So far most of the blogs I’ve written are designed to be a basic set of helpful hints for bands that are just starting out. If you are further up the food chain some of my comments should help. No one has written a comment that says something like “the wife of this guy wants to sleep with me and she’s maaried to the President of the Major Label the band is signed to so what do I do? She’s smokin’ so I’m a little confused”. If someone does write about Major Label problems including the one I just mentioned I’ve got a strategies. Since most of the comments have been about basics I’ll stick to that for now.is signedfor beginner bands and some are for bands that are further on. No one has written a comment saying “the wife of this guy wants to sleep with me and see he’s the President of the Major Label the band are designedSince I am just building up a small catalog of blogs to choose from there is not much variety yet. I’m workin’ on it. Stay tuned and feel free to suggest topics.
Let’s assume that your band has conquered the small city that you live in. You’ve played the local venue enough to have a drink named after your drummer and you’ve played the shitty free local rock station festival thing that always sucks and you’ve played at some rich kids house for remarkably good pay and you’ve reached the point where you have to limit how much you play so that you continue to pack in the punters. What do you do? You get the hell out of town that’s what.
This is how you do it. (well at least this is some of the tricks and techniques) Get a map. If you’ve never seen one and you slept through that class ask your dad. He’ll be thrilled that you are asking about something like a map instead of a bail bondsman. Take said map and tack it to the wall of the band’s practice space. Now put a marker, a large bowie knife will work, where you live. Next draw a circle about 60 miles outside town, then another 120 miles outside town, then 180, then 240. If you live in the middle of a vast desert and these circles contain no human life go to chiropractor school and give up the band. For all the others, start with the smallest circle. List the biggest towns and cities. You’re only listing towns and cities that are at least as big as the one you currently play in. Also list any colleges. Now scratch your head and think about the first list. Are any of these towns worth playing? Yeah, maybe two, and there’s a community college about thirty miles away. Now move on to the next large circle and do the same thing. What you are looking to do is come up with ten cities or towns to play within about 4 to 5 hours of home. Once again colleges are key.
So now you’ve got your list. You can easily fill in the hip club that everyone plays that’s two hundred miles up the road. Ok that’s an A list target. So you’ve got ten lousy big towns and one lame city. That’s perfect. Remember each of those towns and certainly that city contain bands looking to play outside of their local hell hole.
I’m sure some of you are thinking, Brad you don’t understand what it’s like in Central Iowa. You’re right. But I do know that this works in most places. If you must travel eight hours to buy batteries then I’m not sure I can help you. For everyone else, yes i know that a twelve hour drive takes you to that great city two states over but that will cost 4 times your gig money in gas. What we are trying to do is expand our base in a region to start with. This will increase all your other options greatly. Just think of how many rich kids are inside those circles. They’re all gonna have birthday bashes and some band is gonna get the 5 grand that daddy thinks is the going rate for live music.
Now you do some of these things.
1. Google the college radio station contact info for any college within striking distance. Do a little homework on any station you find. You are looking for the Program Director and Music Director. These guys are always key players in the local music scene. Once you have the names you call them and send them the usual promo pack and cd. NO PICTURE. Do you think you are that pretty? These guys are on radio. Let them imagine you are their fantasy band. You can also listen in on the stations on the web and call in to DJs that you think might like your stuff. Young DJ’s love to discover bands. When you talk to anyone at the station this is what you want to know. Are there any clubs? If so who books ’em and what’s the key to getting to the guy. They know. Is there a “Concert committee for the College? ” Is it just a group of idiots? This is usually the case. Get the contact info. When you talk to the station guys treat them nice. Be humble and tell them you’re looking to break into their area. THEN TELL THEM YOU COULD OFFER GIGS TO BANDS FROM THEIR TOWN. This message will usually get a response quickly. This message is the bait that you are going to spread all over those circles you drew.
If you get the concert committee and they are idiots tell them how popular you are. If they bring up any concert, even playing for the special ed dance, you immediately take the most you’ve ever been paid and multiply it by 5. This is your college gig fee. If you never made scratch your band plays for $2500, minimum. They have a budget and they have to spend it. I have seen concert committees pay has been drunkard hacks 100k and think they got a deal. College gigs are gravy. That’s why all of the shows will have real agents trying to lock them in. You are trying to get a middle slot or an opener. These pay too. If the committee of fools is paying some has been 60k then your 3000 will seem cheap.
2. Start to compile a list of venues, bars, theaters inside these circles. YOU ARE NOT TRYING TO PUT TOGETHER A TOUR. You are trying to expand your base. You are trying to find gigs that are in the “so painful to drive there” zone. That way, if you are offered something that is good visibility or status and it only pays $50 then you will take it. Now do some research on the towns. Are there papers? Fanzines? Does any of these towns host a Rhubarb festival? You may not play these things. It all depends on what your band sounds like and what kind of contacts you come up with. If you just go the lazy route and find out the name of the promoter at the really cool club 4 hours away, then you call his number every day for a year you will get nowhere. Once again remember that promoters are impossible to get on the phone. You are looking for contacts that you can convert to being one of your disciples/minions/slaves/groupies/fans. You want the promoter to hear about you from someone else first. If that happens to be the music director of the local station and he respects his taste or even better the promoter wants to butter him up to get his shows plugged then his mention of your band will open a door. The first time you talk to a promoter he should always say something like, “Yeah I heard of you guys. Didn’t your drummer have to be rescued by a military chopper or something?”
3. Put an ad on Craigslist/Facebook looking for bands, or put the word out through your contacts that you are looking for bands. Remember the bait. You need some fresh blood to open for you. Yes, it will piss off all your friends in other bands but in most cases you are going to dangle the bait and not get someone a gig. The key to this whole operation is that you want to get as savvy about all these other towns as you are about your home town. You want to make some friends in other bands. I’ll assume that you already have learned the earlier lesson and you are befriending any band that comes to town. You are letting them sleep on your floor and showing them the best late night pancake place. These are the kind of relationships that will get you gigs elsewhere.
4. You need to be able to land a gig for someone else sometimes. This means working it out with a local promoter. This takes times, effort and a little creative dealing but it can be done consistently, I know because I did it. One solution is to organize your own gig in a rented hall and bring in two of three openers from out of town. Now it never pays to help out shitty bands. You are looking for talent. This is always true.
So there are some pointers to get you started. If you work this for three to six months you
able to spread your band’s name around the region. This will move you up to being a bigger band. This is where you need to be to land a manager, or a label or to pull a rabbit out of a hat and get on a tour. If you try it it’ll work then you’ll be succeeding at Rock…………….
Copyright Brad Morrison/Billiken Media 2010