Welcome to EvO:R Entertainment
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.
Making Money Making Music
by Bob Seay
You wouldn't go onstage without doing a sound check. Likewise, you shouldn't start trying
to promote your band or yourself without an equally thorough reality check.
Are your songs tight?
Is your stage presence present?
Are you ready to play this gig?
If you answered "yes" to all of the above, then you're ready to begin. But that's not all you need to know.
It helps to know what club managers are looking for, what they like and what they don't like, before you
start trying to pencil in gigs on your calendar.
Myth: Playing in clubs is a quick way to make some money.
Reality: Don't expect to support yourself as a musician until after at least four years.
Might as well get this one out of the way first. Don't quit your day job right away; you're going
to need it for awhile. This is the music business. Like any business, it takes time to put together
a product (your music), develop a market (your fans), and break even (reach the point where you're making more money for a gig than it costs you to pay for your equipment, travel and other expenses.) This effect is known as the "J" curve. You start out and immediately dip down towards the bottom of the "J" as you spend money on gear, promotion, gas, and other incidental expenses that it takes to get your show on the road. Eventually, you hit the bottom of the "J" when you can stop buying new gear, or at least slow down on buying new gear. A lot of artists either quit or decide that amateur status doesn't look so bad before they even get to the bottom of the "J." You start climbing up the other side when your music starts paying you instead of you paying for your music. Eventually you break even when your income has equaled your expenses. Then your career starts going up the backside of the "J" and you soar to unbelievable heights. That's the theory. In reality, a career usually looks more like a "W", with ups and downs that everybody has to learn to live through.
Solution: Learn to love the "J." Recognize where you are in your career and how badly
you need to hang on to some kind of steady income until you can support yourself as a musician.
How quickly that happens depends on how well you can make and market your music and what
standard of living you would like to maintain while doing so. If you're willing to work your
tail off and live on Ramen noodles, you can get there much faster. Only you can decide if
it's worth it.
Disclaimer: There is an exception for every rule, and some bands just seem to go straight
to the top, as the saying goes. Be safe. Assume that this will not happen to you. Usually, if
something like that happens, it's because somebody in the band already had some connections before
they started booking tours. Better to overestimate how long it will take you to rise out of
obscurity and be pleasantly surprised than to be naove and get crushed. For every band that
starts at the bottom and works their way up, there are a hundred other bands that start at
the bottom and seem to work their way across.
Myth: Club owners are there to help musicians get started.
Reality: People who manage clubs don't care about showcasing your talent.
Hate to break it to you, but despite what their ads may say about showcasing new talent,
club owners went into business to make money. They like music, and they probably hope to
actually be able to say that so-and-so played in their little club way back when, but this
isn't a public service. They went into business to make money, and they want to do so with
as little hassle as possible. A show that doesn't make them any money is a problem. A good
show, on the other hand, makes their life easier and more profitable. It also means that
they can add your name to their list of reliable acts they can book without having to
worry about whether you're going to draw a crowd. You may think that your girlfriend of
boyfriend is unforgiving. You don't know unforgiving until you've upset a club manager.
Solution: Learn to handle rejection and don't get angry when you get turned down.
Ask what you could do to get the gig. Don't make promises you can't keep (see below), but
if you can guarantee a certain number of people, say so. If the answer is still no, then
leave a business card and maybe a CD and move on to the next potential venue. Getting angry
drains your energy, and makes you less effective at the next place you visit. It may also
burn a valuable bridge that you might need later on.
Bands with an attitude and I don't mean that in a positive way have a way of being
very annoying to work with, especially when it's the "You owe me," or "You let them play here.
You should let us play here, too" attitude. It's their club. If they want to feature the Lizard
Gizzards even though you know they're a lousy band, it's their business. You don't like people
telling you what music to play, so don't expect them to feel any different. Arguments are a
problem for the owner, and owners avoid problems. Don't be a problem.
Myth: I only need to sound good. The rest doesn't matter.
Reality: Club managers don't care how great you sound.
See above. They appreciate good music and they would prefer to hear somebody that they
like, but they're not in the business so they can hear the music that they like. Once again,
club managers are in business to make money. Unfortunately, the band that plays the best will
almost always lose out to the band that brings in the most cash. The phrase "starving artist"
applies to those who are incredible artists but a lousy draw. Work to be a successful artist,
one that sounds great and pulls in a crowd. They want a band that matches the style of the club
nobody would book a hip-hop act at a redneck bar but beyond that, they really don't care.
Solution: Don't talk about how great you are. Send or bring a CD of your best stuff, or
better yet, bring in a professionally produced album if you want to make an impression. Focus
your conversation on your fan base and how you can fill the club. Do that, and anything you play
will be music to their ears.
