Volunteers? Not the Jefferson Airplane song….


Ok readers I am looking for volunteers to submit a track or two of their music. It will appear on the site in my blog. I will then dissect the track and criticise ( or praise) songwriting, performing, recording etc.  If you decide to do this you should be thick-skinned and brave since I will most likely beat the stuffing out of your music before I am finished.  In return for volunteering to be publically humiliated you will get seen (actually heard) by a few thousand readers and get valuable advice from an old pro. I will also solicit comments from readers to round things out.

As I have stated numerous times I will not listen to demos since I would be deluged with music and have no time to do the blog which is the most helpful thing I can do for you. If interested send an mp3 that is less than 5 minutes long. The limit is one song per band or writer. In the email please make some sort of statement that says you are willing to have your stuff posted on the site and that you will not cry like a baby when I beat up your music. Send the music to ciceroqpublic(at)yahoo.com. I will collect songs for a few weeks then pick out one or two to post on the site. This should be a good way to wrap up the first series of blogs about recording. So everyone put their best Riff forward and we’ll all learn something about succeeding at rock…….

Brad Morrison

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Recording Gear A -Z, Z – A and other stuff……


I have been recording since the late seventies.  Yes, I know, that was just after they invented electricity and disco.  In those days we would rub two sticks together to make tape and then use the steam powered whatchamacallit to rev up the Edison light bulb.  Ah the good old days. Now all of these funky things are contained on your laptop so you do not need to know anything about all that strange gear from distant days when hobbits roamed the woods.  Actually the opposite is true. In order to use all of the little bells and knobs on modern recording software YOU MUST UNDERSTAND OLD GEAR! If you don’t you will never get the great sounds that are possible with modern software.

All of the modern software was created by people that understand the old gear.  Not only do they understand it they worship it that’s why–It’s all made to look like old gear. It’s all made to operate like old gear. And most important they try really hard to make it sound like old gear. I don’t think they succeed but I am prejudiced since I grew up recording on classic gear.

In this blog, or it may end up being multiple blogs, I will cover all the boxes and knobs and wires and crap that make a studio a studio.  I will attempt to explain things in a way that a beginner will understand at the same time I will attempt to cover things in a way that will allow  someone with experience to get some tricks and techniques. We will all see if I can pull it off. I sure hope I can do it since I bragged to a friend recently that I could and he will remind me regularly if I screw it all up and just end up confusing everyone.

Ok enough rambling and prep, let’s get started. 

The recording studio is intimidating to most people. It the most common scenarios the only person that seems at home there is the engineer. The reason he is at home and comfortable is he understands what all the boxes do, what all the knobs and dials do and mean. I hope that by the end of this series of blogs you will know most of these too. Then, as you get more relaxed and less intimidated you can settle in and have more fun, and really focus on playing great which is what the studio is supposed to be about.  Further if you start to understand the gear and how recording is done you can use the studio to bring out the best in your music.

Here’s a basic studio concept. There are INS and OUTS. In the studio music is turned from music bouncing around the universe into electric signals bouncing down a wire.  In the air music is waves traveling through the air. When it is turned into electric signals it is still (in some important ways) the same shape waves. I know this isn’t strictly true but for this section we will assume that the waves bouncing around the room turn into little waves traveling down the wire.

Just like water flowing through a pipe the electric signal has a direction.  Once again, get this straight, it travels along a wire in one direction. Because of this simple fact when you plug things together in the studio OUTS get connected to INS  and through the dedicated work of little elves  INS get connected to OUTS. This is really simple and you know this right. OK, well remember that you know this and this rule doesn’t get broken when you can’t figure out how to wire together a whole pile of kooky boxes together.  For example you might not know what a COMPRESSOR TRIGGER INPUT does but….yes, you got it and OUT is going to get plugged into it.  Sometimes in an effort to confuse you and piss you off they will change the names of INS and OUTS.  Pretty cruel of them huh? Well one way they change them is to call the out a SEND and the in a return.  Now the crazy studio math looks like   INS=RETURNS    OUTS=SENDS. This is the most common way they will attempt to hide these simple words.  Believe me studio engineers work really hard and use every ounce of their pea brains to come up with confusing ways to say the same thing.  Here’s another clever one — INSERT—. what the hell is that? Well, if we had to take a guess we might say Hmmmm, let’s see its got the word IN in it so maybe its an IN and we would be correct.  Ok got that straight? It’ll come up again and again and appear on the final test.(that’s the one that you take a 2:15 am in your buddy’s basement when you’re trying to wire up six mics, a small sound board, a reverb pedal  and a computer with recording software)

All of these basics are extremely important. If you are not a beginner you can skip them but you may actually learn something if you follow along.  I’m gonna try to surprise you know it all guys ’cause I’m one of those know it alls too.

The studio has hundreds and hundred and maybe thousands of knobs.  It is really confusing to look at until someone tells you that all of them are basically volume knobs. Yup, believe it or not all of those billions of little knobs are to turn something up or down.  That concept, that idea will get stretched as we go on but in the end they are just volume controls. If you can turn up your car stereo to make your ears bleed and drown out your buddy retelling that same damn story then you can run a studio.

If we look around the studio we see lots of knobs and also buttons.  Buttons and switches do one thing. They turn something on or off.  So that’s it. That’s all there is in a studio. I know it’s hard to believe but a studio is composed of two basic controls. Volume controls and Switches.  This allows you to do all the cool stuff that a studio can do.

These two simple controls control lots of complex stuff. Since there is only these two controls this forces all of the fancy complex equipment that is part of the studio to focus the way they are controlled in very simple ways.  This is good for you and me because it allows us to look at a piece of gear scratch our head and think about making it work in a pretty simple  system of  “try this”  not good…. hmm “try that” ohh that’s good.  Using this simple trial and error we can figure out all of the gear in the studio. It really is that simple. Whenever you are stuck, it’ll happen often, think of these basics and work up from these couple of ideas. No matter what happens this is the way studio gear works and often in confusing situations it will save your ass…………..Hmmm………….let’s see…. I’m not hearing anything…..let’s look in the back…the main control room monitor OUTput is plugged into the Crown 100 watt studio monitoring amplifier…..oh, it’s plugged into the LinkOUTput.. That can’t be right …Out’s go to Ins…Hmmm Let’s try plugging it into the unbalanced line INput and see what happens….Wow! that was easy.

Now later on I am going to correct myself and explain in detail why the knobs are not all volume knobs but for the moment we will stick with that definition.

Let’s start where all the sound in the studio starts it’s journey the Microphone.

