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1. Questionably Legal Chapter one explains the f act that I’m not a lawyer and that I’m not qualif ied to off er legal advice. It explains that the contracts and recommendations in this book are off ered by a seasoned perf ormer and promoter with 30 years of experience, but that bands might be well advised to consult a registered attorney bef ore actually using them. This protects both you and me f rom f uture lawsuits when someone uses one of our contracts and f inds out up the road that it didn’t include provisions f or who’s responsible in the event of a UFO landing on a crowd during a show. But the good news is, according to the Federal Trade Commission, we’re required to post a notice here that all contracts contained in this book are for entertainment purposes only.

2. Getting Your Act Together This second chapter is about getting ready to rumble. Anybody can promote their way into a major Vegas Casino, regardless of how good, or bad, their act is. Problem is, once you stand in f ront of a crowd and bomb once, it’ll f orever sit in the background and haunt you. A good promoter can get a bad act top billing, but only once. Af ter you’ve tried to perf orm beyond your ability and talent, you might as well pack it up and go home. W ord will be out that you can’t be trusted and that your show made promises it couldn’t keep. W e discuss the importance of paying attention to quality, variety and detail. I also break down the 5 major parts involved in doing a show, any show (equipment, talent, venue, promotion and support staff ), and how you can make more money by accepting responsibility f or more than just your voice and guitar. Finally, chapter two includes a reality check of sorts. Are you serious enough to make the kind of commitment that ’ll take you to the top? Are you willing to travel? Are you willing to take the time to promote? Can you stand the typical problems professional performers invariably f ind themselves dealing with (broken marriages, distanced kids, f ew “real” f riends, etc.).

3. Selling the Package Chapter three offers a general overview of the process of marketing a show. W e discuss the importance of off ering a solid promo package and how to best use posters, f lyers, demo tapes, and show cards to sell and market a show. I also discuss innovative ways to get these various tools at discounts or even for f ree. This chapter also brief ly covers the ins and outs of cold calling, networking and ref erral business. It’s a chapter aimed at outlining the “big picture” map to success.

4. Role Playing Chapter f our is a natural sequel to chapter three. It explains the roles of a talent agent, manager, press agent, PR person, advance man, taxman, lawyer, accountant and ad agency in the career of a successf ul band. This

chapter could be considered an encyclopedic overview of the business. It also off ers hints and tips on how to take on some or all of these responsibilities on your own and how to make the overall package a success.

5. Club Dates This chapter discusses all the options available to a band when booking club dates. It covers some of the theory of negotiation, and various industry “tricks ” that guarantee you more money and “goodies” in your package. W e ’ll talk about f our walling (renting the hall and doing it all yourself ), working for the door, working f or a percentage of the drinks, even the implications of working f or a percentage of the club ownership. It also discusses copyrights (American and International), trademarks, foreign work permits, contracts (both with clubs and among band members) and how to manage a powerful mailing list.

6. Taking It On The Road Again, this chapter comfortably f its directly f ollowing chapter 5. W here local gigs depend on reputation and local following, road gigs are strictly about promotion. Taking It On The Road is a chapter about touring. It discusses the logistics of booking a tour and off ers plenty of advice on how to make the most out of the experience. Booking hotels at a discount, “rules” f or getting along as you travel, arranging to get your mail, phone calls and messages are all covered in this chapter.

7. Working The Media Getting airplay, arranging for talk show appearances, “sneaky” exposure secrets and what to do once you’re on the air are all covered in this chapter that covers the various aspects of wine and dinning the press. This chapter also introduces you to the concept of press agenting (which was discussed brief ly in chapter f our) and offers a f ew examples of successful press agent packages.

8. Record Production Chapter eight covers the gambit of record production. Should you self produce or should you hold out f or a larger label? Is it worth it to do it yourself in the garage or should you pay for studio time? How should you market your record? W hat makes a record sellable? How can tie ins make it easier to promote a record? All the ins and outs of ending up with your own record are covered in this easy to understand, step-by-step guide.


9. Playing For Money This chapter combines everything explained in the book so far and neatly puts it all into place. It also outlines; - How to use various available venues and markets(most that are often overlooked) to make extra income with your music. And- How to make “supply and demand” work to your advantage.

10. Thanks For The Memories The sad truth of the matter is that only a very select handf ul of bands actually make it to the proverbial “top”. If your goal is to become f ilthy rich and a household name, probab ility says you’re destined to a life of misery and disappointment. In Thanks For The Memories I w rap up this book with a warm, realistic look at the pleasures of being “on your way”. I encourage bands to savor the moments, enjoy the ride. Af ter it’s all said and done, even if they never become one of the “greats” they’ll always be able to say they f lew much higher than most and when they came down, they brought with them memories few have shared. Kenny Rogers once said he most enjoyed his lif e when he was street perf orming in the streets of San Francisco and wasn’t sure if he’d make enough to pay his hotel b ill. I’m suggesting that it’s those “me against the world” experiences that make show business so intoxicating. Anybody who wastes their time looking at pastures on the other side of the river is throwing away the real treasure.


Chapter O ne

Why You Shouldn’t Read This Book Imagine your local janitor deciding he wants to write a book about the intricacies of doing brain surgery. He buys a manual or two and starts organizing his f acts. Eventually he ends up with a great looking manual he’s not really qualif ied to write. But, heck, it has good-looking pictures and the instructions are so simple even a janitor could understand them. In many ways, that’s exactly what’s happening here. This book is packed f ull of facts we’re really not qualif ied to off er you. It makes all kinds of legal suggestions, and we’re not lawyers. In f act, if you decide to take our advice and end up in trouble, we could be liable of some crazy sounding charge that would translate into “trying to act like a lawyer when you’re not”. It also has all kinds of inf ormation about how to sell your show to a club owner and a record label, and we’ve never owned a club or record studio. So why would we decide to write a book on breaking into the music industry? W ith all the many bands that have tried and f ailed over the years, what makes us think we’re qualif ied to offer advice worth paying f or? No, we’re not lawyers, so we can’t off icially hand you a contract and tell you it’ll work f or you. But we’ve drawn f rom the experience of plenty of individuals who do know what they’re talking about. W e draw heavily on the


experiences of a promoter f riend of ours who has helped several well know performers make it in the business. W e’ve asked several club owners to tell us the secrets to getting booked in quality clubs. W e’ve drawn together the advice of agents, entertainers and producers to find out what it takes to make it in the business. One guy that worked closely with us used to do a seminar entitled “This Business Called Show Business” where he carefully researched a lot of the very topics we deal with here. And this book is written f rom a press agent’s point of view. A f riend of ours has spent 30 years manipulating the media, and creating “events” where there really were non. If you’re old enough to remember the “Hands Across America” event that took place in the mid 80’s, it was based on a concept he created for a similar event in Orange County, Calif ornia. He’s learned a f ew sure f ire tricks that can work f or you, and he’s given us permission to tell you about them. Instead of telling you how to tune a guitar, we’re going to tell you how to talk the local media into giving you f ree publicity. Instead of trying to explain rate charts to you, we’re going to tell you about George Evans, a Vegas press agent. A young lounge singer once hired Evans to try and make him a success. Evans went to one of his client’s shows and noticed a girl who had just come out of a wedding chapel quietly walk up and place a rose f rom her bouquet on the stage at the perf ormer’s feet. It sparked an idea. He hired a group of girls at f ive dollars each, to attend his next concert and swoon. A couple of them were told to toss roses at the stage. The next day, as the actors got busy, the unpaid mob f ollowed. W omen started yelling and kissing the singer’s picture. One of them got so worked up she actually f ainted. Suddenly the press couldn’t get enough of this guy who a week earlier wasn’t able to hold 10 people in his crowd. And within a month Frank Sinatra had an easily marked road to stardom laid out bef ore him. And that’s what this book is about. It’s about making it, as told by those who have. It’s about getting past all the myths and rumors that hold beginning bands down and caref ully laying out a roadmap to success. W e’re required by law to tell you should probably consult a lawyer bef ore taking any of our legal


advice (so consider yourself warned). But what do lawyers know? Do you really want someone who specializes in getting all the child support possible in a divorce decree deciding what’s important to include in your contract? Or would you rather hear it f rom someone who’s stood on a stage and f ound the f loorboards were loose? W ould a lawyer know that Pink Floyd used to include a clause in their agreements that asked for a bowl of red jelly beans to be placed in their hotel room because they knew if the beans were waiting f or them, chances are, someone had taken the time to be as meticulous about all the other tiny clauses in their contract? This book could easily be called “A G UI DE TO THE ‘ I NSI DERS SECRETS ’ THAT W O RKED FO R O THERS ”.

And the good news is that, according to the Federal Trade Commission, W e’re required to tell you that all advice offered in this book is to be used f or entertainment purposes only!


Chapter T wo

Getting Your Act Together Bef ore you’re f inished with this book, you’re going to know what it takes to book a show in a major venue. You’ll know all the “insider secrets” that can take you to the top. In f act, I can almost guarantee that if you follow the advice we’ve laid out in this book, you ’ll end up with your big break, but it’ll only happen once. You’ll book that “big time” show at the larger casino, and you ’ll bask in the glory of feeling you’ve f inally arrived. You’ll go out and buy that smoke machine you’ve always wanted and you’ll mail comped tickets to that High School teacher that told you you’d never make it. And then you’ll walk out on stage. The lights will go on and the crowd will sit quietly waiting f or that f irst note. Your mother will smi le, and your f riends will s it up. And you’ll suddenly realize there’s no turning back. It’s too late to perfect that one chord change and you ’ll suddenly start wondering if maybe you don’t need some girl in a short skirt up near the f ront. And then it’ll all begin. And whatever you do will end up carved in the stone annals of your history. If you make too many mistakes, everybody will know you aren’t casino material. The club manager will probably make a mental note to have his caller ID screen out your calls, as he starts ca lling his f riends to warn them about you. The fans that thought you were great at the corner bar will suddenly be ashamed to admit they ever knew you. And chances are you ’ll have to move to another country if you want another “big break”.


The point we’re trying to make is that success is 20% talent and 80% promotion. Every larger city is full of lousy lounge singers making a decent living because they know how to “wine and dine” the club managers. As long as they stay in these $80 a night dives, nobody will be offended. The club owner will be able to advertise that he has live entertainment without having to pay for it. Patrons will be happy to hear some noise somewhere in the background as they run around trying to line up companions to go home with. This isn’t show business or entertainment. That guy is just a badly made poster that draws people in the door. I remember a f riend of mine te lling me about his career doing comedy shows. He was real nervous about how he came across. W ould people really think he was worth paying f or? Should he offer to give back part of their money? His self esteem was about as low as it could be. As he f inished his set, his contract read that he had to walk to the back of the room and say goodnight to patrons as they walked out. As he did, a magical thing happened. People started shaking his hand and telling him he was wonderful. They told him they had never laughed so much in all of their lives. And he ate it up. He knew he must have been incredible. Heck, even the cute girls said he was good. He went home and plopped himself down on the couch. This was heaven. He had f inally made it. He was incredible, and if anybody doubted that all they needed to do was listen to the 400 plus people who had just said so. Suddenly his self esteem was shooting through the roof . And for several years he lived up there, f loating around in the clouds somewhere. And then he tells me he remembers going to see an “old timer” do a show. As he sat in the audience he couldn’t help but wonder how this guy had gotten the gig. Heck this guy was just this side of terrible. His humor was weak and his timing was way off . But he had somehow managed to do it f or 20 or so years. As my f riend watched, he couldn’t help but wonder why nobody had ever told the old timer how bad he sounded. And then the show ended. As my f riend watched the guy, he noticed the performer as he made his contractually stipulated dash for the back door. During his “meet and greet” period he stood there making eye contact with each person as they walked out. And they all reached out and shook his hand. And they told him how great he was. Some said they hadn’t laughed that much in all their lives. And he believed them. He didn’t realize they had no choice in the matter. Common courtesy says you’re supposed to tell the entertainer you liked him, even if you’re secretly wondering if you can get a ref und on your tickets. And f or 20 years this old-timer’s self esteem was f loating around up there with my f riend’s, somewhere up in the clouds. He never came down f ar enough to take a good close look at his show. Nobody around him dared to tell him the truth. It’s much like the story of the Emperor’s new clothes. Everybody knew he was naked, but nobody dared face the embarrassment of having to challenge his pride. And the bad news is, as long as that guy, or f or that matter, as long as my f riend was all caught up in himself , he never stood any chance of changing. He couldn’t grow or get better as long as he listened to the well meaning crowds trying to spare his feelings at the back door. He needed someone to give him a wake up call that would let him take a realistic look at what he was really like. A promoter f riend of mine tells of a talk he once had with the band leader f or a group you would def initely recognize if I told you. In fact, theirs is one of the legendary songs in rock and roll. If I asked you to list the 10 greatest (non


Beatles) songs ever written, you would be sure to include theirs. It’s a song with a very distinctive opening and a melody you go home playing over and over in your head. W hen the promoter met them they had past their day in the son and were now playing a smaller club in Los Angeles. As they talked, the leader asked the promoter what he would suggest they do if they wanted to get back in the limelight. My f riend told him he needed to write some new songs. The singer’s immediate response was that he already had close to 50 songs he had written. My f riend told him he disagreed. He explained that the singer actually only had about 3 songs he had written. He had written the one song that had stayed on the best seller list f or months and a second song they played under a different name (because it was a style of music very different f rom the one they were known f or). This second best selling song was also very distinctive and memorable. Both these songs show up regularly on oldies and classic rock and roll programs. The promoter explained to the singer that every other song of his sounded identical f rom the audience’s point of view. They all had the same basic beat and the guitar riff s might as well have come f rom the same sheet music. In f act, considering how loud and powerful their music was, the lyrics pretty much disappeared under the volume. The singer didn’t believe my f riend, claiming he had worked hard on each one of them. So they decided to set up a bet. That night, during their concert, the singer told his audience they were going to play a game. The band was going to play the music to 10 of their more popular songs and they were going to see who could identif y them f irst. My f riend says it was actually pretty f unny. Most of the songs started with the exact same opening guitar lick and the drums cold have been lef t running all through the game. Except f or a few lucky guesses, the crowd wasn’t able to successfully identif y a single song. Non, except for the two songs that had made it to the chart, each of which are very easily identif iable af ter the f irst 3 or 4 notes. They had done in music what my comedian f riend had done in comedy. The band had done just enough right to get noticed (nationally) and then had coasted on their laurels. They made millio ns selling two songs to concert crowds that didn’t know how to tell them there wasn’t much more worth listening to in their repertoire. In f act, even the crowds were sucked in to their “glory” by mob psychology. Everybody said these guys were good, so they must be. Everybody had heard their one song (remember the second one made it to the top, but they never, to this day, took credit for it). Everybody thought their one hit was great. And the rest of their concert was little more than f iller. Everybody said they were wonderf ul, so it was perf ectly alright f or individuals to yell and scream on cue every time the lead singer swung his guitar or the drummer did a drum solo. Show business is about living in reality. It isn’t the “normal” world where people live in denial and everybody worries about hurting each other’s feelings. W hen someone paid money to see you perf orm, they’re expecting to get what they paid f or. If you can’t deliver, it’s ultimately going to ref lect on your chances of staying in business. You haven’t really reached the point of deserving the title of “professional” until you welcome criticism. You aren’t really ready to grow and become successful if you st ill have a chip on your shoulder.


