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.
... so the 2014 Junos were held last night... the pre-broadcast gala where majority of the award winners were announced and hardware handed out. I found myself checking Twitter for the updates... seeing a few friends pick up awards really helped lift my spirits... even after an amazing day tracking group vocals... it ain't easy being a Leafs fan.
A few shout outs to some artists that hit a bit closer to home...
First off... huge congrats to Serena Ryder on winning Artist Of The Year and basically an insane year overall!
Serena and I went to high school together, and although we never really hung out or talked or anything, we've always said hello to each other around Toronto... high school runs deep... and I think there's a higher level of 'props' to people you know who've continued to grind it out with music as a career.
Again, she's had an insane year... and once Stompa came out... I figured it was officially go time for Serena and her camp. Glad she's been out touring like crazy as well... I've said it 400X, touring is where it's at... it's where you're going to solidify your core fans... and that's how careers are built and maintained.
Also, all the best to her tri-co-hosting the televised show tonight as well... even though I think it's kinda weird to have nominees hosting award shows... but I'll save that rant for later.
Congrats to Strumbellas on their win for Roots And Traditional Album Of The Year (Group)! I've known a few of the guys in this group since back in the high school days as well. I'm pretty sure they've all been in several bands together over the years, probably in several member combinations... but like most good bands out there, eventually there's a combination/chemistry that works and all of a sudden, things start to move forward. Of course that's the simplified version... but regardless, awesome to see!
Also... I'm really happy to seem them take home the award because they were nominated last year as well. I think there's a lot to be said in "not winning" your first time around.... and I can guarantee you at least one person at that table... after hearing someone elses name get called... became more motivated than ever. Congrats on getting the job done this time around! Been there. :-)
... and congrats to Eric Ratz for winning Recording Engineer Of The Year.
This one hits a bit closer to home for several reasons... although I doubt my name would ring a bell, we've crossed paths several times over the years. Like most people on this side of the glass, you eventually start blurring the lines between recordist and producer. He's been one of the careers I've kept an eye on the since I started 10 years ago, and I had my fingers crossed would take home the prize... plus he won it not only on a rock record... but on the Monster Truck record... which sounds rucking fidiculous. Good job Eric!
Congrats to Charlie Hope (Children's Album) and Courage My Love (Breakthrough Artist) on their nominations.
Third trip for Charlie, first for CML. It's always fun to go, but especially for the CML camp... it's great to see their progression over the years.
I typically have a bone to pick with acts that are "developed" but CML was one of the few groups I've heard of actually being discovered and developed... instead of discovered and then told everything they're doing is wrong and needs to be perfected over the next 5+ years until everyone has lost interested. Kudos to Nicole Hughes and Chris Perry for doing their part! All the best down the road... keep that momentum going!
Boourns to Ben Rayner. I saw this in the Toronto Star this morning...
"As for the rest of Saturday night’s Juno gala, it went pretty much where it always goes. Forever. Or for 3½ hours anyway. For the first time this year, casual observers could stream the pre-broadcast Juno gala online at home, but lord knows why you’d actually do that. Most of the people who actually attend the thing start tuning it out half an hour in because, frankly, by then it’s already clear there are several more crushingly dull and long-winded hours to come and everyone starts sucking down as much free booze as they can find until the bar shuts down."
Dude... of course you'd find it boring... it's not for people like you... it's not about entertaining, it's a dinner and presentations! It's a dinner party for those who actually belong in the room. And who would actually want to watch that? Anybody who has friends or family nominated... nothing tops seeing the happiness of people you care about in real time. I'm glad they streamed it... that's the future anyway... it's there if you want it.
Anyway, if you're there to be entertained, yes, you're going to be bored. It's probably similar to going to a party with your significant other, where most in attendance all went to high school or college together... it's going to be filled with inside jokes and you're going to hate it because you can't join in on their level.
You have no understanding how hard people are working to make a living in this industry and how emotionally charged up they are to be there... despite what they're showing on the outside. People aren't wandering around because they're bored or drunk (well... lol)... they're wandering around because it's a dinner, people have loosened up, and because you're allowed to walk around!
In my opinion, between the Saturday (gala) and Sunday (televised), it's all about Saturday if you're part of the business or more importantly, an artist.
You're in a giant room, filled with your friends, peers, probably a few mentors, and likely a few people who've done you dirty over the years... saying hello to people in that environment means a lot... for some of them, that might be the only time they've seen each other in years because we've all got our heads down, on tour or in our batcaves, working our butts off. Hearing your name called on Saturday is just a touch more huge than hearing it called during the nominations.... and once your category has been announced, all that anxious excitement you've been holding onto the past 6 weeks or so finally leaves your body... win or lose... you feel amazing... and you feel motivated.
