Ok... this is kinda part 2 to the last post... but if you know you're getting a good deal... don't push it. I used to just see this as people trying to negotiate... some people have been taught to try and negotiate everything. What's the harm in trying right?
The harm is you run the risk of coming across as a complete douche bag. A douche bag who either doesn't know the value being exchanged, and/or a douche bag who wants to leave the meeting feeling like they've totally screwed over the other party. That makes them feel awesome! Meanwhile in life, those types of people typically get screwed over constantly. We all know them... and nobody has the hard to tell them to pick better battles... or at least fewer... since they don't seem to learn.
In my opinion, in business, you should generally want do good business on both sides. Trying to screw the other party over, or even attempting to, isn't good business... and guess what else? It affects your reputation dealing with others. Funny how that works, eh?
So a quick recap... negotiate where you can, work out a deal if you can... there's no harm in no deal being made if simply no deal could be made... but don't try and push too far past a good deal. Sometimes that's what breaks a deal. I know it has on my end in the past... why would I want to work with someone who so blatantly showed they don't value my time? It's that whole "give an inch, take a mile" thing
Straight up... there's a shit ton of money related topics so I might as well tackle one of the easiest to deal with.
Odds are everyone in the band have different levels of income, and just as important, their own list of expenses and responsibilities. Life costs money... but your band, which if you're reading this you're trying to run like a business, also costs money to get up and running and maintain... way more money than most of you think.
A common problem discussing recording budgets is the one person who basically goes "I can't afford that."
It's a band expense... not a personal one.
Is the band supposed to be held back because someone has a lower income or higher expenses? What if one or two people in the band can handle the financial investments/costs of running a band while the other two can't? Is that fair? Is that unfair? I can understand it's easier politically if everyone contributes equally but life rarely works out that cleanly... especially when there's this many people involved.
The way around this... have a serious sit down a few times a year to see where people are at financially. You're a band. You're somewhat all partners in a business. You have to have the money talk sometimes.
There are guys I've seem bank roll the entire project for years and guys who've said up front they can bring no help financially whatsoever.
Both are ok... just know that if and when money starts to come in, the ones who invested get to put their hands in the pot first (or at least have way more say regarding what to do with the money... this also applies to potential issues with private investors), while the ones who didn't invest/contribute need to keep their hands in their pockets.
Really keep in mind money equals votes/say in the band... and the band needs to be your baby. Whatever baby needs, baby gets. You'll see this is common among the hardcore folk in any passion... or vice.
That alone should motivate you enough to do what it takes, see the big picture, and make sure finances get dealt with. Don't cripple your band (aka business, aka baby) trying to set your budget according to whoever is able to contribute the least, regardless of the reason. If you are, this should be a red flag it's just for fun and not really worth investing in in the first place
Right off the bat... some will argue this is the problem with music today. It's not about the music! Oh, it's still very much about the music... just as much as any other time period if you really want to argue the score. The thing is, we're typically introduced to new music online... and we don't browse the web with black screens... I've tried it on my barely functioning 2006 macbook pro... nobody wins.
... so assume their eyes are always connected to their ears.
Odds are if someone shows you a new band/artist, it's on YouTube, or Facebook, or SoundCloud, or Reverbnation, or Myspace (cough), etc. There's always a way to catch the eye right off the get go, put the listener in the head space/mood you want them in, and THEN deliver with your awesome music.
Don't underestimate how much we value appearance... as a species in general.
Think about something as simple as picking apples off a stand. There could be 500 apples, but given the choice, we choose the ones we like, and pass over the ones that are bruised... unless you're one of those people who intentionally pick bruised apples just to tell people you only pick bruised apples... you know who you are.
Care about your image... you will learn to depend on it.
It's what keeps the door open with potential new fans.
Pick some bands you like (that are appropriate), go through their photos, discover what you like about them and how they could apply to your band... the common thread!.
Hire a pro photographer, or at least someone you trust that's semi-pro. Same goes for stylists, graphic designers, videographers, etc. You don't have to spend a fortune but don't be cheap... aka budget of around 1/4 of what someone good and affordable costs. At least test the waters working with pro's to see what you're missing and/or what you could be doing a whole lot better.
Whether you're on a date, a job interview, or you're trying to sell a pile of dirt on Craiglist, present it in a way that catches the eye and creates interest. Effective and efficient advertising (dirty word I know) takes a little time and costs a little money. Be smart about it and you'll always be above those who were too cool to care about their image... since even if they say they don't... you can always tell when they do... you know who you are.