It’s l ike watching your f riend walking out the door wearing those weird pink and purple polka dotted pants. You know everybody is going to make fun of him behind his back, and he’s going to ultimately wonder why everybody is avoiding him. If you really consider him your f riend, you’ll say something to him. You’ll give him a chance to do something about it before he embarrasses himself . But all too of ten what should be done and what is done are two entirely different realities. Far too many people are more interested in avoiding the possibility of conf rontation than they are in helping their f riend avoid embarrassment. Of course, if the f riend had made it clear that he wanted your opinion and was willing to accept it as a friend, the chances of him walking out dressed f unny would be much less. If the band with the two hits above had developed at least a handf ul of f riends that were really willing to be honest with them, they could have turned their two wonder career into a lifetime of achievements. Instead, they walked out with their pride untarnished and their career severely hampered. Step back and take a good close look at your band. How distinctive is their sound? Can you tell one song f rom the next? Do audiences really like you or are they just doing what they guess they’re supposed to do? Bef ore stepping out on that big stage, you need to know for sure. Show business is very unf orgiving. And the real success happens right now, before anybody sees you. If you’re willing to take the time to polish down all the rough edges, once that big moment comes along, you ’ll be ready. And that’s what this chapter is all about, getting you ready to tackle the step by step process of working your way to the top that’s outlined in the rest of the book. Kenny Rogers was once interviewed on a radio talk show during the time when he was generally considered to be the highest paid solo perf ormer in America. At the time he brought in millions per show. He joked about making enough money to be able to buy a brand new wardrobe bef ore every show so he wouldn’t have to be bothered to do his laundry. They talked about his hobby in interior decorating and how he regularly had large statues or massive pieces of f urniture shipped f rom remote corners of the world to one of his several houses around the country just because he through they’d look good “in that one corner”. The interviewer asked him at what point in his career was he the happiest. W ithout hesitating, he immediately said he was at his best, he f elt the most fulf illed, when he was a lonely street perf ormer hoping to make enough to be able to pay f or his hotel room at the end of the week. It was the excitement of making it one day at a time based only on his talents. The feeling of walking out without a penny in your pocket and coming home with enough money to pay rent and afford a nice dinner. Today the money’s there, but he’s no longer in a “survival mode”. He just goes to work, does his thing and goes home to enjoy the rewards. It’s a dream everybody says their hoping f or, but a dream that obviously isn’t all it’s cut out to be. Ask Elvis, or Mari lyn Monroe. Ask Freddie Prince. They all made it to the “big time” only to f ind it wasn’t what they were looking f or. According to Kenny Rogers, the struggle is the fun part. And that’s probably the time you’re going through right now. W ondering if you’ll be able to make enough at this to pay your b ills. Trying to rehearse enough so you really understand each other’s temperament and talents. It’s the time that separates those who will eventually make it f rom those who won’t. W hat happens when you f inally walk out on that big stage depends entirely on what you do now. This is the time to develop the talent. It’s the time to work out all the kinks. Today is the time to prepare for whatever level of show you hope


to someday do. If your goal is to make it to the top, it has to begin by becoming star material right now. Before anybody sees you or agrees to someday book you. You need to decide right now that it’s something you want enough to be will ing to take the time to really be ready when the time comes. Once you get that call that asks if you’re able to do a show in, say, 30 days, it’ll be too late to start getting ready. At that point you must have all your ducks properly lined up, or you’ll be best served turning your big break down. In the next chapter we ’ll actually go through the entire process of selling yourself to several different markets. W e’ll discuss networking and some of the ways you can get your name out there. But f irst, let’s talk a bit about negotiating. If you truly understand the elements of a good negotiation package, you’ll f ind that powerful negotiating, and understanding the big picture is actually the secret that’ll make it or break it for you. Imagine I have a car I’m try ing to sell you. W e’ve discussed it’s book value and I’ve pointed out that I installed a quality radio in it. You mentioned the dent in the right fender, and we’ve gotten to that crucial point when we have to discuss price. Typically that’s how most negotiations take place. All the other details are ironed out and then both parties settle on a price. That’s the way it’s done “normally”, and there couldn’t possibly be any worst way to try and reach an agreement. If that’s the way you sell your car, ultimately, you lost the battle bef ore you even started talking. W hat happens when two parties start haggling over a price? It doesn’t take long before it becomes a pride issue. Both parties are interested in proving they were right, and the price they aimed at should be paid. Unless both parties began with the same exact price in mind, the chances of both parties leaving satisf ied is virtually nil. If I asked, say, for $1000 on my car and you immediately took me up on it, what would go through my head? I’d probably wonder if I had asked f or enough. In f act, if you’re too quick to buy, I’d probably walk out convinced I must have undercharged you and ultimately I’d feel I had been suckered. If I offered to sell it for $1000 and you counter offered that you were will ing to pay $800, which I immediately agreed on, then what would happen? You’d walk away f eeling you probably didn’t bid low enough. The bottom line is, regardless of how things work out, if the only item on the table is price, then one or both of us will always walk away feeling cheated. From an entertainers point of view, that ads up to promotional suicide. You ’ll either walk away f rom a client that f eels he’s been taken and doesn’t f eel like calling you back, or you’ll walk in to a show f eeling you aren’t appreciated and wondering if you ever want to work with that client again. So how do you get around the “price trap”? Suppose I told you I was will ing to offer you the car f or $1000 and you counter offered $800. Instead of haggling and eventually “settling” f or $900 (which means we both walked out f eeling a little bit taken), suppose I added something to the mix? Imagine I suddenly remembered that I hadn’t shown you the 100 CD changer in the trunk that had cost me $600 and I was willing to include in that price. Now what are you going to think? Suddenly price isn’t the issue. W e’re now discussing perceived value. A car you thought was worth $800 suddenly went up in value by an extra $600. Of course, what I don’t tell you is that I had taken the CD changer out of my other car when I upgraded to a better system, so even though I had originally paid $600 for it, I r eally didn’t consider it worth much when placed next to the deluxe model I had in my personal car. Basically, by


f orcing the negotiation into the intangible, we suddenly f ound ourselves agreeing on the price I had asked for without offending anybody. If I didn’t have any “new f eatures” to show you, I might toss in one of several other items that might sweeten the pot for you. Suppose you mentioned your 5 year old son was having a birthday in a month and I just happened to be a part time clown. I could agree to do your sons party f ree of charge as a “tossed in” way of making sure you were happy with the deal. If I could convince you that enough people actually had paid $300 f or an hour of my time, you would walk out f eeling you got a great “package” deal. Instead of insulting you and demanding you merely come up with the added money, I was will ing to offer you something valuable in return to make up for your concessions. Truth be told, even if I could show you that others had been willing to pay me, say $800 for an hour of my time, I’m sti ll only talking about an hour. And considering he didn’t come in looking to hire me, it’s probably an hour I would have spent sitting in f ront of the television. Again, we both feel we ended up with a great deal, and, ultimately, I got my f ull $1000 f or the car. You probably get the idea. The more “extras” I have hidden away in my back pocket, the easier it’ll be to come to a win-win situation. In show business, there is no such thing as a win-lose proposition. If either party walks out f eeling they have lost, then both parties def initely lose. Successful show business depends heavily on repeat business. Your clients all need to leave convinced they got one heck of a deal with your show. They need to be out there conf idently recommending you to f riends and they need to be ready to hire you again the next time you call. Anything else would be nothing less than a long, tiresome road to the top. So how do you introduce extra variables into a show? Most perf ormance deals sound so simple and predictable. The club normally has budgeted $500 they pay weekly f or their band, so you have to f ight to prove you’re worthy of the money. W hat could be simpler? Actually, f rom a promoters point of view, that’s just the f irst variable in a package that can be much, much more complicated. It might help some here if we paused long enough to caref ully look over the 5 basic components of any show. The f irst item needed for a successf ul show is props. To a juggler that means juggling pins and a pair of tight pants. To a musician that means a sound system and a sharp guitar. The second component of a successful program is talent. Stage presence, number of songs you know and how much you paid attention in voice classes all come into play here. The third component is venue. W here are you doing the show? An open f ield? A converted warehouse? Carnegie Hall? The f ourth item is support staff . W ho mans the f ront door? W ho serves the drinks? W ho works the lights? And f inally is promotion. W ho buys the ads in the paper and who prints the posters? A successf ul show is the sum total of these f ive elements. A really successful show is the sum total of each of these elements done with excellence. Unfortunately, as in the proverbial chain analogy, the total strength of your show can be measured in terms of which of these elements is the weakest. You can do a perfect performance in the ideal showroom to a sold out crowd being served by veteran waiters, but if you keep breaking guitar strings,


that’s all the crowd is going to remember. If everything else is perf ect, but the air conditioning unit isn’t working, all your crowd is going to remember is that the experience was unpleasant. All f ive of these elements need to be done perf ectly in order to end up with a perf ect show. Traditionally the band has accepted responsibility f or the f irst two items, their props and talent. Clubs or venues have traditionally worried about location, staff and promotion. Before going any f urther, let me say that as a rule of thumb, the more of the responsibilities you are willing to take on, the more money you can plan on making. If you agree to be responsible for all the promotion of the show, the club owner will see this as a burden off his shoulder and will automatically understand that you expect to be paid for your eff orts. If you chose to rent a hall and pay f or a staff to man the door, then you’ve created a situation where there is no middle man to take part of the money. You simply pay the rent, salaries, promotions and misc. expenses and keep all the prof it. Another advantage to taking on extra responsib ility is that you have more say so on the overall package. Let’s f ace it. W hen you’re up there, you’re responsible. It really doesn’t matter who actually forgot to lower the thermostat, when your audience is sweating during your show, all they’re going to remember was that your show was hot (and that’s a bad thing! ). It ref lects on you if the service isn’t up to par. Even the dress and the way the waiter combs his or her hair ultimately ref lect on you. Something else to keep in mind as you consider how much of the bigger picture you’re going to be responsible for, is that you have an inherent edge when it comes to promoting your show. The club owner gets a diff erent group in there every weekend. He has to insert different names into the same ads week after week. He can’t afford the more expensive promotional packages. You, on the other hand, will be promoting yourself week af ter week. It’ll probably pay off f or itself nicely if you go on and spend, say, $800 to have some nice, larger posters made for your show. You’re going to use them week af ter week and they’ll help make you f amous. You also know where your strengths lie. Do you sound good on the radio? Maybe you need to plan a few guest appearances. Or maybe you’re a writer on the side. Try getting off a solid press release and promo package to all the major media outlets. If you’re capable of doing a better job than the club owner can, then by all means off er to help. In the long run, it’ll ref lect f avorably on you, both in the eyes of the audience and those of the manager. So, as you walk in to talk to the club manager, he has his little “package” all worked out in his head. He normally spends $300 a week promoting whoever is on stage and pays the talent $500. He charges $3 a person at the door and hopes he sells 235 tickets (which would let him break even). If he does, he ’ll make a killing on drinks. Most bands also have their little “package” worked out. They have to rehearse 3 times a week and each person has bought their own instruments. They show up at the club and do the gig. They then split up the money evenly among the 4 of them. Basically, they are will ing to work for 4 hours every Saturday night if they can each take home $125. That’s the way it is and the way it has been since as f ar back as both parties can remember. It’s a dead end street. The only way the club manager can hope to make any extra money is to spend more, which goes right back to cutting into his prof it, or pay the


band less money. The band doesn’t begin to have enough to be able to do anything except be thankf ul f or anybody will ing to give them a job. A good promoter/press agent would see this dead end situation as a golden opportunity. There is so much both parties can gain by opening a f ew extra doors. And whenever both parties have a lot of extra they can gain, it’s a sure formula f or a solid win-win situation. W hat can you offer the club owner that he might want? How about some sharp, prof essionally made 4 color posters? How about a ma iling list you’ve nurtured over the years that’ll increase his take at the door? Do you think the manager would be interested in being able to give away f ree $10 CD’s of your show to the f irst 150 people in the door as part of the overall package? Suppose you’ve taken the time to nurture your relationship with the media. Do you think the manager might be excited to f ind that you can get a lot of f ree press for them? How about equipment? Would the manager be impressed if you brought in a complete, digital laser show that played along the wall while you were doing your show? How about a prof essional video demo tape of you in action the club can play at the bar f or the week before you show up, to help sell tickets? How about f ree T-shirts f or the staff that have your logo on it during the night of the show? How about f ree autographed posters f or anybody who wants one? There are probably 200 different, tangible items you can easily push on to the negotiating table that would set you apart f rom all the other bands. And we haven’t even mentioned the quality and popularity of your show. Of course, with that much to offer, you might want to consider moving on to a better venue. Maybe that upscale club downtown, or the convention events. Or maybe you should consider accepting less of a general payment and more of the door. Or maybe drop your payment down to, say, $200 and keep all of the door. There’s all kinds of ways you can negotiate in more money. W hen we get to the chapter on booking a club we’ll break it all down f or you much better. For now, what’s important is to realize there are plenty of ways to pull out of the old rut. The question is which should you consider and in what order should you use them to f ocus your career. One concept you’d do well to keep in mind here is that regardless of who is doing the selling, it’s about getting a crowd in a room. The club is stuck having to try and tell enough people around town that you’re perf orming tonight to hopef ully f ill 235 seats. You, on the other hand, have the distinct advantage of being able to do everything the club can do, while also keeping track of a group of people that have seen your show in the past and enjoyed it. Before going any f urther, the f irst step towards being successful, whether it be in and around your town or while touring across the country is to start a powerf ul mailing list. These are people you know are interested in your show. Being able to show that list to anybody you plan on marketing to will be a big ace in the hole. A magician f riend of mine in Los Angeles started a kids magic club. Any kid in town that wanted to could sign up for f ree. In f act, the guy bought mailing lists of f amilies with kids and paid to mail them f ree membership kits. If a kid signed up (and had his or her parents consent) he would send them a personalized, laminated membership card, a wall diploma and a monthly newsletter that taught the kids how to do magic. On top of that, he also did at least 3 larger shows a year where only club members and a couple guests (parents?) could attend. All f or f ree.


Doesn’t sound like a big money maker, does it? Every bit of that package involved giving things away. Not only did the magician have to do 3 f ree shows a year, but he had to spend a week or so every month designing a newsletter he eventually ended up having to mail, f ree of charge, to a ma iling list of about 4000 kids. His monthly overhead, without counting his time, came in right at $500. Just f or the privilege of giving all kinds of stuff away. And that one package ended up making him around $80,000 the second year he had it. That’s $80,000 af ter paying out all his expenses, including a staff of 3 who eventually did his mailings and designed his newsletter. How did he do it? Think about what he had nurtured there. 4000 kids who f elt they were members of something. They went around showing off their cards and doing magic tricks f or their f riends. Every couple months the magician would organize some kind of event that was f ree to the kids. They might get f ree access to the L.A. Zoo, plus a f ree show if they were willing to spend some time collecting litter in and around the zoo. They might all march in a parade together, wearing matching t-shirts. And they all loved it. The magician, on his part, regularly marketed events using his list. Imagine being able to tell the local f air that you have a list of 4000 f amilies that are dying to see you perf orm. Not only would they gladly pay your $2000 show f ee, but they would also be more than willing to allow the kids to enter f ree of charge if they were accompanied by a paid adult. And he brokered out hundreds of birthday parties a month to local magicians that all paid him a $20 commission on their $200 shows. Shows he didn’t have to advertise for or even promote. And advertisers started lining up to buy advertising space in his newsletter. They more than paid f or the letter, the mailing and the 3 person staff that put it all together. Once he got the ball rolling, he ended up growing big enough to where all he did was make money off his mailing list. Of course we’re talking apples and oranges, right? A band can’t start a kiddie club and plan on making it big, can they? Most bands probably can’t, although The Backstreet Boys seem to have sold quite a few records to the younger set. But that’s not the focus of this book. W e’re not going for the kid market. W e are, however, very interested in promoting the same kind of thinking that made that club successful. It worked because the kids all f elt they were a part of something and they were well rewarded f or their loyalty. Suppose you started off ering a door prize in exchange for people signing up f or a mailing list. Every show you did ended up getting you an extra 150 names, and all f or the cost of one of your CD’s. As the list grew, you started mailing out a quarterly newsletter. In it you included some “insider inf ormation” about the kind of music you play and the clubs around town that host it. A f eatured area would include a listing of places around town where you’d be performing. At f irst you could offer f ree admission f or mailing list members. Think about it. You negotiate with the club that you’re going to take, say, $100 plus the door as your salary. You then include the show on your quarterly mailer, telling your “gang” where you ’ll be, and how much they’ll save at the door just f or being part of your circle of f riends. The club owner doesn’t care if anybody paid at the door or not, since what came in at the door was all yours. All he wants is to sell a lot of drinks. If you mailed out to 2000 off ering f ree admission to your show, you’re sure to have to turn people away. Do you think the club owner will be impressed? How about the neighbors? If the house is packed (even if ¾ of them were comped) do you think a person would be willing to pay more to get in to the “hot party” in town? How long is it going to be


bef ore word gets around that whenever you do a show it sells out? Do you think you’ll have a problem talking clubs into paying you, say, $500 plus the door if they know you’re going to pack them in? And the 50 people who actually paid to get in the show would probably be excited to get in to the “happening event” f or just $8. Even if every other show in town only cost $3. And if you have a mailing list of , say 3000 loyal fans, how hard do you think it would be to have someone run around town and gather up discount offers f rom restaurants and local resorts? Imagine being a member of a ma iling list (that cost you nothing) but gets you two for one off ers at 10 restaurants every issue, gets you in to nightclubs f or f ree and continues to come up with offers to events you and yours are interested in. Heck, if a big name star is coming to town, they would probably welcome the chance to off er get a f ree listing in a targeted letter that went to individuals that enjoyed their kind of music. If you can promise to tell 3000 people that Madonna will be in town, the promoters for her show would probably welcome the chance to give you a 20% discount (and early sales rights) to your readers. Maintaining and supporting your ma iling list is a major part of having something to offer. Remember the 5 parts of a successf ul show? You now corner 3 of them. Heck, you could easily fill all f ive. Suppose you scheduled a cruise where the f irst 200 people to sign up would spend a week in the Caribbean having you and a couple of other bands perf orming nightly at dances your crowd felt comf ortable with. You could probably even schedule in a magician or comic to add variety to the event. If you called one of the smaller cruise lines (that had ships that carried only 200 people) and asked to simply rent the entire ship for a private cruise, you could easily get it for a steal. You would be saving them all the costs of advertising and promoting and all the middle man f ees they pay to bookers and travel agents. Virtually every penny that runs that industry would be yours. You could easily afford to do the entire cruise, f or about the same price it might normally cost, and make a fortune. Let’s break it down. Suppose the normal 7 day cruise normally sold f or $1500 a person (which is a low estimate). If you offered your “Caribbean Jam” f or just $1000 per person, se lling 200 tickets, you could plan on making $200,000 gross on the event. Of course, even at the discounted price, $1000 is a lot of money. But only if you have to pay it all at once. Suppose you off ered to hold seats f or the f irst 200 people that could come up with $100 deposit. Then you spread out the payments over the course of , say, 9 monthly payments of $100. Now, suddenly it becomes much more affordable. And the group that’s coming with you has not only made a commitment, but will be a captive audience f or 10 months. Part of the deal could include f ree admission to all your shows between now and then and a private “let’s get to know each other” Chri stmas party in December. Plenty of “you’re the elite crowd” kind of stuff that culminates with a week in the Caribbean. The ship would probably rent f or somewhere around $50,000 for the week, which would cover all the meals, etc. If you allow them to run their casino and gif t shops on board during the event, which would give them some extra take in the deal, you might even be able to talk them down to $45,000. Knowing you’re going to do the Caribbean, you could probably strike a deal with a club or two at one of your ports of call. For an extra, say, $800, you ’ll set up and play at a club in Montego Bay. The club owner would be told you are bringing in 200 tourists which will probably enjoy coming to see you in a tropical setting.