Finally... finally, finally... a shout out to all those who were nominated but couldn't afford to make the trip. It aint cheap once you factor in travel, hotels, clothes, food, tickets, etc... for me, 2010 was close to $2,000, 2012 was around $1,500 (+$450 for the award! lol).
Obviously you look at the price tag vs. experience and think it's totally worth it... but I've heard of several artists over the years, mainly in the lesser known categories who just couldn't swing it... plus they didn't think they'd win anyway so why bother... which is pretty sad.
With the amount of money organizations like FACTOR have thrown around over the years to artists in that room last night to record, market, and tour... it'd be nice to see them throw a little in the corner of a few artists to help them make the trip. Even $10,000 could've helped send 5-10 people a year who otherwise sat at home last night... who despite having expectations so low, still had a sliver of hope in the pit of their stomach their name would be called... or at least the Leafs could've beat Philly... seriously guys... c'mon.
- Mike :-)
... so today seems to be the day everyone is chiming in on PONO. I've known about this for a while... and while I think it's a good idea at heart... it's kinda like seeing a concept horse and buggy at the autoshow.
I feel sorry for Neil Young... I think his heart is in the right place but he either hasn't surrounded himself with forward thinking techies and/or hasn't been told the truth about where things are going... or worse, he's surrounded himself with a group of 'yes men' that just want to make a quick buck off his celebrity endorsement.
So PONO... for those who don't know, is a service/device that plays higher quality audio files. Haven't you always wished all those MP3's you bought (or maybe didn't buy) sounded better?
Maybe... if this was 2001.
Things have gotten way better though... in fact, better to the point nobody really seems to care... and by nobody, I mean the general public... the ones who actually consume all this music in the first place.
I just read a post on facebook saying producers and labels should be really interested in the technology but here's the thing... we (producers/labels) don't buy the albums... the fans do. It's like saying the farmers care about the food... no... the people eating the food care about the food. Farmers only growing food with the intention of feeding other farmers is called jazz.
Anyway, if a record sounds that bad, the fans will speak up... and you only hear of a couple notable turd albums/songs a year at most. Often they're the result of someone in the chain screwing things up one way or another. Hell... think about how albums are being made these days.
Anybody coming up is working off their laptop with whatever gear they have. The good stuff rises... the quality is irrelevant if the song's a hit! Making a great sounding recording these days is cheap and easy... and I'd be curious if Neil would be ok with making an album on a laptop and releasing it into the wild for fans to consume for free... because that's basically what's going currently.
... but the main point PONO doesn't seem to grasp... is people don't want to own music... they don't want that even more than they don't want to buy another device that'll become obsolete as soon as they take off the plastic... and risk dropping in the toilet.
Think about it... why did we like MP3 players over CDs? Why did we like CD's over cassettes? Why did we like cassettes over vinyl?
Storage and logistics.
Each has been easier to transport and more convenient than the last... and we're well into the process of replacing our super convenient MP3 collection with streaming... and the bottleneck isn't the playback device. It's our ISP's (Internet Service Providers). Eventually we'll have enough bandwidth and quick enough data transfers to stream high resolution audio on whatever device you want.
Any music, anytime, anywhere.
We don't need to own the music. We just want to stream it.
We don't need to have a copy of the file any more.
We want to be able to pull it out of thin air... via subscription service or simply as part of our Phone/ISP data package.
We've been spoiled and anybody under 20 probably doesn't really know anything different. There's no going back now. We know this option exists and there's always someone who can make this option available. You can't put the genie back in the bottle.
Dare I say we've crossed the "sex" threshold with this relationship.
... PONO... I hope you enjoy your well intentioned milk and hugs... but our smartphones are the ones currently doing the dirty work... soon to be replaced fully by tablets. The killer app for audio quality will be just that, an app... not another device.
P.S. I've heard Pono referred to as an "iPod rival". Apple cannibalized it's own iPod with the iPhone. Just something to consider here.
P.P.S. Sorry if some of this doesn't make sense... only had a short break... back to tracking acoustics. :-)
P.P.P.S The audiophiles who want Pono have been and will be fine without it... and the money they might help generate will be such a tiny drop in the ocean of revenue anyway. Anybody have numbers on Super Audio CD's? Anybody even remember them?
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!