Monday, December 9, 2013

Part 3: Touring with tips from Jimmy Gnecco of Ours

In my last entry this was one the things I didn't mention about promoting an album, well this and the importance of making a video (mainly because I assumed most bands have videos on you tube of performance and regular MTV style music videos). Touring is a very necessary and effective way for bands to build a more solid fan base and insure that album sales will increase, if done correctly and effectively. Many bands have an unenthusiastic opinion about touring or unrealistic expectations. First off the word "Tour" doesn't necessarily mean 3 months out on the road packed in a van, but it can mean that. You can actually take trips to separate cities and come home each time and consider that a tour too. Either way the goal is to play in as many different cities as you can in order to strengthen your fan base and album sales. But of course it is wise to KNOW YOUR LIMITATIONS in this case it pertains to how many places you can afford to travel to with your budget and the time allotted to you and your band. I for one don't have much full on tour experience, with the exception of shows in each city in the North Eastern United States. So I decided to ask some questions you may have about touring to my friend Jimmy Gnecco, best known for his work as a solo artist and with his band Ours. Here is what he had to say:

What is the hardest thing to get used to about touring?

Jimmy: "For us the hardest thing besides being away from family is trying to find a way to make the show run as consistently as possible from city to city and venue to venue. The sound changes every night, and so does the cast, so it's very challenging to get comfortable on a whole."

What unexpected events(good or bad) did you have while on the road?

Jimmy: "I would say that an audience can surprise you. Never underestimate an audience or phone in a performance just because it may be a small turnout. Sometimes they are very mighty in spirit!"

What is your favorite and least favorite things about touring?

Jimmy: "Favorite thing is the structure that it provides in life. The ability to play music for a living is a wonderful gift. Least favorite these days is all of the driving."

What advice do you have for a band that is about to go on tour for the first time?

Jimmy:"Be safe out there. Don't underestimate the road as far as how dangerous it is to be traveling. Just because you're a band and having the time of your life, it doesn't make you invincible. Enjoy the time, be present, give everything that you have to the performance, but don't be reckless."

Jimmy & his Band OURS just released their latest album "Ballet the Boxer 1" for information on that and their upcoming tour dates, please visit the Official OURS Homepage

Before speaking with Jimmy I didn't realize how much driving was involved in touring, but not every part of playing music is fun(which I've learned the hard way) However it is rewarding work. "Well for starters, its easy to get wrapped up in the drugs and too much partying new bands on tour get sucked into that because they are touring and get into the whole rockstar thing" Says Dan Castiel. Dan is a founding member of the band Voo Doo Terror Tribe and currently does Artists relations for Redwood Entertainment. I also asked Dan: What does a booking agency look for in an Artist? He said : "Well [selling] t shirts and cds at shows are a great way to increase income. Agencies usually wont pick up an unsigned artist that's pretty much it. I mean the agency, if they take on an artist they are essentially investing in them so the band needs to be very marketable"

Hiring a booking agency, if you are able will ease the burden off the band itself in terms of building a rapport with a venue or promoter, negotiating a fair guarantee for each show and ensuring that you will be playing a venue that is not only reputable, but the right fit for your band. Not to mention saving yourself hours of time NOT spent researching venues and calling each one.

If you decide to take the reins and book your own tour there are some things you should keep in mind to ask when considering a club to try and set a tour date with. Before I get to that I want to stress one important point: Avoid any promoter making you pre-sell tickets to an event.This is usually done on a local level so promoters can cover the cost of renting the club for the night,by making you go out and do the work plus it is illegal and musical industry professionals don't pay attention to any shows or venues that follow these practices. Even if a major act is playing. So no you will not get a record deal by going and nagging people to buy tickets off you while a promoter is sitting at home devising his next scheme.

