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  •  The EvO:R-Pedia Musicians Tips Section


    Welcome to the EvO:R Tips Section. We call this section EvO:R-Pedia because it is like a complete reference library for Indie musicians...Just about every tip has been used so you won't find false promises and a series of books to buy after reading each tip. This section was put here by musicians so that people that followed can take this knowledge and use it's power.


    THE INDEPENDENT MINDSET
    by Open File

    It seems simple. You don't have to be signed to release a record. In fact, if you wait to be signed it could be a very long time according to Tim Sweeney, a consultant who specializes in independent artists. He not only presents workshops on DIY, but has also written books about it. Sweeney maintains, "Less acts are being signed nowadays, and of those that do get a deal only 1-3% will make it beyond a record or two before they get dumped."

    DIY avoids that scenario, but artists need to be a special breed to do it right. According to Pat McKeon, former owner of Dr. Dream Records and general manager at Ranell Records, states, "An independent artist will have to wear more than one hat. When they first start out, they'll probably be doing everything themselves, and not every artist can handle that."

    An additional prerequisite is a strong belief system. Gilli Moon, who left an indie label to start her own (Warrior Girl Music), wrote a book based on the lessons she learned titled, "I Am a Professional Artist. " She explains, "You need to be optimistic. You have to believe in yourself and your art. Belief and dedication are the keys to making it work."

    Last but not least, you need to understand how much work DIY truly is. "Everything about it is hard," relates K.K. Martin, an independent artist who survived several label deals. "If you do it right, it's a real job and some musicians are horrified by that idea. You have to learn about the business and pay attention to it. If you can't do that, find someone you trust, or you'll never progress."

    KEEP IT REAL

    If you want DIY success, you have to have realistic expectations. Nearly every artist dreams of playing The Forum or appearing on MTV. Unfortunately, that doesn't even happen to major label acts unless they have a hit and are extremely successful. Most independent artists have to set their sights a little lower. That's not to say it could never happen, because it does. But, the fact is you'd have to have fantastic connections or enjoy phenomenal success to reach that level.

    "Keeping your goals realistic is essential for all independents," Moon points out. "If you don't do that, you're going to be disappointed." Moon suggests keeping it real and at a level you can achieve. "Set up small goals on a monthly, quarterly and yearly basis. Then, evaluate the results. If you reached your goals, move on - if not, figure out why."

    Perhaps the greatest state of mind independent artists need is patience. Angus Richardson, of the band BROTHER, has known phenomenal success, selling over 150,000 records and playing almost 250 dates a year. Nevertheless, even BROTHER had to suck it up. " When we didn't get a quick record deal, it would have been easy to get discouraged," Richardson reveals. "But, we believed in our music, ou r fans and ourselves. And, the fact is," he stresses, "if you get hurt every time you're rejected in this business, you're going to have a lot of scars. Just look around at all the bands that have disappeared. You have to realize that you can't please everybody, and if you want to make it, you have to have patience and determination."

    TOURING IS KEY

    Now that you're in the right frame of mind, it's time to form "The Master Plan" for world domination. Everyone agrees that the most important part of the plan is playing live. Everything, including radio, promotions, distribution and marketing, should revolve around that because it's the way you sell records. Of course, you're going to need a recording, but according to Moon, it need not be up to industry standards. "Even a live recording will do," she says. "Your fans want to hear your songs, not the production."

    Most artists have booked themselves before, so this area should be familiar. The difference, however, is that you have to book gigs beyond your backyard. Sweeney suggests that artists should start by looking 2-3 hours in each direction. "That will only cost $30-40 in gas, and you should be able to make that in sales," he says. "If an act is based in Los Angeles, they can look as far as San Diego and Santa Barbara. Eventually, they can increase the drive time and even look at neighboring states. But," he warns, "don't try to do it all at once."

    Naturally, when it comes to touring solo artists have it the easiest. Moon, Malone and Martin only occasionally bring a full band along. "It's a matter of economics as well as personal dynamics," Martin maintains. "Traveling in a van with five other guys can challenge your patience." To cut costs, Malone, who toured eight times across the country in three years, established a network of musicians he hires in each city. "That way," he says, "I only have to pay them for the gig."

    But, if you're a real band, expenses become a concern. Tina Broad, BROTHER'S manager, relates that their merchandise table is a critical part of their financial success. "If we didn't have product to sell we couldn't do it. Our merchandise sales (CDs and goods) have a dramatic impact on our ability to tour. Traditionally, we make 2 to 3 times more from our merchandise than we do from tour guarantees or ticket sales." Broad also advises bands to take a serious look at their hospitality riders. "Include things that you need (towels, water, food, backline, etc) so that you have fewer things to deal with. And, when you can," she recommends, "insist on a 50% deposit so that you're not shouldering all the cash flow until the performance check clears."

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