Playing for Free/Playing for “The Door”

The bands have been letting the clubs get away with this for several years and now it’s become the norm.  It boils down to this: if a club wants to be the place where everyone goes to watch the big games, they invest in Big Screen TVs if a club wants to be known for entertainment, then they need to invest in entertainment.

As bands, we need to convince them of the investment they are making by hiring good bands instead of going on the cheap and taking anyone who will play for free. If a club consistently books ONLY good bands then they will have a regular clientele and not have to rely on the bands to bring the people in.

A lot of clubs don’t have a regular clientele because you never know what you will get when you go there. Could be a good band, could suck – but you’ve already paid your $5 to get in the door. If you are going out and 4 of you have to pay a $5 cover, you are going to go where you are sure the band will be good. When you think “where should we go?” you think of the place where there is always good entertainment – not the place where you went and the band sucked and you were out the cover charge.

Building a Brand

A club that consistently books ONLY good music has a regular clientele and is busy every weekend. Doesn’t even matter the genre. It becomes a destination. Burt’s Tiki Lounge, Gracie’s, Brewski’s, The Green Pig, Club 90, Canyon Inn, Hog Wallow, Piper Down, and Pat’s BBQ all come to mind. Liquid Joes on the weekends too.

All those clubs actually pay the bands decently. They want quality entertainment and realize it’s a cost of doing business. If you cheap out on it, then people won’t think of you when they want to be entertained. If you don’t have some other reason for them to seek you out like great food or fun games or big screens or whatever, then why will anyone want to come there? Why would they think of YOUR club for a guaranteed good time?

Not sure how you teach business 101 to the club owners/managers without coming off like you are trying to tell them how to run their business. Unfortunately, that’s exactly the problem. Many of them are just bartenders or musicians who decided to open their own club. They haven’t been to business school or managed a business previously. They don’t know principles of advertising and marketing. Attraction and retention, etc.

The clubs that have professional hospitality industry managers and owners who have attended business school pay well for entertainment because they want to be known for having quality entertainment. They want to be a destination. And, because of that, they are packed and take in more than enough at the door to cover the guarantee for the band every weekend.

Original Music Doesn’t Pay?

And that’s not just cover clubs. The Zephyr and Dead Goat rarely ever had cover bands and they were highly successful. Burt’s Tiki Lounge, Hog Wallow, and Piper Down still have mostly original bands and yet they manage to be busy every night and make enough to pay the bands decently.   Other clubs are a hybrid of original and covers like Liquid Joes – but they manage to fill the room too.

Putting it off as “original acts can’t expect to get paid” is a cop out. Is YOUR music worth paying for or not?  If you can’t definitively say yes, you have no business asking a club to book you – yet.  They aren’t in business for you to practice – get better on your own. If the answer is yes, then don’t let the clubs take advantage of you. Have some self-worth. Stand your ground. They will continue to treat you like shit as long as you allow them to.

There’s an old saying “You teach people how to treat you.” If you don’t even value yourself why the hell would they value you?  It’s all in the negotiation and whether you will stand your ground.

And the clubs that don’t invest in entertainment don’t stay in business long, so who cares about them anyway? They rarely make it past the 18 month mark before there’s new ownership or new management or whatever. The clubs with longevity – that are in it for the long haul as an entertainment venue invest in entertainment. Think about it how many clubs have come and gone in the last 10 years? Think about whether they invested in their core business and worked on building a brand? Then think about the clubs that have been around forever and what’s different about them? The ones that went out of business were hit and miss on the entertainment side of things.

The few good clubs that have gone out of business like the Zephyr, Port O Call and the Dead Goat had great attendance right up until the end. They didn’t go out of business for lack of clientele, there were outside forces like a disappearing building, loss of a lease, etc. They were successful because they built a brand. You knew that if you went there the band would be good no matter what genre, covers or originals, whatever – it would be entertaining musically.

The clubs that go out of business simply don’t have the clientele to support themselves and it’s their own fault because they have a lousy business model, but they prefer to blame the bands. Seems like a pretty dumb move to put the entire fate of your business in the hands of someone else.

Goes something like this: “Can this band bring in enough people for me to cover my nut tonight? I wonder if my limited clientele want to listen to them for 2 hours? I’ve never heard them live or bothered to listen to their demo CD – but they’ll play for FREE! Gee, guess I’ll roll the dice and find out! Oh, darn I lost $500 tonight because they sucked so badly -  some of my regulars actually left and only 10 of their friends showed up! And I lost $500 last night too!” Pretty soon they are out of business.