Anyways, back to the real business of booking shows: for starters clubs usually have a certain protocol in terms of how they book shows, most book at least 2 months in advance so I would suggest contacting some clubs while your album is still in the production stages (in order to build a rapport with each venue). I can not stress this enough, Learn&Follow the clubs booking procedures. For example some clubs do not except phone calls for booking shows, you will learn this when you are researching a club. Some clubs only allow calls for bookings on a certain day of the week, most likely because the person who handles the show bookings is only there one day a week (I don't know how many times I have "cold called" a place and heard "this is the bartender"). And ask if they except press kits in the mail, or will they take information via the net.IMPORTANT: when sending any emails pertaining to your band make sure they are brief and to the point and that all spelling, grammar and punctuation is correct. Also make sure that you proof read your email and even print it out first before sending to take a good look at first. Any information you gather about a club should be written down or even put into a spreadsheet like on Microsoft Excel or something. Find out the name of the "current" person handling the booking and document that too(plenty of information you will get on a club and their staff is outdated, so it's best to ask who does the bookings for safe measure). And of course be courteous, and again try to be quick and to the point (these clubs get dozens of calls about bands daily,so be quick because you have dozens of clubs to call as well) also thank them for their time. Never be rude with anyone when calling these places. For all you know you are speaking to the owner or a family member. Even if you are denied a booking for whatever reason (which will happen) still be thankful for their time (your professionalism will be remembered) and ask "Can I try back in few months and see if things change?" and "Can you recommend another club in your area?". Also, if you are turned down, don't get discouraged. It's just one club think of it as job hunting, do you pout and complain if you apply for twenty jobs and only get three callback for interviews? And a no is a no for right now after all, if you are an unknown in the area the club is taking a big risk. So just keep playing and keep in contact with each club that you had a good rapport with and make them aware of what you are doing. It took me two years in some cases to get booked by certain promoters and I did exactly what I am telling you to do.

So where do you find these club you ask? As I had mentioned in part 1 of the Musical Artist's Survival guide: the music business and promoting yourself Their is a book called The Music Atlas, which is printed every year that you can find out all the information about clubs you need. Their is also a great webpage you can go to that has information about clubs geared towards independent bands, as well as plenty of insider info on clubs such as rating and reviews from bands that have played their previously called Indie on the Move After you have researched a club do find out how they accept information on bands(yes I know that I'm repeating myself but it is very important to follow the club's booking procedures) after sending them your information give them about a week or two to review and then call back when you know someone will be there to speak to you or reach them via email. If the club is interested try to plan accordingly with your other tour dates to allow yourself enough time to get to said venue, time to rest between shows and negotiate a guarantee of payment. When doing so it is best to use the Booking Equation. Any professional venue will handle bookings this way, so make sure you follow this to a tee and ask the right questions. In order to do this equation you need to know 2 important variables: 1-the capacity of the venue and 2-how much is the average admission price. You should base your guarantee on how much the club will gross when the room is at 65% capacity(which is a realistic capacity to reach for at most events). For Example, say the venue holds 100 people and charges $10 per person. At full capacity the club would have made $1,000. So at 65% capacity the club would have made a profit of $650 (FYI- you are dividing the total amount that the venue would make at full capacity by .65, so get out those calculators!) this is what you will ask the club for in terms of your guarantee. Of course the promoter may not automatically agree to this. However, you must assure him or her that you have the same goal that they do: to fill the room and that you will be helping to promote the event as well (hopefully using some or all of the methods I suggested in my previous entry: the musical artist's survival guide part 2: releasing your album). If the promoter still does not budge then take a lesser guarantee, say $500. Make sure you stress to them that you want it agreed that if the club does in fact go over the 65% capacity mark that your band would like a percentage of the whatever is made at the door. At this point you should also find out when the club wants you to load in your equipment, when they want you to do your soundcheck,will they provide a sound engineer,floor monitors, backline of some sort(also make them aware of what equipment you will be using by creating a Tech Rider and Stage plot)and if they can provide you with any amenities such as a dressing room, water, food and other drinks. All this must be put in writing before you set out to play any club. This is not a trust thing, think of a contract as a road map to how the event is being planned and what each party expects from the other. All reputable clubs will agree to signing a written contract after the terms are discussed, if they don't just say thank you for your time and document it in your notes (or put a big X on this club's info since they just wasted your time) If you are doing a full tour try and get all your contracts and tour dates in order first so you can have time to promote. A good example of a performance contract can be found By visiting this page and you may want to visit Docstoc as well. See this link for an example of a Tech Rider See this link to learn how to create your stage plot