He’ll see 200 drinking Americans on top of anybody else in town. You ’ll see an extra $800. Out of the $150,000 you have lef t af ter paying for the ship, you’ll have to pay f or, say, 2 other bands to come down and rotate with you and a Vegas juggling duo. How much do you think you’d have to pay a band to play f or a week if you offered to include in the deal f lying them down to Miami and paying f or their cruise? Your f riends would probably line up f or the chance to pay to be a part of this. Your jugglers might cost a bit more. Let’s just say you’re going all out here. You agree to pay each perf orming team $1000 a night f or 7 night of work. If you only have 200 people on board, chances are you aren’t going to be running more than two shows a night, so that’s very conservative, but going all out like that, you now have a bill f or an extra $21,000. You’re now down to “just” $129,000 prof it. You want everybody to f eel they got a great deal (so they talk it up f or next year’s party cruise). So you pay to have everybody enjoy a banquet at a casino in San Juan. If you call the larger casinos in town ahead of time and get them negotiating against each other, it won’t be too hard to get a great deal on the meals of 200 people that’ll be coming in and probably staying around to gamble. Heck if you can’t talk someone into giving you the meals for f ree then you might want to reconsider your profession. Casinos do it all the time f or the bus tours, and the Caribbean casinos regularly f ly in groups of “high rollers” f rom the states, f ree of charge. But just f or argument sake, lets imagine you had to pay $10 a person to let them feast out in style. If you end up paying that much for that big a crowd, they better agree to comp you tickets to one of their Vegas style acts. You’ve just added another $2000 to your overhead. Your prof it now stands at $127,000. How about a “goodies” package f or every cruise goer? You could include your CD (perhaps even a “special collectors edition” autographed CD with a limited, numbered run of exactly 200, including a special “I Love The Caribbean” song and a selection or two f rom each of the other bands traveling with you), a special cruise T-shirt (that’ll tell everybody all of next year that they went on your cruise) and a cruise cap. If you budget in, say, $8 per CD, $10 for the shirt and $7 for the cap, you now just spent another $25 per person on things that ’ll give them all bragging rights to help you promote f or next year. At $25 a person, times 200, you now added $5000 to your bill. You now are lef t netting just $122,000. If you went all out and paid $100,000 f or the ship, instead of just $50,000, you would st ill end up with $72,000 prof it. Heck, if you cut $20,000 off the top and stored it away in order to make next years success a sure thing you’d still have enough lef t over to buy a pretty fancy sound system to the tune of $52,000. And all you did was give away a few CD’s to people as they came into your show. You can even get the various clubs where you work and local travel agencies to help you sell them. Every time they get a $100 deposit f rom someone that’s interested, you give them a $50 commission. If you get enough people out there talking it up (and making $50 every time they sold one), it shouldn’t be too hard to sell your full boat. A visit to a f ew civic groups where you offer them $50 a person for every commitment they get as a fund raiser would probably get you started nicely. If all 200 people were sold by commissioned sales people (and not by you), you’d end up paying an extra $10,000 for the eff ort. And your total discounted take (af ter stashing away the $20,000 for promoting next year) would work out to $42,000. If you set up a payment plan like this one, it’ll start getting you a regular income coming in every month. You have to be sure you allow enough to pay your b ills, but you


can also draw f rom your income to take out f ull page ads in local papers, posters all over town, whatever it’ll take to sell any remaining tickets near the end of the run. Once your general mailing list gets big enough, provided you’ve been taking the time to print your newsletter up nicely, you can probably count on getting more than a few advertisers. Local record stores and clubs would probably love to get listed. Singles clubs and music teachers would probably line up f or a chance to get in on this. Maj or sponsors (liquor, sodas, sneakers, etc.) would be naturals for this kind of thing. Basically, by supporting the list yourself until you had, say, 5000 or more people on it, you’ve now grown big enough to where you can afford to let someone else pay to promote you. That’s how a promoter thinks, and that’s the kind of stuff we’re going to be diving pretty deeply into in this book. But bef ore we get too f ar into the theory part of the book, this might be a good time to do a solid reality check. Making a band move is serious business. It’s not a hobby that just happens to pay a lot of money. Granted there are a f ew lucky types out there that sat around in a park playing songs for their kids and were suddenly discovered by some major record label. But don’t get your hopes up. They’re very f ew and far between. Realistically yo u ’ll need to decide up f ront, bef ore you get going, if you’re ready to make the commitment. Because once you’re on the road, it’s hard to step back out. It takes a lot of work to get moving, and it’s rough to dedicate your lif e to something only to discover up the road it isn’t what you were hoping it would be. First you’ll need to decide if you’re really ready f or the emotional and mental toll you can plan on having as a member of a band. There’s long hours and cancelled dates. It’s a lif estyle that calls f or a lot of work and dedication long before you see a penny of prof it. It’s about long nights and having women hitting on you. That may sound like fun, but it makes f or all kinds of problems if you plan on having a f amily. And then there’s the travel. Let’s face it. If you really want to make it big, you’ll probably have to schedule at least some traveling. You need to have enough possible venues waiting for you so you aren’t cornered into depending on the one club in town to pay all your bills. There’s something magical about knowing there are 8 clubs ready to hire you any time you want to work. You can afford to turn down gigs that don’t pay enough and you can demand the kind of respect you feel you deserve. Unless you live in a larger city, chances are you’ll end up having to market yourself within a larger radius. You might also plan an actual tour. Clubs are much more likely to hire you if you tell them you’re f rom out of town and will be passing through their town on a given week. It makes it sound like they get just one chance to hire the person important enough to command a music tour. And remember, you’re touring with the band. If you have personality conf licts, you can count on bringing them to a head while on the road. Tempers tend to f lare, egos are easily bruised. It’s usually a growing experience, but all growth tends to bring along its share of pain. And somebody in your band is going to have to get busy promoting you. It involves a lot of calling and mailing. You have to make meetings and keep commitments. It’s about constantly digging f or new markets and then attacking them with everything you’ve got. It’s about creating f ame. Making people see you as having already made it, and then riding the wave until you reach the top.


And it has to move f ast. Once you get going, you can’t slow down. Any hesitation or laziness will ultimately transl ate into wasted momentum. If you just did a radio spot, and a local club agreed to run a b illboard announcing you were performing, you don’t want to wait 6 months, af ter everybody has f orgotten who you are, to do something else. You’re going to need to work out an organized plan of attack and then you’ll need to dedicate long, late hours to putting it into effect. In the next chapter we caref ully outline the process of se lling a show. No, it’s not about answering the telephone and saying you’re available for a show this coming Friday night. Chapter 3 is sure to offer you plenty of practical tips on how to promote yourself , network, negotiate contracts and cold calling. W e’ll also discuss in detail the various components of a quality promo package and how each piece of the puzzle f its into the bigger picture.


Chapter T hree

Selling the Package Many of you old timers assumed there was nothing else worth reading about in this book and jumped straight to this page. You’re hoping to pick up a hint or two on how to better sell your bands. If you did that, if you skipped everything we’ve said to this point, you’ve really cheated yourself . W e’ve already covered how to negotiate f ees that are probably 10 times what you make now. W e’ve covered a lot of the ins and outs of being successf ul. W e’ve even outlined the exact step by step plan to organizing a complete “Ship that Rocks” Caribbean cruise ship and walk away with over $100,000. If you skipped the f irst couple chapters, you’ve cheated yourself out of all kinds of important stuff, so go back there and read it, then you ’ll be ready to understand why we sell shows the way we do. It’s hard to write a book like this one and keep all the inf ormation about selling yourself in one chapter. W e’ve already covered a lot of the material you’ll need to know in se lling yourself , and we’ll toss in plenty of other stuff in some of the upcoming chapters. This chapter is more of a toolkit of practical ways to market your act. And it all begins with the material you have to offer. Let’s face it, whether you want to be a promoter or not, you’re going to soon f ind out your only chance of making it in this business is to become the best promo agent around. Every time a club looks at what you have, they’re comparing it to that expensive package they just got f rom some guy out of Nashville or Los Angeles. Most club


owners and booking agents can spot a beginner before they even open the envelope. Long before they plug in your cassette, they’ve already decided whether or not they’re going to like you. And it all has to do with the quality of your package, how well put together it is and your background. Promoting yourself is a numbers game. On one hand you have a promotional kit that costs you a certain amount of money. On the other hand you have a list of clubs and other venues you’d like to promote to. Then you have your budget, or, in most cases, the lack of one. Finally you deal with the quality of your equipment, what you look like and how popular your music is. Somehow all of this has to blend together to make you successf ul. W e’re going to start with the assumption that you’re interested in selling your act f or the big bucks. You’re tired of going home with $80 each after putting in 5 hard hours of work. It can be done, and that’s what this chapter is all about. Suppose you mailed out a single f lyer with the picture of your band and the inscription under it that says “W e’re Hot Stuff ”. How many f lyers would you have to mail out to sell a single show? Probably an awf ul lot. If you sold one in 1,000, that would be incredible. If you f igure printing, envelope and postage, you might be able to get away with an overhead in that deal of $0.50 each, bringing your cost for promoting in right at $500. And the gig you get may pay right around that amount. So you really didn’t do anything there except risk your money. Now suppose you added a cassette tape with a copy of some of your better songs. Now how many would you have to send out bef ore you sell a single gig? Considering the number of cassettes the average club owner gets, your chances of even getting a club owner to break into his schedule to plug in your tape is right up there next to none. 900 packages, going out at probably $1.50 each might sell a single show. Considering you’ve now invested $1,350 in promotional packages, it better be a great gig. Now suppose you put together a package that cost you $10 each. It includes a sharp poster, great audio tape and a video of you in action. Plenty of


pictures and a sharp promo pack including quotes and f igures relating to your band. And it all comes in a real professional looking box. Now suddenly you’ve worked your way past the crowd. Now, the person getting your package will assume you must be good. The question in every bookers mind now would be whether or not they could aff ord you. How many of those packages would you have to send out? If you’re looking for, say, $1,000 a night gigs, you can probably land one if you mailed out 20 or 30 packages. At ten dollars each, you now have an overhead of up to $300, and every club you mail to will keep your package while waiting for the chance to book the “big guys”. Now when you call, they’re going to be willing to listen to you, and more than likely see nothing wrong with giving you a chance. And you ’ll take home a prof it of $700 the f irst time you sell the show. The point I’m try ing to make here is that most bands never make it because they aren’t willing to take the time to promote themselves right. In chapter 5 we’re going to discuss all the options available to you when se lling your show to a club. Chapter 9 is going to introduce you to all kinds of hidden markets you can make all kinds of money in. Chapter 7 will help you f igure out how to get your foot in the door with your local media. All three chapters are going to depend heavily on having a top notch promo package. This chapter is aimed at helping you put together the tools you’ll need to work those other markets. It all starts with some good promo shots. You need some good pictures. No, you’re not looking for something your girlf riend shot with an instamatic. These need to be top quality photography done by a prof essional, or at least someone almost that good. If you go down to any university that offers classes on photography and post a notice on their bulletin board that you’re a band looking f or someone interested in taking shots of one of your concerts, you’ll probably get swamped by offers. If not, try calling the portrait studio at the mall. They have plenty of guys there that shoot pictures f ull time who would probably be willing to cut you a good deal on getting some shots. Either arrange to set up in their studio and let them shoot you there, or f ind out what they’ll charge to come out to a live concert and take some shots.


You’ll want one shot of the whole band in action, complete with lights, smoke or whatever else is typical at one of your concerts. If you all agree to take the money you’re planning on making at your next gig and spend it on getting a roll of shots taken at a studio (where the lighting and eff ects can be made to do exactly what you want them to), it’l l be well worth the cost. It’ll probably be the cover of your f irst CD, and will def initely make for great promo shots. You might also want some shots of the various players in action. The singer doing whatever he or she does best, the drummer really getting into it, the guitar showing why he or she’s great. These picture will eventually end up in newspapers, posters, CD’s, and all over town. W hen you go to get the shots done, be sure you specif y, when making the arrangements, that you’re a band and will probably be making bulk copies of the print. Explain that you’re willing to hire them, but only if they’re willing to leave their stamp off the back. Placing a stamp on the back of a photo is a sign to anybody in the business, that the picture is copyrighted. Bulk copying houses aren’t supposed to touch them without a written release f rom the studio. If you can’t get the photos without a stamp, go somewhere else. Once you get some good shots, you’re going to want to make up a box of them. If you live in one of the larger cities, there may be someone in your town who can do it f or you. If not, the granddaddy of them all, the company that probably does 80% of the Hollywood actors and prof essional musicians around the country is ABC Pictures out of Springfield, MO. If you decide to go through them, you can get 500 8 X 10 black and white copies of your picture, complete with the inscription along the bottom, inside the white space f or $80. If you go on and order 1000 copies (you might as well), you can get them for $108. In a moment we’re going to discuss how to use these pics to get your name all over town. They’re well worth the investment. You can contact ABC pictures at (417) 867-3456. They’re mailing address is 1867 E. Florida Street, Springf ield, MO 65803. They typically take orders for their weekly printing through W ednesdays. They then do the weeks work on Friday. If you can get your original 8 X 10 in to them before W ednesday, they’ll have it in the mail back to you by that coming weekend. You can also order color shots and bleeds (without a border) f rom them. Call to f ind their current rates.