Since we already know those clubs won’t make it for the long haul, why would you even want to play there? Why would you want to jump on a horse that is falling behind? Why would you want to play to a room with only 25 of your friends and no one else? You might as well stay home and invite your friends to the practice space instead of hauling your equipment.

What’s The Value of Your Time?

If a company asked you to work the first day for free and then they’d decide if they’d hire you, would you do it? Your time has value. Don’t let bad business owners and managers take advantage of you. That’s what you are doing when you play with no guarantee. And you are decreasing the worth of every other musician that comes after you. Don’t stand for it. Hell, at this point they are sometimes paying the bar back more for washing glasses than they are paying the band.  Doesn’t playing for a crowd of people require a little more skill than washing dishes?  Maybe the clubs should ask the bands to wash dishes before they leave at the end of the night – they seem to value that skill a little more and will actually pay for it.

They aren’t even paying minimum wage which is against the labor laws. Only tipped positions are allowed to pay less than minimum wage and the tips have to add up to at least minimum wage.

You have to decide that you will no longer allow yourself to be taken advantage of – that you have value as a musician.  Put on your own shows if you have to. Rent out the Avalon or use the MusicGarage or something and charge admission.  If you just want to play your music for people then set up and play acoustically in the park rather than allow these club owners to keep raping you.

Maybe start doing “guerilla shows” on a flatbed truck. Pull up to a crowded place, fire up a generator and start playing. Yes, you’ll probably get shut down in 30 minutes and a $100 ticket for disturbing the peace, but you are already paying to play in some cases aren’t you? At least it’s YOUR show, done YOUR way and someone else isn’t profiting off you without compensation.  You’ll probably add a bunch of names to your mailing list if you are any good and maybe even get some press coverage – but creative marketing is another subject for another day.

Posted in local scene, music business, pay for musicians, playing for free, playing for the door, salt lake clubs, salt lake music | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Musicians Alliance Meeting Feb 13th, 2011

I attended the musician’s alliance meeting yesterday at Salt Lake Coffee Break. I’m sure that’s not the official name, but there are several different people and groups that have been involved in planning and organizing this, not sure what to call it exactly . . . . . I know that Troy Fillmore of Triamid Productions was key in putting it together among others.

Anyway, it was well attended with about 35 people representing at least 15 or so different bands plus people involved in the industry in other ways such as a promoter, a festival organizer, a non-profit music program director, an entertainment agent, and others including myself (a recording studio owner).

The conversation seemed to mostly focus on how to get more gigs and more fans involved; how to energize the scene. We faced some inevitable facts that we have a smaller fan base to engage because of both the economy and the culture in Utah.  The need to share fans becomes paramount. Setting up fewer, but larger shows increases fan attendance and bands can pick up new fans from each other.

Steve Auerbach from Music Garage spoke about his new venue available for bands that would like to stage such shows. It holds 400 people, has a 3000 watt sound system, and because they are a non-profit, the costs are minimal.  You simply pay a small fee for using the equipment and for the overhead costs.  They are an organization that helps kids learn to play instruments.

Speaking of non-profits, someone mentioned that playing for a non-profit or promising 10% of your proceeds from all your shows to go to a charity may give you some additional ways of attracting new fans who may come just to support the charity.

Jeddie from Opal Hill Drive is instrumental in putting on the Summer and Winter Decompression festivals in Ogden which are a great opportunity for local bands to showcase with fans from other bands.  He mentioned numerous other festivals coming up throughout the summer where you can follow the principal of playing fewer but bigger shows. Get your music exposed to a whole new crowd.

Stephanie DeGraw from Power Media Entertainment talked about several new projects she is working on with local and national bands including a TV show on Channel 19 Comcast which goes out to 150,000 people in the Ogden area. She asked that any bands that are interested in participating to please contact her. She also asked for any businesses that might be willing to sponsor a show (pay for the camera crew and other expenses) in exchange for recognition. This seems like a company that is really trying to help the local music scene, so if you know any businesses that might like to participate, please get in touch with her.

There were many other issues that were touched on but not really fleshed out such as publicity, demanding pay, contracts, and other issues that will probably be addressed in more detail as these meetings go on.