Microphones are the basic piece of gear that are used to capture sound waves from the air and turn them into electrical signals that flow down a wire into the mixing board.  Mics are made up of a magnet and a diaphragm.  It’s interesting to note that speakers are made up of a magnet and a diaphragm. You can actually use a speaker as a mic. (Just ask the CIA) There is a legend that the Beatles got the great bass sound on taxman by using a bass speaker cabinet as a mic. They placed the cabinet up tight against the bass cabinet that was playing and then ran a wire from the speaker jack to the mixing console.  I’ve tried it. It’s tough to get it to not buzz but it does sound amazing.  The Beatles also taped headphones to violins and used them as microphones.

There are our basic types of mics.  Omnidirectional, Cardoid, Bi-Directional, and Stereo microphones.

Let’s start with Omnidirectional normally called Omni. This microphone picks up sound in every direction. If you point the mic straight at the ceiling it will pick up all sound in the whole room. It’s pattern looks like this

All of this technical stuff is fascinating but what is it used for? Some typical uses are to pick up the sound of the room adding space and depth to a recording. To do this there is usually a mic that is up close to a guitar cabinet and the omni mic is placed out in the room to catch all of the reflected sound and reverb from the room. The two mics are either put on one track or recorded separately so you can monkey around with it in the mix.

Another classic use of this kind of mic is to have a group of people stand around it to sing background vocals. This will often give you a big, blended sound of the voices. Another use would be to place it in the space between the strings and the lid of a grand piano.

Example EV 635A ( a classic, I own two)

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The next variety is called the Cardoid. It’s pattern is heart shaped like this:

Here it’s shown like an upside down heart. This is the most common kind of mic out there.  They are everywhere.  The reason that they are so popular is that they sound great, they are NOT THAT SENSITIVE so they only pick up what’s close to the mic and in front of the way it is pointing and they can be built to be bulletproof.

Now there is an important thing to know about Cardoid mics. They have a neat flaw.  It’s called the proximity effect.  That’s a fancy name for the fact that the closer you get to this mic the more bottom or bass frequencies the mic generates. It’s not picking up these frequencies it’s actually creating them.  So why is that so cool? Well if you get close to this mic and sing IT MAKES YOU SOUND LIKE GOD! These are common stage mics and often people skip over these mics in the studio to use a more expensive mic. This is a mistake.  Lots, and lots, and lots of hit records have been sung on Cardoid mics. Specifically the Shure sm58. They also sound great on guitar cabinets, bass cabinets and snare drums.  Another nice feature of these mics are that they can handle tons of volume without falling apart.  If you had to pick one mic to own pick a sm58. Another great choice is an EV RE20 or EVPL20 they are basically the same mic. I don’t know why they have different letters.

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Bi directional mics have a pattern that looks like and 8 like this:

this mic is most commonly used for background vocals with two people. They stand on either side of the mic. Many microphones have a little switch that lets you pic which pattern you would like to  use and they usually include this pattern.  This kind of mic also works well on Leslie Cabinets and near twin floor toms.

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So now we come to stereo microphones. Stereo microphones pick up sound while preserving the stereo image. What the hell does that mean? Well when you hear with your ears you can sense direction. If you turn your head you can tell that the sound has moved. Engineers say that it has a place in the stereo field. Basically you’ve got two channels side by side in your head. As you move your head the sound gets louder in one channel and softer in the other.  Stereo mics do the exact same thing. They are recorded on two channels and are extremely realistic. These kind of mics are used for vocals, drums, acoustic guitars, background vocals and many more things. They are also very expensive.

There is an easy way to fake a stereo mic using two standard Cardoid mics.  If you point two Cardoid mics towards each other and make sure that the angle between them is 90° then record them on two channels when played back they will create a type of stereo recording. This is called x,y stereo and is very common in pro recordings.

Well that covers the basic classifications of mics there is still a little more to finish in the basics. If you go to buy a mic the salesman will say “Are you looking for condenser? Does your board have phantom”. Yes he is trying to sound important but he is really asking something important. condenser mics are mics that require electricity to function. They must be plugged in in order to pick up sound. Any mic that needs that is called a condenser. This can be done in two ways. One is to have battery in the mic or a power supply that comes along with the mic. All mics require 48 volts. The other way is to get power from the mixing board. This is referred to as phantom power.  All mics use a three wire XLR cable. When you turn on the phantom power using the button on the board labeled “Phantom Power”  it send juice down one of those wires so the mic gets power.  Unpowered mics just ignore the electricity and the condensers come to life.

Some closing comments on mics. Mics are extremely important in recording. Expensive mics can sell for $10,000. A really great mic sell for about $2000. You do not need to spend that much money to make great recordings.  By far the most important thing to make a great band recording is FOR THE BAND TO SOUND GREAT.  I will say this again and again. To sound great in the recording you must first get a great sound with your instruments.  A simple Gibson plugged straight into a marshall or fender amp that is adjusted properly will sound great.  Almost any mic will capture that sound. If your guitar sound is not so hot the greatest mic on earth won’t fix it.

Lots more on studio gear and recording in coming weeks. I’m just getting started and it’s a big topic.

Learn to make a great recording and you are on your way to Succeeding at Rock.

©Brad Morrison/Billiken Media 2010

Classified Madman!, the greatest goddamn f##king band of all time!


In the late eighties I signed a band to my record label.This band, the Vestrymen, were a jangly guitar pop band from Amherst Massachusetts. Now I have quite a few insane stories about this band including but not limited to How they came to give me autographed photo of the band members naked whilst tripping in the woods, How the drummer tried to kill me over a misrouted tape of loop of Ingrid Bergman and last but greatest the story of the greatest rock prank of all time the story of John-O! Tonight’s story has nothing to do with any of the sordid tales instead it concerns something that The Vestrymen discovered in a paper in Providence Rhode Island while on tour. Like any bored musician on the   road they were scanning the musicians wanted section of the paper and ran across an ad.

  The Vestrymen had a gargantuan appetite for drugs. Bless them they were stoned rock n roll stars. Imagine that! As a result, like all rural stoners they lived in a semi secluded ranch house in the Berkshires. (that’s part of Massachusetts that doesn’t appear on any maps of America. At least any maps of America that outline the places in America where Americans have jobs, work and suffer from common sense) This ranch house developed a legendary status as a crash pad, party house with the usual mix of midget luggage and imaginary teen runaways. Oh wait a minute. Sorry, I suddenly drifted into the story of John -O. Damn.

This ranch house, nick named the Ruby Ranch, was a standard rock crash pad party house.  The refrigerator in the Ruby Ranch was covered by a mix of tour memorabilia and in the midst of this chaos was THE classified ad.    What follows is a word for word transcription of the ad. I’ve included a scan of the ad at the end of the blog but it’s difficult to read, hence the transcription.  Now as you read this keep in mind that the writer was PAYING BY THE WORD. A typical ad like this in the eighties might have cost $20.00 for the first twenty words and then .25 per word thereafter. Since the Ad has 888 words this puts the printing charge around $235!  This man had a dream and he was going to back it up with his wallet. I recently wrote to one of the band members asking for him to dig up this gem of rock madness.  It stands as definitive proof what ten thousand spins of “Houses of the Holy” will do to a young, impressionable mind……………..