Once you have a box of pictures, there’s all kinds of great ways you can use them to promote yourself . Obviously they’re a part of every package you mail out, and club owners are going to appreciate the quality when they post your pics announcing you ’ll be at their club on a given day. W e mentioned in the last chapter just how powerful a good mailing list really is. You can do wonders with it. A sneaky way to get your name out and get a good ma iling list is to off er, af ter your gig, to give autographed pictures to anybody who will sign up f or your mailing list. They cost you $0.11 each, and anybody who gets one is sure to put it up somewhere, making you (at least in their eyes) into a celebrity. Heck, any autographed picture of a perf ormer looks classy. And the more they look at it at home, the more they’ll look forward to hearing you again. That’s one heck of a run off the cost of a business card. And if you support the ma iling list the way we discussed in the last chapter, you’ll be able to offer sold out shows wherever you go. Af ter your pictures, the next most important item is a demo tape. First (traditionally), you’ll want an audio tape. It lets the buyer hear what you sound like. You can record it live at a concert, or buy studio time at a local sound studio. Either way, make sure it honestly projects the feeling you try to portray on stage. As you decide what to put on it, remember, you won’t be the one listening to it. You may love that one song you wrote because it brings back old memories. That doesn’t mean a booker is going to f eel the same way about it. Find the stuff the audience likes, your A list. Once you know what you plan on including, make it count. If you really want to impress a booker, include a video tape of you performing as well. Again, it’ll probably cost you the price of a single show, and you’ll sell shows with it f or years to come. If you have a videographer shoot a performance, have them do a 2 camera shoot. One camera can be steady, on a tripod, while the videographer is busy walking around looking f or audience response and tight shots. Later, the two cameras will allow the editor to create a f ast moving promo video. A little trick that’ll really spice up your video is to have the videographer stand at the back of the room af ter your concert and videotape interviews with some of your audience. Get individuals saying how


much they loved the show or how great it was. Later, while editing, they can mix these endorsements throughout the tape. The completed promo shouldn’t run more than 8 to 10 minutes and should come across like a television commercial. Fast moving with cutaway shots. Maybe even a voice over in the background reminding whoever is watching of your credentials and promo info. If you plan on se lling your group to conventions, most planning committees, and/or larger venues, you’re going to need a good video bef ore they’ll even consider you. Yes, you’re probably selling a f ew shows now without one, but chances are they don’t pay much and they’re all at the same venues. Every truly professional band out there (and f or that matter, any professional entertainer out there) use videos as one of their main marketing tools. It’s an industry standard. Another item you’re going to want to be sure you include in your promo package are letters of recommendation. I realize it may sound crazy, considering how rare they are in the music business, but they can be gotten, and It’s not that diff icult. W hen was the last time you and a club owner completely agreed on price? Remember the last chapter, where we talked about always having several pots on the f lame? W ell, one very easy pot to insert is a letter of recommendation. The next time a club owner asks you to do a gig at a reduced price, tell them you’re willing to, provided they’ll be willing to put in writing, on their letterhead (if they have one), their f eelings about the show. Explain that you’re trying to organize a solid promo package and would love to include their letter in it. Chances are pretty good they don’t have a letterhead (unless the club is attached to a hotel or other business that needs one). If that’s the case, you might offer to make some up for them. Just get anybody at all f amiliar with computers to pump out something that looks decent f rom one of the template programs. You’ll then be able to offer a “trade” of sorts. They’ll get some decent letterhead, you’ll get a letter written on something that looks as classy and professional as you’re willing to make it. Later on these letters are going to prove invaluable. But we ’ll get to that in a minute. One entertainer f riend of ours has been asking for letters f or years. Every time a club owner or client mentions that they liked the show, he immediately


answers with, “you know, I’m trying to organize my promotional material, and it wouldn’t hurt me to get a letter f rom you saying that.” He claims to have well over 100 of them f rom every conceivable industry (he does a lot of conventions, casinos and resorts). He even jokes about several letters he wrote himself . No, he didn’t fake it. After he asked clients to write letters, he f ound them hesitating. Finally, almost as a f avor, he suggested that if they were too busy or had a problem f iguring out what to say, that he’d be willing to write the letter f or them and let them look it over. If they agreed with what he said, they could sign it, if not, he wouldn’t be offended if they asked him to write it over. He then went on to write the perfect letter. It included several powerful sound bites (those one liners like, “you were great!! ” or “Our crowd couldn’t get enough of you”). It commented on his dependab ility and the quality of his act. Basically, if you could get the manager of some well known club to endorse your band, this is the time to have them say the things you always wished they had. Then you’ll need a general bio. List where you’ve perf ormed and any notable accomplishments you might have (f eatured as the opening act f or the 1998 Summer Rocks Concert at Kelmer Park, Idaho). You can also take advantage of any background your individual players has here. List stuff like “f eaturing Ron W hite, with his 30 years experience on the drums, including….”. Again, if you ever want to get past the corner bar, you’ll need a package that rivals the guys doing the big time, so take the time to do it right. If you own your own computer, take a little while to get good at one of the word processing programs and it won’t be too long bef ore you ’ll be pumping out packages that’ll compete with the best. Finally, you’ll def initely want to include any promotional material you offer the client here as well. Posters, f lyers, handouts, etc. that can be printed up f or the specif ic gig (again, let your computer do the work) will pay off in extra shows. Remember the 5 steps to a completed package? One of the steps was promotion. The typical club assumes you offer nothing to help them promote you except maybe a picture. Imagine what’s going to happen if you walk in carrying a sharp, 4 color poster. And they aren’t that hard to put


together. You can buy one of several computer printers that can print on 11 X 17 paper and make up your own. Or you can design them on a typesetting program and print them up at Alphagraphics or Kinkos (or any other self serve computer center around town). You might even f ind a local printer that has a copier that’ll take your disk and make up posters. A sharp 11 X 17 poster will def initely set you apart f rom the rest. And that’s precisely what you’re looking f or. You may be reading all of this thinking most of your gigs don’t deserve that kind of treatment. You couldn’t possibly be more wrong. It’s not the club that is or isn’t getting the royal treatment, it’s your band. Everybody knows what to expect f rom the club, the only party that’s going to benef it f rom sharp promotion is you. W hen people walk in the door and see professional looking f lyers, posters and pictures, they’re going to be more likely to show up. Heck, if they see prof essional looking stuff at the door, they’re probably going to walk in expecting to see a “better” band. And if that’s what they expect, more than likely, that’s what they’re going to end up f inding. They’ll be far less critical. It ’s like going to a major concert. You know the group must be great. Heck, they sell records and had a f ull page ad in the local paper. Even if the concert isn’t incredible, most people will walk out f eeling it was. It’s almost like the whole issue about the emperors clothes. As long as the crowd all said they looked good, nobody wanted to be the f ool who disagreed. You’re also going to f ind more people will be excited to follow quality. Your mailing list w ill be much easier to promote and you’ll be able to boast about a larger f ollowing. If you’re interested in moving up, then take the time to do f or yourself what a promoter would do if he were hired to take you to the top. Audiences deserve to know that any time they hear your name, they can expect nothing but the best. It’s kind of like the diff erence between the Hilton and Motel 6. You know Motel 6 will save you money, and it’s just a matter of f iguring out how much you’ll have to sacrif ice for the savings. The Hilton charges a bit more but gives you everything. The doorman makes you f eel welcomed. The staff is courteous. The valet takes your luggage. The rooms are immaculate. There’s a complete toiletry kit waiting in the bathroom. The maid lef t chocolates on your pillow. The room includes a complete, elegant breakf ast


buff et. The TV includes all the cable channels. Some rooms even come with built in computers. It sounds like a lot, and those who can afford it, don’t mind paying $180 a night to stay at the Hilton, where they could have spent the night at Motel 6 for just $30. But if you think about it, once you break the cost down, it really isn’t costing the Hilton that much more to off er great service. All of the staff ing (valet, bell hop, concierge, etc.) are working f or everybody who stayed there last night, so the actual cost added to your room may add up to $2 or $3. The chocolate on the pillow adds another $0.05 to the overhead. The computer in your room paid for itself months ago in added business. The toiletries and the breakf ast are about the only real “costs” the Hilton has to cover that Motel 6 doesn’t. Together they probably add $10 to the overhead. Basically, by giving you an extra $15 worth of amenities the Hilton just raised your price by 600%. They charged you $150 for $15 worth of products. And that’s exactly what you’re doing here. It may cost you $800 to have 1000 larger, prof essional show posters made up. But when you split the cost down to the “per poster” cost, that works out to just $0.80 a poster. If you plan on offering 10 posters per show, your bill just jumped to $8. How many extra tickets do you think the club manager will see selling if he has 10 sharp posters? Do you think he’d be willing to add an extra $8 to your take? Actually, he’d probably f eel very comfortable paying you an extra $50 to $100. Of course you don’t sell it to him as a “poster cost”, you simply tell him you work f or that amount and let him decide the extra ticket sales he can count on based on the quality of your promotional package. You’ll also f ind yourself se lling classier clubs, that naturally pay more, because you look like the kind of band that is worth it. You’ve just “sold” $8 worth of posters f or $100. And the good news is, once you pay f or the original posters by agreeing to take the payment f rom a gig to put them together, you’ll be busy making that exact same sale, over and over, 100 times. If you only made an extra $50 a show on the posters, by the time you sold them all out, you’d have made a net prof it of $4200. Not bad for a $800 investment. Specially when you consider the number of fans (and clubs) that now consider you the “classy” band.


Always sell quality. It’s a rare commodity in the music business, a commodity the better clubs and clients everywhere are looking for. Anybody can play top 40 music. It’s the band that makes themselves look like “The” top 40 band in the area that’ll get the big jobs. Another very important tool to keep in your promo arsenal is a top quality set of business cards for every band member. How many times have you been in a conversation with someone who asked f or your number, because they happen to know the guy that books the XYZ club? Nothing looks less professional than having that guy walk up to a club owner somewhere with your number scribbled on a corner of a napkin. You can probably print up some nice looking cards on your computer. Be sure every band member has a stack of their own designating them as “the drummer” or “lead guitar”. It makes them f eel important and encourages them to hand a lot of them out. These are your mini billboards. People should continue to hear your name over and over. And getting a ton of cards out there is an easy way to do that. And it also gives you the chance to promote yourself . W hich brings us to the topic of networking. No that doesn’t mean you need to buy a coat and tie and start hanging out at the country club (unless you happen to do chamber music). It just means getting your name out wherever you go. And there’s an art to it. “W hat do you do f or a living?” is one of those questions everybody tosses out. W hen you’re standing at a party or chatting to the guy behind the counter at Seven Eleven. If the person you’re talking to works f or any larger company, ask them if they ever do any functions where they use bands. If they do, don’t try to sell yourself there. The person is probably not the one who’s going to hire you, so don’t waste your time (and don’t get them angry). Instead, ask if they know who the hiring person is. It’ll probably be the personnel department. Take down the name and hand the person your business card. Ask them to hand it to the right person, if they get a chance, and then drop the subject. Move on to something else, something that’ll tell the person you aren’t here solely to sell your show. As soon as you get home, call the personnel person and f ind out if they’d be interested in receiving information about your group. If they are, this is the


time to mail out that elaborate promo package we’ve been busy putting together. It has to talk f or you when you’re not there. Make sure it yells “we’re much better than the other guys, classier, more prof essional, more dependable”. As you travel around, any time you see a venue you think you could do well in, stop off and ask f or the manager. Again, don’t hard sell. Casually mention you guys have done this f or a while and give him your card. You might hint at the f act that you off er a pretty solid promotional package along with your show (that’ll get their attention). Ask if he’d be interested in getting some promo material f rom you. If he says yes, go home, put together a package and mail it out with a large note plastered across the f ront that says “Here’s that package you asked for”. In either case, wait a couple weeks af ter you mail the package out and then give the prospect a call. Tell them you’re just ca lling to make sure they got your package and ask if it’s possible for you to swing by to discuss possible dates. At that point, your f oot is in the door and it’s just a matter of making sure yours is a good match. Another very eff ective way to use your promo package is to get busy cold calling. That means picking up the phone and running down the phone book. Find every club within your area that might be interested in your brand of music. Call them and offer to drop one of your promo packages in the mail to them. If you spend $10 on every package, chances are, it’ll be a sharp looking end product. It’ll outclass anything else any of these people will be getting. If they’re already in the market for some music, who do you think they’re going to hire? If your package cost you $0.75 each, you’d probably have to send out 1000 of them before you’d make a sale. If you can’t sell a show af ter ma iling ten $10 packages to interested prospects, then maybe you need to take a closer look at the kind of show you’re doing. If you plan on selling one show for every ten packages you mail out, that means your promotional overhead will break down to about $100 to sell a show. How much do you make in prof it per show? If you’re not making more than $100 you def initely have some serious overhauling to consider. Every penny over $100 is pure prof it. Suppose you


sold your 4 person band at a minimum of $500 a gig. That would mean you should plan on paying each member $100 and putting the last $100 in the bank, in an account marked “promotional budget, do not touch.” Now your math gets pretty simple. How many shows do you want to sell? W ould 8 a month be enough? Using these numbers, if the band all agreed to do a single (or maybe two) shows for f ree, and you saved up $800, you should be able to sell your 8 shows. And once you worked out the math, af ter expenses, you’d take home $3200. All because you guys agreed to do a single f ree show. And if you each agree to cut your take in half (at least at first, while you’re getting yourselves going), you could add an extra $1600 to your promotional budget. Again, you now should be able to plan on selling another 16 shows. The trick here is to sell as many shows as you can. As long as a club owner knows he can call you anytime and expect you to be open, he realizes you’re not working that much. He knows he can offer you pretty much anything and you ’ll have to take it. If , as a group, you agree to wait till you get busy enough bef ore you guys agree to take a full take home, it won’t be long before you should be booked solid. At that moment 2 very magical things happen. First, you know there’s a steady income coming in, so you f eel more comf ortable raising your rates. You’ll also be appearing more around town, so your following will grow considerably. If you’re nurturing a mailing list, it’s not going to take you too long to get to the point where you can plan on selling out any club you work. Now you can afford to ask for more money. You can also start planning on doing some creative f inancing. W hen you know you have a solid f ollowing (which only happens if you’re working a lot), you ’ll be able to start 4 walling (renting a hall and doing an actual concert, where people come to hear you rather than to just pick up dates). You can now aff ord, comfortably, to work for the door. And you can aff ord to charge more at the door, if everybody knows your concerts all sell out. And it all begins because you took the time to put together a quality promo package. Everybody talks about the bands that appeared at a talent contest somewhere and suddenly were world famous. That happens, but it happens so rarely that you might as well forget about it. The odds are literally in the mill ions. You’d have a much better chance at winning the lottery. The vast


majority of the bands that made it to the big time, did it this way. Most of them ended up having an outside promoter put the package together for them, but eventually it came down to how well the package was promoted rather than the f act that the music sounded good. If you’re looking to impress your mother and girlf riend, then stick to doing an occasional gig at the local bar. If you want to move on to bigger and better things, put together a solid promo package and start calling around. Call clubs, civic groups, convention and visitor bureaus, sales and catering departments at larger hotels, schools and local resorts. Get your name out all over town. Make it your goal to get one of your promo packages out to every potential booker in the area. They may not use you immediately, but they’re sure to save any good packages. If they think you’re the kind of band they might use in the future, it’s a sure thing they’ll hang on to your material. W e’re going to talk more specif ically about all these other markets later on (in chapter 9), but f or now, just realize that the f irst step towards your success is to put together a top quality promo package. In the next chapter we’re going to talk about agents, managers and all the “business” end of being in show business. Again, if you want to have an agent or manager get excited about working with you, you ’ll need to realize their number one concern is going to be marketability. If they think they can sell your show easily (and thus make a commission) they’re going to be much more likely to consider you. And nothing yells “I’ m a good bet” better than a quality promo package, something an agent f eel comf ortable sending out to concert promoters and larger venues. There’s one other area you need to really consider f ocusing your attention on. There’s no excuse f or your band not to have their own web site. A good web site is worth its weight in gold. It lets someone holding your business card have access to all your promo material. You can mail out occasional post cards to all your prospects announcing that “you can now meet all your entertainment needs at” You can also include ref erences to it in your promo package. Members of your fan club will love having access to your upcoming show schedule readily available. And f inally, it’s a great place to market your products. W e haven’t really talked about CD’s or Cassettes yet, but I’m sure your realize they’re a real big part of the larger picture, and we’re


going to discuss them in a moment. A good web site a cheaper way to get a lot of inf ormation out to your customer. And your only cost in putting it together is time. The web is f ull of sites that’ll host your web site f ree of charge. There are a f ew variables you’ll want to consider as you shop around. First, you want to be sure the site you’re looking at allows businesses. Many of the sites are dedicated. They’re will ing to give web sites to any knitter or dog owner. They aren’t interested in having you come on their server and start promoting a business. Even among the ones that do allow you to promote, you need to realize that most of these groups make their money by selling other items via banners on your site. As long as you don’t mind an occasional ad for AOL or some cell phone provider popping up on your site every now and then, you can usually f ind good servers f or f ree all over the place. Another popular package includes a f ree web space if you’re willing to register your site with the company. One example of this kind of site is a group called Free Home Page (found at WWW which offers a 12 MB site (which will probably be more than you need) and an easy to use web site page builder. This f ree site would list your address as WWW If you have them register your domain name (which gets you a company or personal name held f or you, as in WWW it would cost you (at the time of this writing) $13.30 a year. This package would include 15 MB of disk space, a single email account (which might be a disadvantage if you’re hoping to separate email as in, and This $13.30 package would be yours without banners or advertising f rom outside sources. Yahoo also offers a nice package through their GeoCities web page “community” (f ound at where you can get f ree hosting and well designed templates that’ll get your site up and running in minutes. In researching this paper, I entered “f ree websites” into my yahoo search engine and found a list of 351 possib ilities. If you’d like to


