...
"Lemme get that outta yo' way."
"Lemme just get that outta yo' way fo' ya."
"Lemme get that... make some space here... get that outta the way."
I thought he was amazing. He was working hard. When I was at the cash breaking a bill for the tip, I noticed everyone there was working pretty hard. I also noticed some people were treating the employees like crap, and some were treating them as what I'd consider "normal" (aka politely). Work hard, be polite... the rest is up to everyone else.
... in short... again... Marvin was awesome.
After breakfast we were back in the van and once again en route to the legendary First Avenue.
Speaking of driving... I totally missed something yesterday. Mike Mascioli (Age Of Days - Manager) met up with us in Winnipeg to catch a couple shows and he was travelling with us today. When I came out for "bus call", he was already in the drivers' seat... ready to go. He drove the entire way today (7 hours).
It might not seem like a big deal, but it allowed everyone to sleep/pass out. Something we all very much needed... especially Matt. He does the bulk of the driving and has been a tank regarding the "grinder" work overall. These kinda jobs take their toll after a while and if you toss in something like a head cold... the grind really wears away at you.
Matt might argue he only slept a couple hours today... but being able to sit shotgun and sleep/rest most of the day while Mike drove makes a big difference. Matt looks healthier today. lol.
Thinking about it more... at this level... the balance between good/not good is very sensitive. Minor inconveniences can snowball into major problems just as a minor hand can be a huge help. I'm pretty sure Mike will read this, but seriously, thanks again for driving today... it's going to make a big difference this week (6 shows in a row) with everyone getting some rest today.
Minneapolis was pretty neat on first impression... except all the sad looking Vikings fans wandering the streets. Being a Leafs fan, it was kinda like seeing Leafs fans the last decade except in purple football jerseys.
The venue is amazing. I wish I took more pictures... especially the outside. Seems like everyone has played there. They have the names written in these silver stars on the outside of the building which is super cool.
In behind the stage they had some old set lists. There were two I had to snap pics of...
I'll be honest... I touched them.
... I had to... it's The Hives! ... and friggin' Soundgarden... well probably just Cornell now that I actually read the song titles... but still!
Show went well... crowd was awesome again. I ended up running merch a bit more tonight... I think I'll end up doing that until we have a full time merch person. It's easy for me and I enjoy it. I did sneak off during Pop Evil and Papa Roach to take some pics though.
... apparently there was a guy in a wheelchair crowd surfing during Papa Roach... I wish I had of seen that. That is definitely something to see! lol.
Pop Evil did a meet and greet/signing after Papa Roach's set and the merch area was buzzing for quite a while after the show. We are selling a ton of CD's and many of the people buying are saying they had no idea who we were before tonight... but were pleasantly surprised.
... it's awesome.
We're now back at the hotel... 2 queens tonight... big upgrade! Breakfast too!
I'm hanging out in the front lobby/lounge area... the front desk guy probably thinks I'm nuts since I'm still up click-clackin' away on my laptop at 2:30am.
... well... nuts or "important".
It was a good day though. Day off/travel day tomorrow to Flint.
Laundry is a must tomorrow. I'm out of clean shirts... although... I wonder how far I could get tomorrow just wearing track pants and a tie.
P.S. That guy's body language tells me he might have accidentally set that ginormous fire behind him. I'm tempted to sharpie in some whistling notes to make it official.
October 12, 2013
... I think I left off at sound check... which I felt like ass during.
The no sleep thing has really caught up to me. You know that feeling when you can do something easily 1,000 times and then all of a sudden your body just isn't responding? Well that was sound check. I simple felt "muscularly unresponsive".
... that being said, I was more focused on food after I'd heard we were welcome to the buffet... buffet is the magic word! The problem was it closed at 8pm and we started sound check around 7:20pm. Most of us were determined to hit up that buffet though... roast beef... veggies... salad bar... pecan pie! If only it was open now... I'd go back... after what we've been eating the past week... it was a magical place.
Overeating was a concern... but I think we all did anyway.
We hit the stage at 9pm. I forgot to mention around 3am last night I realized I'd forgotten one of my iPods in Lloydminster. I use one to play an intro song and I have a habit of not remembering to get it back from the FOH guy after I'm done packing.
Yes... we live in a time were losing an iPod is like "whatever". The tech that pretty much brought the music industry to it's knees isn't worth that much either anymore. I spent a few minutes emailing all the iPod nano ads on Kijiji close to the hotel to see if anybody wanted to sell me one cheap and deliver... no luck.
It turns out the Papa Roach crew grabbed it for me... those guys are saints... and probably wondering how we function since we're losing shit everyday. Ah well... I got a second chance with it... hopefully that's the last time I lose/forget something... especially that iPod.
The show went well... great crowd again here in Winnipeg. I played like crap... first time in a while I'd admit it... although I don't think anybody else would notice. lol. It's totally a personal thing about how you played and how you're feeling.
I've felt way off all day... not like "drunk" or anything... just uncoordinated due to lack of sleep and proper nutrition... I really wish I could keep my normal diet from home... it's so hard though with the schedule and the traveling conditions.