Utopian Band

Do you sometimes stay up late at night and dream that you are a member of the greatest rock and roll band of all time? I do, and I want to make that dream come true. I am 21 years old and want to be the lead vocalist. I have no experience, but I am extremely ambitious and intelligent. Ninety percent of my music spectrum includes the following bands. Heavy on Led Zeppelin and the Doors, while I am also into the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, the Moody Blues, U2, Sting, Pink Floyd, the Monkees and the Rolling Stones. To put this band together I need a lead guitarist, a bassist, a drummer a keyboardist and someone who can play the synthesizer. You must be able to unleash the raw power on your instrument that it would take to form a magical, mystical, eternal, everlasting sound that will rock an entire planet. How good can we be? Put it this way, there are 5 billion people in the world. Now imagine a kickass construction crew has just built a stadium that when full to capacity will hold 5 billion people. In every city and every town the word is being passed around the greatest band in the Universe is playing there.  The stadium sells out and everybody has the time of their lives. I am into freedom, liberty, peace, nuclear and conventional disarmament, a central world economy, one world language (English) and for everybody in humanity through the power of music to be mutually happy and satisfied. I follow the teachings of Jesus Christ, Martin Luther King, Confucius, Mahatma Gandhi, Plato, Aristotle, Socretes, Goethe, Sartre, Camus, Rimbaud,Nietzsche,Buddha, Mohammed and many people in the bible. I am not a deeply religious person but I have read the Bible from Genesis to Revelations at least 15 times. Some of the group songwriting we should do should come from experiences in the Bible. I really want to get to know you people very well, therefore we should get together and find a house to rent with a large basement so we can jam there. I am very intense when it comes to practicing. I believe we should practice at least eight hours a day, seven days a week. I have a complex yet simple ideology on life. I believe people should move to a world democracy, collaborate, consolidate and over-all contribute 100 percent to humanity as one society without war or conflict. The U.S.A. and her allies have about 10,000 megatons of atomic weapons, and the Soviet Union and her allies have 10,000 megatons of atomic weapons. There are about 1,000 20 megaton nuclear bombs between the superpowers. The are also about 50,000 smaller nuclear warheads in the world.  A 20 megaton bomb within a radius of 15 miles turns everything into molten lava; at 30 miles people are set on fire and burnt to a crisp, at a 100 miles people are permanently blinded. Nuclear strike zones in Rhode island are Newport, Quonset Point and Providence.  This will never happen, but I don’t like living under the threat of total destruction.Through the powers of the United Nations and the recent signing of the INF treaty and the successful summits between the USA and Russia, relations are at an all time high. Disarmament and development are two of the most urgent challenges facing the world today. They constitute priority concerns of the international community in which all nations developed and developing, big and small, nuclear and non-nuclear have a common and equal stake. Disarmament and development are two pillars on which enduring international peace and security can be built. The arms race is absorbing far too great a proportion of the world’s human, financial and natural and technological resources placing a heavy burden on the economies of all countries and affecting the international flow of trade, finance and technology in addition to hindering the process of confidence building among nations. Thus, there is a commonality of interests in seeking security at lower levels and finding ways of reducing these expenditures. I smoke marijuana and hashish to explore the deepest realms of the human condition.I believe time has no beginning and no end, life and the joy of living are infinite. I am a vegetarian and take vitamins for good health. I meditate to find inner tranquility. I would like to rent out this house on the east side of Providence and eventually move to New York. The house must have a huge basement that we can jam in. I must stress the intensity that I am looking for in you people. The lead guitarist must have the sheer power of Jimi Hendrix. The Bassist like John Paul Johns. The drummer like Ringo Starr. The keyboardist like Ray Manzarek. And the synthesizer player must play like the almighty God. I don’t want to do any covers. I just want to write songs and be as totally original as possible. It is extremely important that each band member can powerfully sing in harmony on backup vocals. Together we can put together the greatest goddamn fucking band of all time! This ad has appeared in Providence, Boston, New York, Chicago, Detroit, Dallas, Cleveland, Philadelphia, Houston, Miami,Memphis, New Orleans, Tampa, Orlando, Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Diego, Buffalo, Rome London, Dublin, Paris, Moscow and Peking.


 

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It’s interesting to note that he fails to give any clue as to how to contact him. A slight oversight on his part.  I believe he is still waiting to for the kick ass construction crew. How can you fail to admire this guy’s ambition?

 

 

Copyright Brad Morrison/Billiken Media 2010

Lesson #17 Hit records are free, recording and your band……………………………


Recording with your band is damn important. In fact many musicians see recording as the core purpose of being in a band.  I, on the other hand, see being in a band as a balance between the studio and the stage. So far this blog has been about the stage and touring. Now I am going to turn some of my attention to recording.

Over the past 15 years the role of recording has changed drastically. Twenty years ago making recordings which were then turned into albums was the primary road to getting rich. Having a gold or platinum album on your wall told the world that you were set, that you have made it. This has changed. The advent of downloading has destroyed the value of a successful record.  I won’t bother to discuss whether this is good or bad we will just accept it and move on. In today’s music scene a band’s recordings can make them money but the real riches must come from playing live since it’s the one thing that can’t be stolen.  Don’t get me wrong. Just because making a recording and then selling it to the world is no longer a way to get rich doesn’t mean that recording is in any way less important than it was in the past. Actually the opposite is true.

Recording technology has gotten ridiculously cheap. Everyone can afford it and everyone does buy it.  The end result of this major change is that recording gear is largely in the hands of amateurs. I am a big fan of amateurs. I also recognize that when it comes to recording amateurs don’t really know what they are doing.

What does all this do to the music that is being put out by bands? The quality of recordings is dropping. It is also a lot less likely that someone is going to spend 2 million dollars to lock a rock band away on some island paradise to make a record.  Why would they when the day the album is released it will downloaded tens of thousands of times? This is a major change. It also offers you, my reader, a golden opportunity.

Since amateurs rule the world now, being a talented, knowledgeable amateur will pay off.  Any recordings that you make in today’s market are essentially promotions tools. They may make you some money but that is no longer their purpose. Instead all recordings are sermons. When someone downloads your song or pops a disc in and turns their attention to your music you have the opportunity to convert them, forever, to your religion. The religion, of course, is you and your band.  (Now christian rockers don’t get all feisty over my overuse of a metaphor) How serious should you take that opportunity? Do you think you are going to get many chances with each fan?

So there it is, the new world of recording is deadly serious, and, at the same time, a brilliant opportunity. Let’s approach recording with that in mind and one, extremely important , additional attitude. As some background I have been recording music since 1977, mostly in professional situations. I have produced or produced and engineered hundred of sessions. I am not even sure what the true number is any more. In all that time I have learned one essential lesson. Recording music must be fun!