limit that list down a bit, you might try exploring at WWW .f They off er a long list, complete with reviews and comparisons. Finally, WWW .100best-f has an excellent site that not only has webmasters vote on the best around, but offers discussion groups and general reviews, where you can f ind out for sure if the site you’re looking at will really do what you want it to. A little trick that works real well if you have a web site is to place a “booking calendar” somewhere where the average person won’t f ind it. Make sure there are no links to it on your site. Place it somewhere that’s easy to remember, like, f or instance, at On this calendar you list the dates and locations of your upcoming shows (or unavailable dates). You then include, near the bottom of the page, a big button that announces “Hold a date by pushing here”. You then hand out post cards to all the agents, bookers, club owners etc. explaining that they can reserve your time online. It works like this. The club owner realizes he needs a band for a weekend coming up (someone cancelled or he f orgot to book it). He looks up at your postcard (which is why you want to be sure the card is too big f or him to stick in a rolladex or his wallet) and notices your calendar address. He punches it in and sees you’re available that weekend. He then pushes the button and gets a form that explains that if he’ll enter the inf ormation concerning the show, you’ll be glad to get back to him within 24 hours to conf irm. If the date is shown as available, chances are it is (unless two people request it the same day). If you’ve already worked out booking details with them (how much you usually do your gig f or and what’s included in the package, i.e. hotel room, dinners, etc.) they can plan on getting the same package this time. Basically, with one click of a button, the club can check to see if you can f ill a blank space, or can book you f or some time in the future. Either way, it’s a great added convenience that’s going to come in real handy in the next chapter when we start getting your name out to a list of agents that’ll all be trying to f igure out when they can use you. W hat exactly are you selling? Are you getting everybody emotionally high and wild or are you offering lyrics that make you think? Do your audiences come in because your beat is great for dancing or does your music bring back


old memories? Decide what niche you f ill and be sure all your marketing is aimed at it. You’ll need to realize up f ront that the direction your marketing takes will be largely determined by your style of music. If you do oldies while dressed like hippies you might be able to sell your show to amusement parks and conventions. They’ll love the nostalgic value. If your act makes Black Sabbath fans blush, you better hope there’s enough individuals in town that like that kind of music, because most of the traditional venues are going to avoid you like the plague. The more off the beaten track you are, the more you need to depend on your mailing list. Obviously, a band that advertises that they do top 40 music walks into any venue with a pre established f ollowing. It’s a group that’ll show up because they like to hear top 40’s music. Unf ortunately, it isn’t necessarily a group that likes your music. Any band that did top 40 stuff would do. And club owners know that. Your value as a band would be calculated in terms of price, as compared to the many other guys around town that do the same numbers. You’re also going to f ind that at best you’ll be able to sell tickets to people who didn’t have a closer club doing top 40’s that night. Yes, you’ll inherit someone else’s crowd if you chose to go traditional (even if that means acid rock), but you ’ll find it diff icult to establish your own personal f ollowing. As soon as you start inserting some of your own songs and come up with your own group persona, now you’re going to have to convert fans over to you one person at a time. That’s when a ma iling list becomes invaluable. Every person who hears your music and likes it is worth at least 20 who haven’t. Telling a stranger that there’s a “good band” over at a certain club won’t cut it. Dropping a note or email to all you established fans, people who know about you and like your music can. W hich again brings back the web site issue. Be sure you have a bulletin board on it. Let people tell you (for all to see) that they like your music. Make it a place where people can belong, a place where they’ll feel like f amily. Be sure to post a notice at the top of your bulletin board that “warns” writers that any comments made on the board may be used in upcoming promotional materials. It makes people try to write stuff they think might get published and it keeps


people f rom complaining if they f ind their name and a quote appear on a brochure somewhere. And you might want to consider manning a quarterly newsletter. It would have to be f ascinating to the kind of people who like your music. Articles about national stars and what’s going on in their lives, columns about recent shows and how Tommy managed to pull off “Till Death Do Us Part” after his amp chord shorted out. Your schedule of upcoming shows that are open to the general public would also be in line. If you want to set up a newsletter, you might want to begin at: WWW They off er a f ree 65 page booklet on how to get organized when planning an online newsletter that can be downloaded immediately onto your computer.

WWW off ers a

complete “how to” course on running an email newsletter. Once you’re ready to move, some of the folks that’ll help create, mail and maintain email newsletters can be f ound at: WWW, WWW, WWW .boldf, WWW, WWW, WWW, WWW, WWW .html-emailmarketing,com (who claim to off er their service f ree of charge), WWW, WWW, and WWW W e’ve managed to come this f ar without ever mentioning CD’s or tapes. Chapter 8 will deal in depth on how to go about producing, promoting and marketing a CD, but for now, what’s important to remember is that the sooner you get one made, the better. It doesn’t matter if it ever makes it to the big time, you need something that says you’re a pro. A CD with a well designed cover (pay someone professional to do it) will get your foot into many doors. Don’t underestimate it’s importance. Maili ng it with a promo package labels you as one of the handful who have “made it”. Having them available at the club f or a month before you appear, makes everybody think of you as a published band. Don’t hold back. Make a CD or two quickly (even if you do it in your own garage and print them on your CD burner). Just having one to show will both make you plenty of money on CD sales and establish you as a professional in everybody’s eye.


One last point that can’t be stressed strongly enough. Every time you perform you represent yourself . It’s not the f act that the venue is junky or that the ad in the paper didn’t look that good that makes or breaks the show. You need to be sure you’re putting out the best possible overall image you can given the circumstances. Assume a great agent is going to be in the audience (because he just might be). W ork hard at getting a crowd. One of the managers of one of the groups you’d def initely recognize by name used to joke about how they became f amous because they spent every moment they weren’t on stage plastering all of Los Angeles with posters and windshield f lyers advertising wherever their next gig was taking place. W hether you went to their show or not, everybody recognized their name. Most people remembered them as a name they had seen on a f lyer somewhere, at least until their f irst album went platinum. Exactly what is your job as “the band”? What does the club owner take responsibility f or and how do agents, managers, lawyers, ad agencies and accountants f it into the bigger picture? The next chapter breaks down the various players and how they can help, or hurt you on your way to stardom.


Chapter Four

Role Playing There’s so many of them. It’s almost as if everybody is hoping to make money off of your work. There’s agents, managers, bookers, accountants, lawyers, ad agencies and the list could go on and on. And you’ve managed to do your thing without any of them f or so long, it almost feels like you’re giving them a percentage of your money f or doing nothing. Are they really necessary? Can you survive without them? That’s what this chapter is about. It gives you a good idea of what each of these players does in the bigger scheme of things and how to survive without them until you get big enough to justif y paying for their services. Bef ore getting started here, we should probably say a thing or two about integrity. It’s that dreaded word our parents kept te lling us was important. And all too of ten, when a person works f or themselves, it’s easy to start believing that skimming or lying every now and then is a good idea. It makes us more money and we often get by with it. The problem is, it ultimately ref lects on who you are. If you ever get caught doing it by someone expecting money f rom you, you better believe it’ll have a lif elong eff ect on your reputation. It’s almost impossible to get rid of the kind of reputation you get because you didn’t tell someone about the extra $100 you managed to sneak away. And you have to live with the rest of the band. W ould you trust someone with your pay who obviously is cheating on an agent? If you want your band to show loyalty and know you’re an honorable person to work with, then you need to become one. If you live in a world where cheating on your taxes and stealing commissions f rom


agents is all part of “surviving”, you probably also live in a world where nobody trusts you and you have problems sleeping at night. It really isn’t worth the hassle. It’ll take a bit longer to do it the honorable way, but the foundation you’ll be building on will be solid. Everybody along the way will have nothing but good things to say about you. All your clients and associates will welcome the chance to do business with you in the future. And when you reach the top, the Enquirer will have one heck of a time digging up mud on you. So who are all these guys waiting to take some of your money? Let’s begin at the beginning. Everybody knows what an agent does and exactly what we should plan on expecting f rom them if we use them, or do we? Agents come in all kinds of diff erent shapes and colors. Basically, they make it their business to f igure out where the clients are and then take a commission f or booking your show. Most of the “agents” you’ll f ind in the phone book are little more than some musician looking to sell a f ew extra shows. Many have been around long enough to know the business and get their contacts f rom advertising and cold calling. As a band, you’re going to want to show some selectivity when deciding who you wish to represent you. However, if at all possible, you want to avoid being too selective. As you look around, you’re eventually going to run across an agent that’s going to ask you to sign an exclusive agreement with them. If you do, you’re committing yourself to work exclusively through them. That means any work you do, ever, needs to pay a commission to them. If your uncle calls and wants you to play a gig at his wedding reception, you’re still bound to pay a commission to your agent. If another agent calls and wants to use you on a cruise ship, your exclusive arrangement obligates you to paying a commiss ion to both agents. But this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. There are some pretty large agencies out there. They do a great job of f inding all kinds of larger gigs. If your career has been limited to doing an occasional club somewhere where each of you walked away with $100 and an agency calls off ering to get you no less than $2000 a week, 40 weeks a year, if you ’ll sign an agreement, you might consider it. Of course, before you do, you might want to be sure they


include in the exclusive agreement a clause that makes them liable for any money they don’t get you on gigs. It’s not uncommon for “almost big” agencies to make promises of incredible riches only to then back down and start claiming things just “aren’t going too good right now”. Be extremely weary of putting your entire career into any one person’s hands. In almost every case it’s better to ref use any exclusive arrangements you’re off ered. Agents make it their business to look f or work. They join all the local chambers and network with all the business people that might need entertainers. They pay for ads in the yellow pages and trade magazines. They mail out f lyers to companies and clubs offering to supply all their entertainment needs. The fact that they represent several performers actually works in your f avor. A client talking to you realizes your only goal it to sell yourself . W hen talking to an agent, the same client will understand that the agent is more interested in developing a long term relationship. He wants to establish a reputation of only sending out quality performers. To that end, the agent must set a high standard in selecting talent. The client knows that it’s much more important to the agency, in the long run, to provide talent that’ll encourage the client to continue to do business with them. If the agent chooses to recommend you over all the other bands in town, the client knows the agent is willing to stake his or her reputation on your ability and dependability. You also get to ride on the agencies coat tails. If the agency has already developed a reputation among, say, national casinos, then the fact that they recommend you automatically assures the casino that you’re good enough f or the job. It might have taken you months of calls and pushing just to get the entertainment manager at the casino to look at your package, where the agent can probably make a single call and get you booked on his reputation. Another plus about dealing with agents is that it gives the client a third party to talk to. Suppose a client decides your music is too loud for their venue. Chances are, at the end of your gig, they’ll stil l smi le, pay you and might even compliment you on a “f ine job”. Silently they’ll walk out and cross your name off the list of possible f uture talent. The prospect of ending up in a f ight with you or hurting your feelings just isn’t worth the hassle. W hen they go to pay the agent,


there’s something magical about that moment. It’s almost as if the f act that he’s about to hand over a check f or $1500 has bought him the right to complain. It’s almost like gossiping. If there’s anything bad to say, now’s the time. In f act, a good agent will make a point of looking f or complaints. They’ll know to ask questions like, “so how’d you like them?”. It gives them a chance to stomp out all the brush f ires possible. W hen the client explains that you were too loud and offended some of their customers, a good agent will probably say something like, “you should have told them. I know they can lower their volume, they have several venues where they do. I’ll make a point of telling them, so you won’t have to worry in the f uture.” If that was their only complaint, the client will probably welcome the f act that he has someone he can discuss changes with whenever they come up. In f act, the very f act that the complaint came up and was dealt with, in this case, will work in your favor. If , on the other hand, the client decides he doesn’t want to use you anymore (he doesn’t like your haircuts), the agent will still be able to salvage the account and off er to send out the band that looks like the Righteous Brothers. Believe it or not, even that will work in your favor. Again, if you’re representing yourself , you would have never known why you were being dumped. All you would know is that the client is ref using to take your calls. The agent’s job is to f igure out exactly what jobs are best f or you. If he knows he’s gotten 3 complaints that your hair is too long, who do you think he’s going to call when another band gets a complaint because they look “too conservative”? You’ll end up picking up other jobs that are more suited to what you do. A decent agent will soon understand exactly what market you f it into, and will eventually know when the marriage is right. But not all agents are “decent”. Many are just in it for the quick buck. They’ll send you out anywhere and plan on making a one time commission. Some of these guys who claim to be agents are dying to sell anything and will gladly burn any bridges if it’ll help pay their phone bill. Even if these guys offer to get you work, you need to realize that it isn’t always going to be in your best interest to take it. Suppose this guy is busy trying to sell you by undercutting everybody else in town. He ’ll get you a bunch of work, provided you’re willing to continue to work at $400 a gig. Everybody around town will know you as a $400


band. W hen the bigger agency comes around, who only sells to $2000 or more markets, he’s going to have to decide if he f eels comf ortable telling a client that paid $400 for you last month that you can now work for him at $2000. You’ll also need to consider how the agency takes their commission. Typically, when you talk to an agent the f irst time, you’re going to eventually start talking price. You can either quote them a set fee or off er a commission. You can agree to work, say, f or $1000 a gig, regardless of what the agency makes, or you can tell them you’re willing to pay, say, 15% commission on any gig up to $1000, and then 20% on anything larger (which encourages them to keep their bidding above your base). Both methods have their advantages. Offering a f lat f ee allows the agency to make more money on you. And that isn’t a bad thing. If you’re comf ortable working f or $1000 and the agency sells you for $2000, don’t complain. If you had sold the show, you would have probably asked f or $1000. If you sit quiet and humbly accept $1000 a show for a year while every agency in town is selling you at $2000, who do you think they’ll all be trying to sell? Every time a call comes in the off ice they’ll all start by off ering your show. Heck, they make $1000 every time they sell you, while everybody else, who’s working at 15%, would have gotten them $300. That’ll do three things f or you. It’ll get you much more work around town, which, in the long run pays much better than being able to brag about that one show you did last year where you made $5000. And the fact that you’re getting so much work means more people around town will become familiar with you. This is your chance to get a solid ma iling list going, and establish a f ollowing. It’s a great chance to develop solid relationships with the clients. Those clubs that know you draw the crowds will eventually start asking f or you by name. It also helps establish your perceived value. The f act that you’re letting the agency decide what you’re worth means they’ll raise your value as they think the local market is will ing to pay. Eventually, af ter everybody in town thinks of you as the $2000 band, and you’re working every weekend (taking home $52000 a year), you can now go back to the various agencies and explain that you need to cut back a bit on the amount of work you’re doing (that’s a very strong negotiating place to be), so you’re going to raise your cost up to


$1500. You’re still coming in $200 lower than the 30% guys, and chances are you won’t lose any work, but even if you do, you’ll probably still make more money in the long run. And the agencies will probably also raise their amounts to match yours. Bef ore too long, you’ll be known around town as the $2500 band, and it won’t be too long before you’ll be doing 52 $2000 gigs a year. All because you didn’t get greedy up f ront. Remember always that the agent is actually your employee. He doesn’t get paid until he gets you work. And the more you offer to pay him, the more work you’ll get, which, in the long run, makes your career much more stable and successful. If you chose to simply accept a commissi on (which is how most bands work), you’ll probably end up giving away anywhere f rom 15% to 20% per job. Some agencies break it down by kinds of jobs. If it’s a one time gig, they make 15%, if it’s an ongoing, weekly job at a specif ic casino, they take 20% on an ongoing basis. Be careful about how they take their commission. Some agencies will tack their commission above your fee while others will take it off your fee. Basically, an agency will call you and tell you they got you $1000 for a bar mitzvah this coming month. You show up, do your thing and show up for your money. If they tack their commission above your f ee, you ’ll pick up a check f or $1000 while the client ended up paying $1150 f or your time. If they take it off your f ee, they’ll only give you $850. Be sure you understand how they pay before getting started. It creates several implied issues you need to understand. Agencies that take their commission off your fee usually are busy bidding price. They’re trying to undercut all the other bidders on your show. Basically, if a client calls, say, 3 agencies, asking for you, two will bid you out at $1200 and one will offer you at $1000. The $1000 bid will probably win. If you had limited yourself to agencies that take their commi ssion above your f ee, you’d f ind yourself dealing with agencies that sell your value rather than off er you as the bargain basement talent. One agency will begin their talk by offering you as a band that “only costs you $1000”. The other one will be making statements like, “these guys are good. They’ve worked at Excelsior Casino and are regulars in better clubs around town. I think I can get them f or $1500 if you’re interested.” W hich reputation do you think will do you better. Remember chapter one? The