#DearBands: Stop Jamming.
I hate jamming... straight up.
I was originally thinking of calling this "Stop Practicing" because I dislike practicing just as much as jamming... but I don't mind practicing... I just hate when people show up to rehearsal to practice.
What's the difference?
Well, it get's down to what your focus is.
Most of the time when I hear people are getting together to jam, what they actually mean is they're getting together to get high, have a few beers, sit around, run the set, play 2 chords over and over pretending they're writing a song, etc.
Jamming is a focused, complete lack of focus, that bands will do 3-4 times a week, months on end, pretending they're being productive within their rehearsal space.
This is not productive.
This is hobbyist, recreational, weekend warrior, friends and family nod their heads when you talk about the band, shouda, coulda, woulda, in textbook form.
So still, what's the difference?
Practice: In a band sense, something that should be done on your own time.
When you shit the bed at rehearsal, take those soiled sheets home with you, and practice on your own time. Police yourself. You know what you have to work on if you have any competency in your ability whatsoever. It's one thing to run over a part a couple times in rehearsal in order to clarify something in context... but if you flat out can't play a part, don't know a part or the arrangement, or can't remember the words/melody. Practice. At home. On your own time.
Rehearsal: In a band sense, something that's done to prepare for shows and/or recording.
Although it does apply to preparing for the studio, usually the goal is to iron out the set... you're practicing the set... not jamming out the set... unless you 100% plan to jam it out on stage.
What you do in the rehearsal space is what you're going to do on stage... and bands wonder why they end up getting drunk and stoned at shows, spending huge amounts of time with dead air between songs, meanwhile still "killing it" to an empty room.
Writing: In a band sense, this can be mistaken for jamming, but writing is introducing new ideas with the goal they become new songs.
You can pretend your hero's get in a room and jam... but they're actually writing. It's premeditated. There are ideas brought to the table, a pecking order to vote up/down ideas, and there's focus. Most of the time they aren't doing most of their writing in the rehearsal space anyway... they core writers are doing that on their own time, and refining the ideas there, with the rest of the band.
The amount of times I've heard bands run over the same two chords for 20 minutes, truly believing they are breaking new ground, especially in the rock world, just to show the idea to the singer, and expect them to make some lyrics fit.
This is the wrong way to do it.
Sure some bands get lucky... I've seen it first hand... but most of the time trying to jam and stumble across a new song... it's going to suck. We all heard that song Paul McCartney and Dave Grohl did... they were "just jamming and it's what they came up with"... that's along the lines of what Paul said to a massive crowd... the ol' pre-song disclaimer.
Think about that.
Paul and Dave jammed... wrote a new song... and it was sucky.
... and they knew better.
... and you think jamming is going to work out for you?
... it's not a good choice... I'm telling you... as a friend.
Personally, I think they knew it kinda sucked (hence the disclaimer) but because of who they are, they knew people would eat it up... or at least forgive them for jamming when they could've been writing... then again some days you sit down to write and nothing comes out.
... I'm getting a little off topic, but you get the idea. Stop jamming unless the main goal is to simply have fun.
If you're trying to run your band as a business... every time you pick up your instrument, have a goal in mind. A goal to practice, to rehearse, to write, or as much as I hate to say it, even to jam (fart around). Your time is valuable, especially since you most likely have a day job and other commitments. Jamming should be at the bottom of the list once you get going, or at least once you decide to start going... because once you get going, you'll quickly learn how little time you actually have to spend playing music.
... yup, read that last bit again.
Ok... so I don't know if I'll actually hit "101 Tips" but I've decided right now I need a place to extend some of my #DearBands into mini rants.
... yes mini rants... rants under 10,000 words.
So the last week I've been going through a digital stack of demos submitted, and my ever growing list of bands to check out online. It's hard stomach at times, but when I have a spare hour or two, and I don't feel like doing something WAY better with that spare hour or two, I go through a 15-20 bands on the list, and email the ones I like.
I typically get a response 24-48 hrs after emailing... but some of the responses really show the person on the other end really didn't do their homework... at all.
#DearBands, do your goddamn homework!
Seriously... anybody emails you, check their signature, and be a dick. Put on your dick coat, dick glasses, and dick hat... and play detective! That's what Google is for... and Facebook... and ReverbNation, and BandCamp, and iTunes, and SoundCloud, etc.
I'm not saying I'm going to change your life, but it should take 90 seconds to do your homework on me, or anybody else that emails you, and have an idea of what they can bring to the table.
Some of you make such asses of yourselves in emails it's insane... insane and entertaining... meanwhile your band might be really good! Imagine it was a label, management, or another award winning producer (cough)... I'm pretty patient with people but time is always valuable... and after 3-4 messages back and forth... and it seems like whoever is on the other end is writing you back on their iPhone while sitting on the toilet... c'mon. I quickly forget about them and move on to bands that are ACTUALLY somewhat serious... or at least seem to be trying a little.
Most of you complain nobody out there is helping you and you're trying to get by on shoestring budgets. Do your homework, network, make the most of meeting anybody at any opportunity.
Do your homework.
As a friend.
"... but do you want those people? Those... punch and pie people?"
Last night I saw something that's all too familiar if you frequent local shows. A group of people arguing the band had told them there would be guest list, or a lower cover than expected. In this case, they'd been told cover was going to be $5, but upon arrival, it was in fact $10.
So what happens?
GET THE BAND! They'll sort it out… they'll be able to explain the situation so that the bands FANS can avoid overpaying (or whatever the hell the problem is) and they can get in to see who I guess is most likely their boyfriends, girlfriends, friends, and/or family on stage.
I bit my tongue and walked past them as they pleaded their case… honestly though… if you think about this far too common occurrence, maybe the fans would realize a couple things.
1) What really is the difference between $5 and $10? Yes it's double, and yes we can't assume to know everyone's financial situation but considering how much most people I know piss away money daily on stuff like coffee, smokes, alcohol, pot, clothes, their pets, gas station food items… you know… typical "cost of living" stuff. What really is the difference between $5 and $10 though?
Chances are you're going to spend it at the bar anyway… at least if you spend it on admission/cover, there's a slightly higher chance it'll get back to the bands.
2) "Getting the band"
This is a no-brainer when you think about it. Imagine you're friends with Bono and Edge… or the… other guys in U2. Imagine you show up to the Enormodome to see them play. You tell security you're on the list… but they say you're not on the list… "well screw that!" you say… GET THE BAND! You're friends after all and they've invited YOU down to see THEM play… they told you you'd be on the list… they'll sort it out!
Now… if you are in fact good friends, you'd for sure be on the list and/or would have been given tickets probably in advance or to pick up at the venue. You're a guest of theirs. If by chance all these other options failed, you'd probably text them, they'd be super embarrassed and send someone down to sort it out asap.
The thing is… a band, even at a moderately higher level, is calling some shots... they've been given some leeway for it. When you boil it down, people are their to see THEM. The band/artist name & performance sold the tickets… not the merch, not the venue, not the bar sales. The promoter who booked them knows this... that's what they gambled on and where the profit is. The band is the product… and if you know anything about people who are product… happy people = better product… well, enough of the time to say "all the time".
When a band or artists name ISN'T selling the ticket… where does that leave them?
Well, they're really no different then anybody else attending the venue EXCEPT they've been giving the privilege to play for a certain amount of time. The bar is making money off alcohol sales, maybe a bit off door cover (to combat non/rare drinkers such as myself) but really… if your friends band is barely able to charge $5-$10 for a show… and honestly, it's friggin' sad bands get excited if they leave that night with and additional $50 in their merch box… what makes you think they can snap their fingers and get the venue staff to give them special treatment... to pass along to you? The venue has a business to run. They need to make their money first!
… and if the money from the door goes to the bands… the bands are only hurting themselves by further devaluing their product. People vote with their dollars in this case.
Think about that for a second. It's not a charity, but in a way your "fans" are saying their appearance is somewhat more important than supporting/paying for what their friends and family are doing.
I've been trying my best to not cuss in this post but seriously… if your friends and family don't think attending your show is worth $10… but an arguable $5… fuck them! Don't invite them. Either you suck that bad they seriously have a problem parting with an amount of money that barely gets you the entry level combo at McDonalds OR they suck that bad at seeing the value of people they care about past their value of a dollar.
… or maybe they're just broke… still, it's their choice how to react to the situation.
3) I'm going to end this here because I have to get back to work… but I was close to snapping on some cheapskates last night. Bands work really hard… yes it's a hobby for most, but a lot work really, really, really hard to create and share some fun and entertainment for everyone to enjoy. These things do come at a cost, and believe me the bands/artists shoulder the lion's share of it, but is it really that hard to pay a $10 or less cover while we have no trouble doing our share bringing a tuna casserole to a potluck or chipping in for a birthday gift for someone around the office?
I've argued both sides of the fence on whether shows should be free or not… I see both sides… and this year I've paid cover every time I've been asked… even if I'm on guest list... I believe it helps in the big picture. For now though, at the amateur (not an insult, look it up) level, you either play by the rules the venue has OR someone/something else does.
It's simple. It's their house so it's their rules… and it's quite affordable unless someone else wants to offer up their space… install a stage, PA, sound tech, fully stocked bar, eye candy barstaff, parking, bathrooms that wish they were born broom closets, etc.
So in closing… the next time you see someone arguing over guest list or a minor difference in cover… lean over and say "hey man… quit being so damn cheap." It's their option to pay or leave.
P.S. I know who the other guys in U2 are… Aaron Clayhorn and Lloyd Muleson Jr. are one of my favourite rhythm sections of all time.
"10... 9... 8... 7... 6... I think he wet himself..."
The holiday season is over... and I'm officially back to work without interruption... finally.
Christmas and New Year's Eve... they're kind of a big deal. There's a lot of anticipation, excitement, and hype around the holiday season that just passed... but what if you had to choose one over the other?
Christmas Vs. New Year's.
While I do love Christmas and all the fun it has to offer... mainly eating chocolate and guessing gifts, I'd choose New Year's... hands down. It's probably one of the most important days of the year... socially speaking.
For most, Christmas (or whatever you celebrate) is about taking a few days off work, spending time with family and friends, good food, and sharing gifts. It's a time to get people together and... you know... remember what's important in life.
If you really think about it though, it's forced... and it's selfish. Pretty much everything around you during this time of year (the deadline that is December 25th) is pushing you to do these things because it's the norm... it's expected. Come up short... you'll know it.
... but what if we made the effort to get together more often throughout the year? What if we simply gave gifts throughout the year out of pure generosity and thoughtfulness? What if we picked up the phone, texted, emailed, skyped, whatever, to let those we haven't heard from in a while know we were thinking about them?
The Christmas most people, willingly or not, participate in is based around stores clearing out their inventory and prepping for the next year... but with Black Friday and Boxing Week sales, do we really need to play pretend anymore? Maybe keep the December 25th event for the kids... for fun... similar to how we keep October 31st going... but we really wouldn't need to put nearly as much hype into Christmas if we kept the true spirit of Christmas alive and well throughout the year.
New Year's/New Year's Eve on the other hand is a time to get together with friends and family, perhaps exchange a few gifts and party... wait... that sounds a lot like Christmas... oh yeah, and ring in the new year!
So... how is New Year's really that different than Christmas? What gives it the edge?
New Year's to me is about one thing... resolutions... a fresh start... time for change! Many of us aren't self motivated. We can't just think of a new plan today and start tomorrow. Most of us need a nudge to get going and that's why we see so many people signing up for gym memberships, looking for new jobs, going back to school, starting diets, etc, the week of January 1st.
Unlike our Christmas lists, which are wants, our New Year's resolutions are needs! Those lifestyle changes and improvements we've been thinking about for who knows how long, January 1st is that hard date where socially everyone is on the same page. Everybody wants to get a good start to a better year. It's the one free pass where anybody can make an abrupt lifestyle change and nobody will be surprised because it's a New Year's resolution! It's the day to stop thinking about it and start doing it!
Again, Christmas is fun but I feel like it's a pacifier for our wants and a band-aid for, most honestly, our ego. It feels good to give and receive gifts. It feels good to see the smiles on our loved ones faces when we come through the door... but often it's an attempt to make up for a years worth of being too busy to make the time or give the thought... kinda like that guy who only buys a girl (or guy, this is 2013) flowers on their birthday. It's the thought that counts, but it's kinda cheapened once you factor in the circumstances.
New Year's resolutions are personal. They're a chance to take a step back, look at how your last 12 months went and what kinda changes you think will make the next 12 better... and in response, you make a commitment to self improvement. Work toward your goals and enjoy the sense of accomplishment. Improve your quality of life and you will improve the quality of life of those around you as a result... think about it.
It always comes down to the individual... and I'm the type to make tweaks throughout the year... but I love hearing and seeing the changes in people's lives this time of year. While new socks and boxes of chocolates make people happy... it's the commitment and hard work... the progress and payoff... that's what gets the serotonin going... and that's a gift that keeps on giving... because it's like chemicals in your brain.
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!