It would also be a good idea to before you do any of this to gauge where your appeal is now from the start. Put out some feelers, see where your hits are coming from by asking your fans where they are from. Reward those fans who are most helpful with free downloads and other goodies such as pins, stickers, shirts and the likes. Fans will appreciate it and should know that they are appreciated, not to mention they will be more likely to be in attendance when you come to their city since you reached out to them personally (and if they do and you get the chance to meet them be friendly and agree to any autographs or pictures they ask from you and thank them for coming to the show-Good impressions will keep people coming and listening, bad impressions make people say home and throw your music in the garbage). Also look at the demographic information on your Reverbnation and Facebook pages. Here is another way to find out where the "demand" for your band. Set up an account with Like other sites that you can use to promote this page will allow you to post shows, but the great thing is that when you do your fans in that area will get an email if they demanded you. This widget may put all this demand stuff in perspective :

Yes I used my band's own widget and you can see where people have demanded us so far. If you click demand you will see that you are asked to demand my band in your respective city, you demand us and get an email once we post our show on this page, so the work is done. And as a fan other bands (including major acts) you can find out as soon as show date is book and when tickets will be on sale.

Well I hope that this gives you some real insight into how touring is done and took out lots of the guess work for you. Remember: you are only as good as your last show, so make each one count and enjoy each moment it while it's happening (believe me the audience will know if you are or not) and before you know it you will at another venue playing. I will let Metallica do the rest of the talking for me. Thanks again for reading. Best always, Nate

Part 2: Releasing and promoting your album

I trust that most of you read my last post, so I decided to keep going with this format so that those who brains didn't melt yet could read on. Believe me, I know there is a lot to know and go over beyond songwriting and performance and even if you are the guy in the band that says "they just tell me when to show up and I do" you should inform yourself about the business side. It is not easy even with the advances in technology allowing for the informed to be their own manager/booking agent/record label.

Obviously when you are releasing your own album you want to make that you make it sound and look as professional as possible. However this goes beyond the quality of the actual recording and artwork. I thought that this would be best in a Question and Answer format:

How do we get our cds made professionally? Your cds need to be replicated and not duplicated The difference is a duplicated cd is like a cdr burned on your computer. These work well and can be sold, however distributors and stores will only carry actual replicated discs that are made using a glass master copy. All cds that you have purchased from stores are replicated. They are only available for purchase in bulk with a minimum order of 1,000 copies. Usually at this price they cost you 1 dollar each.A place such as Discmakers can do this for you fast and correctly. Discmakers can provide a number of other services that are needed in order to have a cd released professionally such as spine labels, shrink wrapping and Bar codes,which you must have in order to sell your cds in stores (sales are tracked through Soundscan,look for information on how to register with Soundscan in the paragraph on tracking radio airplay below) . And NO this was not a paid advertisement. I simply recommend Discmakers based on prior good experiences and because they are also affiliated with CDbaby which you will also need to work with(more on that in a minute)

How can we make it so when our cd is played on a computer or digital sound system that it is recognized? You need to have ISRC codes aka International Standard Recording Codes. You will need to go to their webpage, apply for a login and they will explain how to assign a unique code to each song. It will be your responsibility to keep a record of these codes. These codes are necessary in order to sell your music digitally. To get started with getting you ISRC codes visit this webpage

How do I make my music available for sale both online and in stores? The Same answer for both: Distribution. Basically there are two types of distribution that I will touch on, digital and physical. You can go through the same company for distribution of both, such as Cdbaby (however, I do suggest you shop around as well). Digital distribution is how you will get your music onto iTunes,Google Play,Zune,Spotify,,Emusic and even Xbox(yes you can make money when someone plays your music while they are playing video games). It is Best to find the means of digital distribution that allows for your music to be on as many sites as possible with the largest pay out back to you. As far as Physical distribution, like I stated earlier you MUST have replicated cds in order to sell in stores. I suggested CdBaby for Physical distribution because they are affiliated with Alliance Entertainment Corporation, which is the largest distributor of cds in the United States. Most stores that carry music deal with AEC. Of course locally you can still look around for some stores that will carry your music on consignment or some other deal, but it is best to try to work on getting your music distributed nationally.