I think the best things to come out of the meeting were twofold. The first were the tidbits of information that kept popping up throughout the discussion; who is booking which club now, how much certain clubs are paying, opportunities to participate in various events, where to get cheap CD’s copied, etc.  I filled 2 notebook pages with useful information.

The second was simply the networking. I met people whom I had only known through Facebook as well as others I had no previous contact with but will definitely be talking to in the future. They always say it isn’t what you know, but who you know. The more people you can develop relationships with, who have the same goals as you, who also want to see the scene improve, the better chance you have of succeeding no matter what your particular area of the industry.  I met so many people I ran out of business cards!

Did we accomplish anything monumental? No. Did someone come up with a sure fire plan to fire up the local scene? Not really.

Was it completely worthwhile? Yes.

Come to next month’s meeting. The date hasn’t been set yet, but will likely be mid-March and I am sure will be posted all over the Utah Musician groups on Facebook. When I get the date and time, I’ll update this post.

Shar Wood
Woodshar Studio

P.S. Forgive me if I forgot to include anyone’s contributions to the discussion. Guess you’ll all have to come next time to see what else you may have missed! LOL

Posted in local scene, music business, salt lake clubs, salt lake music, salt lake musicians | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

What’s The Going Rate for Bands?

I did an informal survey on Craigslist in Boise, Denver and Phoenix asking musicians to respond with information on what the local clubs are paying. I even got a random response from Cincinatti.

I compiled the responses into a pdf file that can be found here.

Please comment on this blog and add more information about the clubs in your area of the Intermountain West. I will update the file as I receive more information. Could be a good comprehensive resource for musicians throughout the area.

Posted in music business, salt lake clubs, salt lake music, salt lake musicians | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

So You Want to Record a CD?

Producing a CD is a complex task. Many things go into the process.  Some may occur to you right away, such as writing the songs, rehearsing them until you know them in your sleep, booking a studio, artwork, etc. There are many more “hidden” problems and decisions to make that don’t occur to you until your back is against the wall.  Don’t put yourself in the position of having to make a last minute decision on something so important.

Did you hear about the local band who planned their CD release party and promoted it city-wide only to have their CDs arrive from the production house the night before the show without the booklets inserted? They spent the whole night before their show sitting on the living room floor stuffing booklets in CDs. Needless to say, they were pretty tired for their show the next night.

In planning for this column, I spoke to 3 veterans of the local music scene sharing their successes and roadblocks in the CD process. Dan Rozanes of Marmalade Hill, Dale Roley of Swank 5 and formerly of Loose, and Chris Jamison of Smilin’ Jack had stories to tell and advice to pass on to those of us just beginning the process of creating our own CD’s.

Preparation

The first thing advised by all 3 was to consider why you are doing the CD in the first place. The answer to that question will shape the answers to many other questions that will come up during the process.  Are you doing this as a demo to get gigs, a demo to get a record deal, or as a full-blown CD that you intend to sell through traditional channels and play on the radio? Consider this question carefully and discuss it among all members of your band.  Everyone may not have the same ideas.  Better to find out now that your bass player has no interest in getting a record deal and touring than after you have spent a lot of money on a CD and promo materials aimed at getting a record deal! The amount of time and money you budget on the recording is directly proportionate to the goals you have for the CD.

Another thing advised was to listen to your recording professional as much as possible when it comes to recording decisions.  The engineers really do know what they’re doing!  Dan found it strange to record his guitar with absolutely no effects with the intention of adding them later, but it turned out that the engineer was right. Dale agreed and added that it seems strange when you’re recording it, but the engineer usually knows what works best.

Chris agreed but only to a point, he said that his band wanted a live feel and didn’t think that they could get it recording all the instruments one at a time. They solved the “bleed over” problem inherent in recording multiple instruments in the same room by purchasing big foam boxes from a local manufacturer and putting the guitar amps in them. It allowed them to be in the same room with the drummer and record all parts at the same time.  Chris believes that you shouldn’t automatically do what the engineer tells you, but should keep your artistic freedom and expression.

From the Engineer’s Perspective

I spoke to a recording engineer for his advice. He says you need to be so well rehearsed before you step into the studio that everyone can play their parts in their sleep. It will save you a butt-load of money if you do that before you get to the studio. He has actually had bands come in who were still writing their lyrics.

Put new heads on the drums, new strings on the guitars (about a day in advance so they have time to stretch), and oil all the parts of the drumset that might squeak.  Bring extra strings and sticks too.

Get a good night’s sleep. You will give your best performance when you are well rested.  Singers – drink lots of water in the days leading up to your session – it improves your voice.

