Wednesday, December 29, 2010


I got a message today from a guy on Linkedin. He was introducing a band that he was managing to me. That in itself is cool and all but in the same message he said "let me know if there is anyway I can help you." In a way that kind of pisses me off. Why you ask? To me it implies that he is asking me for some help indirectly. I know I may be way off base and the guy really wants to help me out in someway but I don't feel good about it. I really don't know this guy and I know he may simply be trying to create a business relationship of some sort but I don't kiss on the first date (unless she is hot.) Where am I going with this?

In the music business, or any other business for that matter, relationships should be mutually beneficial. You do something for me, I do something for you and everyone wins. I really like helping people. I really like talking to bands but don't ever assume that by sending a simple message will engage me in what you are doing. Like you, I am a music fan. I listen to as much music as I can all the time. Dude, send me the stuff and try to create some dialogue like "take a listen if you have time and tell me what you think" or tell me you are excited about this band and see where the chips fall with me. Not that my opinion means jack shit but I would appreciate that you are excited, stoked, inspired, etc. by what you are pitching. Let's take baby steps here and see if I hear what you hear. I usually tell people the truth and even if it isn't my cup of tea, I will at least tell you what I think.

Maybe I am reading this all wrong but for you band people out there, think about how you approach prospective fans. Don't EVER assume that anyone will ever be as excited about your music as you are. Get into your relationships with fans and business people (club owners, booking agents, etc.) without hitting them over the top of the head and turning them off. Engage them first, give them something to believe in and then up the stakes. Don't make people feel like they owe you something because in this business, especially as an artist, you will never be able to do as much for your fans as they do for you. Remember that.

Thursday, December 23, 2010


I remember when Gravity Kills started and it really seemed that it was the band against the world. The only fans of the band that existed where Matt, Doug, Kurt, myself and the few family and friends that had heard Guilty before it was released on Pointessential Volume One. I had no idea what the road ahead looked like. I had no idea that I was going to be so lucky as to emotionally touch people that I had never met with music that I helped create. Sure, I thought I knew. I had dreamed my whole life about hearing a song of mine on the radio or playing to a packed house somewhere but that was all kind of bullshit. The essence of my experience can be encapsulated by the experiences I shared with others and the people that made themselves part of my experience. Yes, I did say MY experience. I know this sounds selfish. Let me explain. My experience in the music business has been infinitely enhanced by the people that made an effort to reach out to me, not the other way around. People who make a decision to become your fans are beyond special. That is the reason you do it. You really only have communication when someone responds to you. If you are speaking, whispering, screaming, etc. and nobody talks back, have you really communicated? Don't get caught up in the number of people that talk back to you and let you know they are listening. You can sort of figure out that the sample of people that will really open up to you personally and communicate how your song made them feel is small compared to everyone that has actually heard your music if you are really getting your message out there and across. It is amazing to me that I am constantly in touch with fans that have been around for years and that we all consider ourselves real friends. I actually had a friend that started out as a fan send me a holiday package this week. Really cool if you think about it.

My whole point to this is to create dialogue with your audience. Be open to hearing what people who were touched by what you do want to say back to you. Take down the barrier that stands between you and your audience. You just might get way more back than you ever gave out in the first place.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Welcome Back

So, some if not all of you have been wondering where the hell I have been. I must say that my head has not been in the game with you guys for several months. Life and all of it's splendor has been kicking me in the ass for a while and now is the time for me to get off my aforementioned ass and get back in the game. Over the time I have been out of the game, it's not like I haven't wanted to write and talk about the things that are important to me and more importantly, anyone reading my ramblings, it's that I found an excuse everyday to not stay on the horse. I hate making excuses. It seems that when you get in the habit of making them, they become part of your operating system. It's time for all of us to stop that. I simply need to get over my shit and get on with it. We all do. Let's not make excuses when it comes to our passions. Everyone in the world has told you that you can't accomplish what you set out to do. Why the fuck do we buy in to everyone else's bullshit. BECAUSE IT'S EASY! Creating music is not easy and at times not fun or fulfilling. Working in the studio and playing the same guitar part until your hands bleed so you can get the right take is not always fun. Being in a band is not always fun. Loading in at the venue is not always fun. Loading out at 3 in the morning in the cold, rain, snow, etc. is not fun. Do you make excuses not to make love to your inherent passion? Do you listen to those in your life that tell you that you CAN'T simply because deep down they want you to fail? Please don't buy what they are trying to sell you. I am not saying that you will ever see success at the level that you aspire to but don't make excuses not to work at your craft. You and I both know that if it flows through your veins, you really have 2 choices: Work fucking hard or make excuses and be miserable. I have been miserable for a while. The excuses end today. Welcome back.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Embrace The Horror

If I talk to or read about one more musician bitching about how the internet has made their job so much harder I am going to fucking scream. What is the primary job of a band or musical artist? I am pretty sure it is to make music. The internet and social media have nothing to do with it unless you can't get your bass player to the studio because he is addicted to internet porn. Once you have some music recorded you can do several things. Maybe you don't give a damn if anyone ever hears your work. I am completely fine with that (and those people usually are doing us all a huge favor) but most bands that endure songwriting and recording do it for others to hear. The internet has actually made your next job easier. What is that you ask? I think it is to deliver it to as many people as possible for them to hear.

The complaints I usually get are in regards to the amount of time it takes dealing with social media. Well boo-fucking-hoo. What a horrible world we live in where you can create music and have limitless boundaries and avenues of distribution. What a horrible world we live in where you can communicate with your fans daily and make your band a part of their daily life. What a horrible world we live in where your fans can turn others on to your band. What a horrible world we live in where if you create something special and work your ass off, you at least have the chance that someone you will never ever meet in the flesh might get turned on by what you do. Hard work and creativity might in some cases create luck and opportunity. Feel lucky if anyone is paying attention to you at all. The days when all musicians did was make music, play shows and talk about themselves in interviews are long over so get fucking over it and get to work.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Full Length Recording Cycles

In a recent article on Noise Creep, Rob Zombie was quoted saying "I like the thought of the band writing, say, one song a month and putting it up there," Zombie said. "Say we've been on tour for six or eight months and we don't have time to stop and make a whole album. It would be cool to put out two or three songs we've written and then keep going just to keep it energized. And truthfully, when you make a new album ... you go, 'OK here's 11 new songs, five of which we'll never play live. And here's the two or three singles that will always be in the set.' So it could just be a different way to do business that's really sort of like the old way of doing things. Back in the '50s and '60s people weren't making albums, they were pressing singles and then an album was basically a collection of all the singles."

This is not a new concept. I have been having discussions with friends for years regarding this topic and have touched on this concept before on The White Light. Aside from having a full length CD available to sell at your shows or as special editions or to get your music on Pandora (another topic altogether,) is the full length CD cycle nearing extincton? My take is this...