How do get listeners on a national level? You need to have a promotional campaign. The goal of course is to have as many people as possible listening to and buying your music. Yes, this can be done by posting all over the place, but think about how many other bands are dong this. You need to make your music stand out. So there are a few ways of doing this:

1.Send your album out to be reviewed This method is free(except if any shipping is required) but not always guaranteed. You probably already do (or should be) reading magazines and webpages that you would like to be reviewed by. Whether you do or not, search the net for magazines,ezines,blogs, and other webpages that will review music in your genre. Look at the page and see the Contact us link. Just inquiry whether they except physical press kits(which consists of 2-8x10 photos, a bio of the band,any previous press you may have received, your contact information and of course your cd) or if they will except information via the internet. Also keep in mind that it may take several months for them to get around to printing your review. But the good thing about that is that it keeps your release fresh in the eyes of the public. For Example you send out 100 press kits to different publications for reviews, You may get one or two reviews within a month or so and you may get a few more in six months and a few more in a year or more. So even after your album has been out for a year people are still reading about it as if it were just released. Just make sure in your initial contact with these publications to be polite, brief and to the point. After sending your release information follow up in about two weeks to see if they receive it and inquire if they have an idea as to when a review maybe printed. If and when it does, make sure to post it online and include a visibly clear copy of the review to your press kit. You may also look into hiring a publicist to do this for you as well, as they may already have a rapport with several publications to give you a better chance at more reviews.

2.Advertising This of course costs money, so you need to be smart about when and where you advertise. You don't advertise a rock album in a Jazz magazine 3 months before the album has been released. You need to view this like regular shopping, because after all you are spending money. Also there are of two types: Print and Online. For print when you are shopping around before you talk to any magazine, you should known some terminology in order to ask the right questions. Like what their circulation is. Circulation means how many copies are printed and when such as weekly, monthly, quarterly bi-annually or annually. Also ask them to send you a Rate Card. A Rate card will be broken up by prices for different size ads, which in most cases will be discounted if you agree to have the same size ad printed in more then one issue and discounted further. It is wiser to get a few smaller ads printed throughout several issues as opposed to one big ad in one issue. As probably already know a magazine you paid to advertise in will be more likely to write a decent review on your album. It is kinda of cheating, but it is how it is. And ask the print magazines if they have an online version or webpage you can advertise on and save yourself time searching for another webpage to buy ads on. Online ads are usually for a one month interval for companies that use Google adsense, Google Ads and I would recommend looking into Facebook advertising too. You can have a sponsored post and spend as little as five dollars or have a regular ad set up. You can set up a daily budget for each ad and bid for how many people will view your ad. The advantage of a standard Facebook ad is that you can target people based on age,location and interests. So that way your rock band that is influenced by Stone Temple Pilots, Metallica and Tool will not be seen by a guy in his Eighties that listens to Hank Williams, Johnny Cash and Roy Orbison whose interests include fishing and oil painting. Reverbnation also has promotional campaigns as well that I have been told have help bands gain more listeners. When purchasing your ad on facebook I would suggest looking at your audience demographic on both your band's Reverbnation and Facebook accounts in order to target those people. Also make sure you target people who are fans of more well known bands that are similar to yours and people whose interests include music and going to concerts.