Don’t bring your entourage. Your girlfriends and buddies might thing it’s SO cool that you are in the recording studio and they want to come hang out and watch but I’m telling you, it will cost you more money. The more people that don’t need to be there, the more it slows things down. You also run the risk of someone coughing, sneezing, or a cell phone ringing right in the middle of your best take.  The less people there, the less chance of that happening.

Don’t drink or do drugs.  I know, I know, you say “I play better when I’m a little loose”.  This isn’t a judgment of your morals, just my experience. If you really feel the need to take the edge off or steady your nerves, then keep it to a minimum. Showing up with a bottle of Jack Daniels or obviously stoned out of your gourd tells me just how productive this session is going to be before we even set up a microphone.

And finally, pick one person to be the “producer”.  It could be a band member, a fan who knows your music very well, or a manager. While everyone in the band can express their opinion, the producer has the final say. Otherwise you can spend 1/2 hour arguing whether the guitar is too loud, more reverb or less, etc.  It will save you money in the long run if someone can just say enough.

On to Artwork

The artwork tells a lot about the music on the inside.  First impressions do count!  Make sure that your artwork compares favorably with the artwork on the CD’s of the top artists.  Just because you’re local doesn’t mean you can be less than great. You ARE competing with Tool, Janet Jackson, and Incubus, not the band down the street.  Between our three experts, their CD’s ran the gamut in cost and size of their artwork and booklets.

Loose’s CD was an actual multi-page booklet (about 16 pages) stapled in the middle and full color.  This was the most expensive example, but also the most impressive.    Dan’s Marmalade Hill CD was a good medium-priced example. It was 2 double-sided pages folded, not stapled.  Chris’s Smilin’ Jack CD was full color and about 8 panels, folded not stapled.  The lareger the quantity you decide to print, the less the cost per CD will be.  Your future plans for the CD will determine how much you invest in the printing, but Bill Boyd of KRCL says “I can usually tell the quality of the music on the inside by the quality of the artwork and packaging on the outside.”  First impressions DO count.

You also NEED a UPC code if you want to be able to prove the number of CDs you have sold to a label, promoter, etc.  They won’t care that you sold hundreds of your CDs at shows, all they care about is how many CDs SoundScan says you sold. The bar code and getting the CD into the stores is the only way to do that.

You’ll also want to sell them on CD Baby and other online distribution; a UPC code will rack up those sales on SoundScan too.  Being able to walk into a label and prove that you have sold thousands of CDs says a lot more about you and your music than your number of Facebook fans.

One final thing that Dale pointed out; if your CD will be sold in stores, be sure the name of the band appears at the top of the CD cover (face) and in larger print than the name of the CD.  Make sure it’s also on the spine in larger letters.  Loose made the mistake of the CD’s name being larger and above the band’s name.  He now finds it in the CD bins under “Fluid” instead of Loose.  The things we don’t think of until it’s too late………

Please feel free to add your comments and suggestions. I’m sure there are things that I missed.

Shar Wood

http://www.woodshar.com

P.S. I will have a future column about marketing your CD through stores and online.

Posted in How to Make a CD, local scene, music business, Producing a CD, salt lake music, salt lake musicians | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Eye Candy and Marketing Your Band

How many times have you been to see a band (see being the operative word here) and found that there was nothing to see? How many times have you seen a band and left at the end of the night without ever knowing their name?

The visual aspects of a band’s stage show are just as important as the music yet in most bands, it’s the area most neglected or in some cases, overlooked completely!

What are you giving your audience to look at? What is going to make them turn their heads to actually look at the stage?  Did you bother to dress for the stage or are you wearing the same clothes you spent the afternoon in while working on your car? What makes you more interesting than the jukebox?  What’s going to keep them looking at you instead of devoting their attention to the girl/guy at the end of the bar? Are you giving them some “eye candy”?

Lights, action, props, color, clothes, choreography.  All of these things give your audience something to SEE, not just hear.  Not only does it make your show more interesting, but it actually gets them to pay more attention to your band AND your music! You aren’t just noise in the background while they talk to their friends or play pool, they stop to actually watch and are paying attention to your songs.