Pop Evil and Papa Roach were awesome again... a given at this point.
There were these gaps at the front of the stage and I thought at the beginning of the show "someone is gonna slip through there"... well... Jacoby ended up being that guy tonight. It was a scary moment since the band kept playing and he just sat there in pain.
The thought crossed my mind... he snapped his ankle or leg or something... tour is over... we all go home.
Life is funny sometimes... and shit happens.
A minute later he got up, walked it off, and finished the show. I wouldn't be surprised if he's still in pain... it looked really painful. Gotta be careful though... it's way too easy to fall off stuff when you're rocking.
It's 1:22am... I gotta get to bed... we're heading back to the US tomorrow and it's a 8-9 hour drive. We voted to sleep a bit and leave at 6am... we'll see how close we get to that!
P.S. Best thing about the room we got today is the bed... king size! Perfect for a 5-piece band.
P.S.S. I've narrowed it down to two people.
October 12, 2013
... so if you read the last post, you'd know we had to haul ass outta Lloyd(minster) last night pretty much as soon as Papa Roach hit the stage. Winnipeg was an 11 hour drive... so including stops and whatnot... we were looking at a 13-14 hour trip.
We left last night at 11:30pm, arrive at the hotel/venue here at 2pm... made pretty good time if I might add.
I was debating doing a longer post (lol... of course!) but yesterday was pretty relaxed... I think it was the first time in a while everybody in the band got some sleep. It was nice not having to rush to the venue either... although I was joking internally we'd still find a way to be late/end up rushing.
We had breakfast at the hotel, stopped by Walmart to grab a few things for out merch table, and then headed over to the venue to load in.
I like this club... The Kooler. It's definitely got an edge to it... and I think it's a strip club most of the time... but it's got a good stage and setup. Sound system could use an overhaul but more drinking equals sonic indifference.
There's a few balcony type areas and I grabbed a pic from up top. It probably looks like complete mayhem but that's what bigger (organized) stages look like. You set up in front of whoever is playing after you. Very easy system, especially when striking the stage. By the time the headliner hits the stage, it'll look nice and clean.
The show filled up pretty good... crowd response was good again. It's kind of a bummer when you have to leave a show early... unless the show sucks of course... but these shows are awesome... so I like staying til the end... you never know what might happen at real rock shows.
We packed up our merch after Papa Roach hit the stage, tossed it in the van, and were on our way... directly to McDonald's. Two bacon cheeseburgers and small fries. That's the ticket there... you get the taste... but less guilt... and probably less gut... and gut rot.
Oh I gotta say one more thing about stage/gear/packing stuff. When we're done... our gear is off stage so friggin' fast and Pop Evil is up and line-checked in 15-20 minutes.
There's no reason to pack up your gear on stage. Take it off stage, pack it somewhere else. The only thing I sorta pack on stage is my in-ears rig because if I lose anything there, I could be screwed. It's a couple cables and a mixer I just shove into my empty cymbal bag beside me. It's still quick, but that's as much as I pack up on stage.
Our gear usually ends up outside the venue near our van/loading area. We pack up there. We have it down to a science now packing/loading. Some people will argue switching up jobs keeps things fair... but it gets down to efficiency. If you do the same job every night, you'll fall into a routine and that speeds up the process and minimizes mistakes. Of course mistakes will happen from time to time... nobody is immune from nightly variables... but again, it certainly minimizes them.
Everyone packs up their own gear, and while I'm packing my drums, Trevor and Matt are loading the trailer. It's Tetris, but it works.
The same I'd say goes for every other aspect of running a band... trade off jobs when you aren't sure who's good at what, but eventually people will fall into rolls they're reliable at... hopefully.
So the drive... I rode shotgun from 11:30pm to 8am maybe? I know I passed out a couple times (probably 30 mins total) but I was aware I was asleep at least. I hit my second wind around 3am so it wasn't too bad overall.
We did stop off at a Tim Horton's that was just putting out it's "freshly baked" donuts. That was torture... I really wanted to buy a dozen, eat them, go crazy on sugar, then pass out for good... but that would've been selfish and irresponsible.
... only a large french vanilla was purchased.
During Trevor's shift driving we saw a ton of wildlife over the span of about 10 minutes... coyotes, deer, I wanna say a cow... I might have been dreaming though. There were a half dozen splattered coyotes... I'm just glad we saw everything far enough in the distance... definitely not interested in seeing anything up close... like "through the windshield again" close.
We stopped for breakfast in Neepawa...bacon and eggs... served by typecast movie grandma... she was awesome... then I switched off riding up front in the van to try and get some sleep.
We arrived at the hotel around 2pm (I called it!) and I finally took a quick nap.
I officially feel tired now though... last night was ok but I'm definitely feeling it now.
Why am I not sleeping now?
Just waiting to setup and do sound check...
Mike Langford - Official Blog
Being on both sides of the glass, I get the chance to wear many hats in the music industry. This is a place to share my thoughts, views, predictions, rants, stories and news!