3.Radio Many bands still gain new fans from getting played on the radio. There is an argument that with the changing times with people using ipods and cd players in their cars, and more recently SiriusXM radio that your regular over the air radio is almost non existent and not worth bothering with. But after listening to the radio recently and hearing how many people still call in and win concert tickets and the likes this argument seems to be null and void. Not to mention how many larger companies still advertise on the radio(oops I forgot to mention that,think of it this way I just save you tens of thousands of dollars yearly that you wont be spending on radio ads). Many radio stations will accept music from a band and may play it on a local spotlight show of some sort. However, the most effective way to have a chance for consistent airplay or to be put into "Rotation" (meaning your song gets played several times a day for a specific amount of time) is to hire a radio promoter. Years ago record companies would pay the radio Djs to play certain records(this is how the term Payola was invented)but this method of obtaining radio play was made illegal decades ago. But for some reason a record company or band can pay a radio promoter to help them get on the radio as sort of a middle man. The best radio promoters will have contacts at several stations nationwide or internationally and will be able to track radio play(more on that in a minute). You should find the best radio promoter for your genre and your budget, as radio promotions can cost up tens of thousands. Although some radio promotions are considerably less. If you happen to need a radio promoter for Rock, Metal, Goth or Industrial I suggest looking into hiring Skate Board Marketing. This company has been around for many years, has worked with several great bands and is very freindly and reputable.

Can I get paid for my music being played on the radio? YES of course you can. However, it may take several plays for this to happen and only if you are having your songs tracked for airplay. The way you do this is by acquiring a login to BDS and Mediabase respectively. Each company will give you a login for free so you can upload your music to their database so that when your music is played it is tracked and your performing rights organization(ASCAP,BMI,SESAC) can collect your earnings. I would suggest also including your ISRC code for each song you upload as well. BDS is also affiliated with Soundscan which tracks retail sales when your barcode is scanned during a sale. Information on how to register for each service can be found here on the A&R Power Summit

So how much is all of this going to cost and how can a band pay for all of this?Obviously the cds will run you about $1,000 but I believe the fine people at Discmakers have better pricing for you on replicated cd packages. The estimated cost of releasing an album would be between $3,000 and $5,000 for a modest campaign. Some bands can pool this money together from their earnings or call up a rich relative if they are lucky. But in all seriousness, a new method for obtaining funds is through fundraising campaigns such Kickstarter. This a general site where people will donate to several start up businesses in exchange for rewards including thank you letters, free merchandise and services. However there is a site for just funding musical projects called Rockethub which you should also look into. Bands have offered their donators free downloads, shirts and even free concerts for generous donations. Each site lets you create a video to show potential contributors why they should help fund your project. I recommend looking at some successful fundraising campaigns and their videos closely to learn how they got their much needed funding.

Well, that should cover all the bases as to effectively release an album. I hope all of your questions were answered. And by the way can anyone tell why I posted this particular entry on a Tuesday? Because for reason this is usually the day of the week most new albums are released. Betcha you didn't know did you? Until next time best of luck in your musical journey, Nate

Part 1: the music business and promoting yourself

A few years back I put together a list of books and webpages I suggest for all independent artists. They will help you learn about the music business and make it easier for you further all your musical endeavors. I have read most of these books(really, I did. I'm not lying) and they can be found at the library and on sites like Ebay or Amazon. If anyone has any other books or webpages that you think are useful please let me know. I will start with the Books and include some webpages for the end.


The Indie Bible a book that is released yearly that has a list of contact information for record companies, radio stations, magazines, distributors and more that will work with independent bands. It is divided up Geographically and by Genre.

The Music Atlas Another Yearly reference book. Not specifically geared towards independent artists. But does have many resources such as record labels and other information broken up by Countries and States such as Clubs, music stores and newspapers and other great resources.


"Your Band is a virus" by James Moore

"I don't need a Record Deal" by Daylle Deanna Schwartz A great guide for independent artists that was mentioned in my last blog entry. It will show you how to use all the resources available to today's artists to become a success while using unique strategies to building a fan base and more.

"Ruthless Self Promoting in the Music Industry" by Jeffrey P. Fisher This book is one of my favorites. You will learn industry protocol as well as smart promoting and being able to get more shows and publicity for your band with all the tips you will learn in this book.

"Get It in Writing: The Musician's Guide to the Music Business" by Brian McPherson A book to get you acquainted with copyrights, Mechanical and publishing royalties, Record deals and more. Also includes interviews from many music industry professional such as Rick Rubin

"the Billboard guide to Music Publicity" by Jim Pettigrew A good read to show you how to get your band and releases the much need publicity and reviews in order to gain a larger fan base and presence both locally and nationally.