In my humble opinion, releasing songs as you get them done is what bands should be doing. With all the shit being thrown at us (much by our own design) digitally and otherwise on a daily, weekly, monthly and yearly basis, we have the attention spans of toddlers. I still buy full download albums but will tell you, even when I bought CD's, I spend about 2 or 3 weeks with a new album before I am off to the next thing. Now factor in that there may only be half of that album that I think is worth a shit. In the best case of course I will continually listen down the entire collection but sooner than later, I am on to the next thing. Because of aforementioned shit being thrown at me (again, much of it by my own design,) the next band, song or video is just a mouse click away. 

Close your eyes. Check that. You can't read with your eyes closed. Now, think of your favorite band. Would you visit the band's website/facebook/myspace/youtube/twitter etc. far more often if the band was releasing material in monthly or bi-monthly cycles? Now think of how your fans would react to this. Music is the core content on the web for your band (unless you are OK GO but that is another topic altogether.) Do you think you would see a larger retention of your fan's attention and see them visit you far more often if this was a strategy that you used to fight the shit? 

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Local Award Contests

Last week I hosted the ABOT awards put on by Garage Media and Tulsa's weekly entertainment newspaper The Urban Tulsa. I can tell you that these type of local band award things has really never been my cup of tea. Back in the old days, Gravity Kills only won one award in a similar contest given out by the Riverfront Times. This was in 1996 and we won the award for "Best Sounding Record." Flattering, but funny to think that maybe people didn't like the songs but sure liked the way it sounded. Usually these type of contests will nominate bands in various categories and then it is up to the band to get their friends, family and fans motivated to vote for them. I am not the only person that really doesn't like this but you know as well as I do that people will complain any way. As the award ceremony was happening, I had some time to talk to someone that works for the Urban Tulsa and he mentioned to me that they had received tons of messages "hating" on the event.

I get why a band would do that on several levels. Maybe they think they are sooo indie and above such nonsense. Maybe they were pissed off that they were not nominated at all. There could be a million reasons.
I get all of that but to those bands once again, YOU ARE MISSING THE FUCKING POINT!

In previous posts I have talked about what I feel is the biggest reason that local scenes don't happen. BECAUSE THE BANDS WON'T SUPPORT EACH OTHER. In the case of this award show, at least someone is trying to gain attention for local music. You may not like the format, the way bands are nominated or the way they win but don't throw the baby out with the bath water. 

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Compulsory License

There are many of you out there that have busted out a cover tune from time to time in your live set. There are also many of you that have recorded a cover as well. In the last week, I had a band out of Iowa (the home of the pissed and aggressive) ask me for permission to perform "Guilty" at a benefit they are playing in a couple of weeks. My answer was, you don't have to have the band's permission to cover a song live. Then there is the question, do I have to have permission to record and release another band's composition? The answer to that is also no. What you have to do if you're going to record and release another band's song is send a letter of Compulsory License to the publisher(s) of the song.

Considering today's technology, it is funny to think why Congress first enacted compulsory license into our copyright laws. Does anyone remember player pianos? As I understand, Congress first enacted compulsory license to protect copyright holders of musical compositions when bars and restaurants (and probably brothels) started using player pianos to entertain their guests way way back  in the day. At that point, the song arrangement scrolls could be sold for player pianos and the rights holders could get paid. From there, Congress has updated the law a couple times to include the changes to recording and distribution technologies.

Why do I do this and what does it cover?  In essence, Congress has given you the right to record and release any song you want but you have to tell the rights holder(s) that you are doing it so if you sell some copies they can get paid. It covers you remaking a song and stylizing the song to fit your band but it does not cover you using or sampling parts of the original recording and going all P. Diddy with it. In other words, compulsory license does not give you the right to use the original sound recording in your cover. That is part of the mechanical use and in most cases that performance is owned by a record company. To use that stuff you must get permission from the rights holder(s) of the actual recording and compulsory license does not apply. Are you with me?

How do you find the rights holder of the composition you ask? Most music in the U.S. is affiliated with performing rights organizations such as ASCAP, BMI or SESAC. Each website has a searchable database where you can find publishing rights holder(s).  Here is an example from ASCAP:

 1. GUILTY     Work ID: 370272474 
        ISWC: T0700694718 



  M 300183

    449 S BEVERLY DR STE 300
    BEVERLY HILLS, CA, 90212
    Tel. (310) 286-6600

So in this case, if you were going to cover "Guilty," you would send your letter of compulsory license to the publisher/administrator. Since I am not a entertainment attorney and want you to be as informed as possible, please check out before you embark on "your own, personal Jesus."

Friday, July 30, 2010

Creative Commons

There has been a stink made recently by ASCAP regarding Creative Commons licensing. I have to tell you that I am an ASCAP member. I get my 6 statements a year from them (4 domestic and 2 foreign distribution checks,) look at the all the numbers, shares and percentages, my eyes roll back in my head and then I move on. Whatever the amount is on the check I must simply accept it for what it is. There is absolutely no way of knowing if the check is the correct amount or not. I do understand that ASCAP takes 12.5% of what they collect for you but really you just get the check and put it in the bank.

What ASCAP said is this: “At this moment, we are facing our biggest challenge ever. Many forces including Creative Commons, Public Knowledge, Electronic Frontier Foundation and technology companies with deep pockets are mobilizing to promote “Copyleft” in order to undermine our “Copyright.” They say they are advocates of consumer rights, but the truth in these groups simply do not want to pay for the use of our music. Their mission is to spread the word that our music should be free.”

Again, I am an ASCAP member but let's face facts here. Did ASCAP not get the memo that tons of music has already been "free" on the internet for well over a decade? I am not advocating piracy so jump off that train but what I do advocate is an artist having the right to release music in anyway they see fit. Let's look at what Creative Commons really is.

Traditionally, copyrights are "All Rights Reserved." Under a Creative Commons license you simply have "Some Rights Reserved." Creative Commons has created six different copyright cocktails if you will with 4 basic ingredients. The "core right" in all works under a Creative Commons license is  the right of redistribution for non-commercial purposes. What does that mean to you? If you have music that you want to give away for free but you want to retain commercial rights, your fans can download and share your music without looking over their shoulder for the RIAA. You still retain commercial rights for radio, streaming, film and TV etc..Creative Commons has various levels and degrees of "Some Rights Reserved" including giving your fans the ability to remix your songs and create derivatives of your work as long as you get credit for the original work and the remixes and derivatives then must carry the same type license. Very cool stuff for your fans.

I can't and won't tell you how to approach this but will give my opinion that it is something you should look into. Only you have the right to dictate how your work is consumed. That is as long as your rights are not fractured with a record company or a publisher.Now that is a different blog.