Dress for the show – whatever is appropriate for the venue, but over-do whatever the patrons will be wearing.  Everything on stage needs to be bigger and bolder and brighter than them.  You want to be a star? Dress and perform like you already are.   Fake it till you make it as they say.  That doesn’t mean treating people like they are beneath you, it means putting on a star quality show.  Even if you are in a metal band and wear jeans and t-shirts. at least put a conscious effort into changing clothes specifically for the gig. Choose a t-shirt that is interesting or different than what you might wear to hang out at the club.  Maybe have a few that you only wear onstage so they don’t get worn out looking.  I am sure that some aspiring rockers will scoff at this, but there’s a reason that record companies hire stylists for the bands.

Another thing I have always had a pet peeve about is bands whose names or logos are illegible.

Can you read this? (answer at bottom)

Why even have a logo or name if no one can read it?   When designing your logo be sure that it reproduces well at any size and in both color and black & white. It might be really cool at 10 inches wide but become illegible at a small size. Might look great in color, but in black and white becomes a mess.  Make it legible and advertise it throughout the club. Look at the KISS logo above. That image is instantly recognizable.

Posters, banners, marquees, the bass drum head, mailing list sign-up sheets, and just simply telling them from the stage who you are several times throughout the night; all of these are good ways to get your name known to the audience. If you can afford it, give away stickers with your logo. Don’t let them leave at the end of the night without knowing your name.

We sell t-shirts as cheap as we can so our name is out there even more. We’d rather sell more shirts than make a profit. It’s a walking billboard and endorsement of the band. We charge just enough of a profit to afford to give away a few shirts to strategic people such as the bartender. If the bartender wears your shirt he is subtly endorsing and advertising your band to all the patrons every time he wears it. It’s your target market and it’s free if you handle your cash flow properly.

By the way, also give the bartender a few free copies of your CD. One for them to keep, one for the club, and one to give away to another employee. If they like it – they may play it on the sound system at the club during breaks or nights with no bands.

Marketing experts say that people need to see the same thing 7 times before they remember it, make sure they remember you!

Shar

P.S. The band logo is Mayhem.

Posted in local scene, music business, salt lake musicians, Uncategorized | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Free Download of the Art & Science of Sound Recording

alan parsonsAlan Parsons has spent a lifetime working on, producing, or creating classic records and his latest project is The Art & Science Of Sound Recording: a 10-hour, encyclopedic look at the recording process, from improving your recording environment to the final mix.

Doug bought the whole set and it’s amazing. Even if you aren’t a recording engineer, some of the sections on mic placement and understanding gain structure are helpful to the performing musician as well.

The series is divided into 24 Sections, available online (or you can buy the 3 DVD set). The link below will allow you to download one section of the DVD so choose whichever chapter sounds like it has the most to offer based on your situation. It’s definitely worth the time.

You may have to give them your email address in order to use the FREE DOWNLOAD – I am already a subscriber so it didn’t ask me.

I hope that many of you take advantage of this free opportunity to improve your musical knowledge.

Shar Wood

P.S. I have no affiliation with this company and make no money if you buy the set or download a section. Just providing this as a great resource for musicians and studio owners.

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Why Can’t We All Just Get Along?

In the 1990′s I wrote a series of articles on the music business. I am re-publishing them here for the benefit of all the local musicians.  I will keep adding articles each week until I run out. Please tell your friends and pass along this blog bookmark.

Why Can’t We All Just Get Along?
I hear many complaints from club owners about bands and from bands about the club owners.  Here is a list of guidelines for each that may help each to understand what is reasonably expected from the other.

Musician Do’s and Dont’s

1. Don’t be late. In fact, be early. Showing up 15 minutes before downbeat will eventually create a problem.

2. Don’t take a gig you can’t handle. If the job calls for jazz and you lean towards Green Day and Sublime, pass the contact on.

3. Don’t try to play high. Drugs and alcohol may make you think you sound great, but your audience and employer won’t agree. (In Utah, you’re not allowed to drink in most clubs anyway.)

4. Don’t play for free. A one-set audition? Maybe. But every time you play without pay you diminish not only your own worth, but also the worth of every musician who follows you. Ask for a guarantee against the door.

5. Do communicate with the club owner. If they have a specific way they want things done make sure it doesn’t take you by surprise. Know the rules before you get there and follow them.

6. Do work the crowd. Spending your breaks hiding out backstage is a waste of time. Instead, catch your breath and spend a few minutes talking to patrons. Find out what they like. Take an interest and be friendly. Make them feel wanted and they’ll be back. Don’t spend the whole break hanging with your friends. Meet your NEW fans. A personal interaction with a band member will have a big impact.

7. Do make sure your crowd knows where to find you. Maintain a mailing list and use it. Call fans who haven’t been to a show in a while. Yes, club owners should promote the show but don’t assume they will. Ultimately, it’s your career. There are many tools for automating your mailing list, you just need to make the effort to collect the email addresses.

8. Do be prepared. Make sure you have everything you need and a spare. Carry a toolbox, extra cords, fuses, and backups to anything else that might fail. Know if the clubs PA is adequate for your needs and bring anything you need if they are deficient. More mics, more stands, extra monitors, whatever – it’s your show, your responsibility to be prepared.

9. Do know the liquor laws in your state.  Technically, you are an employee of the club while you are there, so you are not legally allowed to drink ANYTHING. Some clubs let that slide, but be aware that drinking anything while you are playing is actually illegal.  Don’t ask the waitress to bring you a shot from the stage. If there is a DABC agent in the house, you will shut the place down. If the club is nice enough to let you drink, then at least keep it on the down-low. (previous rule about not overdoing it still applies)

10. Do be professional. Realize that the club owner is in business to make money, not to showcase your band. Talk about upcoming events or specials at the club. Remind fans to tip the bartenders & waitresses – they are your best allies.

Help the club and employees to make money and you will be back!

Club Owner Do’s and Don’ts

1. Don’t double book performers. Two bands showing up to do the same show is embarrassing for everyone.

2. Don’t cancel at the last minute. Maybe something better came along, but you made a commitment and there is a good chance that the band turned down other work because you already booked them. If they are good business-people than they have already promoted the show to their fans too. When their followers show up and there’s another band playing you have damaged the band’s credibility.

3. Don’t lie – be up-front in all your dealings. If you promise the band a guarantee plus the door, don’t “forget” to collect any cover charges. Don’t allow your doormen to let in their friends for free. Don’t ask a band to play an audition set if you are already booked for the next six months. Don’t disappear at the end of the night when it’s time to pay the band. You get the idea.

4. Don’t expect something for nothing. Would you ask your bartender to work for free? How about the cocktail waitress? Give at least a minimum guarantee so the band doesn’t get stiffed on an off night.

5. Do advertise. Yes, bands need to do promotion and maintain good mailing lists, but depending solely on the band to bring in a crowd is a potential disaster and doesn’t help anyone.

6. Do know whom you are booking. If your crowd is into British rock, don’t book Delta blues. It doesn’t matter how well an act has done elsewhere, if a band is inappropriate for you room, booking them can be detrimental to both you and the band. Don’t ask a band to play country when you know they specialize in funk. Some clubs try to be everything to everyone and of course that fails. To develop a regular clientele, you need to be consistent in your musical offerings. They want to know that if they just show up at your club they will hear music they like.  Some clubs have different “nights” and that works too – as long as they know that Thursday is reggae night and Friday is heavy metal and you stick to it. Don’t suddenly stick an alt rock band in on Thursday though!

7. Do make your expectations clear. If you need the first set to be low-key dinner music, let the band know before they open with “Welcome to the Jungle”! And let them know in advance of the gig what you expect. Re-writing a 4 hour set list on the fly isn’t easy. If you want them to start or stop at a specific time, if you want last call announced at a specific time, if you have an event you’d like advertised – all this is your responsibility to communicate to the band (although they should be asking these questions too).

8. Do maintain passable working conditions. This means a decent stage, at least minimum lighting and electrical power that doesn’t blow a breaker when the band fires up its amps. Don’t plug your beer signs into the same circuit as the stage; it causes noise in the PA.  If you provide the PA, make sure everything works and that you have enough mics, stands, and monitors for the largest bands you book. Having enough for a 6 piece band with everyone singing should be more than enough for anything that might come up.

9. Do communicate with your employees. If the manager is surprised to see the band arrive, you have a problem. If no one knows when the band is to start or when they can take breaks, you have a problem. Maintain an up to date  calendar by the phone; if no one can tell callers who is playing on a given night, you have a problem.If no one knows how much the band is supposed to get paid or who will take care of doing so, you got a real big problem.

If musicians and clubs would follow these simple suggestions – heck I’d go as far as calling them common sense – then disagreements will be few and far between and we can all just get along.

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Uniting The Local Music Scene

I’ve been noticing numerous Facebook groups popping up like Utah Musicians Network, Local Utah Musicians Guild and Eat-Drink-Rock.  All are trying to unite local musicians to promote the Salt Lake music scene collectively.

Sharing a wealth of information among the members, their topics have included reviews of clubs from the performer’s point of view, upcoming show dates, articles for musicians, ads for replacing members, local band news and other items of interest as well as some lively conversations.

It’s been interesting to follow some of the discussions. Recently the founders are complaining that they are having a difficult time getting musicians to follow through on their commitments.

Some history: In the 1990′s a local group called Wasatch Audio Reserve was formed and the board of directors was made up of prominent local club musicians. The goal was to foster a local music community and educate on how to succeed in the business.

We held free meetings on the same day every month at the library and brought in experts in various fields.  We had people from radio stations talking about how to get airplay, United Concerts came and talked about how to get opening slots when major groups come to town, an audio expert came and talked about how to run sound (basics on the audio chain and gain structure, etc.), we had a panel of local club booking agents talk about what they like to see in a promo pack, we had a panel on getting your CD into stores and distributed, another on how to get local press, and numerous other topics.

We also had a monthly newsletter published in a local free rag called Audio Spank.  If someone couldn’t make the meeting, there was a short overview of what was covered along with info on the topic of the next meeting, etc.

We had an ad published every week in the City Weekly music section advertising the panel topic each month.

We sponsored a local music award show that we had audited by a local CPA so we could be sure there was no hanky-panky with the results.  Everything completely above board and transparent and run completely by local musicians.

We even received national coverage in Gig Magazine. A 3 page spread on how we were helping to improve the local scene.

This wasn’t a spur of the moment “let’s set up a FB page” and try to unite the scene. This was a fully organized group with a well laid out agenda, thoughtful planning, and the full commitment of 12+ musicians who served as the board – each person put in quite a bit of effort.

In 5 years of trying, we discovered that 95% of the local musicians are apathetic. Those FREE monthly meetings – providing the opportunity to learn from and actually meet the people who can make a difference in your career – were usually attended by the same 20 people.

What a missed networking opportunity! The chance to personally hand your promo pack and business card to the booking agent for United Concerts. And yet, that was one of our least attended sessions.

It became downright embarrassing for us with the experts when the attendance was so low.  The booking agent for a local club doesn’t want to waste his Tuesday night if no one is going to show up and listen. The DJs from the local stations don’t want to show up to talk to 20 people.

It’s called show “business” for a reason and networking is something that business-people do. It became apparent that not only does no one in most of the local bands want to take on the business role, they don’t even want to learn how to do it when it’s presented to them for FREE on the same day every month (so you don’t even need a calendar!). We even scheduled them on Tuesdays so gigs wouldn’t be an issue.  It just wasn’t a priority.

For that reason, there will always be about 50 local musicians who are really serious and work the business end and about 950 who just want to play music and haven’t the foggiest idea of how to handle the business. They are waiting to be discovered by the “suits” who handle all that business “stuff”.

I’ve even heard people say “I want to learn, I just don’t know where/how”.  I call bullshit. With the advent of the internet you can learn anything you want to learn and all it costs is your time. There is no excuse not to learn.

The 50 who are serious are doing OK for themselves and the rest of the 950 continue to come and go in this band or that as each one fails due to lack of organization, promotion, or professionalism.

There are some REALLY talented people here who will never succeed in the business simply because they don’t treat it as such. It isn’t a priority for them.

My intent is not to discourage the people who have started these groups – I always want to support anyone who is working for the betterment of all. However, I suggest that their efforts might be better concentrated on the 50 instead of even trying to pull in the other 950.  In this case, sheer numbers don’t matter if they are comprised of flakes.

Organizing shows like the Summer/Winter Decompression is a great step. The bands that get on board are the ones that are working it and deserve the exposure and networking opportunities they get by playing this event.

The rest of them are still trying to find the master copy of their demo so they can apply to be included.  “I know I left that somewhere!”

I love the idea of posting reviews of clubs for each other. That’s a valuable resource. Knowing whether a club has a (decent) PA or not, knowing that the doorman lets in his friends for free so you should bring a door person, knowing the issues with the venue like not enough power or bad lighting or small stage is great. It helps us to know whether we even want to book that particular club so we don’t waste our time and theirs.

The 50 of us will be reading every post.

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I’ve been thinking about writing a blog for a long time. There’s always some great news about the local music scene that I would like to share and Facebook just isn’t the right medium for it. Utah musicians, please become a follower!

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