minute you get down to negotiating nothing but price, you’ve already lost. Another subtle consideration here is the reputation the agency has in the industry. If one of the bigger agencies knows you’re allowing the XYZ agency to bid work out f or you, and they know this agency always tries to undercut everybody else, there’s a decent chance the bigger agency will decide it’s just not worth the hassle. It’s hard to sell talent only to have someone else off er the same band at a discount. As a rule of thumb, if you have a choice, try to work with agencies that tack their commissions above your f ee. And work with them as partners. Find out what you can offer to help them. Mail out promo packages with their phone numbers on them. Make them f eel appreciated and supported. They’re going to make or break your career. Then we get to that gray area where managers come in. Do you really need a manager? W hat exactly will you be paying f or? Unfortunately, this is a tricky one. Even in the industry, among individuals that do nothing but manage bands, all those lines are drawn in different places. Technically a true manager is not responsible for ever booking a single job f or you. That’s the agents work. A manager is more concerned with making you marketable and helping you go about the business of staying in business. A manager should know the kind of stuff we’re talking about in this book and understand the importance of off ering quality talent and promotion. They’ll attend rehearsals and make suggestions about what you need to drop and what changes will make you more marketable. They’ll look over your promotional material and help you design something that’ll sell you for who you really are. They may even have connections with a f ew agencies that they can hook you up with, but technically, that’s not really their job. Up the road, once you start getting work, the manager is responsible f or talking f or you. They usually help you organize any touring you do, making sure you aren’t booked to do a show in Seattle on Friday and Memphis on Saturday. They negotiate with the agents f or you and make sure your hotel rooms are adequate. They of ten f ind themselves playing part time Psychologist while trying to sort out problems band members have about living together. Many of


them will stay back home and sort out your personal business. They might offer to pay your phone b ill and make sure your rent check is in on time. They take phone calls f or you and always know how to get through to you when they need to. They also end up playing that third party person that lets agents, venue managers and clients have someone to complain to. A good manager is worth his or her weight in gold. But then, most “good” managers are so in demand that non but the “big guys” ever even get to talk to them. Most bands end up settling for a “manager in training”. Your brother or wif e takes it upon themselves to try and sort out the details for you. If that happens, you need to realize you aren’t talking to a prof essional. A sister’s opinion of what would look good in a cruise ship show may not be the best advice in town. A manager that’s been working with cruise ship performers f or 25 years would be worth listening to. Your sister’s w ill ingness to keep up with your bills and f ield complaints and calls may well be worth offering a percentage of your take. Most professional managers will ask f or 15% to 20% of what you make f or their services, and they would be worth every penny of it. Remember, again, as long as the manager is working on commission, he doesn’t get paid unless his advice is making you money. Be very caref ul here. Management contracts usually assume the manager is going to be doing most of his or her work up f ront, bef ore they start getting paid. They plan on working with you f or 6 months or so for f ree on the promise that once they get the ball rolling there’ll be money f or everybody. To that end, a management contract typically ties you down to paying, say, 15% of every penny you make f or the next 5 years. If you’re hiring a professional to do the work, that’s a real bargain. If , on the other hand, someone cons you into believing they know what they’re doing, and then does nothing but show up to a couple rehearsals and makes a couple of comments, you’re st ill legally bound to pay them f or 5 years. And that contract will hold up in court. Management is such a complex concept that most courts won’t even discuss specif ically what the manager did. As long as he can prove he once suggested you comb your hair, you’ll end up having to pay. So bef ore you take on a manager, ask to talk to some of the other bands he or she has managed. Look over their track record closely. Call a meeting, hand them some of your promo material, and ask


questions. Try to f igure out if the guy can really get you where you want to go. The f act that he made millions f or Pat Boone may not mean he’s a good manager for a Heavy Metal band. Somewhere between manager and agent is a booking agent. Again, more times than not, this ends up becoming a friend or relative that has a bit of marketing sense and drive. This is a person that works exclusively for you and sells your show. Most of them turn out to be the band leader or one of the members. It’s the single person who takes it upon themselves to call agents, clients, managers, and anybody else who might need a band and offer to send out the promo kit. They do the follow up and end up selling the gigs. If a band member is booking you, typically they’ll be happy to simply accept their cut on any gigs you get, if an outsider is booking you, you f ind yourself having to offer an extra 10% or so for their work. Again, it can be a great bargain. Offering 10% of business you wouldn’t have gotten otherwise is a great deal. 90% or something sure beats 100% of nothing. A little trick that works well here is to get a bunch of booking agents going at once. W hen you hit a new town and f ind someone who looks sharp, take him out to dinner and off er to give him 10% of any business he books for you in and around town. The deal is, he ’ll be your exclusive booker in that town (provided he can get you work). If it’s a town you normally wouldn’t have had the time to promote to, you’re now opening a new “business” in the area. This booker could call the local clubs, talk to local schools, call upcoming conventions and offer your show. Every time he sells you, he gets his commission. It sure beats f lipping burgers. Heck, just being able to carry around business cards that call him a “booking manager” would be enough to make the guy do his f are share of keeping you in business. If you chose to go this route, you need to make up those business cards, and letterhead f or the booker. It makes them feel they really are in business, and that you expect results f rom them. For a month or two, it’s going to take constant contact and a lot of guidance on your part, but once you have them trained, you can sit back and just show up f or gigs. The more of these you can organize in far off cities (where you’re willing to go to), the more business you’ll get on the side.


If you spend a lot of time touring, or plan to, you’d probably be well advised to hire an advance man. It can be a neighbor or f riend that wants to “be in the business”, or you could go with a pro who really knows how to work the f ield. An advance man does just that. He gets to a town before you do and makes sure everything is in order. If you’re getting a percentage of the door (we’ll discuss the various options for payment and the benef its of each more in depth in the next chapter), your advance man can make sure there are posters, f lyers and brochures in all the right places 2 or 3 weeks bef ore you arrive. He checks the various clubs to make sure the stage is adequate and calls the various news outlets to try and get you f ree airtime. He off ers your CD’s to local record stores on consignment, provided they let you place your specially designed display case that announce (on a replaceable mini marquee) that you’re appearing “this week only” at the Flying Cow Club. It’s his job to drive up and down the streets asking convenience store and gas stations if they ’ll let him leave a small stack of mini f lyers on their counter. In short, he does all the work that needs to be done several weeks bef ore you arrive. And as you do your next town, he moves on to his next town as well. It’s a busy job, but if you offer him a percentage of your door, he’ll be motivated to pack your house in f or you. Hiring an advertising agency sounds like such a “big time” endeavor. The name even sounds expensive. But it doesn’t have to. Many of the larger agencies will ask f or a $4000 or $5000 retainer even to consider working with you. But these guys are interested in putting together complete, elaborate media campaigns, which isn’t what you’re looking f or. Call around until you can f ind someone who’s willing to work f or you one piece at a time. Have them design a poster, f lyer, letterhead, envelopes, business cards and brochure that all f ollow a matching theme. The entire package will probably cost you anywhere f rom $500 to maybe $800 and will be worth it’s weight in gold. You’ll pay f or the masters one time and f or years to come every club you talk to will know you’re a pro. A top quality package will sel l f ar more shows than something obviously put together by someone on the f ly. Have them put it together correctly, and you’ll spend the rest of your run being glad you did.


Closely related to the advertising agency is the Public Relations agency. In f act, most ad agencies have at least one PR man on board ready to help you. These guys may or may not be worth talking to. They’re the ones that decide whether wearing blue matching shirts and cutting your hair will really help the overall image of the band. They help you f igure out ways to look like the “good guys” in the eyes of the general public. They might suggest you agree to offer a percentage of your take to the Make a W ish Foundation, because it’ll get you plenty of f ree publicity along the way and encourage parents to allow their kids to attend your concerts. That may or may not be the kind of stuff you’re interested in considering. One last player in the promotion game is the press agent. You’ve probably never heard of them, because they go out of the way to try and stay unnoticed. Every now and then you ’ll f ind one working on the f ringes of an ad or PR agency, but most of the best ones work solo. A press agent is a publicity idea man (or women). They’re the ones that manipulate the media. W hen you see that picture of the tightrope walker as he trips and almost f alls to his death, it was probably taken and delivered to a newspaper by a press agent. In fact, the agent probably works for the tightrope walker and they both agreed that on the walkers 8 t h step he would trip and catch himself with his right hand before dropping to his death. The press agent stood poised with a rapid shutter camera shooting away f rom step 7 on. He then walked in, as a “private f reelance photographer” and off ered to sell the picture of the tightrope walker in mid air, seconds before he caught the rope. Every paper in town will probably jump at the chance to get this incredible picture, and run a full page story about the walker and how rarely in the past he’s tripped. They’ll get thousands in f ree publicity because the press agent was on the job. Chapter 7 will teach you some of the tricks of the trade that make quality press agents so eff ective. You’ve heard of “f inding a peg”? That’s a phrase originally coined by press agents at the turn of the century. And in chapter 7 we ’ll give you a peg or two to hang your hat on. Do you really need an attorney? W hat can they do f or you? In most cases, you don’t. In f act, if you take a moment to look over the support we offer at: www.Order-Yours- you’re going to f ind that most of the information


you’ll need to dig through the legal jungle can easily be f ound there. Our site allows you to download a single program that includes contracts for virtually every situation you might f ind yourself in as a music group. If you f ind yourself in a specif ic situation where an attorney is needed, be sure to be selective. Law school teaches wannabe attorneys how to think the way the legal system does. It gives them a background in how the contract law and court system operate. It rarely takes the time to make them authorities in individual prof essions. It’s kind of like going a foot doctor to get brain surgery. Legally he qualif ies, but he ’ll still have to keep the textbook open at his side while he’s digging. An attorney “f riend of yours” that specializes in helping companies in the oil industry to f ield off environmentalists may be good at what he or she does. That doesn’t mean they’re qualif ied to f igure out how to deal with the many variables you’re going to f ind yourself sorting through when you f ind yourself trying to organize a management contract with the guy down the street. Chances are you’re going to f ind yourself paying $150 an hour to have someone look up other management contracts that someone somewhere once agreed to and then changing the names before giving it to you. If you plan on getting your money’s worth, you need to f ind someone who can understand the specif ic duties of a manager, the issues that sometimes are and sometimes aren’t included in agreements. You ’ll need someone willing to consider the specif ic needs of your band (avoiding certain venues, staying in warmer climate areas, etc.). A good attorney can be a godsend, but for most of your legal work, at least until you’re starting to negotiate 6 f igure deals, you’d probably be better off doing your own work. And a great place to get started is to go over the many time-tested contracts and agreements you’ll f ind available on our site at: www. Doing taxes is a necessary evil. W ithout them we’d be stuck driving down dirt roads without judges to protect our rights. Once you hit the road you’re going to f ind yourself diving into a serious maze of tax loopholes and possibilities. You’ll suddenly f ind that some of your meals will be deductible and some won’t. You’ll f ind that turning down some shows will actually make you


more money in the long run that just taking every offer you get. You ’ll even f ind that those charity events you’ve been doing because you want to help out can actually make you plenty of money, while not costing the charity anything. Paying a good tax man to keep your records straight is a very good investment. He’ll advise you on ways to save money next year and will f igure out how to make the most out of this year. If he can’t make you more money than he costs you, then you have the wrong guy. Your total cost for having someone watch your back will probably come out to somewhere around $150, which he’ll probably save you the f irst time you sit down with him. One last “f inancial adviser” you may or may not be interested in consulting is an accountant. Closely related to the tax man, an accountant is responsible f or helping you keep your books in order. He ’ll usually set up a system f or you to keep track of what you make, who it goes to and what you’re keeping. It’s like creating a complex checkbook balancing system that covers all the money involved in your career. If you’re starting to make 6 f igure runs, you might consider an accountant, but chances are, if you’re like most creative people, all you need is someone to give you a good stiff kick in the behind to get you to start writing it all down. You know what’ll work. Get yourself a simple ledger book (or computer program) that’ll let you list every penny you make and every bill you pay. Create a zero balance bookkeeping system. Basically you want to end up with a sheet of paper that lists every penny that comes in. You then want to list several categories, including items like salaries, gas, f ood, publicity, agency commissions, etc. Include also categories for that “extra” money. Savings, slush fund, etc. The last step is to start at the top of the page with the total amount of incoming money, and then spend every penny of it. By the time you make it to the bottom of the page, your balance should be zero. Long before you get a single penny, you’ve already decided where every penny will go. There should never be a few extra dollars just f loating around. If you’re planning on spending money on “crazy stuff ” then admit that’s where it went and create a category for it. If not, any money that didn’t go out to pay expenses should end up in savings, slush fund, emergency buffer and whatever other arbitrary categories you’ve created. If you’re willing to take an afternoon and design this system caref ully, and then have the discipline to f ollow up on it,


you’ll save yourself the cost of a good accountant. Just be sure you split up your categories into areas that are tax deductible and the ones that aren’t. This might mean creating mirror categories. “Meals” might become “Tax Deductible Meals” and “Non Deductible Meals”. Keep all your receipts. That includes meals on the road, gas receipts, hotel b ills, and the phone bill for the cell phone you use exclusively f or business. Your tax man will love you f or it. In the long run, learning to keep good records will probably make you more money than any other single activity you do. Most creative people seem to live “off the cuff ”. They get paid and they spend and there’s no pattern or reason to it. It’s not uncommon to f ind a musician who made $80,000 last year begging the landlord to hold off on eviction every month. They made all that money and then lost it “somewhere”. It’s amazing how much we can spend on drinks, cigarettes, electronic toys, clothes, and tickets to the amusement park if we’re not keeping track. Put yourself on a budget, and stick with it. Remember that you don’t live in the same world the rest of those guys do. They know they’re going to take home $400 each Friday and can plan their budget around it. You get big chunks of money coming in at strange times. It really is a f east or f amine kind of profession. If you ever plan on having any kind of stability, it’s essential that you put $2000 or $3000 into an “emergency f und” account at the bank. It’ll pay f or rent or car problems when they come during one of your dry spells. Honor that as your lif e saving account. As soon as you make some money, before spending a penny on “f un stuff ”, replace any money you’ve borrowed f rom your emergency fund. It’ll take all kinds of pressure off your shoulders. And once you f eel a bit more stable, you’ll f ind you won’t be desperate when a client calls and off ers you $200 f or a night. Instead of jumping at the chance to pay off a f ew of your creditors, you ’ll be able to comf ortably set your standards higher and turn him down. The quicker you can break past that gig to gig existence, the quicker you’ll be equipped to f eel secure in negotiating the terms and conditions you’re interested in. Remember always, that you really aren’t equipped to negotiate if you’ve lost your walking power. If you go in f eeling you “must get” this gig, the client will pick up on it and start knocking


your price down. If you walk in feeling you can live comf ortably without it, you now can aff ord to make demands and back them up with actions. You’re capable of asking f or “no less than” amounts and insist that you don’t play unless the lighting is adequate. In fact, ANY demands you plan on making will carry very litt le weight if you aren’t secure enough to nicely turn down the job if they aren’t met. Sometimes getting up and starting f or the door is the most powerful negotiating tool in the world. W e’ve touched on some of the considerations you want to keep in mind while dealing with clubs, but we’ve only touched on them. The next chapter discusses in detail some of the options available to you when offering your services to a club and how to go about negotiating the best possible deal f or yourself .


Chapter Fi ve

Club Dates It really doesn’t matter how “out there” or “radical” your band or the clubs you work are. Af ter all is said and done, in almost every case, the entire industry follows well established traditional booking patterns. Over the years the club owners have settled into roles they feel comf ortable with and bands have learned to adapt. If you want to play the gig, you’re told you need to “obey the rules”. These “rules” are actually preset to work against you. They assume the club owner has a long list of bands to chose f rom and can afford to turn down all who don’t obediently bow to their demands. The good news is, if you have something to off er, those rules don’t apply to you. There are plenty of ways to get around them. Clubs that claim to “never pay” more than $500 for a night manage somehow to f ind $1500 when they book a bigger band. Clubs who claim they “never” share their drink take, when approached correctly, will gladly give you half of what they sold in drinks. There’s all kinds of little “secret tricks” th at can get you a fortune in club dates, and that’s what this chapter is about. You’ll remember back at the beginning we talked about the 5 parts of every successf ul show. There was equipment, talent, venue, publicity and support staff (waiters and doormen). W e discussed the importance of keeping as many variables as possible on the bargaining table. This chapter could easily be a sequel to chapter one. Now that we’ve paused long enough to give you an idea of the kind of package you should be se lling and the various


players involved in the process, we’re going to mesh it all together into packages that’ll make you money. Bef ore going any f arther, there are two vitally important points you need to ALW AYS keep in mind. Take spray paint and paint them across your living room wall. Tattoo them on your arm. Do whatever you can to never f orget them. Almost every failure in negotiating stems, ultimately, f rom someone forgetting one of these two principles. First, remember always that the minute you get down to simply negotiating price, you’ve already lost. If all that’s lef t is a discussion of how much you’re worth, invariably you can count on a disagreement. Either you’re going to walk away f eeling cheated and belittled, and resent the deal, or the club owner is going to feel cheated and manipulated and mark you down for extinction. Price should be a given. You should begin by stating your price, and then continue to add benef its the client will get until they feel they’ve gotten a great deal. One agent f riend of ours typically starts every conversation he has with club owners with the statement that “I should warn you, if you’re looking f or a cheap band, I really can’t help you. All the bands I represent are caref ully picked to help you sell tickets and establish a loyal clientele. But getting this kind of talent is real hard, and they do, typically, cost quite a bit more than most of the guys out there.” He tells us that very f ew club owners turn away there. If nothing else, their curiosity is peaked. W hat could these guys possibly offer that makes them so much more valuable? How much will it cost him to get these “good bands”? How many more tickets will they be able to sell? How will they do it? If you look closely at the questions the club owner would almost have to consider before answering our f riend’s opening statement, you ’ll see how many other items were instantly tossed on the table. Throughout the course of this book we’ve listed all kinds of items you can negotiate with. W e started with the quality of your perf ormance. W e discussed your marketability. W e talked some about the posters, f lyers, brochures and pictures. Then there was your ab ility to help promote the show. All of this plays into your opening proposition. But f irst, let’s look at what the typical band has to offer.