Check out the Creative Commons website here.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Vortex

A vortex is defined as:
1. A spiral motion of fluid within a limited area, especially a whirling mass of water or air that sucks everything near it toward its center.
This is how I look at what we bands need to become in the current music business paradigm. With this said, the most important part of what you do, the center if you will, is your music. You can have the greatest looking website, make the most clever videos, be active in social media, have everything in place and do all the right things but why will anyone want to pay attention if they get to your center and you are just not that good. With that established over and over again let's look at this through web presence. 
The Center: Your Website. This is the place you have the most control of what you do and how you present it to the world. This is where all web content and social media roads must lead back to. This is where you want to build and centralize your fan community. I have been in conversations with fan/friends and heard them tell me how they miss the old Gravity Kills message board. It was a place where fans talked about the band and possibly more importantly, became real friends with others that went there. I have 2 fans that became friends to me that actually met on our message board and got married. They are still married and have a family together. Do you think that this couple will ever discount what my band meant to them in the grand scope of their life? I think not. What does this have to do with music? Gravity Kills will forever be part of this couple's life. The community gave these two people a place to start building a relationship with each other simply based on liking the music of the same band. People want to have things in common. You see this daily on your facebook. Create it with your website. 
We can list the other places you know your band has to be i.e. Myspace (yes, you still need to be there,) Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr , Flickr, Youtube, Reverbnation, Band Camp, etc., etc., etc. (in my Yul Brynner, The King and I voice.) These places are respectively the limited space of water or air surrounding your vortex. For social media, 6 years ago Myspace was THE place to be. Then came Facebook. You upload video to Youtube, upload photos to Flickr and on and on. THESE SITES WILL COME AND GO. What will happen to Facebook when the all mighty Google finally figures out how to create a social media platform that blows up Facebook? If that is where all of your social media cards are, your direct line of communication to your fans will die with it. You need to find creative ways to get all of your social media fans back to the center of your vortex as much as possible.
Here is another way of looking at this topic.
Your hometown shows should be the center of your live vortex. This is the place where you can make the most touches with fans and prospective fans. In this case, think of your vortex breathing in fans as well as exhaling your band to other markets. Make your vortex grow one market at a time. The markets should be a reasonable drive from one another. Make it where fans from one market to the next can actually come see you in multiple markets. If you live in the Northwest part of the U.S. you are somewhat fucked. If you live in Providence, Rhode Island well then, you have it made regarding this. You want to create a situation in which the ripple of the initial splash you make in your home market will carry you out. The further you get away from the splash or the center of your vortex, the harder it will be for you to gain attention. If you can make a splash in one market, the ripple can carry you to a second market where that splash can carry you to the next and so on and so on.
Everything you do regarding your music and live shows should always suck people back into your vortex. If you suck enough people in, you might have a shot at really making a long lasting ripple.



Wednesday, July 28, 2010

That's Just Life

I think the hardest thing for the indie musician is simply enduring. As a full time musician with Gravity Kills, I had personal times that were tough but as the band got bigger, it was my job to be at the studio and to be creative. People have asked me what I miss the most about my personal experience in Gravity Kills and I tell them that I miss having the opportunity to be creative and think about music 24 hours a day. Even when times were tough, since it was my job to be creative, I could find solace at the studio and focus. Focusing on music became an escape for me because I had the energy and more than that, the time to focus. As many of you out there, I have to deal with life differently now. I get up in the morning and go to my office and put my agent hat on. I do love what I do but it is not my end all be all passion. You can relate I am sure. I work all day, come home, deal with other things and then attempt to sit down and focus on creating new Gravity material. Some nights are good and some are not so good. The difference for me now is that I need to be extremely focused in shorter amounts of time. Life is not great for me at the moment and that magnifies both my need for music as well as eating an enormous amount of emotional energy that consumes even more of my time. I have had brief moment of brilliance lately but simply want more time. Like anything else that you do, the more you can expose yourself to being creative in a place where you can be constructively creative, the better your results will be. I will endure, just give me time.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Our Digital Space

I was having dinner with some people from the Oklahoma Film and Music office last week. We got to talking about the comparisons and contrasts between what the internet has done to both the film industry and the music industry. When talking about the internet, it seems one must acknowledge the distinction between the social media phenomenon and the internet as a whole. The person I was talking to made the comment that social media has created what she called her "digital space." She went on to say that as the internet makes it easier to connect and to get information more easily and virtually instantaneously, social media has actually created an insulation for her to all of the things that she does not want to pay attention to. Elaborating more she stated that on facebook she has many friends that she has reconnected to, but only in a way to see a long lost friend's picture of a child or a one time message of "What are you doing these days?" This conversation made it clear to me that the work cut out for a new and virtually unknown band is more daunting than ever. When thinking about facebook in particular, it seems that it is set up entirely to create an insulated personal digital space. Bands can have pages but can't message their fans directly from the profile. Myspace has it set up where a person can block bands from sending friend requests. I get that both are trying to eliminate spam but it certainly makes it much more difficult for a band to go find new fans.

In the old days (all of 15 years ago) you had to be more engaged with mass culture. Part of this was because we had no choice. We found new music on MTV, radio, by reading magazines such as Alternative Press, Paste, even Rolling Stone and Spin. Through music we had common threads between people of all socio-economic backgrounds. Music and Film united us with those we may never ever have anything else in common with. Personal digital space has somewhat eliminated all of that with the exception of celebrity culture. Is all of this happening because with all the information on the internet, we actually now have less time for discovery? Less time to read or listen to something new? Less time to search out new music? Is our personal digital space nothing more than a backlash to the information revolution?

This is why I keep spouting off about creating musical communities with bands. YOU CAN'T DO THIS ALONE. As prospective fans are shrinking into their own digital space, the more bands you have in a community to wake people up with, the more chance you have to pull them into your digital space.

Thursday, July 22, 2010


The current economy has really hit the concert and festival business. Not that this is big news to anyone but it is especially weird today considering that tonight I would normally be going to the DFEST VIP party to kick off two days of conferences and live music. Due to the down economy, DFEST founders Tom and Angie Green had to pull the plug on arguably the best thing that had happened to the Oklahoma music scene ever. In the last couple of years the event had come into it's own as a premier music event. Interestingly Tom and Angie took enormous heat publicly for canceling the event.What these haters didn't know was that the Green's had never made any money from putting on the event and on several occasions had been in near personal financial ruin from hosting it.  DFEST was (and hopefully will be in the future) a physical manifestation of what I preach on this blog about the creation of community. They created an epicenter, a place where musicians and industry professionals could come together with common goals and focus on the indie musician and how it pertained to a sustained success. I can only hope a year from now that I am writing about getting ready to go to the event and not about how I will miss it.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Fishbowl

I talk to so many bands and artist that seem to think that if they move to New York City, Los Angeles, or Nashville that they will suddenly find the success that was lacking in their home market. I have said this in a previous post but, why the hell does anyone think they are going to set the world on fire in another market when people don't care in their home market? All you are doing is putting yourself in a larger fishbowl where there are fewer gigs because of competition and lesser chance of you gaining traction simply because of the increased numbers of bands that are trying to do the same thing that you are doing. There was a country band that I was booking in in the region (I am in Oklahoma now so that makes some sense) who's singer was really something special. I really mean special. She possessed all the ingredients that it took to really make a go of it and make a career out of it. At their regional gigs, label folks and management types started flying in for shows. You could really feel that an extraordinary situation was brewing. Then one day I get a call and the girl had decided to move to Nashville. I didn't try to talk her out of it because I knew she felt that this was the best move for her and who am I to throw water on the situation. One of the management types had leaned on her to give it all up for a chance at the big time. This girl was not a songwriter but when she got to Nashville she was hooked up with songwriters and advised not to perform live sparingly. The irony here is that the stage was home for her. It was the place that she made a difference and turned heads. The stage was her place of connection to her art and to those who followed her. I will admit that she gave it hell why she was there and did everything she could to make it happen. Unfortunately, nothing ever did. This girl is still living in Nashville but is thinking about moving back to Wichita to join another band.