Look at it this way. There are many important things people do. Open heart surgery – very serious, extremely important, never fun. Airline Pilot same deal. Making a kicking rock record? Well that should be a party in your head. It should be a trip to the circus, a   nantucket sleigh ride ,a conga line full of pranksters,  a day in morning sunshine that never fails, a crystalline snapshot of talent, in short it should be awful fun. The attitude that a band has in a recording session goes down on tape as strongly as the kick drum and vocals.  So for Christ’s sake loosen up and have a good time. I’m sure some of you readers are saying to yourself  ‘my music isn’t fun! it’s heavy and dark’. Yeah, yeah I get it. The rule still applies.  When you listen to a really great heavy, dark , monster of a record, I’m talking a record that is flawless from track to track, you are hearing a great band RULE THE WORLD. Guess what, it’s all attitude.  What you are listening to is four or five egos standing in a studio, a long way from you, both in time and distance, and they are strutting their stuff and ruling the world INSIDE THAT STUDIO.  Take it from me because I’ve worked on some great sessions.  When a band is cutting a track like that the studio is electrified with energy, it’s their energy, the energy of the band and they know it, they know they are burning down the studio around them and, in the end, if you really look at it, it’ all attitude.

So right from the beginning you can set aside the school of recording philosophy where people spend 9 days and three hundred and twelve takes to cut a bass line. If you want to learn about recording from that angle go somewhere else. 

Throughout the eighties and nineties I listened to engineers and bands crazy theories about how to record.  After a few years and a thousand or so hours of studio time I started to be able to predict what a musician or engineer was going to say before they would complete the sentence and by the end of the paragraph I would know what obstacles I had to overcome by getting them to unlearn some really bad studio habits.  I now have enough experience that I’ve figured out how many of these bad habits got started and why, at some other time and some other place they made sense.  I will try my hardest to cover a complete list of known bad habits. I may not remember them all just sitting at my laptop but I hope if I keep writing about the studio and how records are made I will cover all of the important ones.

What kind of bad habits? Well I’ll shoot some holes in one to give you an idea of the kind of thing I will cover in this blog.  Also I should point out that my studio advice is not going to be based on just telling you what not to do. I’ll strive to tell you what to do and what not to do and, most importantly, give you some reasoning to back it up. I’ve learned enough about my personality, and how this blog is shaping up to know that sometimes I’m gonna say, “DO IT THIS WAY! JUST DO IT! WHY? DON’T ASK WHY, JUST TRUST ME!”. In that case just trust me.

So let kick off the Dear Abby Column Advice For Recording Bands with one of my personal pet peeves, CLICK TRACKS. Click tracks piss me off. I have seen them terrorize scores of bands and ruin hundreds of hours of high cost studio time. I’ve seen great, talented drummers fired because of click tracks.

Now ask yourself, if you’ve had a drummer in the band for three and half years and he has been fantastic. That is to say he has been fantastic as a drummer. His inevitable run ins with the cops and his habit of small scale arson are just quirks and don’t enter into this conversation. Now ask yourself why in the name of god would you fire this guy solely because he can’t play along with a click track? I’ve seen it happen, many times. This kind of action is classic band stupidity.

Let me straighten out the record. I have an advantage on this particular topic because I was recording BEFORE click tracks became common and, of course, I have seen 25 years of click track mania. I had to listen to lots of yahoos  and turd polishers lecture me why click tracks are the foundation of recording. Often, these idiots would back up their lecture with a fictitious history of the click track lecture. My reaction has always been to tell them to shut up and sit down. If this fails I point to the door and growl and, as a last desperate action have the road crew kick the stuffing out of them.

Click tracks came into the studio from DANCE RECORDS.  Remember disco? Of course you don’t. If you did you’d be as old as me. Well disco was a music movement that featured a steady 4/4 beat that clocked at 60 BPM, 80BPM,100BPM and 120BPM (that’s beats per minute) There was almost no change in tempo over the course of a whole record and never a tempo change within a song. It’s tempting to say that there was no tempo change in the whole decade of disco. 

Another new fad of the age of disco was the drum machine. Can you see where this is headed? No? Ok, I’ll lay it out. People were making records with drum machines playing a relentless steady beat and if that wasn’t being used they were looking for the drummer to play a relentless, unchanging, steady beat.  Since this was often, very, very hard to do engineers imported an idea from the world of classical music, the metronome. As another bit of background I will confess that from aged 7 until aged 16 I played classical piano. So I am extremely familiar with the proper use of the metronome.  Now think for a moment. Think of a classical orchestra, there’s the strings, the horns, the kettle drummer, the woodwinds and there up front, on a podium above the rest is a giant metronome. Wait a minute, that’s not right!? Oh yeah there is some crazy guy called a conductor in a penguin suit. He flails his arms around and has great trouble controlling his hair… yeah that’s the right picture. So why isn’t there just a giant metronome? Well, it seems that the METRONOME is a device for aiding the PRACTICE of music.  What orchestras do is PERFORM music.  This is quite a bit different. In fact a classical score is littered with wierd words in Italian, like  accelerando, ritardando, and oddly even Rallentando and Rubato. These wierd words mean go faster, go slower and oddly, get slower and slower and you been robbed! what? What the hell does that mean?  Rubato actually does mean robbed in Italian and the term is used for a tempo that is devoid of rhythm. Well that’s pretty strange isn’t it. Why would you need terms like that? After all music has a tempo and you play along with that tempo through fiery attacks of demons and assaults of fans throwing panties right? NO! Music changes time, tempo, rhythm, volume, cadence, rhyme, …I could go on for quite a while. For the sake of this blog let’s just say it gets faster and slower.  Don’t believe me? Take a classic rock record and set a metronome to it. You may run across a song with flat time but you’ll also run into many where the time varies . The reason a player works with a metronome is to learn to play flat time, when it is called for. This does not mean that all music, and certainly not all rock music, is performed in flat time.

Now I’m certain that I’m going to get email from people that have used click tracks. They will argue that in order to edit together different takes the band must be playing along to a click track.  Oh really? If that’s true how did every band prior to multitracking, that is too say 1969 turn out hit record after hit record using countless edits without it ever being heard? Well, actually if you spend much time editing music you start to be able to hear edits on all records but that’s beside the point.

So point one on recording, forget the damn click track. Instead the band should be gunning for just the right pacing. If the track picks up a little speed as you go into the bridge or slows down as you go to the anthemic, triumphant chorus that’s a good thing. This is the way music is played.

So now I’ve done it. I’ve started to write about work in the studio. I will continue on with this in coming weeks. I will try to talk about subtle things like getting the “right feel” on a track and nuts and bolts things like what the hell does a compressor do and why would I want that done to me?