Talent and time. That’s it. Some may have a smoke machine and a f ew f lashing lights, but after all is said and done, most bands are offering the exact same package. They’ll play the same style of music, even a lot of the same titles. Every now and then they’ll toss in one of their own songs. But truth be told, f rom a club owner’s point of view, he just needs 4 guys on stage capable of playing anything that sounds half way decent on Saturday night. And he knows that the name of the band or the color of their guitars won’t ad a single penny to the amount of money he ’ll deposit in the bank on Monday. The same customers are going to pay the same cover to hear the same kind of band and drink the same number of drinks. It’s a “m agical formula” that’s managed to pay the rent for 20 years. W hat can you toss on the table that nobody else can? You better be at least as good as all the other guys. You def initely need to have all your t’s crossed. Be on time, don’t get drunk and treat the customers well. Always plan on giving a little more than you negotiated f or. No, you aren’t being “taken”. You’re just showing your willingness to push harder. You’re te lling the club owner, with your actions, that you’re going to do whatever it takes to make him successful. That’s going to stack the brownie points in your f avor. Then offer to help him make more money. Anything that ’ll increase what he plans on making at the door will deserve more money in your paycheck. Offer a complete publicity package. Posters, f lyers, business sized show cards. Offer to post your advertising around town f or him. And then do it. If he starts seeing his club name plastered all over town just bef ore your show, you better believe he’s going to jump at the chance to hire you whenever you’re available. And carry in your own following. W e talked earlier about keeping a solid ma iling list. If you can walk up to a club owner offering to bring in at least 40 people a show, you better believe that’ll translate into a higher paycheck. He ’ll see it not only as a chance to make more money that night, but also as a way to get new customers in to see his club, and hopef ully decide to come back next week. In chapter 7 we’re going to discuss working the media. W e’ll give you some ideas on how to end up with plenty of f ree publicity in and around town. If the club owner recognizes your name f rom the recent article in the paper or the interview on the radio station, he’ll assume others will also. He’ll consider you


“f amous” enough to hopefully draw a f ew curious customers. And that, too, means you demand more market power. W hich again translates into more money f or you. If your package is powerful enough, you could, conceivably ask f or a higher paycheck. Unfortunately, most clubs have settled in to what they typically are will ing to pay a band. In their minds they see the f ormula something like this: A typical band, on a Saturday night will draw 100 customers. At $4 each at the door, that brings in $400. 100 customers will typically buy $700 in drinks. By the time the doors close at the end of the night, the club will have made $1100. Out of that he needs to budget in 1/8 of the $1200 a month rental on the room, which means $150 is already spoken f or. The utilities will cost him another $10 f or the night. The bar tender will charge him $25 f or his time and the wait staff will ask for another $60 between them. The liquor, napkins, broken glasses and free popcorn will add up to $80 for the night. That’s $325 he’s going to have to spend just to be in business. If he makes a total of $1100 that night, that leaves $775. If he pays the band $500, then he’s lef t with $275. Out of this he’s going to have to pay f or the newspaper and radio adds he runs weekly which cost him $200. Af ter all is accounted f or, he’s making a take home prof it of just $75. Obviously, if he plans on f eeding his f amily, he’s going to have to make more than that. He can either cut back on his advertising, which in his mind means draw less people, make less money and eventually go out of business. He could try cutting back on staff , but again, without adequate staff , his drink sales wil l drop. About the only two things he can do to try and survive is to either start hiring cheaper bands or charge more at the door. If he charges more at the door, he knows he ’ll scare off a lot of his regulars. But he does have 22 diff erent bands all ca lling to work on Saturday night. If he just tells each of them he’ll only hire the bands that are willing to work f or $400, he’s sure to get at least a f ew starving bands that ’ll agree to it. He’s now taking home $175. And he ’ll make that on Thursday, Friday and Saturday four times a month. He’ll now take home about $2100 a month. It’s not much, but at least he’ll get his rent paid and can go around town telling everybody he owns a club.


And then you give him a call. You tell him your band is the best in town and you don’t work f or a penny less than $600 a night. W hat do you think he’s going to do? He’ll just assume the extra $200 will come off the budget he’s set aside to buy school clothes for his kids and say no. If you can get him to listen long enough to consider how much more business you can draw f or him, there’s a remote chance you’ll convince him. But the chance is very remote. You’re asking him to gamble on your ability to produce. From a club owner’s perspective, considering the promises he’s been hearing f rom every other band in town over the course of his 30 years in the business, that’s not a safe gamble. But there are ways you can take the gamble and still make the money. Most owners won’t tell you this, but in their mind they’re hoping to pay the band with the money they make at the door. In the above scenario the club owner made $400 at the door and that’s what he off ered the band. If you started working f or him and after 3 weeks he found you consistently brought in 150 patrons a night, at $4 a ticket, that would add up to $600. He could afford to pay you $600 a night. Unfortunately, it rarely works out that way. If you offer to work at $400 and he suddenly starts making an extra $200 at the door, you can probably plan on working f or him f or a long time, but you ’ll rarely f ind an owner that’ll volunteer to give you the extra money. This is where creative negotiating comes in. If you know you can draw a big crowd. If you realize your mailing list will guarantee you at least 50 people above the crowd he normally gets, then you might offer to work exclusively f or the door. He doesn’t have to pay anything, you just keep whatever the doorman makes. W hich brings up two important factors in this kind of negotiation. The club owner is going to make money only based on the number of people in the club. If there are 200 bodies in the room, he’s going to sell more drinks. If the doorman works f or the club, it’s def initely to their advantage to let “f riends” slip in. The regulars might even expect to be allowed to “slide” on the tickets. Suddenly you’re going to look around and f ind 300 people walking around while the club owner tells you only 100 bought tickets. It might make f or a good crowd, but ultimately, the club is stealing your money. The only way around this is to make sure everybody pays a cover. You can either have someone that


works f or you at the door, or at the very least, you can have the various band members take turns “hanging out” by the door before the concert. W hile you’re playing, have a f riend or spouse watch f or you. Another way to keep some control is to print up tickets. Use your computer and make up some nice, souvenir quality show tickets that list the day and time of the show, the club name, your band name, and even band contact inf ormation. It’s like giving your business card to every person who hears you play. You can even buy pre-perforated tickets, with numbers on them, at most paper supply houses. On the back of the stubs you can include an area where they can write their contact information to qualif y f or a door prize (and thus give you names for your mailing list). Give away t-shirts, CD’s or f ree “tickets for 6” to next week’s concert. The deal here is that you’re handing the doorman a counted (and numbered) amount of tickets. At the end of the evening, he’s responsible f or giving you either a ticket or its cost. If 150 tickets are missing, he needs to come up with whatever they would cost. If you go that route, you still run the risk of having a f ew of the regulars slip by. Again, try to glance over at the door every now and then and, if the number is small enough, have someone walk around and do a head count just as your show begins. If the totals don’t match, call the owner and complain. One f inal consideration when working f or the door, is to make sure it’s the only door. Many clubs have back doors that open into restaurants or the back parking lot. It’s not uncommon for club owners to post someone at the f ront door to take tickets while those “in the know” will sneak in f rom behind. The club owner and employees don’t care, so as long as you don’t notice, they’ll f eel they simply made a bit more money by looking the other way. If you mention something, they’ll probably act shocked and make a comment about how they usually lock that door, and have no idea how they could have missed it. If this happens, you might be well served to insist that your person take the tickets at the f ront door. If you don’t, chances are pretty good that the people who used to walk in without paying f rom the “members only” entrance will probably be allowed to “slip by” at the f ront door. If they aren’t, the club stands the chance of losing some of its regulars.


Another variable you can ask f or is a percentage of the drinks. This one is a bit more complicated. It does ask f or a raise, but it allows you both to share in the risk. If you can convince the club owner that it would be to both your advantage to get more people in the door then you might suggest something like this. Instead of charging $4 a person at the door, you’re only going to charge $2. Typically the club plans on getting 100 people a night in the door. If 100 people typically drink $700 worth of drinks, which costs the club $80 to serve, the club owner knows he brings in about $620 a night in drink prof its. Suppose 200 people walked in? W hat’s going to happen now? That $620 will now suddenly shoot up to $1240. He ’ll have to pay the same price f or all his expenses, so basically, that second half becomes pure prof it. Should you be able to keep some of it? If you mutually agreed to gamble on drawing bigger crowds by cutting your door cost down, you most certainly would. But look at the math here. Suppose you set up an arrangement where you are willing to cut the door in down to $2 and agree to split any drink sales over $620. He may not catch it, but you just got him to pay the cost of the drinks out of his prof it. If $700 worth of drinks cost $80 in materials, then he’s paying 11% of his prof it in materials. If you split the drink prof its over $620 in half that means he’ll only make $350 when he sells $700 in drinks. If it costs him $80 to do that, he now is only keeping $270 in pure prof it. That means he’ll end up paying about 23% of his prof it in the second half f or materials. But considering that the second half is pure prof it, chances are he won’t care. Basically, he’ll end up with an extra $270 prof it in the deal. In your case, if 200 people showed up, you would make the original $400 at the door and add to it another $350, so instead of settling f or a f lat $400, you now took home a total of $750. And if you’re good, the club will love you, and keep you around, and your f ollowing will grow. At the rate shown above, every new person that walks in the door will make you $2 at the door, and an average of $3.50 per person in drink sales. So effectively, af ter you get the f irst “normal” 100 people in the door, and make $200 prof it, you ’ll start making $5.50 per person at the door.


And how will the club owner feel? Remember his original “budget”. Af ter selling the expected 100 tickets and paying his bills he planned on taking home $175 a night in prof it. Your little package (provided you beat the bushes enough to bring in 200 people) will now ad an extra $270 a night in prof it. His monthly income will now go f rom $2100 to $5340. Do you think he’ll f eel cheated? Heck, if you bargained in $1000 of his prof it into advertising (which will help bring in your extra 100 people), he’d still end up making more than double what he was making before. It takes some creative f inancing, but it’s a win/win situation that does nothing but f ocus attention where it should be, on adding more customers to the club. If you opt to try and get some of his money f or advertising, don’t ask him to simply wr ite a check f or $1000. Instead, suggest that considering the fact that we’re now talking about money that doesn’t exist until af ter he makes what he would have made bef ore, it’s only f air that he be willing to take $1 per customer (which will come off the $5.50 prof it per customer he’ll be making), to advertise. Explain that in the long run, that should again translate into more customers. Most club owners will be able to see the advantages of this, considering they’ve been playing that advertising/customer number game f or years. And when they realize they’ll still take home more than they would with any other band, while making their club more successf ul, they shouldn’t have a problem with it. At $1 per customer, times 100 extra customers a night, times 3 nights a week, times 4 weeks would buy you an extra $1200 a month to advertise with. How about suggesting you use that money to pay for a b illboard in town, that’ll make you the “stars” in the area, while still having both you and the club continue to do the advertising you normally do anyway. And more customers pay off in several hidden ways f or you as well. Nothing makes you look more like an “in” group than a sold out house. In f act, as a rule of thumb, you will never really be a “successful” band until everybody watches people being turned away at the door. If you can f ine tune this system until you guarantee to have to turn away, say, 50 people at the door every night, you have now established yourself in the eyes of the customers as the band that really sells. You can now aff ord to raise the door to, say $3


a person and hope not to discourage more than 50 people. If you do that long enough, you’ll be back to turning people down, and making tickets to your show the “hot thing” around town. The club owner will love you for giving him the maximum amount of drink sales he could possibly plan on and you’ll end up with a killer mailing list. You’ll also make much more in CD and t-shirt sales if people see you turning people back at the door. And you might want to consider moving around. Once you can prove to a club that you can sell out and pull the big crowds, you might want to plan moving on to the next town and working the same deal. Showing the numbers to any club owner will probably make him drool. He’s almost sure to let you make the same deal with him. And once you do that you’re starting to establish a second mailing list somewhere else. You’re also taking back the power behind your perf ormance. If you stay at the same club f or a year, there’ll always be a question as to whether it’s your group or the club that’s drawing the crowds. If you stay long enough to establish a loyal following, and you have all their names in your mailing list, you can now comf ortably go down to the next town and start over. It’s a subtle way of telling everybody that no club “owns” you. You’re telling club owners everywhere that you don’t need them half as much as they need you. You suddenly f ind yourself in place to take advantage of the second “must remember” principle in negotiating. The second point you must never forget if you plan on being successf ul is that the minute you lose your walking power, you lose your ability to negotiate. As long as you feel you “must have” this deal to get your b ills paid, or to make it in the business, you’ve given away your power. If you ever reach a moment when you f eel you’re getting too emotionally or f inancially dependant on this deal, you need to f ight it. Ref use to let any deal own you, because if any deal ever owns you, then every deal eventually will. C lub owners will sense your hunger and will offer you bottom scraps. You’ll get a reputation of being willing to “settle” for whatever you’re off ered, and you’ll never be able to pull out of it. This is where most bands live, and getting labeled as “one of the crowd” is a hard place to be. Be sure you have your budget well organized so you have a f inancial net to f all back on, and


be sure you don’t become dependant on any single club or individual f or your success and you’ll soon f ind the doors opening before you will off er f ar greater rewards. Neil Diamond brags about how he has sold out every show he’s done f or the past 20 years. Yes he’s a great perf ormer with a lot of very popular music, but he’s also playing with numbers there. He only does a single show in larger cities once a year. If he were working the same club week af ter week f or a year, f ew people would f lock to see him. Oh, he’d have a solid f ollowing, but if you knew you could catch his show any Saturday night this year, you wouldn’t f eel motivated to rush out there every Saturday night. W hen you realize you’ll only get one chance this year to see him (his schedule only includes multiple nights in towns where he knows he sells out quickly), then you’ll be willing to pay whatever he asks for. Tickets to his shows have ranged as high as $800 each (at his bicentennial New Years Eve show in Salt Lake City), where he sold out months ahead of time. If you continue to work the same club, eventually the crowds are going to start taking you f or granted. Oh, you’ll get the groupies that show up weekly, every week, but many will want variety and will try other clubs every now and then. If instead, you start developing, say, 10 clubs around your area (or on a tour), you’ll eventually f ind yourself with a solid f ollowing in several different places. Now, suddenly, no club owner will f eel powerf ul enough to do anything but hope you’ll consider doing his club. It’s a great negotiating place to be. It takes a bit more work, but up the road, it’ll translate into much higher paying gigs and a larger ma iling list you can parlay into other ventures. Another option you might want to consider when booking clubs is to do something called “four walling”. It basicall y means you rent the club out and take all the prof it. This doesn’t usually work real well in typical nightclubs unless you know you can draw a powerful following. Suppose you’ve been working an area f or a while and you know you can count on, say, 300 people at every concert you do. This kind of f ollowing will only happen if those 300 don’t f eel you’ve saturated their market. If they know you’re doing clubs


around town every week, they aren’t going to f lock down to see you when you f our wall somewhere. If , on the other hand, like Niel Diamond, you plan on only showing up in a town where you’ve established a solid following f or, say, 2 weeks every August, you may f ind you can plan on drawing 200 people at every show. Once you establish that kind of f ollowing, you’re probably ready to four wall. Basically, you call a club and ask them how much they would charge you to rent the place for two weekends. The club owner is going to f igure in what he’s always hoped on making and charge you f or it. If we started with the model we laid out above, you ’ll remember the club owner made $1100 prof it a night. Out of this he had to pay his expenses. Since he’s not going to have to pay for advertising, you can now knock $200 off the total. He ’ll probably also be willing to take the $700 prof it he planned on making in drinks and split a part of that with you. In eff ect, you could probably get him to agree to a guarantee of $300 drink sales and then a f lat f ee of $1 per drink af ter that. Basically, the f irst 300 drinks bought throughout the night are prepaid, and then the club makes an extra $1 every time a drink is sold. Four walling is very common among the “big name” bands who only consider clubs that’ll let them f our wall. In a typical deal, using the numbers we worked out above, you might be able to convince a club owner to agree to take a personal prof it of $200 (as opposed to the $170 he’s now taking). You would then pay f or the staff and overhead for the night, which worked out to $245, bringing your total up to $445. Finally, you’re guaranteeing $300 worth of drink sales, so you now make your total $845. Basically, by giving the owner $845 you get the club to do as you please, including the f irst 300 drinks. Af ter that you start making whatever you charge over $1 per drink (remember, in our original model, the owner was buying drinks at 11% of their cost, so a $2 drink would have ended up costing him just $0.22.). Now let’s do the math. You know you can plan on getting, say, 200 people in the door while charging $3 cover. You now start with a $600 prof it. As they buy drinks, say, at $2 each, they pay the bar tender the way they normally would. If the typical 100 person crowd in our original model spent $700 in


