Programmed To Rock (Promotion And Protocol For Generation Y Musicians)
This article is the first in a new series of articles and interviews centered around the music industry and related professions. Christopher Davis, vocalist of St Louis based band Ockums Razor has some great advice to share with beginning musicians who are looking for some sense of direction…
All of your existence you have dreamed of getting out of the garage, so to speak, to move on to performing on stage. The previous days spent perfecting your Rock Band skills became a bore and you took on a new purpose. Maybe you were inspired by one of your favorite performers, or maybe a musician acquaintance you knew, then it hit you. They are doing it for real. You asked your bass player friend to come over and jam. He knew of a drummer. The following session he invited him to come over, he set up, brought it all together. The three of you got along well, then decided to audition vocalists; after meeting with some and talking to many you found him or her. You wrote songs over the course of time, put them in a particular order, practice them over and over until you perfected them to the best of your abilities. You all are ready to book your first gig. Or are you?
The reason I pose this question is not to make you second guess yourself and your aspirations; it is to make a point. Being a musician is similar to life, in the course of our journey we make mistakes. That is a given. But how you approach your next move can and will set you apart from the crowd. Keep in mind that you are coming into your own, learning to express and communicate for yourself. Now that I have made my point, let me explain three important factors on things that I suggest you think about and discuss with your band mates before the big show.
Factor #1 : Why are we doing this?
If you are playing covers and just having fun, you might as well make some money at it; there are great paying gigs doing that. If you are doing originals mostly, this is meant for you. What do you want to achieve with music? What are your life goals in the next year? How serious is this to you? If you really have a serious passion for music and want to pursue this course of action, it is vital that you get to know each of your band members. Make some short term goals to start with and progress from there.
Factor #2 : How are we going to do this?
Each of you have a talent to bring to the table. I guarantee that one of you has the gift of gab. If that member is a good candidate for communicating with venues in person, over the phone, online, etc, then that is a start. Talk about what types of shows you want to play, go and see some local shows of groups that are similar to your style, and communicate with them about venues and how they got the show. Obviously, each venue has it’s own website or social network that they book from. If it has an email address for booking inquiries, use that for contacting them. Be attentive to their needs and what they require of you first. When you do contact them, offer up what you can do for them, and provide adequate representation of your music and image. Provide more than one date that you are available to perform, or if it is out of town, let them know when you are coming through and be open to what they might come up with.
If one of you are an internet guru, then I recommend starting some social networking profiles. Make a website; if you do not have the knowledge for coding one, that is okay. You can utilize sites like Reverbnation, Bandzoogle & CD Baby to make your own. Most of the options that they provide are user friendly and require little to no coding at all. If nothing else, make what you consider to be your main site a dot com address using Go Daddy by purchasing a domain name and direct it to the site’s url.
If you create a band fund and put, say, ten dollars in each week, that’s forty dollars a week if you have four members. If you do this while rehearing your material along the way, you can easily have a thousand dollars if it takes you six months to prepare for your first show. You can use that towards a professionally recorded demo. Or if one of you is a technically minded individual and gifted with the engineering side of things, you may consider doing it yourself to start with. The information age has ushered in a digitized era of music.
For the thinker and communicator of the band, maybe this is the singer? I dunno. But, this is a great person to maybe put together artwork ideas, merchandise possibilities, creating your brand, so on and so forth.
Factor #3 : Because we are doing this…
Not a question… threw you off there for a second, maybe? Okay, maybe not, but just because you are doing this and possibly even doing it correctly does not guarantee you will reach all of your goals. That is okay. I just want you to come to the realization that you can’t expect it to happen overnight. This, however, does not mean that it is not okay to discuss expectations. Actually, this can be an encouraging thought, to know that your other band members possess the knowledge of what you expect from them and vice-versa.
Just to give you a little background on myself, I didn’t start thinking about performing until the end of my senior year of high school. I went to a small private school, and had to perform something for our senior talent show. I felt lead to sing a song by my favorite band. The first band that I was in came to fruition by simply communicating this to my friend. He played a little guitar. He knew a great lead guitarist. He knew a drummer and the percussionist knew a bass player. We not only did the song I wanted to do, but we even wrote our own song. In a short period of time this happened. I was fortunate to not have to sing along to the CD! Unfortunately, my neighbor’s husband committed suicide just before this; she knew what I was up to and donated his thoroughly used P.A. equipment.
Why is this relevant? I want to assert that I had no idea of what I wanted to do, where I was going and how to get there. The internet was not at my fingertips, it wasn’t created yet then. While you cannot rely on it as a promotional tool, it is useful for helping you find what you need and when, or for figuring out how to do something. Let me start you on your way with a few sites that can help you a bit. I have found them to be helpful and wish the same for you. They are as follows:
A) Indie Guide : Complete do-it-yourself musician resource.
B) St. Louis Live Music : A listing of venues & shows in the St. Louis, MO. area that are updated daily.
C) Bob Baker : Music marketing promotion resource.
D) Music Connection : Informative and comprehensive musician site.
E) Social Networking For Musicians : Lists free tutorials on how to start up any major social network site and begin customization of it.
F) Rock Source 360 : Learn how to hone in on your skills with the professionals.
G) Saint Louis Music : Classifieds for our areas musicians.
Vocalist of Ockums Razor