"Making Money Making Music" by Eric Beall A good book to learn everything you need to know music publishing and licensing.

"This Business of Music" by M. William Krasilovsky, Sidney Shemel, John M Gross and Jonathan Feinstein A part of the Billboard music business series(which I suggest you read each one). This is a newly updated overview of each aspect of the music business including : copyrights, publishing, management and more. A must read for any musician, manager, publicist, agent or anyone else looking to have a career in music.

"This Business of Artist Management" by Xavier M. Frascongna This will show you what you should look for in a manager. It explains what a manager does and even has sample contracts for performances, artist management and more.

"This Business of Music Marketing and Promoting" by Todd Lathrop

"This Business of Concert Promotion and Touring" by Ray D. Waddell, Rich Barnet and Jake Berry

"Million Dollar Mistakes" by Moses Avalon A book that is packed with stories from many music industry pros that were brave enough to share what mistakes cost them dearly so can learn from them. A very good read.

"Guerrilla Marketing Excellence: 50 Golden rules for Small Business Success" by Jay Conrad Levinson Not a music oriented book. But it was a book recommended by one of the authors of the books above. It will show you how to effectively promote your product, which in this case is your band, your albums and merchandise.

Webpages you can use to promote your music

Of course your web presence is important as well. Im sure every band is on Facebook. The best thing is to link your band's facebook page to other music sites(some of which I will mention). I would recommend finding genre specific groups to post to as well as groups in your area. However, I suggest that you "don't live in a bubble". Like and share other artists posts, listen to other bands. We are all in the same boat, so if you just post and don't reciprocate when someone else does than don't complain when you get poor results. This Group is great for anyone who agrees with this method and wants more fans and likes: The Artist DIY marketing Co-op founded by Jim Rose And all of course are welcome to join this group that I helped co found as well Artists in your Neighborhood

Twitter Another great way to gain fans(if you know how to use it) You will notice that you will get a group of loyal "reposters", I suggest including them in any important tweets and include: "RT" which is short for Retweet or asking someone to retweet. Also, you will learn that hastags: # are important, I learned that you should keep it simple like #music, #rock or #video don't expect to gain interest by putting #checkoutthissongwewerestayedupallnightrecording. More tips on twitter and getting more followers from this blog by Music clout on Twitter promotion

Reverbnation A good all around music site that offers distribution, ways to reach new fans, music charts and even pays artists. It has become the norm that most bands use Reverbnation

Bandcamp A great page for you to post and sell your music. You keep a bigger percentage of your sales then if you sold downloads through a distributor (a topic that I will discuss in further detail in another entry) and you can allow fans to name their own price are among the many features on bandcamp. A highly recommended site to be on.

Ourstage This page has features that include their own EPK(Electronic press kit) and monthly contests, some of which are divided by genre where bands can win cash and other prizes. Plus contest winners have another thing to add to their press kits.

Headliner A somewhat Co-op based site where bands help other bands with their promo campaigns and acquire "Band Bucks" for doing so that can be used during their own promo campaigns to promote a show, or release or what not.

Last.FM An internet radio site that has one of the largest music catalogs on the net. Artists can also make money from listeners downloading and streaming their songs.

Webpages for making your own merchandise

Cheap Buttons The names says it all! You can get friendly, fast and reliable service with button package prices starting at 20 dollars

Sticker Guy A great page to get stickers done fast and cheap.

Jak Prints A good page with good customer service for printing mostly anything including clothes, stickers, banners, and more

Cafe Press A page that allows you to set up your own online store for all types of merchandise. You can have your band's logo on shirts, hats, Coffee mugs, mouse pads, clocks and much more

Spreadshirt A great page for having your band's shirts printed. You can set up an online store to have shirts and other products printed with digital direct technology and fast shipping straight to your fans

Well, I hope this helps you get some more perspective into how the music business works and will help make it a bit easier for you to get your name out there. In closing I suggest that you be patient and friendly in all your dealings while climbing the ladder. As they say: you will meet the same people on the way up as you do on the way down. Best of luck to you all,Nate

And remember this when something doesn't work out, oh well after all: