I saw the band CAYM perform on March 10. I really like that band. Tyler Reiner is a great drummer and he works tirelessly to promote the band and keep in touch with his fans. Jeremy Sarrazin is a great front man with tons of personality and looks great on stage. Together with guitarist Gord Laferla, the band is able to achieve a full sound on the guitars. The whole band works well together – even with the addition of a new bassist, Julian Bartucci. I started to wonder about the music the band is playing. They are hardcore metal with Sarrazin growling the lyrics. Despite the large number of bands playing hardcore metal, there doesn’t seem to be much of an audience for it in Toronto. CAYM is one of the better bands, regularly gigging, and they have only 1,081 likes on their Facebook page. They’ve uploaded 42 videos and only have a total of 4,123 views. They have 81 followers on Twitter. Their EP single “Jukai” has 223 plays on Myspace. They get a pretty good audience turn out depending where they play, but they generally play small venues in Toronto.
The nice boys in CAYM may think i’m picking on them, but not at all. They may have an excellent business plan for all i know, but they are a perfect example of a good band that could be great. They work hard and they are good musicians and good performers. So how does an indie band like CAYM get a large following when they can’t afford to get out of their home town? How does a band make money without a large audience?
Sure, it’s an art form right? It’s not about the money? That’s what people who can’t make money have to say. The reality is, if you can sell millions of songs for 99 cents and thousands of t-shirts, then you will have some money. Are you ever going to be able to sell that much?
i don’t really believe in the music machine any more…it’s a broken machine, it’s a tired old, broken down machine…and i don’t believe in it any more…but i believe in my songs…my dreams. ~ Aaron Peters, Musician/Songwriter
“We musicians all suffer from the same thing. We’re lousy f*cking business people.” ~ Greg Anzelc, Drummer
It’s heartbreaking to sit on the edge of the Toronto music scene watching the players struggle. Most of the musicians i know don’t really care about making money. They just want people to listen to their music. They don’t even attempt to sell their music. They give it away. They might sell a t-shirt at a show.
There are people making money in this business though. I’ve become curious about it, so i did some research and this is what i’ve found. Assuming you have the necessary foundation – you’re a really good band (like CAYM) who gives a great live performance – here’s the “Oh Just Eat It Recipe for Success for Bands”. I’m not saying you’ll get rich with this recipe, but you might get a little famous.
WRITE A REALLY GOOD SONG
Write a really good song. I mean a REALLY good song. You only need one really good song to get radio play and to create buzz.
GET A PRODUCER TO RECORD YOUR SONG
Sure everyone can record in their basement these days. Go ahead. The technology is available. However, if you want to be noticed by radio, you need to have a really well produced song to offer. Spend the money on an experienced producer who’s worked with other great bands in your genre. Get a producer who knows how to professionally mix to give you the necessary sound for radio play. Get that one good multi-track song. Once you have your song professionally recorded, you can share it with radio and even potentially use the demo to license to TV/Film and other media to actually start making some money with your song. You love your music. Invest in it.
MAKE A VIDEO
With the popularity of handheld devices making it harder to view videos online, is it even worthwhile putting money and effort into a youtube video? The answer is yes. A video is an excellent promotional tool. The video will present your band as the whole package – sound, look and style.
Not that I encourage you to sign to a label, but as an example of the power of this promotional tool let’s look at the case of SUM 41. In 1999, SUM 41 signed a deal with Island Records after sending the label a videotape of the band in water gun fights while their music played in the background.
You’ll notice the bands online who do covers of songs get a lot of hits. A really good cover can go viral.
If you’re looking to produce a professional quality video, Ohjusteatit.ca can help. Aaron Peters is a videographer. He has worked with many bands and has a lot of creative ideas to share with you. Don’t be afraid to contact him just to talk about it. He’s a musician and understands your world.
BUY THE INDIE BIBLE THROUGH OHJUSTEATIT.CA
Buy the Indie Bible through the Ohjusteatit.ca blog and find radio Music Directors/Programming Directors to send your really good song to and ask them to play it on air. Follow up regularly with the radio stations and do your own radio tracking. Just regular phone calls – that’s all radio tracking is. It’s not rocket science.
I recently made the Indie Bible available through Ohjusteatit.ca. The Indie Bible lists thousands of places where you can get your music reviewed and your songs played on the radio.
NICKELBACK did it. They did their own radio tracking and got radio play across North America. They released an album and toured like maniacs. They went from unknown to playing in front of millions. They did this after they dumped their managers and handled things themselves.
HAVE A STORY
Your band needs to become legend. Shania Twain created a legend with the story of her Ojibway upbringing and the fact that she cared for her siblings after her parents died while still pursuing her career in music. People love the story and it’s become part of her image.
You may not naturally have a compelling story to tell about your band, so get creative. What image would you like to have? Radio wants to know about you, your publicist needs something to sell to media for you, and your fans want to know your story.
BUY THE VENUE BIBLE THROUGH OHJUSTEATIT.CA
PRINCE pulled off a cute little trick in 2004. During the Musicology Tour, he included the price of the CD in the concert ticket sales. With every concert ticket purchased, get a CD. The album was certified platinum by Billboard in June 2004 and was certified double platinum in late January 2005. This prompted Billboard magazine and Nielsen SoundScan to change its chart data methodology: For future album releases, Billboard says that customers “must be given an option to either add the CD to the ticket purchase or forgo the CD for a reduced ticket-only price.”
Mick Jagger likes to chart out where the ROLLING STONES tours will “go to profit”. Tours are expensive up to a point, but if they are managed properly, the profit will begin to happen after a certain amount of ticket sales.
I give you these two examples because the next thing you need to do after achieving radio play is tour and gig in all the cities where you achieved radio play.
The Indie Venue Bible, available on the Ohjusteatit.ca blog, is a directory of live music venues in North America. You’ll find thousands of bars, coffee shops, restaurants, house concerts, theatres, clubs, halls, churches, book stores, festivals and colleges. I suggest you get it. Once you’ve tracked your radio, open the Venue Bible and start booking venues.
GET A PUBLICIST
When you’ve decided what cities to include in your tour, contact a publicist. Your publicist will arrange interviews at the radio stations and maybe even with the local print and television media.
It needs to be pointed out here that there is a difference between a Publicist and a Manager. A Manager will advise and guide the band business. A Publicist is only responsible for publicity for the band. A Publicist’s job is to get you noticed by as many people as possible.
HAVE AN ADVERTISING BUDGET
Despite having free social media and a publicist promoting your band, you will still need to advertise though the customary channels. IRON MAIDEN do television commercials to promote their tours. You may not have enough money to do that, but you will at least need to advertise in the local newspapers. You’ll also need posters, of course.
DO SOMETHING DIFFERENT
Make your publicist’s job easier by offering up something a little different. Give the publicist “a hook”.
Examples of something different would be KISS and their makeup; the 5 members of WALK OFF THE EARTH playing one guitar in a music video; or SUM 41 having a water fight. Try to do something that hasn’t been done.
You can also offer something different by connecting your band to a charitable cause.
Providing “a hook” gives you something more to talk to the media about.
How do you catch a unique rabbit? You nique up on it.
TAKE CARE OF YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA
Aaron is always arguing that social media doesn’t matter. You can get as many likes on your Facebook page as you like and those people still won’t buy your music or attend your gigs. This is true, but why would you ignore a perfectly good and FREE format for promoting your brand?
Journalists, venue booking agents, fans, they’re all looking for you online to check you out. They want to read your bio, view your videos, download any free music available. They will notice if you don’t have any recent posts. They will notice how many views you have on that video and how many “likes” you have on your page. They will pay attention to how many event invites you send. They will get to know you through your status updates and Tweets.
I don’t completely agree with Aaron’s assessment of social media. I believe it’s just not there yet. I believe it’s becoming a more powerful tool all the time. It’s going through growing pains.
I’m not the only one who recognizes this. In December 2010, Billboard announced a new chart titled Social 50, which ranks the most active artists on the world’s leading social networking sites. The Social 50 chart tallies artists’ popularity using their weekly additions of friends/fans/followers, along with weekly artist page views and weekly song plays on Myspace, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and iLike.
In January 2011, Billboard introduced another chart called Uncharted, which lists new and developing artists, who are yet to appear on any major Billboard chart, “…regardless of their country of origin.”. The ranking is based on the views and fans on social networking websites like Myspace and Facebook. To appear on Uncharted, the artists must be registered Myspace Music artists, and should not have appeared on any major Billboard charts before.
This charting doesn’t translate into sales. It does however recognize your online efforts. It will also be noticed by people who can help you translate this into sales. Managing social media is very time consuming. Ask your mom if she’ll do it for you. Whatever you have to do to have an online presence, do it.
In summary, you don’t need a manager. You don’t need a record label. You have all the tools. You’re walking in two worlds. One is real, one is not. Work with both and do it yourself.
Don’t lose hope. As the self-proclaimed cheerleader for Toronto bands, I say “you can do this!”. Just do it with a business plan. Your band is a brand and your music is your product. Sell it. Also sell t-shirts, but everyone is selling t-shirts. Try to think outside the box. Open a tattoo parlour, for example, and send all your fans there to get their tatt. Come up with interesting product ideas that you can sell using your band’s fame and all the time and money you’ve invested in promotion. It’s called the music “business”. Treat it like a business.
“Despite the apparent bad news about the decline in album and CD sales, the truth is the music industry as we have known it is in transition, and the emerging model is incredibly exciting, larger and far more profitable than it has ever been. Technology has changed the way people can interact, discover and listen to music. It used to be just commercial radio, MTV, buying a CD and getting a mix tape. Now music has been unleashed from the 5″ circular disc and is everywhere to buy, stream, discover share and listen to. With these changes more people are listening, discovering, and consuming music. More music is actually being bought then ever before. With this change, more artist service industries are emerging and more fame and money are being generated in more ways and going to more musicians and businesses than ever before.” ~ Tunecore.com