Myth: Club owners respect bands that refuse to bow to commercial or popular trends.
Reality: Club managers don't care about artistic integrity. They also don't care about musical innovation or your noble refusal to bow to the demands of commercialism.
A club manager will respect your principles as long as they don't stand in the way of making him a profit. If you can be innovative and maintain your integrity while draw a large crowd, the place will love your principles and may even plaster them on the marquee. The club manager will be less thrilled about a small crowd of Indie aficionados who appreciate innovation and respect your integrity but don't bring along very many friends. Besides, they probably don't tip very well either.
Solution: Club managers aren't the only ones who feel this way. Most of your audience will too. Be innovative but maintain a broad based-appeal. The word here is "incrementalism," and it means moving forward one small step at a time. Unless you're an established band with a strong fan base, play something that mixes a current trend or an established feel with a touch of something new. The more familiar sounds will contrast your innovation and actually make it more noticeable than if the entire set sounds like something from a sci-fi movie vision of the future.
What Club managers DO Like
Club managers like bands that make them money.
Are you willing to promote the venue along with promoting your gig? It's in your best interest to let people know where you're playing, but can you play up the club with a few words in your ads about what a great place it is to party? It might pay you to fork over the cash to pay for a ticket for free drinks for the first 100 people in the door. It's an expensive promotion, but it can make for a memorable opening night. If you want to run that kind of a promotion, don't expect the club manager to pay for it. Simply say that you want to buy the a drink for the first how ever many people you want to pay for and ask how much it would cost to do it. Good crowd reaction makes for a better performance, and a better performance makes for more repeat gigs.
Club managers like bands that pack their clubs.
Don't depend on the club for promotion. Take the initiative and bring your audience with you, right along with the drum kit and the rest of the gear. OK, maybe you don't want them to come in when you're setting up, but find a way to get people there. If you have an established fan base and can promise a minimum number of people, do it. Just don't exaggerate your numbers. It's always better to underestimate than to make a promise that you can't deliver. The marketing concept that is at work here is "under promise and over deliver." People are happy when they expect less and get more. They are unhappy when they expect more and get less. We'll talk about how you can pack the club in the chapter about promotion and marketing. In the meantime, start making a list of all your cover-paying, drink-buying friends.
Club managers like to work with professionals.
It's the same story: managers don't like problems. They want to know that you're going to show up on time, treat their staff well, and tear down quickly when the gig is over. You can act like a superstar on stage, but when you're dealing with the manager, put your ego aside and take care of business. Be sure that everybody agrees on the price and other contractual issues before you show up to play. You can find out more about that at "101 Music Biz Contracts" (www.101musiccontracts.com).
Club managers like to hire artists they know or have at least heard of. Nothing succeeds like success. When you're promoting your next gig to your fans, you're also promoting your band to other clubs. They read the papers and listen to the radio just like everybody else. If they hear and see your name enough times, they're more likely to remember who you are when you ask them for a gig. Networking sounds like a business buzzword, but the concept is valid. The idea is that you talk to someone, they tell someone else about you, that person tells another person, and so on, until word gets back to someone who might be beneficial to your career. Networking works two ways, so be willing to share your contacts with other artists, club managers who have shared information with you. For instance, you might talk to another artist about which clubs are good to play and which places are best avoided. They could share that same information with you. You could also ask them to put in a good word for you with the manager at the club where they're playing. You, of course, would promise to do the same for them. Networking works as long as everybody shares. It stops working when somebody takes all your information and doesn't give you any leads that you can use in return.
Club managers like to deal with only one person.
If you're trying to buy a car, you don't want to deal with five different salespeople with five different ideas about what works best, five different attitudes and five totally different personalities. You want to work with the same salesperson from the time you walk on the lot until you drive happily away. Club managers are the same way. They only want to deal with one person, not your entire band. Every band needs one person who is in charge of booking gigs and handling business duties. This is preferably someone outside the band that you can trust to look after the bands' best interests, but when you're just starting out, it may end up being somebody in the band. Whoever it is needs to have excellent people skills. This is the point man or woman for the band, the one who will work the phones and make any personal visits to managers and other people in charge of booking clubs. At the gig, this person should be able to handle any potential problems with the club's management should they arise.
Clubs like to hire artists that make them look good.
A club has to develop a fan base too, and the best way they can do that is by booking good bands. Your fans will follow you wherever you go. To them, it doesn't matter where you're playing. Clubs have fans too; fans that show up regardless of who is performing. The best way for a club to develop that kind of customer loyalty is to consistently present quality performers. A club manager will want to book you if you can show them how booking you will increase the visibility of their club.