Another calendar month has rolled over so it means another music festival is hitting Toronto... and my Facebook feed is now flooded with "showcases" and event invites.
As far as giving bands exposure goes, I think these festivals for the most part are pretty overrated. Even if you kick ass this week(end), you're forgotten about soon after... because the focus soon shifts to the next one. If you're lucky, you've made a couple more core fans but it's not often... especially if you weren't playing before a band people already know and really wanted to see.
I could kick quite a bit of dirt on these festivals if you're in a band and thinking it'll help get you some attention... but here's some advice I typically pass on to help people make the most of their weekend.
1. Don't be upset if you applied and didn't get in.
Why? Because you want your evenings free to roam the venues. Plus, if you've been around long enough, you realize how you can apply 6 years, then not apply on your 7th and get in because you know someone who was putting a lineup together. In most cases in this business, that's the pecking order. Sure you can line up and wait your turn, or you can try and get to know the doorman and slip them a $20... or lunch.
2. Don't carry around CD's you plan to give to industry.
Why? How many CD's does someone want to carry around when the average music fan has shown (through sales of discmans) the number of CD's they want to carry around for fun is 0. If someone asks for a CD, you either have your merch setup because you played, or they're drunk. Actually, chances are if industry wants your CD, they just want to see if you have your shit together... see if it looks professional or not. If they really want to hear your band, they'll be Googling you. It sounds dirty and invasive because it is.
3. Make sure your online presence is up to date.
Why? Read above. Anybody who wants to hear more about your band has already searched you... possibly while you're playing or just after your set.
4. Try to avoid playing Thursday, Friday, or Saturday.
Why? Because you probably aren't getting paid to play, and the bands that are getting paid are where everyone is going to be. In my opinion that's where you want to be too.
5. Spend your time watching the best bands... even if they're just hype bands.
Why? Because you need to see what they're doing that you aren't. Not just one stage but their merch, how they get on/off the stage, how their gear looks. Take notes on everything! All of that comes from experience and probably a big part of why they got a great slot and a great crowd.
Will a performance at a music festival help make them a household name? Probably not... but this is an actual showcase. The hype is there, they have to deliver. I'd rather be watching that band and taking notes than playing 9pm Saturday night at Neutral... to 6 people.
6. Go to the conference if you aren't sure what to do.
Why? Because it's a good place to start if you really aren't sure what's going on these days or in the near future. Often the price of admission is a line in the sand. Most bands simply won't spend (invest) the money. If you do, people take notice... mind you lost of bands flush money down the toilet but at least they're trying.
Enjoy your CMW weekend! Hopefully the weather holds up!
P.S. I'm glad I caught Little Dragon @ Lee's Palace a few years ago... I discovered Neon Indian from that show too since they played before. Little Dragon is back this year... $35 @ Kool Haus.
(... yeah I'm hurrying... I have a system though.)
Sometimes it's hard to find the time… and sometimes finding the time to find the time is a problem in itself. I do my best to write these near the end of the month instead of the beginning of the next month but honestly, sometimes there's just so much I'd like to talk about that it's overwhelming... so before we get into double digit days of November *cough*… here's October.
Early in the month, Breached finally used their prize from last years CMW "demo listening panel thing" which was a day at the brand new (and hugely big large) Revolution Recording studio. This place is huge… and awesome.
The plan was to film and record an acoustic EP with the time instead of record a song or something. For the type of band they are and the production style involved to "do things right", recording a song just didn't make sense. If you plan properly, odds are you can maximize your time and energy… all without leaving the other side (who donated the prize) feeling taken advantage of.
(...or sad... confused... and alone.)
The day was pretty relaxed… the Love & Crossbones (film/video) crew were all very fun and professional, while the house engineer(s) and staff were all very pleasant to work with... something I sort of miss from my days at Pocket Studios.
Having my own place, I work alone a lot, which has it's pros and cons. If I had to choose one over the other though… working with a great team is the way to go for sure. Dynamics are important in life and the dynamic you get from being part of a great team can be one of the best things about any job. Often it's a delicate balance, but so far, the vibe is good there. Revolution beyond a studio really, it's a creative space.
I skipped out early to play hockey that night but it was reassuring to know they were in good hands. It's a nice change to just enjoy hanging out in a studio… as a fan… even though I was technically there to produce it.
UPDATE: The Breached EP is mixed and ready to go… just waiting to finish up the video aspect and hopefully I can share it soon!
(... and now...)
The last few years I've been quite active during Toronto's big 3 indie music festivals/conferences (CWM, NXNE, Indieweek). This was the first time in a while I didn't really get out too much. I'd typically check the schedule, plan my route, hope the weather co-operates, and then enjoy my evening(s) checking out bands with a friend or two. I found the schedule tough to navigate online this year… serious side note for a minute… why can't these festivals get the schedules right? I understand there's a lot of info to organize but really… they always seem to be missing something I'd consider important… like genre, hometown, set time, etc. I'd be awesome if you could quickly scan through the schedule or filter on an app by genre... then at least you'd know what kind of acts to expect... you just can't get enough info from the artist/band name and venue.
So the last couple years I've been asked to judge for indie week… all good... it's fun to watch some bands and give opinions… the latter being something everyone has to and loves to do in this line of work. I can't remember how behind schedule the show was, but when I got there, on time, there wasn't much going on at all… just the bar staff and a few volunteers milling about. Classic. At least I had time to grab food and meet up with some friends in town close to the venue. Eventually I got a text from another judge that the show was starting and I made my way back over to the venue.
If there's one thing that sets pro shows apart from amateurs regarding shows… it's set times. Pro shows run on time. I don't know how they do it, but rarely do bands hit the stage more than 5-10 minutes later than they're scheduled at a well run show.
Oh wait, I do know how they do it... people get in shit for showing up late and not going on stage on time. There are penalties, consequences and repercussions for not doing things the way organizers had planned to run the show.
A personal favorite is the excuse to push back a show until "our fans get there".
Seriously... if you tell them you're on at 10pm, and they show up at 10:45... they aren't your fans... they are your friends... and apparently your friends don't care enough to see your band... they care enough to come out and have a few drinks whenever they feel like it.
(... make sense?)
The thing is... trying to schedule hundreds of bands in a weekend and not having a strictly enforced schedule screws up peoples evenings. If you're trying to showcase bands and people can't see the bands, this defeats the purpose of buying a wristband that gets you into multiple venues over several nights to see as many bands as the festival encourages. There's been times I've shown up to find out a band isn't on for 30 minutes… and times I've shown up, on time, and a band is already halfway through their set.
Again. I don't get it. I don't get why 90% of shows that could run on time, don't run on time. It's one of my deal breakers when it comes to sticking around at shows... since I'm actually there to see the bands… so when there's no bands… and considering how much sleep and free time I get… I'd rather be doing something else that late at night… usually involving house pants, a bowl of cheerios, and watching happy wheels.
(... a little window into my life.)
That being said, the show Saturday night was really solid. I think it was one of the strongest lineups I've seen… definitely the strongest I've got to judge. Every band looked great, sounded great, had some memorable tunes, and the atmosphere of the venue magnified the energy. Good times. I felt good about the band that won the night and knew they'd represent well at the finals the following day.
Speaking of… the finals were great too. Being held at Tattoo, there's a great stage, audience set up, and sound system to showcase the finalists. It's a shame Tattoo seems to hate bands and treat them like shit… but that night seemed to be an exception since I hardly noticed.
Right from the get go, the acts were solid, entertaining, and had a nice blend of pro polish and scrappy DIY. Lots of genres represented… folk, rock, metal, instrumental electro jazz… I skipped out to grab a bite to eat at one point, but a couple things I thought were missing were hiphop/urban and RnB.
Last years winners were Tiny Danza (aka Nixon now which is a whole 'nother topic). I didn't catch them that night but I'd seen them before. Even if they weren't your cup of tea, you knew they were good… no argument. There were lots of great acts that night as well, and it seemed like everything was represented for the most part. This year, it just seemed odd none of those acts made it through.
(... I notice these things.)
It was a great night overall though… more a celebration of bands and artists doing what they love, after countless hours in the rehearsal spaces, showcasing what they've come up with. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Congrats again to Burning The Day on taking home the top prize. I had my own top 3 and they were in it for sure. I was surprised the judges gave them the edge in some ways but in others, how could you not. Sometimes it gets down to criteria on a sheet, sometimes it's doing what you know is the right thing to do… and sometimes you do what you feel is the cool thing to do... possibly because you're out of touch. Take that however you want, regardless, Ireland will enjoy what's coming there way.
Finally, the new Morgan Sadler EP is done! Mixed, mastered, and in the can! You can check out the songs here, here, here, and here. I'm really happy with how things turned out and looking forward to posting the songs when the time comes. Morgan's been thinking a lot about how to release, redefine, and basically launch her new music and "brand". It works from the ground up these days which has many advantages… in the long run for sure. We've had quite a few brainstorming sessions and I'm looking forward to where she's at in a year... or two.
... and now to finish writing November.
(... I'm working on it.)
... yes... I finally gave my website a complete overhaul. Why? Honestly... because my old one wasn't as fun to me anymore... and it was really hard to read... especially on mobile devices... and I knew that.
There was an article I read a few weeks ago, talking about the where and how people are doing their searching online. Close to half, if not most use their phones to look up information.
I guess… but I still didn't think people did that much on their phone though aside from fling birds and text… the problem… is that's coming from someone who until a few years ago didn't have a cell phone… and has been an iPhone user less than a year.
Now I use my phone constantly, for almost everything… especially finding out things I want to know more about, the moment I want to know about it… which is amazing with something like Canadian Music Week here in Toronto around the corner. I'll be out seeing bands… but there's only so many bands I can see.
An important consideration for any type of branding is knowing your audience and where your audience is going to be. We do our homework online and through word of mouth… and just because we're in transit or away from a "computer" doesn't mean that thirst for information and networking stops.
Dear Bands… How compatible is your website for mobile devices?
Check it right now… if the who, what, and where all show up efficiently, in order, and you get your message across in 10 seconds… awesome. If not, you've got homework.
I'm not going to walk you through the steps to do so… your social networks and Google can take it from here. I knew I was doing something wrong and I finally decided to do something about it. How you brand yourself online, just like on stage and on your recordings, should be fun and leave you feeling proud and satisfied. Just make sure it's not too much fun at the expense of the clarity of the content.
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!