The thing about Nashville that the Nashville country music industry elite don't want you to know is that yes, it is the country music capital of the world BUT, it is not the country music capital considering the amount of actual country music fans that live there. One interesting statistic I use to back this claim up is...Can you guess what format the number one radio station in Nashville is? NOPE, it is not a country music station. Can you guess what format the number two radio station in Nashville is? NOPE, it is not a country music station. Can you guess what format the number three radio station in Nashville is? NOPE, it is not a country music station. Now, can you guess what format the number four station in Nashville is? NOPE, still not a country music station. According to Arbitron, the top rated country music radio station in Nashville is the fifth highest rated station in the market. Most people who don't live in Nashville have the misconception that the entire city is engulfed by the country music culture and the entire population of the city are all walking around with Taylor Swift and Keith Urban t-shirts on.

I bet you are now wondering "Jeff, since this girl was trying to build a country music fan base in Wichita, what format is the number one radio station in Wichita?" Again, according to Arbitron, I bet you can guess what the number one station is. You are correct, IT IS A COUNTRY MUSIC STATION. In a city that is one third the size of Nashville, there is proportionally a much larger number of people that would be into what she was doing where she was living BEFORE she moved to Music City (cough, cough.)

So in essence what this girl did is not move to a larger fishbowl, she moved to a fishbowl that was slightly larger with way more fucking fish in it.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Gig Photos

Band after band puts up performance photos and videos on myspace, facebook, youtube etc.. This is great for those who did not make it to the gig. What about taking photos or video of the band with the people that came to the gig? These are the things that will most engage your fans. Your fans want to see themselves in photos as much as you do plus when you post these type of photos you will be assured that your fans will go to your pages and check them out. They will probably link to them or comment on them where others can find it and in the end drive more people to your media pages. This will show your fans that you actually care that they were at the gig and you know what might happen then? Your fans will really start caring about you and your success.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

An Easy Way To Get Your Website Up

Many of you out there don't have a website to centralize your digital efforts from. I know that Myspace and Facebook are free but hopefully from our discussions here, you are starting to understand the importance of having your own website. Take a look at the following video and you might be able to do this without any help. Let me know what you think.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

A Story of What Not To Do

I was talking to a club owner today and he was in the middle of canceling a some dates of a band that had been doing very well for him. I asked him why and he told me that the band had told their fans not to drink as much when they come out and see them. I understand wanting your fans to party responsibly but WHY THE FUCK WOULD YOU DO THAT? I am not being an asshole here but when broken down to the lowest common denominator, live music is a vehicle for clubs to drive revenue. Do you really think that clubs can make enough money on 15 to 20% of what they make off the door to be profitable and keep the doors open? I will tell you what I tell every band out there. IF THE CLUB OR BUYER LOSES MONEY ON A SHOW, EVERYONE LOSES! What I mean by this is that every night a club loses money on a show, it erodes the confidence that the club has in live music. It shrinks the chance of a club taking a chance on a new act that the club may want to book but is afraid of booking because they might lose money. I am not telling you bands out there not to get as much money for a show as you can. I am telling you to look at your relationship with a club as one of a partnership. Another thing I tell bands is, with all things being equal, the band with the lower money deal will always get the gig. Exercise fiduciary responsibility with your clubs and you will have gigs. Bleed them and not have the big picture in mind and nobody will get the gig...except for the local DJ.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Digital Strategy Part Deux

Thinking about digital strategy makes most musicians want to go to the nearest corner of the room and curl up in the fetal position. We can really break this down into 3 parts which are gaining attention, connecting and monetization.

Part 1: Gaining attention.

First and foremost, as a band you must be good. I am not talking about how your buddies that come to rehearsal and tell you how much you rock and drink your beer. I am talking about doing something that can cut through the clutter. Let's face it. As we have talked about before. The supply side of music has been flooded with more shit that you can possibly sift through. Music is everywhere and is cheap or in most cases, free. Your music is the foundation for everything. With that said, the first place to start in marketing your band in the internet world is your website. I know everyone is saying, "Jeff, Gravity Kills doesn't even have a website so you are full of shit." At the moment we don't but those of you who have been with the band for a long time know that our website was the hub and piazza for our fans. Some bands simply put up their Myspace page and call it a day. Well, we know what happened here, fans moved away from Myspace. Some fans will still follow you there. Some fans will follow you on Facebook. Some will follow on Twitter. Others will check the band out on Youtube and check your photos out on Flickr. My point here is that you must create a presence everywhere but centralize your community. When you are on facebook, myspace, twitter, your blog, etc., make an effort to send people back to your site. DON'T FUCKING ASK THEM TO BUY STUFF AND COME TO YOUR SHOWS. That leads us to the second part...

Part 2: Connecting:

Here is where the time and the real investment from the artist or the band takes place. I pity the bands that only send me bulletins, emails or post on facebook and twitter about where to get their music or begging me to come to a show. There are so many levels of engagement but since we are talking about this in the context of a digital environment, I will keep it there. Because there are a million bands out there simply screaming at people and asking them for money, you can't be one of these bands. If you are in a bar and meet a hot girl, you don't want to ask her to come home and sleep with you right then if you want to have something more than a one night stand with her (not that one night stands with hot girls are bad but you get my point.) The same applies to fans. They want to know you. They want to see that you are willing to invest your time, your soul, your emotions in building a relationship with them.You need to let them into your process. You need to give them a look behind the curtain. If you are creating music that is real and that is honest, you won't need mystique.People want to connect to what they believe in and they respond to honesty. People say on the internet you can be whoever you want to be. Well, this does not apply to bands or artists. Take the time to show them what is behind the music. The more you give a person to connect to, the more likely they are to connect. With social media please remember that is essential you use it to bring people to where? That's right, your website. Now, what happens when you start really connecting to fans?

Part 3 Monetization: (I am imagining the voiceover from Monty Python's The Meaning of Life)

Imagine a place where fans actually come to you and ask when they can buy the next download, CD, when you are playing next etc.? Fans will give you their money if they believe in you. Price is usually not an objection that hardcore fans ever have for purchasing music of a band they love. They will talk about you with others and be your evangelist for their world. Can you imagine that place? Are you good enough and honest enough as an artist for this to happen to you?

I am looking at the broad picture here. We can break all the social media sites down if you all would like?