One final topic for tonight’s blog.  It’s a big one and I will get started on it and it will come up in various ways from all kinds of angles.  What should my band’s recordings sound like? Seems like  stupid question doesn’t it? Well, if you do a decent amount of recording you will be faced with this question repeatedly.

On this topic I have some good solid advice for any band that still hasn’t made records that sell or moved up to larger shows with packed clubs, that is to say, most of you out there in interwebland. For the forseeable future your recordings should sound like your band does live. The other side of the coin is that your live show should sound like an extremely solid recording.  Even if you have a jam band this is true. As a band gets its act together (isn’t that clever use of words?? Geez i is so smart) the band should be striving to develop a strong sound and personality that defines the band on every level. Your fans should be able to hear a verse and chorus of a live tape or recorded track and say “Hey that’s Arterial Bleeding! I’d know that sound anywhere.” Yes there is a place for growing changing, throwing your audience a curve ball, going acoustic etc. but first you HAVE TO BECOME SOMETHING EXTREMELY POWERFUL AND CONCENTRATED.  Your band needs to have its own sound and this sound needs to be put down on tape.  As part of learning to do that I believe quite strongly that early recordings should be cut  live.  That is to say, everyone playing together in the studio at the same time.  Don’t worry about overdubbing your way through a record. At first you should cut tracks together and, as a result, learn to play together in the studio which is a completely different “feel” from playing together live on stage or in a practice.  If you’re about to record tell the engineer that you are going to set up live and cut the tracks with just a “scratch vocal as a guide track”. This will annoy him enough to keep him out of your hair and it should be a few more sessions before he finds the time and nervous energy to meddle by insisting that you add bad keyboard sounds on the chorus of every song.

If you doubt me listen to “The Who Live at Leeds” or “The Beatles Revolver”. Both albums have many edits but the sound on tape is a band playing together live and doing it ridiculously well.

Copyright Brad Morrison/Billiken Media 2010

Lesson #16 How to create an all ages show (pt 4)…………….


fishheads don't pay at the door!Well I’ve finally reached the fun part, putting on the show. In order to be successful the show itself has to work. This is not something that happens by chance.  The key is to run the show with and iron glove inside a velvet glove. I’m not sure where I stole that from, maybe it was some great dictator like Stalin.

Let me make one small point here before I get to practical stuff. Putting on a show like this will be a great help to a great many people. The guys in your band with benefit. They other bands will benefit.  The kids in town will be happier than pigs in shit to have a home-grown rock show. Even the venue might be happy to have a paying customer. As a result of helping all of these people out they will react in the following ways: jealousy, anger, envy, bitterness, complaint and in many cases will set about trying to undo you. I’m dead serious about this, don’t take it lightly.  You need to expect it, plan for it and most of all don’t let it bother you. It’s not actually about YOU it’s what you represent which is change and success. This makes people nervous and aggressive.  You will have more problems with the second attempt at a show than the first. The problems will come from people close to you as they try to steal your success or stop you from succeeding again. Don’t worry you have a jump on them and if you keep going you’ll be on to the next success before they’ve figured out how to undo your first triumph.

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Ye Olde Rules for the Running of Ye Olde Rock Show—-

1.There is a backstage area. This is an actual place. Only the bands and their immediate hangers-on get to go there. This place should give the bands privacy, security and ideally something to eat and drink. A loaf of bread with Peanut Butter and Jelly and two six packs of coke is better than nothing at all. It should also have towels. These will be filthy and damn near ruined by the end of the night. You can buy towels cheap at one of those bath supply houses that housewives love. You also might find cheap towels at a Salvation Army. After they have been used do not try to convert them for use by humans, they are only fit for musicians.

2. All bands are told a specific “load in time” and a specific “sound check time” and a specific “Set time”.  The day starts with load in which is around 3 hours before the doors open. All of the bands bring in their gear and get it organized into nice neat heaps.  Then two hours before doors open the sound checks begin. They start with the band that plays last. Then the band that plays in the middle and finally the band that will go on first. Each band gets 15 minutes to set up and fifteen minutes to sound check that’s it. This is not negotiable. The last band to sound check leaves their gear set up since they will be starting the show. All bands are told that all members of their band MUST be inside the venue at least 10 minutes before the time they go onstage. Tell them you will cancel them if this isn’t the case. (Don’t cancel them just threaten to)

3. All bands should play 35 – 45 minutes, no more, no less. If they can’t pull off that long a set then you shouldn’t have put them on the bill. If they want longer then they have too high an opinion of their value to the universe.  There is 15 minutes change over between bands.

4. Each band must bring along one guy that is at least called their roadie for the night. It is his job to help them carry gear not the staff of the show. It is his job to fix something that breaks. It is his job to revive fainted drummers.

5. There is no guest list. If they argue tell them your mom is paying, then make your mom pay. I’ve seen tons of shows go from making a profit to losing money due to idiot band members handing in 58 name guest lists.The only exception is me.  If I show up to your gig I’m on the guest list. I will say thanks but no thanks and pay at the door.

6 No one gets paid until 15 minutes after lights up. (that’s the official end of the show) If they bitch tell them this is true for stadium acts so why do they think they are so special.

7. All bands carry out their own gear and everything they bring in must be taken out, no exceptions. That includes that broken toy drum set that they used as a prop. The venue is not their dump.

8. All bad habits stay out of the venue. I’m assuming that this is an all ages show with underage bands and an underage audience. That means no drinking in the venue. That means no pot smoking in the venue. I’m not stupid enough to assume that every musician is going to go on stage sober but if someone gets caught inside the venue various adults will use this incident to shut you down. Make this fact known to everyone and post visible signs. Then, at least, you can argue that you tried to stop it.

Here’s a fake rundown of a fake show. The show is planned to go on between 8pm and 10:30 which is a half hour before the town’s noise curfew.

4 pm Load in for all bands. Sound man and sound system set up.

5 pm Sound checks start.

6:45 pm  Sound checks end

7:15 PM Doors open, (flyers advertise doors open 7pm) The venue is darkened. Music is playing on the sound system. The first band’s gear is all set up… People enter a darkened but not blacked out venue with music playing  and the stage set…..( this helps build the excitement and anticipation. always remember that Rock is a SHOW, it is a form of FICTION)

8 pm sharp A roadie brings out drinks and puts them down in strategic places on stage. (flyer’s say the show starts 8pm sharp)(this gets the audience ready to rock)

8:05 House and stage lights out. Sound system stops playing music.  If you are planning on having someone announce the show they take the stage and introduce the band and announce a few rules for the night. The backstage security person leads the band by flashlight onstage making sure they don’t fall down a bottomless pit or wander off.

8:06 pm First band goes on, lights come up, audience lights stay down.

8:50 pm first band ends. Stage lights go dark, house lights come up to 1/4, sound system switches to playing background music. Stage lights back up to one quarter and change over begins

9:05 House goes dark, second band takes the stage, lights up second band’s set begins.

9:45 Second band ends, Stage lights go dark, house lights come up to 1/4, sound system switches to playing background music. Stage lights back up to one quarter and change over begins

9:55  House goes dark, third band takes the stage, lights up third band’s set begins.

10:35 Third band’s set ends, House lights come up to full …..sound system starts to play end of night music. Security starts to yell at everyone to leave………..end of show

11:pm Count the door, pay the bands and then bands load out.

midnight Venue is locked up tight……………………

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Geez! What a Dandy!

Now notice a couple of things about this schedule. The first is that I give light cues. The ones I give are classic uses of lights to manage the crowd and the show. When the people arrive the venue is darkened and the music is playing. This gives them the impression of entering into a new world. The world you are going to stage for them. Always remember that what you are doing is putting on a show.  The second thing to notice is that I mention background music repeatedly. This, too, is part of the show. Make this music different then what is going to be played on stage. Different but not so different that the audience will hate it. If you have the opportunity get a dj involved. When I was on the radio this is a gig that I did repeatedly. A great DJ helps make for a great show.

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Running the door — I could write a whole book about running the door at a rock show. It’s a crazy job and kinda nerve-wracking.  Whoever is running the door is going to be handling lots of cash. This person must have their shit together and be sober and be absolutely 110% trustworthy. Ideally it should be you. At the beginning of the night the door person must have lots of small bills to make change. If the charge for the night is $8 then you damn well better have 60 singles and $100 in fives.  Remember all of the people will be handing you tens and twenties and expect change and expect it fast. Get used to it. Practice. If you have someone in the inner circle that has spent a year running a cash register they would be a good choice. 

When the person pays they get their hand stamped. Use something clever, cute and indelible. Don’t just put a magic marker slash on the back of their hand. If you do they will figure out how to transfer it to their friends before 10 people have gotten inside.  Sometimes it is best to have two people running the cash. One takes bills and makes change the other stamps hands and checks the person out.

This brings me to another touchy topic. Are you gonna search people? In many cases this may be decided up front by the venue.  Although I think it’s best not to have people armed with glass bottles at a show I loathe having people searched. I’m a freedom kinda guy. Either way decide before you start and post a sign. If you are gonna search women then it must be done by a woman.The next thing to consider is the policy on leaving the venue and then re – entering. Decide this before you start, post a sign and stick to it. Any other strategy will end in problems. The best choice you will discover is to allow no re-entry.  In general the only reasons people leave the gig and come back are reasons that bring problems. (Also keep your eyes open. Someone that comes and goes repeatedly is usually dealing drugs. I have no interest in arguing the morality of recreational drugs. I will say that having someone dealing drugs inside the show is putting the show and your ability to keep doing shows at risk. If you suspect someone is up to no good turn them away. If they make a stink hand them their money. Remember, you aren’t the federal government. YOU CAN REFUSE TO LET SOMEONE INTO YOUR SHOW. YOU DO NOT HAVE TO GIVE A REASON.)

It is best to use one of your security person at the door during the crucial time when the doors first open. They are there to check people out, give them the evil eye if they look like they are going to make trouble and squash any problems that come up from working the door. Take it from me, there are usually problems at the door.  Someone shows up too drunk to let in and now you’ve got a problem. A kid tries to talk his way in with six bucks when tix are 8 and you’ve got a problem. Someone doesn’t like being searched (it just so happens that he is carrying a three-foot bong under his coat) and there is a problem.

Next issue – security for the money. THIS IS IMPORTANT! The pile of cash at the door can turn into a big piece of cheese in a world full of rats.Let’s say you’ve got your 98lb. girlfriend  sitting on a stool taking the cash. The show is sold out so pretty soon she has nine hundred in fives, tens and twenties. She is a tempting target for someone to grab the wad of cash and hoof it into the foggy distance.  Be smart about it. If there is a box office use it. If not make sure that the person taking cash gives you “drops” often.  The way you do this is the Bouncer steps in for some other reason, which is a cover for the girl taking money. He stands in front of her so no one can see her well. She quickly counts out $100 or $200 or $300 in tens and twenties. She scribbles the amount on a slip of paper twice. She rips the paper in half keeping one number for herself. The other she wraps around the wad and then wraps the whole bundle with a rubber band. She then hands this to you and you disappear to drop it somewhere safe. (sometimes that is your pants pocket or boot) Now the person at the door only has enough cash to make change. Do this often. If you don’t you may live to regret it. Imagine you spend two months setting up a show and the night of the gig someone snatches a wad with $943 in it. Misery, utter misery. I’ve seen it.

I was once backstage at a Throwing Muses show in New Jersey. The “Tour manager” was the husband of one of the band members. He wasn’t hired for his experience or, I’m guessin’ here, his smarts. He turns up in the backstage area with a briefcase of money. Backstage has about thirty people milling around. The briefcase is all of the pay for over a week on the road, about $24,000. He proceeds to very arrogantly do a quick count of the bundles of hundred-dollar bills.  Everyone is watching him.  I was with an Irish tour manager that was an old pro. Ten minutes later we see the same guy walking around the nightclub without the briefcase.  We look at each other and panic. The band were friends of ours. We sprint up the stairs to the backstage room which is now empty ’cause the band is now onstage. I open the door to backstage and I’m not surprised to see a nice looking, well dressed, couple in their thirties transferring the cash to the woman’s pocketbook.  Moral of the story, DON’T BE STUPID!!! By the way in this particular case the couple got away because the “tour manager” refused to believe our rant while we held them captive and struggled to take her handbag away from the woman thief. He let them go without recounting the briefcase. At the end of the night he was devastated to discover his briefcase was $5800 light. HE FORCED ME TO LET THEM GO!!

Ok, we’re in the final stretch…. Security.  The long history of rock has taught me and everyone else that has done this kinda stuff professionally that crowd control is not only absolutely necessary it is very, very wise.  Keeping the crowd within the rules of safety allows everyone to have a great time, go wild and live to rock another day.  To do a show like the one I have been outlining for the past 15 thousand words you will need three security people. Like I said earlier these should be gentle giant types.  One of these guys should cover the door most of the night, the second one should be at the door when the venue first opens then move into the club to work the stage area when the band starts to play. The last guy should babysit the backstage area and cover the entrance to backstage and the side of the stage nearest that entrance during the bands sets. What do these people do? It’s simple really. They watch for trouble. Their presence keeps everyone from becoming a unruly monster mob.  When someone gets out of hand they then quickly physically escort the person out the front door. They don’t talk to people. They don’t threaten people. They don’t fight people. They escort people out of the venue while holding them by the arm as quickly as they can.  That’s it.

