​Booking & Setting Up a Show

A lot goes into booking a show for an artist or band from start to finish. From rehearsing and coordinating to online and grassroots promotion, and from negotiating and communicating about availability to confirming other acts for the bill (whether you or your band puts the bill together or booker does - someone does the work).

The terminology regarding shows can sometimes be confusing for someone just starting out (words like: hold, load in, line check, draw, room cap, cover etc.). Bookers will often ask questions like “what’s your market history?” and “what’s your draw?” or “how many people can you bring out to the show?”

Here’s a brief overview of some terms:

Hold - Sometimes artists or agents will put a “hold” on a date when their working on routing / booking a tour and waiting for other dates to confirm so in that case venues will put you on “hold” if they have other acts who have reached out before you for the specific date you reached out for. Sometimes the booker will tell you have a second or third hold, and if the other bands who have that date reserved end up cancelling it, the night will go to you or your band.

Load-in: The booker will give you a load-in time for the show, this will vary from venue to venue, but will generally be about an hour before doors open. This is the time you bring your gear in and set it near the stage or onstage before the show.

Line-check: This is another word for “soundcheck” but it’s more of a quicker one right before the band plays. Rather than doing a full 20 minute or hour long soundcheck before the crowd gets there, often for headliners, the opening bands will just do a line-check and check their levels minutes before their set.

Draw: A draw is how many people you can bring to a show. A booker or venue will ask this so they can figure how many people will likely be there buying drinks, cheering you on, and paying the cover to get in. This could also determine a guarantee you’ll be paid, bar % or door deal you’ll get. Bars and venues rely on this draw sometimes to cover their expenses for the night (security, sound people, door people, bar tenders). They want to know that hosting you is going to benefit them.

Room cap: “Room Capacity” This is how many people the room/venue holds according to fire safety laws.

Cover: Door price /  Ticket price / How much it costs to get in.

A lot of people are involved in a live show. In addition to your band and the audience, there is usually a few other people involved: The promoter &/or booker, a sound person, a door person, other acts (that a promoter, band or you will have added to the bill) and the people who work at the venue.

First, the booker is who you’ll have to reach out to for a potential gig. This e-mail is usually listed on a venue’s website contact form.

Helpful Tips:

- If there are two different booker contact e-mails: local & national - email the most appropriate one

- Address the booker by their name if you see there’s a particular person

- Introduce yourself, your act or bands name (if you are one)with a brief paragraph & include a short description of your band / comparisons and that you’re looking to book a show

- Pick a few dates to send as options for booker (prior if you’re in a band make sure all members could do these days as possible options, some people may need to get off work or change their schedules)

- Include a link to any CURRENT single or album & some live video if you have available.

- Include you or your bands career highlights (like if you have been featured on any blogs, news papers, magazines or on any radio, tv) & where you have played in the area (list a few venues & locals acts you have played with)

- Include your contact info & social media links

The booker will ideally get back to you (usually within a few days but sometimes a couple weeks, if not, try e-mailing again/follow up. Try following up a week-10 days later) and let you know if the date is available or sometimes they will recommend other venues that may be a better fit or other possible dates if the one requested is already taken. If the date is open and your band is given the gig, the booker may ask you to find other locals acts to support the night. Local bands will help bring in a bigger crowd especially if you’re not from the area. If you’re booking a show outside of your hometown, it’s integral to get local supporting bands. You can find other bands on sites such as http://reverberation.com, facebook music groups, local music blogs to the specific city, venue website’s show calendars, and fliers other artists have hung up at venues or coffeeshops nearby. Also google searches can be helpful by looking up city names, band & genres tags. Sometimes bookers will also have a recommendation band list, so always ask incase they do!

Reaching out to other bands is similar to reaching out to the booker: be specific, be respectful, and include all the info in a clear and concise way!

Sometimes and ideally, a promoter or venue of a show or venue will help push this newly booked show out to online outlets and upcoming show listings. There won’t always be a promoter, but even when there is, it’s important to do your own promotion. There are many simple ways of getting your friends, family, and soon-to-be fans to your gigs. Sometimes venues, bars, coffeeshops, or houses that host events will have a built-in crowd but you can’t rely on this. That’s where online promotion and grassroots promotion come in! Once your show is booked and you’ve found other fitting acts to join the bill, make a flier and an event page on facebook and push it out to everyone you can! Give yourself a good month to promote and remind people, in person, and on social media.

Also ask the booker if they have a press list. Often they do! This can be helpful as they may have good contacts at local radio stations, blogs, and news outlets who you can email/reach out to help promote your show. Invite them to your show or ask if they can feature you, do an interview or live in-studio performance (radio) before the show to help get people out :)

Once you’re at your show, it’s important to know the door person’s and the sound person’s role.

The door person will sometimes tally how many people come into the venue and take the cover from anyone entering the show. The sound person will do the soundcheck/line check for bands, and ask you what your set up is. *Sometimes when booking (depending on venue, a booker will request you send an input list & stage plot for production so they know what to expect as far as your setup ahead of time).  They will want to know what you need on stage as far as instruments, microphones, and necessary cables, etc. to get the best sound. You can tell this person how high you want the levels in your monitors, and if you’re singing - whether you want reverb added to your voice or not. Don’t expect them to read your mind! They’re there to make it sound the best it possibly can.

At whatever level you are at, it doesn’t matter, you have to start somewhere! If you are just starting out just know even bigger artists who have been playing for years also have their own booking or show / touring struggles. So regardless of the level, hopefully this post and some of these suggested steps and tips might help making booking easier!

Additional Tips:

- http://www.indieonthemove.com is a great database for bands and musicians starting out looking to book their next gig. There are listings on this site of music venues all over the country, and they will even tell you how many people fit in the room, what genres they host, and who to contact to book a show. We would highly recommend checking this site out and becoming a member! It will help you locally as well as country-wide once you’re ready to take your act on the road! The benefits of this site are great examples of what you need in order to book shows.

 Photo: Samuel Bendix  

Photo: Samuel Bendix  

Respectfully Approaching People & Pitching Music Industry Professionals

It is definitely and without doubt (now, and it has been for for years) a necessity for a band or artist to connect with people and industry in order to grow and be a part of the music community.

When reaching out to bookers, promoters, studio engineers, blogs, radio DJs, magazines or other bands, artists you want to connect with, or anyone else in the industry, or even future fans, it is important to be aware of how you’re approaching them.

Whether reaching out via social media (Facebook messenger, Facebook Pages, Instagram messenger, etc), e-mail, or in person, it is equally as important to be courteous and respectful.

Most likely the person you are trying to reach has a busy schedule - whether they are an artist, industry person or even a music fan, it’s important to take this into consideration. Think about how you would want to be approached or written to. Also be aware that without artists and music, labels would not exist, so it does go both ways, we are in this together and need each other for our industry to grow.

Online: Kindly introduce yourself, acknowledge their name, get to the point and be professional. If you want to send a video or music link to an engineer you want to work with, or a label rep, understand that Facebook messenger or any public social media platform isn’t always the best way to reach them directly. Sometimes you will not receive a response this way or right away. Instead, try going to the official website, find an e-mail on the contact page and address the person politely, tell them who you are, and why you’re reaching out. Or, if you do reach out on social media, ask them if this is the best place to send them your music or briefly explain why you’re reaching out and if there is a better place they’d prefer you write to (i.e: e-mail)

Too often people are bombarded by random people / artists spamming links to people with their music with no explanation or asking for demands without saying who they are and because of this people (industry & fans) are being turned off immediately and making it harder for the artists who work really hard and care. Please consider taking your time to consider who you’re approaching without wanting a quick fix/answer. Take your time to research the right people... making sure it relates (meaning “I saw you were a fan of _____, my band has a lot of similar influences  & has been compared to ______” or “I saw on your credits you recorded _______, and you work with a lot of metal. We’re a metal band who is in the same vein as ______ and think you’d understand our band’s sound and us so we’d love to talk about working with you.”)

Different labels, media outlets, industry people, and artists will vary in their means of contact. It’s important to think it out... why are you contacting this person? What is your goal in contacting them? What can they, in turn, benefit from you reaching out to them? What makes it worth it? Let them know! Use proper grammar, punctuation, spelling, and full sentences. Sign your name and let them know how they can get in touch with you.

In the end it is about respect. Respect this person’s time, don’t insist anything of them - Respect their space, don’t expect them to get back right away and if they don’t, don’t pester them. They likely have a lot on their plate and a lot of people reaching out. But also do not be afraid to contact people, ask and follow up. Just like performance is a risk of being open to an audience so is reaching out to people in a positive way.

Tips:

- if you don’t hear back try following up about 10 days to 2 weeks later (this is not a set rule but a suggestion. Often 3-4 follow ups later you might hear from a booker saying “so sorry for late reply, we actually have that date, just have been so busy with the shows, my other 3 jobs and family life”. This is very common and people get lots of e-mails. Don’t lose hope and always think their uninterested)

- when approaching a fan consider comparing your songs to some other artists they may know or if you see they like and work with your genre tell them so they have an idea what they might be checking out.

- when emailing a blog, prospective label or management person, please definitely do your homework on them. Make sure they’re the right person to be reaching out to.

- try introducing yourself, be clear about what you’re asking / pitching, send a brief paragraph on yourself/your band, your career highlights (bigger bands who you have played with, bigger venues, radio stations, magazines or blogs who have featured you, and definitely tell them who you sound like.

- If you call an office of a music business professional or an individual when leaving a message always talk slow and when leaving your return # repeat it twice. Sometimes the first time people don’t catch it.

- absolutely always include a few online links.

The biggest risk you may take is not taking one, so take a chance and don’t be afraid to contact people but do it respectfully:)

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Setting up your social media sites

Being an artist in this day and age is surely not what it was decades ago or even just a few years ago. As we know, the internet is now where the main focus is. It’s a constant changing world of it’s own, spouting out new forms of social media platforms and new avenues of connection all the time. These doors are opening up avenues for artists and fans alike allowing us to grow our brand and art quickly, with a plethora of new ways every day to reach large groups of people everywhere all at once.

It’s pretty crazy how we can now find a venue’s name, address, and contact info within minutes. We can even research our dream producer, label, and sometimes find the right contact e-mail or Facebook profile to reach them. We can and should use these avenues to their fullest potential! All it takes is just a bit of understanding of the different platforms and methods to get the most out of them. Just like learning your instrument - social media and marketing today is an instrumental tool to help your music brand be successful.

Anyone reading this is probably already familiar (to an extent) with Youtube, Instagram, Spotify, Facebook Live, and Twitter. These are just a handful of the main sites that are constantly growing with the times and allowing artists to reach their fans, and fans to reach their favorite artists. These sites are all free and all have space for images, bios, content, and direct ways to connect with potential fans, bookers, industry people, and other bands and artists (of every level).

When setting up one’s Profile page for any of these sites it’s important to take time to provide good content for the core page. Posts aside, make sure the profile and cover photo are representative of the band. Consider branding your image across all platforms too so it becomes something signature and it’s how people recognize you. People see these first, so make them stand out. Having a good bio is important, and on Facebook it can be lengthier than Twitter or Instagram. Describe who you are and what you sound like. Add your contact info and links to your other sites to cross promote where it makes sense. When you’re first building, try connecting with other bands, people &/or brands online who you like by liking posts and interacting through your page. If you want to maximize your reach and effort then always post your shows and publish event pages through the music page to bring people there. Invite people and let them know you care about who you are and what you do! Take advantage of the apps within the page - you can set up your own merch store, you can import your upcoming shows, you can promote important posts for just $5 to reach more fans, etc. Make sure you invite all your friends to like the page so they can stay updated!

Twitter and Instagram are a bit simpler than facebook, focusing more on the postings rather than the core music page. So make sure your posts are relevant to what you’re doing and are strong. Keep people updated and keep them engaged - this is the main goal! Post often but don’t overdo it. If it helps, consider making a weekly schedule to plan out the time you spend doing posts and communicating online. If you have a lot going on in you or your bands schedules this is helpful as well as finding a natural rhythm to when people are engaging.

The use of hashtags on a post can reach people far and beyond. Users can now follow specific hashtags, so be specific with them in choosing them. Social media platforms work hand in hand as well. When you sponsor a post on facebook, and you link your instagram or twitter account, the sponsored post goes out to your followers who are within the demographics you set, and this can double, or triple its viewership.

That direct artist to fan contact is what helps us build a grassroots fan base to something far beyond that, when people are interested in the upcoming shows, new releases, live photos, and happenings.

Having a place to go to see all the news and upcoming events from an artist one follows is extremely important. Having multiple places to go and see different, new, exciting things will keep people engaged. It’s important to keep these sites current, relevant, and cohesive. Contact with your fans can build tenfold when you maximize an incredible live show and quality music with your image and activity online.

Having all the pieces is a lot of work, but your activity online can really boost your career as an artist!

Tips:

-Be present on all main social media sites, and post differing content, (videos, live videos, pictures, press shots, event pages, posters, etc.)

-Keep all sites current - When something isn’t up to date, the fans will know

-Be conscious of the time of of day you’re posting and what time gets the most reactions

-Keep your pictures clear and high quality, don’t just post for the sake of posting

-Connect with other bands and artists as much as you can through your music pages

-Respond if you can to your fans if they reach out to you on these sites!

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Tales From the Road Part 2 (with tips)

The First Night of my First Tour

The first night of my first ever tour was in Burlington, VT. My band set out for our first show of a small week-long run around New England with all our gear in our Ford Escape. It was a great show in Burlington, we played late, made some friends, sold some merch, and the college town downtown was hopping. We loaded our gear back into the car and went back into the venue to watch the headlining performer. We locked the doors - from what we recall - and loaded everything safely into the vehicle around 12:30am. We finish watching the show and about an hour later we headed back to the car to find the door wide open and the inside lights on! Unfortunately, while unattended and while we were inside enjoying the show, someone found a way in the car. The intruder rummaged through our belongings and took my bass and my bass amp from our vehicle. I couldn’t believe it. The first night of my first tour, someone stole my bass. We notified police and the venue owner and we drove around town until the sun came up hoping to find it laying in someone’s yard or on the street. No luck, and we were beginning to feel delirious from being up for so long. We headed to the hotel and were trying to figure out how the rest of the tour was going to work without a bass. After a very long restless night I accepted that my bass was gone forever and we headed to Western MA for our next show. Thankfully a kind member of the first band let me borrow his gear and we were able to play our set. That night we were staying in Western MA (next day’s show was NYC) we were still trying to sort out what to do about the missing bass scenario. Unexpectedly after the show we got a call from the venue owner back in Burlington about a call they received from a mother reporting her son, who had stolen a bass and an amp from a band at the venue. The bartender answered this call and unfortunately did not get any info, so the call went untraceable. We knew it was our equipment the mother was reporting so we began to feel hopeful that we’d get it back! Early the next morning instead of heading to NYC we drove back to VT to see what we could do about the bass. No one called or knew how to retrace that mother’s phone call. We went and waited at the venue for a few hours but had to eventually leave to get to our show which was now about a five hour drive away. We left, again accepting we wouldn’t get the bass back, and headed for our show in NYC. We decided to do a stripped down version of the songs that night and had a great acoustic show on St. Mark’s St. There were only a handful of shows left - but we managed to do them all without a bass or by borrowing gracious bassists’ equipment at the shows. The kindness of strangers can sometimes come out of nowhere and mean so much!

Unexpectedly on the second to last day of tour we got another call from the venue in VT saying the bass and amp arrived safe and sound and would be driven to my house in MA by the end of the week. I really couldn’t believe it. I felt so grateful that somehow someone connected to the person who took the bass decided to do the right thing! Not only that but a performer who was playing that night while on tour was passing through my town the next day, and dropped it off for me to pick up the day I returned from tour. I went my whole first tour without my bass, or amp, but through the kindness of strangers, a little luck, and a miracle, it was all okay. Now at shows I am sure not to leave gear unattended, or in a car that I may or may not have locked! Lessons learned!

Tips:

- Keep an eye on your equipment at all times.

- Double check that you locked the car, hotel room door or anywhere else where equipment is left.

- Consider not loading all of your expensive gear into your car until you’re leaving the venue.

- Try to always be aware of your surroundings and if you’re in a place you don’t know.

- Travel as lightly as you can - the less you carry the less you have to misplace or worry about.

- There are great people in every town who are there to help. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

- If there’s ever a scenario to help another band out with sharing backline do it! The kindness can go so far!

- If you can, always stay to see the headliner, even if it’s past your bedtime to support the whole show and other bands

- Support your bandmates on tour - you are a unit and should be there for one another through the thick and thin.

- Unexpected things can happen on the road, like anywhere, and sometimes you’re not prepared. Try to go with the flow if you can. Remember there is a solution for everything! There is always some type of work around!

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Tales From the Road Part 1. (With Tips)

The first longest drive & journey on my first U.S. Tour 2005 (PT. 1)

I was on a tour with my band at the time and another L.A. band (there were about 10 of us in a 10 passager van) and we had to get from Olympia, Washington to Salt Lake City, Utah for a show the next night. It was just about midnight when we left Olympia and drove into the night. We had just played a house show in someone’s side-yard (pretty much adjacent to the street with no fence) and the cops were called because of the noise. I think the other band only got three songs into their set when it ended. I remember having a sore throat, a cough, and was very much not looking forward to driving nonstop until our next show but still extremely excited about being on tour. I spent half the night literally rolled up under a seat bench (so I could somehow try and stretch my legs out and sleep), wrapped in a hoodie with clothes around me, listening to my CD player with a record on repeat (over the big bumps it would skip). But as sick as I felt as we drove, there was an incredible feeling and experience I got from it and was able to share it with these people. There’s a feeling you can’t quite explain...a weird love/dislike. Almost a strange addiction that develops from being on the road and especially the moments of the feeling of being half asleep in a seat and waking up to the sunrise somewhere (it was Idaho)… Seeing nothing but a beaming sun hitting the window slowly coming up, the heat of summer slowly rising in the car, yellow grass fields for miles, the hum of the van radio and some people quietly talking in the front seats - either trying to keep the driver awake or just plain wired up on Coffee. From all of it there’s a kind of comfort and calm feeling.

By the time we got to SLC it was about 6pm and my throat glands were about the size of golf balls and this had been the most painful sore throat I had ever gotten. I had been slowly loosing my voice and ended up having to go straight to the hospital as soon as we got there so I could get medicine for it.

Unfortunately I had to cancel this show. To this date it marks the only show I’ve ever had to cancel for health reasons and aside from this show I have only ever cancelled one other show (that was agreed upon by a booker) to date.

(…To be continued)

Tips:

- Drive times, lining up dates, routing:

When planning a tour, if you’re first starting out, I’d suggest to try and route tour dates to not have to drive more than 6 hours on a show date.

Here’s why: depending on how many people you’re on tour with, you most likely went to bed after 1am and usually the latest check out time of a hotel or motel is about 11am or noon. Even if you're stay with friends, family or other bands lot of people have work the next morning...so odds is you'll need to get in the morning and leave enough time for everyone to get ready. By the time you get ready, stop for gas, grab coffee and food - an hour will go by. Then when you add the gas, bathroom and food stops (at least add another hour). Then add another hour if there’s traffic or a time change (of course there are exceptions!) but this brings you to 7 or 8pm which is a typical load-in time. Everyone has their own way of doing things and sometimes you make things work (the radio show at 10am, driving a few hours after your show to cut down on drive time). Planning ahead of around 6 hours drive time like this could be less stressful especially as you get into long tours, sleep will become very important as well as having enough time for everything with bigger groups of people.

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Finding the right studio/producer/engineer

When you go to record, you want to make sure you’re prepared as much as possible, especially if you’re funding something yourself without help or a label as we mentioned in our post ‘Preproduction and Preparing to Record.’ You will want to have all the right tools you need in order to get the most out of it and to get the best product. Tools such as having the songs well rehearsed and practiced, a vision for the songs, goals, a plan, an understanding of the sounds you want, and knowing the songs inside out so that when it comes to tracking you are ready. A huge component to making your recordings a reality is finding the right Producer, Engineer &/or Studio, or even having a plan in place to do it yourself. Either way, finding the right match to your music and sound is important - whether a songwriter, punk band or pop artist... regardless of genre, finding the correct place and person to record and capture the songs is imperative!

There are studios all over the world, and in a ton of places you wouldn’t ever expect. In big cities, in small towns, in warehouses, in churches, in garages, converted houses etc. and with the new digital age, on our home computers or mobile laptops. The location doesn’t have to be close to you to be the right one either. It’s not uncommon for a touring artist or band to record on off days while on the road with a producer from another city. In addition, artists and producers around the world are also making great use of the internet by sending recorded files back and forth to each other.

Most of the time, the style that comes out of a particular recording could be due to the engineer/producer. Depending on their experience, and their knowledge, this person can make a song sound a certain way as well as a studio/room. (Example: if a Studio has a tracking room that’s large like a church and the engineer use’s lots of microphones on the drums this sound might be very distinctly big and roomy with natural reverb - or if they have a production suite in a major studio or even a home with a smaller set up where they program beats or live drums, their sounds might be known for being really tight and polished, with a focus on vocal production - it all varies.) Maybe they’re most well-versed in punk music, or pop music, or jazz. Of course there are exceptions to this and people of different genres who collaborate, but for the most part you want to work with someone who can bring out the most from your sound, knows the influences you have, or is familiar with the scene you play in and your style.

If you know this person or if you don’t, first ask them what their specialty is or which bands/types of music they have worked on in the past to get an understanding of their background. If it’s similar to what you do, maybe this person is a great fit. Ask for some samples and see if you can get a list of their discography that lists their credits.

Another thing to consider is price. What is your budget? How much can you afford per day, hour, or per song or per person? Some studios have per-hour rates that may or may not come with an engineer (price will change), and some studios will have day rates and there’s an extra charge for an assistant or engineer. Producers may have a day rate or even a per-song rate, but the amounts will vary from person to person, mostly depending on the studio, the person’s background, and their skill level. Some do everything - record, mix & master - while others do not.

Tip: If you’re self-producing and need to record or need to find a producer or engineer - do your research. Search on the internet and look up studios near you, try looking up the bands or artists you love to find the places they’ve recorded or who they recorded with. Ask your friends or people you know who are similar to your sound where they recorded. Then find out what these studios or people offer and the prices they are, and also reach out to producers (e-mail, websites, social media, phone calls). Often the producer will have access or know a studio that he or she likes to work out of and can offer suggestions or good prices. Some producers also engineer and own their own studio so in that case prices will change! 

Keep in mind that all engineers/producers work at their own pace and the vibe is different with each individual place and producer. Meet up with this person prior to recording, visit the studio (most offer free tours), and see if something clicks!

Tip: For those who are new to recording, sometimes there are additional costs for mixing and mastering if the producer or engineer doesn’t offer this - so keep that in mind when budgeting. Also some artists will take recordings to a mixer (different engineer) after recording with another person, but really it all varies and there is no right or wrong way.  If you’re self producing, maybe you just go to the studio and use an engineer for some tracking and do some other tracking at home on your computer and then hire a mixer! Or maybe you can track it all at a studio and then you or your band can mix it if you have the skills to match your needs.

There are many different routes these days and no one way is right! All that matters is that the music sounds great and represents you well!

Extra Tips:

- For artists wanting to try to record themselves or even do Pre Production demos you can now get ProTools for about $25 a month to record on your computer, Logic Audio is available to buy for about $200, GarageBand comes macs.

- To look up different Artists or Bands album credits (for producer and engineer names etc) look up records onallmusic.com

  (Take at Studio 606 in Los Angeles CA)

 (Take at Studio 606 in Los Angeles CA)

 (Photo by Doug Batchelder at The Den in North Reading, MA) 

(Photo by Doug Batchelder at The Den in North Reading, MA) 

Pre-Production and preparing for recording

You and/or your band are sounding like a solid unit, you’ve practiced multiple times on a regular basis, and you’ve possibly even played your music out in some venues. The songs are sounding good and you’re really happy with how they’ve come together - the next step could very well be stepping into the studio to record!

The first step for preparing for recording your songs is pre-production. Pre-production is one of the most important things an artist or band can do and have an understanding of, especially in this day and age when both money and time are such factors. Just like first promoting your show and then playing the show happens in two steps, so should pre-production & recording.

Pre-production is the time you spend to prepare your songs, practicing your parts as a band or artist, checking arrangements, breaking the songs down so you make sure everyone is playing the same notes, checking all the musical parts, practicing harmonies, refining lyrics, making sure the key is right, finding the tempos (whether you’ll play to a click or not, depending on your music) before entering the studio.

*A lot of us artists have some sort of home studio or computer recording setup available to us, and even with technology at our fingertips (which is a great luxury we have these days!) it can be overlooked. There are many opportunities to take your time to figure things out on your own for finding the best result - so take advantage of these things so when you spend your time and money on a great studio or great producer you are prepared!

When practicing your songs, you could even time yourself and see how long it takes you to set up all the instruments, play through the song(s) you want to record, *plus factor in the engineer mic’ing instruments and testing sounds (that will give you an idea of how long it might take in the studio to set up even before tracking). Find the BPM (beats per minute) of the song and try practicing to a click track, this will further tighten up the band and the song, speed up time in the studio, and when it comes to tracking it (especially via the computer), will give everyone a guide, allow the producer and everyone involved some more flexibility and creativity to build the song into something really cohesive and wonderful!

Tips:

- There are multiple tempo / click apps (try TEMPO) available for free or for a couple dollars online for iPhones or Smartphones that you can tap tempos out to.

- When you find a tempo for your song try it a couple beats slower and faster to see which sounds best!

- Try using a Phone or Computer mic to record your band or your songs to see how songs are sounding! This is a great way even if it’s rough to hear your songs.

- Typically full production indie band songs can usually be fully tracked in 1-2 days (of course depending on a lot of factors: if a band or artist is well rehearsed, instrumentation, style of music, budget)

- Typical studio rates can vary from $250-up (maybe cheaper depending on the place/location)

- Most average studios run $350-700 and up a day in major cities. Sometimes the rate includes the engineer if he or she owns the studio.

- Engineer rates average w/o a studio usually run $150/$250 a day and upward -or- $35 and up an hour

- Assistant rates run usually $100/150 a day

- Typical tracking hours in professional studios run 8-12 hours varying on the studio and engineer rates

Your friends, family, and fans are all going to want to be able to take something home that you created and that they can listen to over and over again. (Plus as a touring artist, CDs are a must have and merch sales help to pay for lodging, gas, and food. Recordings are also important for any band or artist who is serious about wanting to be a professional musician as it is an opportunity for online sales and a way for fans and industry folks who don’t live in the same city or country to hear you.

This is just a small glimpse into preparing for recording but above all, have fun and enjoy the process, learn who you are and what you like as you go - make sure to communicate how you want things to sound when you work with people; the more direction as a band or artist the better. Also, being flexible during the recording process will make things easier and less stressful. In pre-production, if it’s not sounding the way you want, experiment with some different pedals, amps, instruments, or even better - try different things out (second guitar parts, solos, arrangements, drums fills). Have a few great options and a couple ideas you can bring into the studio or to the producer so you can try things until you find your desired sound.

Recording can be a really great process and experience. Like anything though, it can become frustrating or present challenges when you least expect it - especially if you’re not prepared - so doing so will really help! Be patient, and understand that the recording process may take longer at first, but once you get familiar with how it all works, and familiar with a studio, it’ll get faster and become even more fun. Be respectful to the equipment, the people you’re hiring on the songs, whether it’s the engineer, assistant engineer, producer, mixer, etc. or hired players if there are any. They are all working with you to carry out your vision, and it can be a really rewarding experience for everyone when everyone’s on the same page!

   (Photo by Greg Jacobs)

 (Photo by Greg Jacobs)

   (Photo by Doug Batchelder)

 (Photo by Doug Batchelder)

Preparing for a live show

You’ve got your goals, you’ve found your band (or are flying solo), you have some songs, maybe you have some songs recorded (or in the works and ready to test the new material with a audience) and now wondering what is the next step. Live shows! Once you have your first show booked this is something you’ll really need to prepare for and some of these steps you’ll continue to use to prep for in the future as you continue to play more live shows.

So how does one go about bringing their material onto the stage and into these venues? How does one begin in a market, promote and start to make a name for themselves?

Let’s focus on the music and Preparing around that!First you have to make sure that what you’re bringing to the stage is a good representation of how you want to sound and how you want to be received by your audience.


Music: You’re going to want to rehearse with your band, going through all your songs one by one and making sure they sound good. Are all the instruments lining up? Is everyone singing in pitch? Are you getting the right tones out of your amps?

Tips:

- When rehearsing try breaking down the songs instrumentally or just vocals & harmonies or just bass & guitar. Any wrong notes or off parts will stand out! Also this will help tighten everything.

- Practice running the set, time it & make sure it works for the time slot allotted.

- Practice optional transitions into songs if you’re planning not to talk.

- Practice moving and try video taping you or your band rehearsing so you can see how you look.

Rehearse, Rehearse, Rehearse! Until it sounds good. If it doesn’t sound the way you want it to, then you’re probably not ready for the live show yet. You will know when this moment is!

Stage clothes: (*Refer to what we mentioned in our ‘Intro to Imaging’ entry). The biggest question should be image-wise, does my image / look and represent my music? Does it represent me? Or us? Wear something that sets you apart from the audience. Show that you’re IN the band. Be a unit! Or stand out as an artist. Be and look more than a person who plays on stage with jeans and a t-shirt. What inspires you? Have fun! You could even go to thrift / vintage stores with your bandmates and find some cool, cheap outfits together! Or maybe you have some friends who are clothing designers? Whatever it is - think about it and plan it out.

Tips: Look at magazines, old records, YouTube videos of your favorite artists, look at art! Anything to inspire image.

Banter on stage: Whether you’re a talkative artist or not, and even it if it’s not part of your image to say much, that is fine; but do at least acknowledge and say hello to the crowd and thank them for coming/being there. Your audience, the venue staff, bands, bookers etc., just like you, all took their time to come out and be there. If it’s a new market or new venue, know that your representing yourself and these people are taking their time to listen to you.

Tips:

Without being too rehearsed - so it doesn’t feel unnatural, think of some things to say to the crowd that you can fit between songs. Funny things that happened that day, brief stories behind the songs, ask the crowd how they’re doing, thank them for coming, tell them about the merch you have for sale, tell them about your next show, what you have in the works, thanking the other bands and the promoter who booked you, thanking the venue, be creative! (*Also you don’t have to talk after every song either - this will get tiresome for both you and the crowd. Find a natural flow and read the room!)

Product: You’re going to want to prepare to give your audience something to remember you by. They will want to take home something if they liked your performance. Before you play your show get some stickers made, buttons, wristbands, lighters, or even something small along these lines that are cheap to produce and cheap to sell with your name on it.

Tips:

- If you’re first starting out try a small run of t-shirts to see how they do! You can always print more. You can also try painting them yourself with a print screener or fabric paint.

- If you don’t have a recording finished yet, make sure all your social media sites are up so people can find you in the meantime and you’ll be able to tell them the url at the show.

- You could make a small home demo tape or even just one acoustic song single on a CD that you could give out or make into a free download to give to your new fans. You could also put a couple acoustic videos of songs up online and give out music business cards with your social media links and a link to the videos as well.

Website Tips & Social Media site suggestions:

- Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, SoundCloud, Squarespace (custom websites), Wix, GoDaddy & Register.com

- Merch & Duplicating Sites: Halfpriced Buttons, Sticker Guy, Hollywood Disc, CD Baby

Prep before show tips: Do all the guitars and pedals have charged batteries? Find out what the backline is at venue (do they already have a house drum kit or amps). Make sure to pack your tuner, extra strings, your capo, extra cables that you know work, and that your stage clothes are clean in time for the gig!

Before you step on stage for the first time Ask yourself these questions:

⁃ Are the songs sounding good and is our gear sounding good?

⁃ Have we rehearsed recently? Is the band all on the same page?

⁃ Do we have a setlist that is cohesive and flows nicely?

⁃ Are our instruments in working order and comfortable to play?

⁃Do we look like a band?

⁃ Do we have stage banter/things to say to the audience?

⁃ Do we have a thing or two that is cheap to sell or give away at our march table?

There’s nothing more magical than playing music live and sharing that with people - so put your heart into the process - you probably did when you wrote your first song! Also recall the first time you saw your favorite band or artist live. It was probably a night you’ll never forget - give YOUR crowd that same feeling!

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  Photo: Concretegrey  

Photo: Concretegrey  

Writing & preparing songs

Whether you have just started playing or you have been in bands for years and you’re starting a fresh project, writing strong and thoughtful material will always rise above all else.

Creativity comes in so many ways and at so many different times - lyric ideas can come while walking outside, while in the shower, while talking to people, while seeing live music, melodies can come while sitting in traffic, or doing things free-flowing. Great parts of songs can come to life from 20 minute jams with different players (Tip* be sure to record it and listen back later!), from poetry notebooks, after seeing an amazing inspiring movie or even after reading books & local news! Concepts, music and lyrics have endless possibilities and there are no rules regarding how they come to be. Most of the time ideas will likely come at very inconvenient times! Be sure to mark it down wherever you can, sing it to yourself in a voice memo or voicemail, use a notepad or text yourself. The idea might leave or be quickly be forgotten (we live in a very busy age!) so whatever it is write it down right away! It doesn’t matter if you’re punk, pop or a heavy metal band... Song material can come from literally anywhere. When you’re building your band or self as a solo artist, whether to prepare for playing shows or to record your first CD, you’re going to need some songs! And some great ones for that matter!

Writing Tips:

- What genre are you? Who are the successful bands or artists in your genre that inspire you? What makes their songs great? Try studying & taking note of their arrangement (i.e intro, verse, chorus etc) to get ideas as well as their approach lyrically (are they clear, do they tell a story, are the words simple or is more poetic or cryptic)

- It can be easier sometimes to start with a song title or even a message you’re trying to convey and branch off from there.

- What inspires you? Are there certain places around you that you know bring creativity or inspiration? Are there certain activities that you do that get that creative energy going or put your mind in a close-to meditative state? Be open to these places and actions and write down what you’re thinking about.

- When you’re first starting out you may want to consider writing some goals for yourself or together as a band so you have at least 6-10 songs to pick from to play your first show.

(Typically most live acts will get a time slot of 25 mins-45 mins to fill, so your material will need to cover this time. Also for acts that play loud full band shows you may want to consider having the ability & flexibility to play your songs acoustic / at lower volumes for particular shows or even for recordings - one acoustic for your record to show diversity or have a couple extra for marketing- like a free download or Alt version of a song *of course there are exceptions, for example - if you’re a metal band & that is not your direction). Additionally, you’ll want to include and prepare the time in between songs on stage for conversation and banter.

So how do you know which songs should stick? It’s hard to know sometimes before playing them out and before a crowd reacts.

Asking yourself these questions about each song might help start you in the right direction when making a set list:

Is this particular song one you always look forward to playing? The audience wants to hear songs that you enjoy yourself!

How relatable is the song? Does the melody of the song match it’s mood/lyrics? If it’s a sad song & a quiet moment in a bridge will people feel that? People will pay attention if it’s something they can relate to.

Will people be able to sing along, dance, or bob their head to the song?  Either way, whatever it’s about, mean it when you sing it! Play it 100% because people will feel it!

If the melody is catchy enough, most likely in a live setting the words won’t even matter and people will connect and move their head to the beat anyway!

Ultimately it’s not about pleasing your audience, but it’s about giving your audience an experience and music they’ll remember - We are all humans with feelings and that is how we relate. It’s about opening up, sharing your honest emotions, yourself and creations that you’re proud of with people who have opened their ears to it. For the Every crowd will react differently, and every room will have a different vibe. It is important to believe in each one of your songs genuinely so it’s not up to anyone else if it’s a hit or not. If you don’t believe in it, leave it out, more songs will come to you. Focus on the songs you believe in and make them really great. That way others will start to believe in them too.

 (Photo by CJ Lucero) 

(Photo by CJ Lucero) 

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Press Photos

Press photos are a must when establishing your band online and elsewhere. We live in such a visual day and age, and they matter now more than ever. Press photos give your audience an idea about your music. They should excite listeners about hearing your songs and should represent you and your sound as closely as they can.

Last week we talked about image - this image that you’ve created for yourself will carry over into your social media and all marketing (online & off), which often includes press photos. No matter what level you’re at, blogs, podcasts, radio, contests, labels, PR, social media sites, and venues will use your photos for promotion and a whole lot more! Even pitching your band for particular things will often require one. Your fans will recognize you by these photos as well.

So where do you begin? First, think - what do you want to come across through your look? Intensity? Chaos? Peacefulness? Friendliness? Frustration? Openness? Color? Clean cut? Distress? Glamour? Beauty? Seduction? What is your music about? Be the visual for your sound so people don’t get confused! Make it clear and cohesive. This visual will last and evolve as you do - whether it is a live shot by a professional photographer or a photoshoot somewhere. Be mindful of the whole frame - what is the background? What is the vibe? Does it match your music? Try to get creative & think beyond cliche (think more than railroad tracks, brick walls, etc. - expand!) Be inspired but also original and be sure to capture your true essence. If it’s not right the first time… Do it again!

You will want various shots to choose from and fresh ones to use to keep your audience engaged (they will be used for different content: social media to post over time or online marketing/building, cd covers & merch items, fliers, posters, various press and profile pictures). Use shots that are relevant to you now. Your images and press materials should be cohesive and relevant with your current album cycle.

Photo Tips:

- look at your favorite bands or artists in CDs, Magazines & Books. What makes their image connect with you and why do you connect with their music immediately? Look at everything! (background, wardrobe, stance, angle, emotion, etc.)

- look at the most successful bands & artists (regardless of if they’re a favorite of yours or not). How does their image correlate with their music?

- Look at Art, Fashion, History & beyond music.

Example: The Beatles, Adam Ant, and Freddie Mercury have all worn military jackets - that image is so implanted in our minds that when some of us see that jacket elsewhere we may think of them.

Other examples: Think about some classic 70’s harder-edged bands. Their music was slightly darker but still accessible - most of the successful ones wore mostly black and were even influenced by historical things or religious symbols. (Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin) or even think of 90’s/2000’s contemporary Marilyn Manson. He mixed his image with these aspects and make up - similarly to 60’s/70’s artist Alice Cooper. Both Alice Cooper and Marilyn Manson could’ve been influenced by flamboyant women wearing make up in the 1600’s, as well as classic clown make up.

- If you’re inspired by other artists, be inspired but also try to do something that’s not exactly the same and expand on the idea! Meaning, bring something else in visually because people want to connect with you! They already have that other artist :)

New bands:

Consider doing shoots where you make direct eye contact with the camera since people are just getting to know you! Consider waiting on the sunglasses unless it’s your thing/part of your image. People can connect a great deal by looking into your eyes. That’s where a lot of the emotion is!

Side note: If you’re going to use a live shot that someone took - always be sure to credit them. They are artists just like you! This goes for when using a shot someone else took for your social media posts, magazine write-ups, newspaper articles, posters, etc. Communicate with the photographer about their rate for non-watermark photos if you need something without a watermark to use online.

Lastly, don’t settle for a lousy photo just to have one up! A lot of times aspiring photographers need subjects to shoot - and a lot of times it’s for free or for a low cost. There is no excuse to having lousy photos! You can even set up your own camera on a tripod, find a location, and take a press shot. You are worth it. If you want people to take the time to experience your work - take the time so you can give them something great. Create something beautiful, powerful, inspirational, and something that will last the test of time! Why wouldn’t you?

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Intro to Imaging (on stage & off)

In this day and age of music, things are constantly evolving and moving fast. It’s happening so quick that it can be hard to catch up with social media sites and all the new music avenues constantly popping up. It can be overwhelming to some artists, especially for those who are just comfortable being songwriters that would rather perform than brand and market themselves. Either way you can’t afford to just get up on stage and play your song. You have to give people an experience—you can’t afford to be shy about your music or your message - you have to get it out there and stick out of the crowd!

Artists today have to create their own path and have a very clear vision. One must re-invent themselves constantly in order to keep up. As hard and as challenging as the world of music can seem, it can also be looked at positively to those who adapt and move with it like a chameleon. It’s an opportunity to make your own career whatever direction you want and find your own nitch. 

Your perspective is important. It is helpful for one to look at his or her art as a “brand.” Although things are not how they were in the 60’s, 90’s, or even ten years ago, one thing has stayed the same: people still go to live shows. Live music will never go away! With the pressure of these new times, artists and bands should be creative because they have to be more than just a band or artist playing their instruments. Be conscious of how you’re presenting yourself on stage, off stage and online. Pictures, content and activity are important as they help with momentum. Keep the engagement with your crowd and audience as it is a necessity!

When it comes time to play live, make sure that your band looks like a band! Be yourself, but put some extra time and care into how you present yourself. Audiences want to connect with you so please show you care. If you’re performing later on in the night you want to make sure that the crowd sticks around to see you.

When it comes time to do photo shoots or posts, keep your goals in mind. Think about the moment someone hears your song… what might they envision you to look like? If they see you at a club at your merch table before your show, what might they imagine your music to sound like?

Live Show Tips

- Put thought into what you’re wearing and have fun with it! Don’t just wear your everyday clothes. Set yourself apart.

- Make eye contact and open up in an authentic way (this may take time).

- Acknowledge the audience, say hello! You don’t have to do it after every song but at least twice during your set - let them know that you see them.

Press Photos / Video Tips

- No matter what genre, in photoshoots try to do at least one photo where you make direct eye contact.

- Make sure the camera you are using takes good, clear photos! No one wants to see a blurry press shot!

- If you’re a new artist or band make sure you’re featured or present in the content so people can connect. Of course there’s exceptions... if you wear masks or if it’s an animation, etc.

- If you come up with a particular way you or your bandmates dress that is signature to you and your music, you may want make sure it’s always carried over to your videos & photos.

In conclusion: By putting care into how you present yourself and by wearing your art just as much as you sing it, people will want to stick around and experience it. When your music and your look go hand in hand it is easy for an audience to instantly connect with you. Think about the artists you’re inspired by… how do they look and present themselves? How does their sound match their look? Be yourself, be clear and simple, and the right people will resonate with you!

  (photo credit: Concretegrey & Carissa Johnson)     

(photo credit: Concretegrey & Carissa Johnson)  

Show Etiquette

Playing a show involves a lot of extra things besides being on stage and playing your songs. From the time you arrive at the venue to the time you leave, a lot goes on and it’s important to be conscious of how you’re presenting yourself. Keep in mind what your goals are. Most likely it involves performing the songs you wrote and sharing them with the world. There will likely be other acts on the bill as well and they have a similar goal in mind, playing their songs in front of a crowd. At the start it can be difficult to find that crowd to perform in front of but that’s why it’s important to stay the length of a show and watch the other acts. In a way you have to be the audience before you can expect to have one of your own! It all comes down to being respectful, and putting care into what you do. Let the other bands know you care about them and will give their work a listen, and they’ll likely stay to give yours a listen too.

A few tips & suggestions with shows when you first arrive to a show:

Find the booker, sound or production person and introduce yourself. Biggest suggestion - regardless of what other people do, if a booker or venue asks you to show up at a particular time for load in / sound check, don’t roll in right before you play! ...And don’t be late. However if you are running late, contact (however you communicated to book the show) the venue or booker to let them know. It’s respectful. You have to treat music like a job, and you wouldn’t show up to your job late!

For up coming or long time bookers and promoters: if you’re located in the same town where you book, be the point person and show up to the venue for the show. Too often there is a gap in communication between the venue and promoter where there’s no point person and people don’t respect the artists who could be traveling many miles. Some artists base their whole day around taking off from work early or cancelling plans / getting rides and/or equipment for a gig. To show up and find no one there and no one in communication makes things very difficult! Please respect what you do & act like you care.

If you’re serious about music here are some other tips:

- treat people how you want to be treated!

- respect requested time slots. (load in, set length)

- artists: be kind to the sound person, their job is not easy & vice versa: engineers try to be friendly to the artists so they’re comfortable

- be friendly & have a great attitude! Your like a business-card but in person. People will remember.

- if you’re open to it, always share your equipment! At some point you might really need an amp or cable! Most of the time people are exactly like you & might need an extra hand if their equipment broke last minute.

- have merch so you start thinking like a business and have products available, something for people to take home as a momento. Also: don’t force your merch on people! Do let them know it’s available though.

In addition to show etiquette you can also carry your support further by almost living a daily musician etiquette- supporting local artists & bands by even going to shows that you aren’t playing, buying merch from touring acts & always remember - you are the face of your brand so do everything you do with care/heart.

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Making Goals & figuring out who you are as an Artist or Band

Goal making & having a message is a very important first step, even before creating & writing songs because finding/figuring out your goals, messages & purposes as an artist or band will help you write songs that reflect that. Of course there’s also the natural progression of a band or song writer...naturally writing songs & playing a couple first shows, jamming with people, having a couple bandmates & figuring out over time what it is that everyone wants. If you can take a little time to ask yourself these questions when you’re first starting out or if you even have played for years defining this sooner than later should help eliminate a lot of road blocks especially as you grow bigger. People shouldn’t tell you who you are. You should tell them & this should be the case for most of your career. For example, if you’re working with management or a label marketing team, you should be working with them & communicating your vision that way they can do a great job & come up with ideas. Another example is you might be communicating to a possible producer you may work with so you’ll want to be as clear as possible telling them your ideal sound & also what you stand for. Of course there’s collaboration- that’s what bands, working with people & life is about! You can work as a team defining these things!

What’s your goal as a band or artist? Do you want to tour? What do you want your recordings to sound like? Do you have a message that reflects in your band’s image (how you dress, your art & logos). Do you want to just play once a month weekend shows? Do you just want to record & release songs online & not tour? Do you want your songs on the radio? Do you just want to play solo but have a drummer once in awhile? If so would you hire them or is it a band? Or do u want to build a band? Do you want to write for other artists? There are countless questions you can ask & the more you define them the more you’ll know & be clear on your goals, vision, as well as message.

Your message is what you’ll carry throughout your path as an artist. It’s what will connect you to your audience, your fans, your fellow musicians/bands, and to opportunities down the road. Look at it as a road map for the future, envision how you want your music and yourself to be perceived and received by your audience. This will help in defining your goal. Your goal will be a good indicator of what you’ll need to do in order to reach a certain market and what your path will entail. If you set out to write songs and perform them in front of crowds, what genre do you most resonate with? Which venues would make the most sense for you to begin playing at? Especially if you’re an act just starting out in your home town —Find other bands or artists on a local level who are doing what you envision yourself doing and connect! Go to shows, big and small, and take note of what inspires you. Why do YOU belong on that stage? What do YOU have to offer?