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Formulating a Digital Strategy

In previous post I have talked about having a plan. Make your plan with one thing in mind, YOUR PLAN WILL PROBABLY HAVE TO CHANGE. As technology advances at a more than rapid pace, we all need to be students of what is happened to the business and ponder the possibilities of where it is going. The compact disk as a format has had a pretty good run (nearly 30 years) when compared to the 8 track tape and the cassette. The mp3 has had a run of over 12 years and now many of you don't even own music at all. Services like Pandora, Slacker and other streaming services now satisfy the appetite of millions of music consumers. Where does this leave all of us as far as marketing our music in a way that will actually put any money in the artists pockets? I hear and read complaints from musicians and artists about how keeping up with all of this and maintaining a social media presence eats an enormous amount of time and energy that many feel would be best spent writing and recording music or perfecting their chops on their instruments of choice or honing their production chops. My answer to that is of course, STOP YOUR WHINING! You can't have your cake and eat it too. What I mean is that the internet has eliminated the barriers of entry into the digital music market and gatekeepers such as record labels and terrestrial radio are losing market share daily to indie types like yourselves. If you make great music and can deliver your music in as many places as possible, you don't need the gatekeepers anymore. I am not saying that a record deal is never the answer and that radio can't help you, simply that there are so many outlets for your music now and great music can be heard by millions of people without all of that. The point here is that you really must define what your goals are and question why you are doing what you are doing. If you are on twitter simply to yell at people about your shows or to buy your music, that strategy will fail. Be honest about expectations. Centralize your efforts. Create continuity. The digital world for a band is more about community than marketing. Use every means necessary to not only get your music out but to listen to your fans about what makes them listen, buy music or come to your show. To sum this up, think about where you need to be, why you are there and what your goal and expectations are. Sounds simple. Is it?

Monday, July 5, 2010


That is what has happened to this business. That is why people have stopped buying music in large numbers and why the concert business has gone down the tubes. People have lost trust in artists, record companies, terrestrial radio, magazines and the concert business. Major artists have been caught scalping their own tickets. Record companies are suing their customers over file sharing and attempting to shove music we perceive as being formulated down our throats. Terrestrial radio has become homogenized, predictable and in many cases, is being programmed from a city that you are not in and does not understand you. Music magazine outlets (both print and on-line) have either played it safe or bash good artist for the attempt at credibility. The concert business is over run with huge on-line fees, overpriced tickets, and has conditioned the public to either stay home or purchase late with 2 for 1 or reduced ticket fee shows. There are many of you out there that cry out for something to believe in. That thirst for music that is honest and speaks to you. If you are an artist, songwriter, etc., it is time for you to start listening to what your fans want. Do you listen to your fans? Do you have an honest relationship with your fans? How will you build trust with your fans? The old way doesn't work anymore. Hiding behind the curtain doesn't work anymore. Expose yourself emotionally to those who will listen. Intimacy is a need that needs to be incorporated between you and your audience at every level. If you want to make music for yourself that is fine. If you don't want to expose yourself emotionally to others, well that is completely up to you. If you want others to listen and ultimately support what you do monetarily, then you must give yourself to others. Just like in other parts of your life, trust has to be earned. How bad do you want to earn it is completely up to you.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Why I Do This

In a previous post, I asked all of you why you are a musician. Here is my story. I come from a family where music was always around in some shape or form. Both of my parents played trumpet when they were in High School but neither was what you would consider prodigious. My Mother was into Motown so when I was very young I was listening to Smokey Robinson, The Marvelettes, Stevie Wonder, and the list goes on. I could feel the music. The beat and the melody spoke to me. At age nine, my parents bought me a guitar for Christmas. I started lessons immediately but I didn't really like what they were teaching me. My teacher had me learning to read sheet music and playing songs like Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and other songs I thought were "stupid" for me to learn. I quickly became frustrated and quit taking the lessons. I wanted to learn cords. Soon after I continued to play and started making sound on sound recordings with 2 small cassette tape decks that we had in the house. I wrote songs that fit the experience of a child and spent hours on end in my room going as far as producing radio shows that incorporated my own songs. At age 12, my parents bout me my first drums and at 14 had my first full drum kit. I played in bands all through High School and College. I simply knew it was "what I did." If you have spent time with any Gravity Kills music, the lyrics are dark. The music is aggressive. Well....I am complicated. A tortured artist if you will. Places like sorrow, despair, loneliness and sadness are places that are home to me. I don't know if I would ever be capable of writing a happy love song or a feel good summer party song. That is not who I am. I am not saying that I don't attempt to have balance in my life and those of you that know me, know me as someone more rounded and three dimensional than the voice on a Gravity Kills record. Those of you that have seen a show see there is more than that. I simply draw my most powerful inspiration from the dark places in my life. I feel compelled to work on music for many reasons but will tell you that making music at times is worse than being a drug addict. I compare it to that because at times in my life, music has cost me personal relationships, my marriage, money, stability and at times the ability to relate to others. When Gravity Kills broke up in 2003, I didn't pick up a guitar for close to a year. I had a guitar on a stand in my living room really for decoration. I would pass it daily and for the longest time could pass by the guitar without really thinking about it. Then the guitar started whispering to me. As time passed the guitar's voice gradually became louder and louder. One day, I finally picked it up. Not really to play it or to write a song but simply to hold it. Maybe in the same way you hug an old friend that you had lost touch with and had not connected to in a long time. Then I started playing again. Not writing music but simply enjoying the feel of the guitar in my hand and the sound of the cords I was playing. I never thought I would entertain the thought of even performing in public let alone write music again. Really, music gives me the medium to talk about things and say things I feel I need to say. Today things are the same yet different. I feel like I still have something to say but I have reasons beyond me. A few years ago, Tom Green who started DFEST in Tulsa told me that if I still have something to say then I owed it to those who loved the band and all the guys that never got a shot to be heard. I really didn't know how to take that. Did anyone give a shit at this point? Could what I have to say be at all relevant? I suppose that remains to be seen but in the end, I do have something to say and Gravity Kills has decided to move forward. Why? Because it is what I do and who I am. Thanks for reading this. Life is beyond interesting at this point and I hope to make it more interesting.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Your Live Show Is Not About You

A live show is to a band what a wedding reception is to a bride. The show is for your fans who are your family. Gravity is playing tonight and we are already getting requests ranging from fans who want to get  into soundcheck from those who want to have dinner. We will get them into soundcheck and I am pretty sure that having sushi with a few close fans for dinner will be awesome. For you bands out there. Show day is not about you and the band. Not a time to get extra security and hang backstage. You spend all this fucking time trying to contact people via social media and when the show day comes you are untouchable? The show day is about giving back to those that support you. We have fans that spend hundreds of dollars to come see us EVERY single time we play. Do you think any of those people would continue to be into the band if they had no access? I have already preached to you about the importance of your fan relationship. Show days are the time to put up or shut up. Gravity Kills fans are my family. Today, I will do my best to treat them like that. Uncle John, pass the wasabi please!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Nostalgia and The Future