You should have some lengthy conversations with any bouncers you hire. They should be aware of how the show is supposed to run and exactly what the rules are for the night. Is your show going to generate a mosh pit? OK, that’s fine the bouncers need to understand what it is and know that a mosh pit is cool and  a rumble with twelve guys kicking the crap out of each other is not cool. Last point on security, don’t be afraid to call the cops. Any situation where you feel the fans, bands, or staff may be at risk is a good reason to make a call to the local constable.  Remember if you act calm, cool and in control the cops will usually act like they work for you.  The first time you experience this attitude it’s a strange feeling.

One final rule. The person that runs the show must be stone cold sober. Believe me ’cause I’ve done this myself. You will be so busy that if you don’t have your brain on overdrive you will crash and burn. Do it straight and you’ll do it right.

So that’s it. Have fun, make money and most importantly put your band on the map.  I’ve seen many of these shows pulled off. Ian MacKaye was famous for touring with his band Fugazi using shows just like this for every stop of the tour.  It’s not only possible it’s actually relatively easy if your are determined, stubbornly ambitious and work at it. If you do all that you will be on your way to Succeed at Rock.

Copyright Brad Morrison/Billiken Media 2010

Lesson #16 How to create an all ages show (pt3)……………….


So parts one and two covered looking for a place to stage the show, figuring out other bands to book, getting together some money, sound system and sound man, cops and fireman and some other general tips.  Let’s move on. If you’ve figured out most of this stuff by now you are well on your way to generating your first rock n roll rumble.  If you thought being in a band would make you more popular and help you get the girls (or the admiration of all the boys – depending on your sex and particular leanings) just wait. If you can pull off staging an all ages show you will become the person everyone wants to know.  It will increase your bands status, and popularity ten fold.  On top of this you will learn the details of how promoters think. When you try to get your band gigs then this experience will give you the “magic touch” when talking to promoters and club owners.  You’ll be able to see it from their side and this will allow you to sell them on the idea of booking your band.

Let’s back track a little.  I realize that I left out one possibility when talking about potential venues  – bars. But we’re under age!!! How could we stage a show in a bar?? ( Don’t ya just love it when I use lots of exclamation points and question marks???!!! It means I am trying to be clever or funny or insightful) 

When I was 20 and going to college I decided to start booking shows.  I would have booked the shows at the garbage dump or the National Retirement Home for Elderly Circus Clowns. I didn’t give a damn. I just needed somewhere to put on the shows.  I stumbled across a bar called Pogo’s.  It was a typical irish bar. There was absolutely nothing special about it.  There was only one thing you could say about Pogo’s. If you went into the bar, on any night of the week, it was completely empty.  You could fit 200 people into both rooms of the bar and a normal night would be three old men sitting at one end of the bar drinking.Pogo’s was ideal because the owner would do anything to bring people into his bar. In those days the drinking age was 18. Yes, America was once a much cooler place. I talked to the owner and explained that I could fill up his bar with kids. He was kinda nervous about it but agreed to let us do one night. The first night we booked drew a hundred and sixty kids. The bar owner made thousands at the bar. He never argued with me again.

Nowadays you can’t let kids drink at a bar. Damn shame really, but I can’t change that. But you can offer the sales of tons of soda and bar food in exchange for a percentage of the door. Try to find a bar that has a separate room. That way you stage your show and the bar can stay open for business.

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So far you’ve found the venue, gotten the sound system, picked out some bands,picked out and confirmed a date with the venue, gotten together some of the money that you’ll need, and planned out the money side of expenses and possible income.  Now it’s time to start to tell people. Start with the bands that are on your list. Call them up and tell them you are putting on a show on so and so date to try TO RAISE MONEY for recording.  After they get finished picking themselves up off of the floor tell them that you are considering letting them in on the deal. Remember, whenever you try to talk someone into doing something always talk about how it will HELP THEM not you. If you approach someone and say “help me out” it rarely works.  Tell them it will help them get more popular and they might make some money. Then ask them to kick in some of the money for the show.

As I said earlier most of the money is coming from your band. The deal you offer should be fair to them as well as you.  Do a deal something like this — you put in 60% of the money and get 65% of the money paid at the door. They put in 20%of the money and get  17.5% of the money from the door. (remember there are two other bands so it all adds up) You also make it clear that first the hall gets paid first, then the sound system, then security and insurance then after everything is paid off you split the money 65%/17.5%/17.5%. If you really want to be slick and pro write up a contract and make everyone sign it. If the show is a complete disaster than everyone loses the money they put in. It’s extremely important that everyone knows what the deal is and agrees to it.  If on the night of the show you sell out the hall and there is a pile of money DON’T GET GREEDY! Stick to the deal. If you ever rip off another band the news will spread like wildfire and soon you’ll find yourself blacklisted.

Here’s an overview of how a show might work out.    Venue Capacity 220    Ticket price $8  ( a little pricey but OK for three bands)

                                                                                                     If it sells out $1760

Venue rental  $400

Rent a cop         $60 (the venue insists you gotta hire a cop to stand around and look important)

Sound system$240 (includes soundman)

insurance         $88

bouncers

and ticket takers   $120

Total                            $908

Possible profit      $852

Your band puts in 60%  = 548     gets back   $1144

Band A puts in  $189      gets back 308

Band B puts in  $189      gets back 308

Sweet deal huh?   Take it from me it won’t work out quite so sweet but if you can pack the room everyone will make money.

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This is also the point where you tell your friends and start to look for a couple of bouncers that can be security at the show. For this job you are looking for an extremely large, strong looking gentle person. Look around your town. I’m sure that someone fits the description.  You usually have to talk the person into the job. If someone comes to you and says they want to be a bouncer say NO and stick to it. Anyone that wants the job probably wants to pick a fight or be an official asshole. Bouncers are supposed to be the kind of person that discourage fights and problems by being big enough to scare people.

Well that’s enough for this installment. I hope to get to the running of the show in the next installment.

Copyright Brad Morrison/Billiken Media 2010

Lesson #16 How to create an all ages show (pt 2)………..


This is part two of a blog that will cover the basics of how to set up your first all ages show. In the first section you picked out a couple of other bands that we can invite to play on the show so we can turn the gig into a real show instead of just a glorified practice for your band. Then you scouted out some possible places that you can rent as the concert hall/gig space. Finally I covered some basic tips and warnings about cops and fireman. OK, go back and read it. Now let’s move on.

Let’s remember that all of this must remain a complete SECRET. That’s an important point. If the news gets out too early every lousy, almost-a-band, group of losers within 100 miles of you will be texting your cell every three minutes. KEEP IT A SECRET. Ok the next thing you gotta do is get a sound system for the show. If one of the people in your band is rich and you already have a beautiful 24 channel mixing board, mics, mic stands and PA speakers than just skip ahead cause you’re awful lucky.(also ask the rich guy if his Dad has a nightclub that he forgot he owns)
Let’s assume that you don’t have this stuff. You can’t get by without it. Plugging an old mic into a guitar amp will mean the show will be an embarrassment instead of being a PARADE OF ROCK GODS.

First check with the place you are thinking of using for the show. They may have a sound system or may have a phone contact of someone that rents one out. This is basically what you are looking for:
1 -mixing board or pa head amp with at least 4 channels, much better if it has 8 or 16.
6 – decent mics like SHURE SM 58 or SHURE SM 57

2-monitor wedges -these are boxes that stand on the front of the stage and let the band hear themselves sing
6 – mic stands two should be straight stands and 4 should be boom stands.Make sure that they actually work and that they have the little mic holder on the end since is sucks using three pounds of duct tape to attach the mic to the stand. (although there is a scientific study that taping a microphone to the top of the drummers head with eight pounds of duct tape makes the audience happier)

Two decent PA speakers, preferably stand alone speakers with stands. Now it’s important to understand that there are two different kinds of PA speakers. The first kind is just a speaker in a box. These need some kind of amplifier, either as a separate AMP HEAD or as part of the mixing board. If it’s in the board the mixing board will probably say something like “powered mixing console” on it.
The other kind of speakers, and these are the most common nowadays, are speakers that have their own amplifiers built right into the box with the speaker. “These will probably say something like “Voice of God – Powered Speaker System” on them somewhere.
You will also need a CD player or Ipod with A CABLE THAT CAN GO FROM STEREO TO !/4″ STEREO. (ANY MUSIC GEAR SHOP WILL HAVE ONE). This will allow you to play tunes before the show starts, between bands and most importantly after the show is over. Remember this is your first show and there are many problems that you haven’t faced yet. One of these is getting all two hundred people that came to your show to leave. It’s not as easy as you might think. Turning on really lame Frank Sinatra songs at the end of the show will usually drive them out. (I actually like Sinatra but I’ll leave that along for the moment)

You DO NOT NEED a rack (which just means a fancy box) of reverbs, compressors, noise gates, EQs, quantum degorillafiers or any other crap. You don’t know how to use them and you don’t need them even if you knew how.

On the other hand what you will need is a SOUND MAN! Notice that this term kinda sounds like an adult job. That’s because it is. This is one of the adults that you are gonna talk into helping you stage your rock show. If the place you are renting has a sound system then they will probably have sound man. The person you deal with to work out the rental will be able to give you the details. If the Venue (place you have the show at) has a sound man then use that person. Don’t try to use someone else. It will make the people that run the venue mad and may make them decide not to rent to you. The good thing about paying this kinda guy is he will know all about the gear and you can probably trust him to make your show sound decent. If you give $25 to the Audio Visual Geek from your school you may get a good sounding show but probably not. If there is not a sound man that works with the venue and you can’t find a rental then you may end up with the AV kid. This usually does not work…

If the venue doesn’t have a sound system then you call around to local music shops and ask if they know anyone that “mixes live sound” and has their own gear. This guy will show up, set up, do the sound, pack up and leave (after you pay him).You can also find people like this in the phone book under Sound Reinforcement. (sounds like the audio police doesn’t it?) Craigslist also carries ads for these guys as well. I’ll get to paying for all this stuff soon.  The most expensive option is the guys you find through the phone book.  This is one of those areas where it pays to be creative and have lots, and lots of friends in other bands.

This is as good a place to talk about money as any. I’m guessin’  I’ll have to come back to the subject later.

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To put on a show, rent your own place and be a promoter, costs money.  As you add up the costs it can look really scary. I know because I started being a promoter when I was 19. It was scary. Eventually I learned to take risks and plan for failure. When you do it that way then you can afford to take the chance and maybe pull off the coolest thing that has happened to you and your friends so far.

Let’s look at what it MIGHT cost.

Rent the place…………………$500

Sound system………………….$200

Printing, copies, bribes, payoffs to the mob……….$60

Security people……………..$150

Insurance …………………….$100

Total…………………………..$1100!!!!!!

Holy Shit! Let’s forget it right here.  Aren’t those South Park reruns on tonight?

Stop being a coward. It’s not that much money. After all you’ve got almost three months to figure out how to get it. Three Months!! Are you crazy.

Yes, I am crazy and yes you are going to plan three months ahead. 

When it comes to booking a show, any show you always work three months in advance. Just trust me on this one. This is the way it’s gotta be done. The place you are trying to rent will likely be booked up at least three months in advance. So will the sound man.  it’s gonna take that long to get it together.

So here’s some ways to get together the money for the show.

1. Sell the drummer into slavery

2. Band members pool their cash from part time jobs.  $100 per guy per month gets you there without sweating.

3. Ask multiple adults to kick in part of the money.

4. Have the other bands on the bill kick in some of the money.

Now it’s important to remember that this isn’t money that you are spending.  It’s money that you are risking. If all goes well it will come right back to you with a little extra on top. This will set you up to do it again. If you are going to ask the other bands to kick in then make sure that your band puts the most money in. If you don’t do it this way then you’ll have trouble with the band that does put the most money in. They will want to call the shots and it will be tough to stop them.

When you start putting this show together one of the first things you will have to spend is money as a deposit on the place you are going to play. This will usually be around $100. This has to be money from your band. If it isn’t you’ll find another band running the show and your band not playing. 

When you are handling money YOU MUST WRITE DOWN EXACTLY WHAT IS SPENT AND COLLECTED. If you don’t you are in for heaps of trouble.  As you write down the money stuff and plan the gig out always remember to keep an eye on what the show might make back.  It makes no sense to put together a show that will cost $1400 to make happen and hold it in an old church that holds 180 people that get in for 3 bucks each.  Fortunately most places that you can rent are priced with the idea that someone might want to make money. It used to be an average of  a dollar per person. So if the venue held 200 punks then the rental would be 200. I’m not sure if this true nowadays since it’s been 15 years since I booked a venue.

Plan carefully, keep track of all the money that you have spent and are gonna spend and make sure you set the ticket price at a level where you can make the money back.  If one or two of your cheaper friends don’t complain about the price then you priced the show too low.

Finally on the money topic, there are other ways you can get cash to do the show. Often towns have budgets  for summer entertainment. They often overpay lousy bands. You can go to the town council/mayors office and try to sell them on the idea of financing a show as a good way to keep the local kids out of trouble. Another possible helpful adult would be local pastors of churches. They often have money for enriching the lives of the town’s children. What could be more enriching than a Hardcore Show?

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That’s all for installment 2…I’ll write the next one by the end of the weekend. I hope that will cover the rest of the stuff you need to know to put on an all ages show so you can SUCCEED AT ROCK…………………..

Copyright Brad Morrison/Biliken Media 2010