I got into St. Louis today for our show tomorrow. Driving into St. Louis always floods me with so many different emotions. With Gravity, it was the best time and the worst time of my life. Personally as well as with the band, I made so many mistakes along the way as well as having the time of my life with 3 other guys that are beyond family. Where am I going with this you ask? Doug and I sat on the roof of his studio facility and talked about a lot of things. In the old days of Gravity Kills, Doug and I had a very love/hate relationship. We shared some times that were both creatively and personally amazing as well as battling over things in the band. On the roof as we talked, I got more and more charged up with the fact that Gravity is compelled to be creative together again. You just know when something works. The fucked up thing about bands is that they all usually forget what brought them together in the first place. The magic that you felt in the studio working on the first recordings or playing the first live show as a band. Why must we all seemingly lose touch with the foundation of collaboration and shared experience the longer we work with someone? When Gravity plays live, Doug and I are the last two on stage. Doug and I will tell each other "let's achieve consciousness" right before we walk on stage. We do this to remind ourselves that every opportunity to walk on stage or work on music together is something special and we need to savor it. I tell you all this...If you feel your band or your project is special, embrace the process, the work, the rigor. Remember that a band is the sum of ALL of it's parts. I am more excited than ever to have new Gravity Kills material released into the world. I have been reminded today how special I feel about what we do. And, if I feel that way, maybe we can convince someone else to feel that way about new music. Rediscovering the past today has made me very excited about the future.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Heading to St. Louis

I am hitting the open road to meet up with the Gravity guys for our show Friday in St. Louis. I will see what inspires me as I drive. I may be blogging about corn nuts tomorrow. Who knows.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Monday, June 21, 2010

Do What You Do

I played in a bunch of bands before Gravity Kills. Strangely I played in bands ranging from metal to techno pop. If you throw the influences together I guess you get what I ended up doing with Gravity. That was the band that I found my creative home with. What is it that you do? The reason I ask is that I come across so many bands that seem to chase influential rainbows. They think they see a trend and attempt to jump on the bandwagon and cash in. When Gravity Kills was getting courted by record labels, ALL OF THEM told us that we would never get played on the radio and MTV would never touch a band doing industrial music unless you had a guy named Trent Reznor in the band. You know as well as I do that MTV doesn't really play videos anymore but the point is that with Gravity, we did what we did and let the chips fall. I was in a discussion panel at a music conference a few years ago and an A&R person from a record label actually told the bands to watch music and fashion trends and then move in that direction. I went fucking berserk! In today's music climate, there are litterally hundreds of popular music genres. Any of you out there working on the next Lady Gaga soundalike? I told the bands that you had to do what you do regardless of the current hoi polloi. Trends today happen in months and not years. If you don't believe in what you are doing, how in the world do you expect anyone else to believe. People can smell dishonest art, music or anything else now a mile away. What would you consider to be relevant musical genres to you? Every person reading this will give me a different answer I am betting. Be honest in what you write and how you perform it. If it is actually REALLY good, you might have a chance to penetrate the hearts and minds of others. Chase rainbows and well...get your track shoes on. You could be chasing it forever.

Friday, June 18, 2010


I was asked to write further about pay for play and it made me think of something that I truly believe in and is really the reason that I started writing here to begin with. As a local act you feel alone and on an island with just you and your band mates. Movements, either social, musical, artistic or philosophical were created by more than one activist, band, artist or philosopher. There is strength in numbers. If you are the only great band in your city you can't do it alone. It takes mass quantity to create a scene. Have you heard of the British Invasion? Do you remember or have you heard of the punk movement from the late 70's and early 80's? Do you remember the techno pop movement in the early 80's? I could keep going but I think I have made my point. Everyone that writes about this business talks about having the ultimate relationship with your fans. Well, what about also seeking out the best bands in your area and having a relationship with them? To make this happen you have to stop talking shit about ANY good band that other bands are simply just jealous of. You can't think of other really good bands as your competition. They could be your ally. Do any of you that read this ONLY listen to one band? If you only listen to Gravity Kills I really thank you (really, I do) but there are so many amazing bands in various genre's out there. Are you getting this point? Don't think because you are a metal band that you can't network with a band that is less hard than you. If you are both really good at what you do then fans that like both styles could actually like both of your bands. What I am leading to here is talking about creating a band community. Just as we are collaborating together here, your band should be collaborating with other bands to create a movement. Don't feel as if you have to change the world here but in essence, that is what you will be doing. If multiple bands connect their islands, you now have a small nation of bands with the same common goal for the common good of the local scene.

How does that have anything to do with pay for play you ask? Think about this...If your band connects with 5 other really great bands, can you all pitch in on a pay for play in the right club? Now instead of you feeling as if you have to fill the room on your own, you have a couple of other bands in the boat with you. What if you could create a situation where the collective of good bands were putting on their own shows in alternate locations? At DFEST last year, a band talked about a situation in which they had gotten together with several other bands, rented a warehouse and put on their own show. It cost them money for sound and lights and they had to promote the show themselves but they described the event as a success. We have just scratched the surface here as well but hopefully we can keep putting our heads together.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Pay For Play

I received the following comment on a previous post and thought I would answer this the best I can for everyone.

Matt said...

"Hey Jeff,
I've got some friends in a band in LA (Prohibition Rose) that has really taken off of late. They had a long rough start, but they're gaining traction and a good local following. My question is - what's your opinion of the "Pay to Play" format. They told me when they first got there that most of the clubs where people went to see bands were doing this, and I don't mean the club gets a cut of the door, I mean the band litterally pays to play there. Is this the norm in cities like LA, and if not - in your opinin - should bands persue these opportunities or go the longer, more tried and true route of getting in on word of mouth alone ?"
Pay for play is prevalent in many places, not just LA. There are various forms of pay for play. The type I have encountered the most is a situation in which the band must purchase a specified number of tickets at a "discounted" price from the club or the person "promoting" that night in the club and then sell them directly to fans, friends and family, hopefully to make a profit. 
Another I have encountered is where the band pays a flat fee for the room (that includes house sound, house lighting, security etc.) and then essentially plays for the door. 
If I am understanding Matt correctly, he is describing a situation in which the band pays a fee directly just to play in the club with no back end recoup opportunity. If this situation is actually the case, I doesn't make much sense to me even if the room is the hot place to play. Why you ask? The purpose of "play to pay" is for the club owner to create a co-promote situation with the bands that play there. To actually make the band promote and work hard to get people in the room for their show.  What incentive does a band have to really work and get people in the room if there is is no reward for their hard work? Or might there be a hidden upside? If this club is THE place to play and you have the opportunity to play there then I say, play the room. If the band has the opportunity to gain fans that are into live music and they hang out there, you want those people to see you. You want those people to follow your band. Word of mouth is where it's at but you also need to play the right rooms to build your tribe. If this club can help you build, and you don't have to sell your car to play there, then once again I say do it. Especially if you can keep all of your merch and CD sales from the gig.
Believe me when I tell you that even at the national level, tour buy-ons happen all the time. When KISS had their first reunion tour in 1996, I had heard that many of the bands that opened on that tour bought on. Gravity Kills actually got paid when we did The Sex Pistols reunion tour the same year (I can actually say that I have seen The Sex Pistols over 20 time and I fucking hate KISS (imagine me saying KISS like Gene Simmons does in the Dr. Pepper commercials. KIIIIIIIS)

Bands signed to majors go out all the time running a huge deficit against their recoup accounts and many bands that you hear on the radio are barely breaking even if not losing money on the road. In essence, even national acts are paying to play. 

We are really only scratching the surface on this topic. Do you want to continue?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Why do you want to do this?

The eternal question seems to be "why are we here?" If you are a musician, you need to ask yourself why? If it is to be a rock star or if there is any celebrity attached to the answer, well then, you need to re-examine things. Fred Durst became a celebrity. Did that create a long lasting career for Limp Bizkit? Did celebrity help the band sell tickets to it's reunion tour? If you pay attention to the news, well then you know the answer to the last question. I am not saying that the band's huge success in the late 90's was not astounding, but what I am saying is that as the world discovers you as someone privileged, as someone above them, you will lose your hard core real fans. In today's musical climate, fans want to be part of something they believe in and feel connected to. Fans are not interested in the feeling of exclusion and disconnect in life experience from the bands they love. Paris Hilton did a record, so did Heidi Montag. Heidi's record sold under 1000 copies the first week and a whopping 658 digital downloads. She promoted her record anywhere and everywhere but at the end of the day, nobody gave a shit. I know you are saying that what you do is better than Heidi, and I believe most of you when you tell me that but... As extreme as the point may be in this case, I am trying to paint a picture for you. Be real. Be honest. When you have the night off from playing, connect with your fans by hanging out with them in the club you play in your home market or interact with them on-line. Get in the trenches with those who already believe and the ones you want to make believe in your band. How many of you reading this blog lose interest in a band when you start seeing them appear on red carpets or the real kiss of death, try their hand at acting. How do you treat every person that you come in contact with? Remember this...Bands don't own fans, fans own their bands. Get the picture?

Monday, June 14, 2010

Do You Have a Plan?

In talking with most newer bands out there, it seems that most of them really don't have any plan to follow in an attempt to become successful. I have been in these bands before. Look at it this way, you don't get in the car normally without having a destination for your trip in mind and without having any idea how you are going to get there. I am not saying that you may run into road blocks and your plan won't need to change, but you need to have an idea of what you are doing and how you want to get there. Here is a list of a few things that you need to think about.

1. If you are writing songs with others, how will you split any income if lightning strikes? When publishing a song,  the music is one half of the composition and the lyrics are the other half. Some bands split songwriting between all the members of the band equally (Gravity Kills did it this way.) The advantage to this is if there are multiple song writers in the band, you can eliminate ego and competition for people in the band trying to push their song to get recorded and released. Also, if you have a band lineup that you think is stellar and you want to make sure that everyone feels like they are a part of the reward of the band's labor. On the flip side of this, there are band's out there that have one or two primary song writers that don't split publishing with non-writers in the band. It is really up to each individual band to figure this out but I recommend having this discussion with your band as soon as possible. This will not be an easy conversation to have but everyone in the band needs to have this sorted out.

1a. Aside from publishing splits, your band needs to figure out how all the revenue in the band will be split. This includes merchandise, CD and download sales, live revenue etc.. Most bands split the profit from these revenue streams equally between all the members. There are some that split differently depending on who in the band is spending money on sound, buying the merchandise or CD's etc. out of their own pockets.

2. Are you and your music compositions (as a writer and publisher) affiliated with a performing rights organization such as ASCAP, BMI or SESAC? You need to do this if you ever want to get paid for having a song on the radio, TV or film. For streaming music you need to register the songs with Sound Exchange.

3.. How will you record music? Will you pay someone else for studio time or will you invest in gear where you can record at home/rehearsal studio/garage etc.. I am not saying the paying for studio time in a proper studio at times is not worth it but I would strongly urge a band to get into recording their own material. There are so many great DAW programs (Pro Tools, Logic, Cubase and even Garage Band) out now that if you really want to invest in your career and not someone else's studio, learn how to use a DAW program. I am not saying that you will be making pro sounding recordings the first go around, but think of the possibilities your band or you would have without the meter ticking in someone else's studio.

4. Do you have a Website/Social media strategy? Most bands these days simply put up a facebook and myspace page and move down the road. Do you have a youtube page? Did you know that youtube is the second largest search engine in the world? Here are the places you should be quickly (remember that your content needs to be updates as much as humanly possible.)
 a. Your own website (this needs to be the hub in which all your social media directs back to.)
 b. Facebook
 c. Myspace (yes, you still need to be here. The last article I read said that they are still getting about 24% of
    all social media traffic.)
 d. Twitter
 e. Flickr
 g. Tumblr
All of these places need to link back to your own website. Your website is where you will create a community of your own. I still think you need a message board on your own site.

5. Once your have recorded music to release, where and how are you going to release it? If you are a live act, you need to have a CD for sale at your shows but with that said...Consider releasing new material as you finish it. I would also strongly recommend that you GIVE your music away before it is released. Think of it this way. If you are playing shows and it is before you have a CD ready for sale, how will anyone know the material. If you are between CD's and playing shows, having new material that people will know will give them a reason to come out and see you again (this particular subject is a very deep and lengthy topic that we will examine more in depth later down the road.) For digital releases you should always offer your music for free and for sale from your website. There are also many digital aggregators like Tune Core and CD Baby that will get your music on itunes etc.. CD baby is also necessary if you want to get your music streaming on places like Pandora. Music streaming is not going to make you rich but it could certainly get your music heard by a much larger audience.

There are a multitude of questions a band needs to ask itself but these will give you a place to start in formulating your plan for success.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Getting The Gig

Think in simplicity. How do I get the attention of a club I want to play? I have dropped off promo, emailed the link on the website and made unreturned phone calls to the person that books the room. Do you hang out in the room? Do you network with bands that play the room? Do you talk to patrons that go see bands in the rooms and give them your music to listen to? Are there outside agents that book the room? Have you made them take a meeting with you? Are you good? Are you persistent? Do you make excuses for your lack of opportunity? Do you talk shit about the bands that do get the gig to others? 

You have to immerse yourself into the culture of a room. You must make yourself and your band part of the positive collective that makes up the fabric of the room. If your band is REALLY good, you will get your shot.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Wonder Lust

Why is it that most local bands I talk to want to take their show on the road from the very beginning? Bands dream of foreign ports and exotic cites where fans they don't know will line up to see them play. What makes you think that 200 people will show up in Kansas City when you are not worth 50 people paid in your home market? I am not saying that your band will never be worth 200 tickets in another market but lets look at facts. Your home market is where the first line of fans you will have are family and friends. Sadly, bands mistake early surges of success with the simple fact that your friends and family will all come to the first couple shows. Your friends will tell you how great you are and how much you rock. Your family will come because your Sister, Brother, Mother, Father, Stepbrother etc. had to put up with all the noise and havoc you created in the house for years. Don't get me wrong, you have to start somewhere and if you are really good, your friends will turn others on to your band and insist that others pay attention to you. Where effort comes in is developing your second and REAL line of fans. The ones who just happened into the club you were playing on happenstance. The ones that feel like they discovered you. At that point you must attempt to create personal relationships with those fans. Invest time in those people so they become invested in you enough to be your evangelist and spread your gospel. Be patient. Be calculated. Invest the time to build your following in your home market and your perceived value will grow to clubs and bars in other markets. If you can draw 200 in your home market, now you have the leverage to trade shows with a band tearing it up in another city. Until that day comes, focus on creating your launching pad at home.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010


I talk to band after band that complains about how they can't make money doing original music because nobody comes to their gigs and good cover bands bank. Let me break this down as simply as possible. When most people go to see live music, they want to hear what they know, what is familiar to them. Have you ever been to a Foo Fighters or Green Day show? You know every song they play. You stay engaged because you know the material. So the question is, if you are doing original music on the local level, how do I make my music familiar to people? First (and you have heard this over and over,) give your music away. As Martin Atkins says, "Free is the new black." Not just from your myspace, facebook, website (you better have your own but that is another topic,) etc., but burn a few copies at home and give them out at other band's shows. I am not talking about indiscriminately handing anyone and everyone a CD but, giving your music to someone you actually have a conversation with that will tell you "yes" when you ASK them if they would want to take a listen to your music. Make sure and write your contact info on the CD including your website (you better have your own but that is another topic,) myspace, facebook, etc. When attending music conferences, there are tons of bands just walking around and spraying their CD's into the hands of anyone that will put their hand out without actually talking to anyone. THAT IS A WASTE OF TIME AND YOUR CD'S.

If you are recording full length CD's, give tracks away before you release it. Then, when you have a CD release show, the audience might actually know the material which will engage the audience. Don't worry, if they dig you, they will still buy your CD at the show (and probably your t-shirt too!)

I am not saying that this alone will get you to the point of selling out 500 head rooms and actually making money, but you have to get your music heard to build your tribe.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Changing Behavior and Engaging Fans

I was sent a video of an experiment about making it fun or interesting to use the stairs versus taking the escalator. Watching the video made of think about the need for interesting engagement that bands need to have with their fans. Why should a person listen to your all? Is it even good? If so, what makes it stand apart from the others? What about your music will compel others to share it with their friends or compel them to simply mention your band to others? What about you as an artist makes you stand apart if not above others? Music to many is now nothing more than disposable and inherently worthless so how do you bring value to your music and your band? The music you make is the gateway if your music speaks and connects with people. Engage your fans constantly and they will listen. I know what you are saying right now. Gravity Kills has not always been accessible to fans and has not always had the best relationship with their fans. Well, ask those who have been to shows recently how that has changed. Technology for the music business has torn the barriers down but that has created a flood on the supply side. Music is everywhere, cheap and in most cases for free. What will you do to change the behavior of people and get their attention?

Saturday, June 5, 2010


I had a conversation with a very wise person this morning. We were discussing how life is in a constant cycle of change. Not that this concept was a revelation to me but it made me think about context and how as people, musicians, artists and all music professionals we sometimes long for a time when everything seemed to make sense. This wise person told me that without change, we would be complacent and not challenge ourselves to move to the next place, open the next chapter, walk through the next door, take risks or evolve as a person, a songwriter, a performer etc. In all the reading I do regarding the music business, it seems everyone is looking for where the business paradigm will finally land. My answer to this infinite question is that it will never land. Just when it all might seem to make sense again, change will rear it's beautiful head.

The First Saturday of the Blog

I have a million topics to write about but this is the first Saturday of the Blog so I though I would keep it short today. Many people have asked me through the years about what it was like touring and being on the road. Despite the feeling beat up, the chronic laryngitis, the truck stop showers, the bad food and so on and so on, my answer to that question is... Everyday was Saturday.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Preying on Musicians

After my post yesterday I read a tweet with the following link In a nutshell this is a service that buys your music off of itunes in bulk so your song will show up on the itunes chart. At the moment, the service is only available in Australia. Curiously I checked out the site and for them to buy 1000 downloads, it will cost you the low low price of $6000.00. So if we do the math, if you go through Tunecore as an aggregator, the band would receive $700.00 from the itunes store after Apple takes their 30 cents per track so in reality we have a real bargain now. The cost would only be $5300.00. The site addresses why you should use the service and mainly their reason is so you can get radio airplay, a record deal, a better record deal and so more people will hear your band. I understand that all of that sounds really appealing to a struggling band. I have been there. You feel you will do whatever it takes to get your piece of the pie. THIS WILL NOT DO IT. Lighting can and does still strike occasionally but your band has to realize that there aren't really any shortcuts. People have heard the story of how Gravity Kills had a record deal and were on two major motion picture soundtracks in the first 12 months from the time the band stepped into the same room together and called themselves Gravity Kills. What people don't talk about is the fact that I had been playing professionally for 12 years prior to joining the band. 

I fucking detest other "services" like The Billboard Songwriting Contest and These services simply prey on the hopes and dreams of musicians and take blood money from artists. The guy that founded we are listening .org actually stated in a panel that I did with him at dfest in Tulsa last year that the reason he started the service was because he found that musicians were still predominately doing google searches for "How to get a record deal." He was an expert on analytics and data mining. I can't slight the guy for taking money from the fools that decided to give it to him but WAKE UP PEOPLE, Don't be the next fool and don't rely on anything other than creating outstanding music and performing outstanding live shows. The next snake oil salesman is standing backstage.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

I need to get this off my chest. If you have a band that buys myspace plays, friends and profile views YOU ARE MISSING THE FUCKING POINT. Though happenstance I ended up on a myspace profile for a band out of Oklahoma City called Siva Addiction. As band people do, I looked at their plays (1,266,101,) their profile views (1,547,736,) and their friends (55,618.) Pretty impressive numbers for a regional act. Here is where it unravels for this band. We all have known for years that you can purchase plays etc. for quite some time and so this is the easy way to call "bullshit." Let's check out the band's facebook and ilike numbers since to my knowledge, you can't manipulate these numbers (please let me know if I am wrong on this.) The band's facebook fan base consist of 476 people, ilike fans 171 and last fm shows them with 29 listeners. Look, I understand why bands think they want to artificially inflate myspace numbers. We hear these stories of how bands got signed to record deals and how promoters looked at the numbers. The band wants to impress or tell others of their big myspace stats. EVERYONE IN THE FUCKING WORLD KNOWS THAT YOU ARE BUYING THESE NUMBERS.

Now, here is why they are missing the point. Social media for bands should be used as a tool to connect with fans... real fans. How do you know who your real fans are if you are buying them for your myspace? How do you know who to contact when you have a show, a contest, new music, etc.? Do you think that someone that is really a fan of the band cares that your myspace plays are over 1,000,000? Your real fan only cares about their personal connection with you. If your fan base is small, make it more personal. You can pay attention to your fans individually. Embrace the opportunity to personally connect to your fans. Your fans will be the ones that are your biggest marketing tool if you actually know who they are and you aren't a fucking liar.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The First Blog. What My Goal Is.

There are a million people who blog about the music business. There is yet another million that give lectures and presentations regarding how to "make it" in the music business. It seems that I hear the same things over and over... and I have come to the conclusion that most of the relevant information for bands overlooks everything that it takes to gain traction in your home market. I feel that everything a band can do to become successful will translate when that band decides to take the show on the road. My goal with this blog is to create open dialogue for anyone that cares about local music (regardless of geography) and to talk about topics that are germane to the topic.

The other goal I have for this blog is to aggregate information from other sources that I see as relevant to the local musician and the music business in a "post Napster" paradigm. These topics could include technology, legislation, or simply comments and responses to other published information that I simply feel the need to comment on. Let's see where this goes.