drinks, then a 200 person crowd should spend $1400. So now your prof it is up to $2000. W ith 200 people in the room, you’ll probably sell some CD’s and t-shirts, but lets assume you didn’t. Out of your $2000 you have to pay the original $845 cost f or the room. You ’ll probably want to toss in another $250 or so to mail to your list and take an ad in the local paper. You ’ll also want to put lots of time into distributing f lyers and posters around town. But if you add $845 to the club and $250 f or advertising, you’re still taking home just over $1000 prof it f or the night, which sure beats the $400 the club would have normally offered you. Four walling depends on your ab ility to draw a crowd. Obviously if you only drew the same 100 people the club owner usually draws, you’d now be stuck making a whooping prof it of just $5. The good news is, that the f irst 100 people in the door would end up paying all your overhead. Af ter that, your ledger sheet would work out to $10 prof it per person that walked in the door ($3 at the door and $7 in drinks). If you were capable of drawing 300, the club would have still paid you $400 (and maybe a $50 bonus), but by f our walling you’d take home $2005. If you can draw the crowd, because of the sharp posters, good media relations and heavy f ootwork, then f our walling may be the ticket f or you. It may be a goal to shoot for. If you’re willing to take the time to put it together, the day will come when you can comfortably call any club in any of your well marketed areas and offer to four wall a show. They’ll love it and you’ll make an incredible prof it. Once you start tapping into other markets available to you (we discuss them in chapter nine), you might reserve your 4 wa lling dates for times when you know you aren’t making the big money elsewhere. That’ll again make yours a show that’s more in demand. Remember Niel Diamond? You need to be around of ten enough so they don’t f orget you, but rarely enough so they don’t take you for granted. A real exotic way of four walling is to create your own club. Several cultic music styles in many of the larger cities make a great living by renting old warehouses around town and doing their own thing. The “in crowd” is on the “secret” mail ing list and f inds out where they’re going to be f rom week to


week. The parties are just that, parties. The bands play some wild music and the room is done up with f ancy lasers and plenty of special effects. There’s more smoke machines and bubble blowers than most haunted houses and the bar serves all kinds of special drinks (with names ref lecting band members or music styles, like “N ick’s Org asm” or “The W ild Ride”). Drinks are catered by a local bar. They take a small portion of drink sales and make it their business to keep minors f rom drinking. Since they’re renting the warehouses f rom week to week, and moving around town, it gives the f eeling that they’re living on the f ringes of legality. Unfortunately, in many cases they are, but eventually end up paying for it. If you can keep it legal, but design the room to meet the specif ic likes of the kind of crowd you typically draw, you’ll f ind it much easier to establish a cult f ollowing. These underground clubs in New York, Dallas, Chicago and Los Angeles typically get young crowds to f ill a 500 to 1000 person room at $10 to $20 a shot. W ith that kind of money, they can aff ord to offer one heck of a show. The f act that the club moves around f rom area to area offers enough variety to make their followers consider it a privilege to be considered one of the “secret f ew” who know about these “hot events”. They buy the t-shirts, own all the CD’s and beg for the chance to get f riends added to the “insiders list”. It’s the classic model f or any teenager looking to prove he has his own “private club”, where grownups aren’t allowed. More conservative groups may not be able to put together packages that ’ll sell as emotionally as a punk or heavy metal band might, but he concept may still work f or you. Instead of looking for the “wild, loud and crazy” f eeling, maybe a beach club scene might work. Renting a warehouse and setting it up with a large sandbox complete with volleyball and Frisbee competitions and f ruit drinks served to customers sitting on lounge chairs under umbrellas might draw a lot of the baby boomers to a Beach Boys type concert. A dark room with X-mas lights made out to look like stars and silhouettes of a city skyline along the walls might make f or a cozy romantic evening for a Frank Sinatra style concert. Basically, by owning the room, you


can make it exactly what your style of music calls f or, instead of trying to create the atmosphere you’re looking for while surrounded by dart boards, pool tables and guys practicing their pick up lines. The problem with this kind of package is that it takes some doing to get the momentum going. You need to really be able to produce one heck of a show to establish a loyal f ollowing. But if you have a good, say, 200 person mailing list, and you send out a sharp brochure inviting them and one guest each to a special “f or our f amily only” concert, you should be able to get enough people in the f irst event to be able to afford something decent. If you give them an experience they can’t f ind anywhere else in town, when you do next month’s show it’ll be much easier to sell out and start developing your solid f ollowing. One f inal variation on this same theme might be to open your own club. No, you aren’t agreeing to manage and run the place, you’re just working out a partnership with someone who is. Find the bar tender at a better club in or around town. Offer to split the start up costs on a club. Basically, you’re going to create a club that’s tailor made for your style of music and then look around f or other bands to play when you aren’t around. The beauty of this kind of arrangement is that you can offer f ree talent f or a while to get things going. Remember the original model? The single biggest cost f or an evening was the talent. If you can do it f or f ree, or get bands you’re f riends with to work at a discount to help you get going, you ’ll eventually end up with a steady income coming in thanks to someone else running the club. You’ll need equipment and a liquor license. Find a club that’s about to go out of business that has both and off er to help bail them out. Together you’ll come up with a down payment on a nicer location and move everything over there. You’ll then contact your ma iling list and tell them you’re opening a club that was tailor made f or your music. Invite them to come to the “beach party” at your new location and help kick things off . It’s a party for “club members only”. It shouldn’t take too long, if you do it right, to start getting a solid f ollowing. The partner will love making more, in the long run, than he did as an outsider, and you’ll end up keeping, say, 20% of the net prof it for having helped get things going. That means, in our original model, where the owner would have taken home $445 a night f or a 200


person room (including a generous allowance f or the perf ormer), you would now end up making $89 a night to do nothing. In our 3 busy night a week schedule that would add up to a steady weekly income of $267. Your take at the end of the year would come out to $13,884, just f or doing a f ew shows up f ront and helping to pay the down payment. If you allow your f ree shows to help the club get on it’s f eet (maybe one weekend a month for a while where the amount you might have made goes to paying the rent), then you have a minimal out of pocket expense involved in getting things going. In f act, if you lined up, say, 4 clubs in four diff erent cities using this same model, you would now be making $54,656 a year (to do nothing). You might give your f irst club a year to get off it’s f eet. That would allow you to only have to “donate” one weekend a month to the cause, which would give you 3 weekends in which to make your prof it. Once the club is up and running, with it’s own f ollowing, then you could start up on the second club. 4 years later you’d be in business. Not only would you have a steady, residual income of $54,656, but you would also have plenty of clubs to work at. You can now call any time you want to and put yourself on the schedule. Any time you have an empty weekend coming up, you have 4 choices to pick f rom. You also have a month worth of work you can line up in a mini “tour”. You can obviously do it yourself , maybe once or twice a year. But you can also offer it to other bands. Imagine picking out 6 good bands and offering to give them two one month “mini tours” a year. Guaranteed, no questions asked. You show up each April and October, and we ’ll give you 4 weekends worth of solid work. Bands would love you. And you would end up with a f ull schedule. W ith that kind of bargaining power, you can now demand that the bands clean up their acts and live up to a standard you set f or them (which would raise the standard you’re offering in your clubs). Anybody who can’t measure up will f ind there’s a long line of other bands waiting to take their place. You might try starting with 12 bands once a year and eventually pick one or two to do twice. Let the other bands know you’re looking for anybody who can do a great job to move up to a “2 times a year” slot and watch what happens. You might bump one band up to where they’re doing two weeks at


each club which will now translate into 4 months a year of solid work. Again, you’ll have all the others begging to do whatever you ask. If you plan on setting up a tour schedule (or even if you simply plan on getting better, out of town bands), you might consider, as you build your club, including a small 2 or 3 bedroom apartment somewhere upstairs or in the back. It needs to be complete with kitchenette and bathroom (with a shower). Make it up nice, with a television, living room and a little space. It’s really an excuse to draw bands in. Call it your condo and make bands f eel like “stars” when they’re there. Your mini “tour” groups can basically sleep in their own space, get dressed and walk a few paces to the perf orming stage. It’s l ike liv ing in luxury. And the small space that would probably have become storage, will now save you $100 or so in room f ees every night an out of town band comes by to play. If you f igure each band will play on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, you’ll be saving yourself $300 a week or $1200 a month. Heck, for that amount, you can probably aff ord to buy the whole warehouse you’re making into your club. Just be sure you aren’t just throwing something together. Remember what it f elt like being a band that wasn’t appreciated. People expected all four of you, with your equipment, to somehow cram into a Motel 6 somewhere. Imagine the loyalty you ’ll generate by just taking a day or two to f rame in and panel a row of rooms, so each member can have his or her own “space”. W e’ve discussed pretty much all the options you have when booking a club except one. W hat are the logistics and how does the system work when you decide to approach a club as a touring band? In the next chapter we ’ll discuss the ins and outs of touring. Is it cost eff ective? Can you manage the stress? How do you juggle the “at home” issues like rent, phone and so forth while on the road? Chapter 6 not only discusses the specif ic problems f aced by perf ormers on the road, but it also gives you some insider’s advice on how to survive the unique problems and situations you’re sure to come across when you become a “road warrior” .


Chapter Six

Taking It On The Road Is touring f or you? Can you aff ord it? W ill you make enough money to make it worth the hassle? This chapter discusses all the steps involved in the touring process and how to make the most out of the experience. Probably the best place to begin is to try and f igure out why you would want to tour in the f irst place. You probably have your set of clubs you’ve been doing for a while locally and really can’t imagine why you’d want to ad travel expenses to your already high overhead. Truth be told, it’s precisely because you f ind yourself in that situation that you should consider touring. Let’s f ace it. Most of the clubs around the country are used to paying barrel bottom prices f or their bands. They cater to local guys who can’t wait to get their stage time, and treat you that way. The bigger clubs, the ones willing to pay f or touring bands, don’t usually consider local groups. And they really shouldn’t. W hy should a club owner pay you $1200 f or a night when he knows all the locals have been watching you play at that $400 club down the street? How could he possibly consider making his typical $10 cover charge when you’ve been working at $2 a person? If you have a local reputation of being a bargain basement band, it’s going to be hard to suddenly get into the bigger clubs. And if you do, you’re probably only going to get a week or two a year. If you do the math, two $1200 shows may be good f or your ego, but they won’t pay as much rent as 40 $400 shows will.


If you want to consistently make the higher scale, you’re going to have to go to where the clubs are willing to pay f or it. And when you do, you’re going to discover a really strange phenomenon. For some reason, nobody believes anybody important lives in their town (unless you happen to live in Chicago, L.A., or New York City). If a club owner, or even club patrons think of you as the “local” band, you’ll f ind you’ll never quite match up to the “big guys” f rom out of town. W ell, the same is true when you start traveling. The fact that you can advertise that you’re f rom somewhere else suddenly makes you sound like a pro. The f act that you can call a club owner and tell them you’re booking a tour and will be passing through his town on a given week will score far more brownie points than telling a local owner you live in town and would like to work any time there’s an opening. And any club willing to hire a touring band, realizes they have expenses. They can’t afford to stay on the road unless they’re making enough to pay all their bills (both traveling and back home). If you’re touring, you can’t afford to have a day job, unless you’re a writer or some other prof ession you can take along with you. But bef ore you make the big jump and decide to quit your job and start traveling with the band, it might be a good idea to try and f ind out if you ’ll be able to make it. Let’s walk through the entire process of getting a tour organized. Hopef ully you took the time to create a sharp promo package and web site. If you did, you’re well on your way to stardom. Begin by pulling out a map and routing a tour. Start in your home town and trace the trip you plan on taking. You’ll probably want to make your f irst tour run about 2 months or so, so you can get your f eet wet. Trace a circular route that takes you around to 8 or so larger towns. Make sure the towns are no more than 400 or so miles apart. Driving for 3 days between gigs can get old real quickly, and besides, you usually end up having to pay for the hotel rooms on the way, that can ad up to a small fortune.


Now set a timef rame during which you plan on touring. Block in a time, at least 6 months in the f uture. Check with the band and come up with a period you can all get off. And then start making phone calls. If you have internet access, search each of the cities for local clubs. Make up a list of 5 or 6 of the ones that sound like the kind of club you might be interested in (i.e. if you play country western, the “Blue Jean Cowgirl” is probably going to work out better for you than the “Hot Diggitty Club”). Start ca lling some of the clubs. Try to catch them around 3 or so in the af ternoon, before the dinner crowd starts coming in, and af ter they arrive (or f inish lunches if they serve them). Don’t ask f or the owner. Not yet. Ask whoever answers the phone if the club hires touring bands. Considering the small number of clubs that usually do, your chances are pretty slim. If they tell you they don’t, ask if they know of any clubs in their town that might be interested in hiring a touring band that plays the kind of music you play. Stress that it probably needs to be a bigger club. You’re going to f ind that most people in the business know what’s going on around town and won’t mind te lling you. Make a list of any clubs they recommend, and then ask if they might happen to know who books the club. At least half of the clubs will know the owners name or who books f or them. If you don’t get any leads doing it that way, try looking up the local Chamber of Commerce. Ask them if they know of any local clubs that might be interested in your act. Finally, if all else fails, try calling some local agents and entertainers and asking them. Some may be hesitant to give away work, but you’re going to f ind that most of them will be more than happy to offer a helping hand. Once you have a list of clubs along your tour route, and hopef ully at least a f ew contact names, start giving them a call. If you don’t have a name, just ask. Find out who the booker is and get a hold of him or her. Explain you’re in the middle of planning a tour and will be passing through their town on, say, the week of March 27 of next year. Find out how of ten bands play (during the week, weekends only, etc.). Discuss price and come to an inf ormal agreement. If they can aff ord enough to make it worth your while, explain that you’d love to send out your promo material f or them to consider.


Suggest they look over your web site today, and off er to express mail your package to them. Paying the $12 or so to mail it wi ll say several things. It’ll say you’re interested in being eff icient and getting things done. It’ll also show you aren’t af raid to spend a little money if that’s what it takes to meet their needs. Ultimately, it’ll be well worth the effort. Remember, if you’re booking your show at $1200 a night f or, say, three nights, you’re trying to sell a $3600 package. W ith that kind of money at stake, $12 is a bargain in promotional overhead. Heck, that’s about how much auto dealers make on each car they sell, and look at all the advertising and promotional packages they’re willing to toss in to get it. And most of them don’t seem to be doing too bad. The concept to keep in mind here is that you’re not trying to just sell a $3600 package. You’re actually hoping to establish a relationship with a club that’ll be willing to pay that much maybe twice a year. If you consider the f ew clubs that can aff ord that kind of money, when you f inally f ind one that can, you better roll out the red carpet and treat them right. One last consideration you’ll need to work out bef ore you start making calls is exactly how much it’s going to cost you to live for a week. How many people are in your band? How much will meals cost? How many hotel rooms will you need to pay for along the way? How much will gas and vehicle upkeep cost? Add an extra 20% or so to whatever total you come up with for a weeks run to keep around in case of emergencies. Once you f igure out how much your expenses will be, then you need to f igure out salaries. If , say, your overhead will work out to about $900 a week and each of the 5 band members agrees to work at $200 a week, you now know you ’ll need around $2000 just to break even. If you decide not to take anything less than $3000 f or a week’s work, you ’ll end up making a little extra to put in your promotional and/or equipment budget f or next year. If you do 8 weeks, at that rate, you’ll end up with $8000 in the band’s promo account. Have your promo packages ready to mail. They should be assembled and waiting only f or you to write up a nice cover letter that calls the owner by name and thanks him f or considering your band. On the cover, in big, bold


letters, mark “This Is The Package You Requested”. It ’ll keep your package f rom getting tossed in the corner and f orgotten. If you run down to the post off ice ahead of time, you can pick up a stack of Express Mail boxes to pre package your stuff in. Be sure your phone number is in the package, and be sure you include available dates in your cover letter. Something to the eff ect of “W e’re contacting you this far ahead so we can both hopefully be f lexible with our scheduling. At this time our routing takes us through Columbus on the week of May 12 or we could route ourselves to pass back by on the week of June 2”. Be sure you also stress that although you might be contacting other clubs in his town about booking these dates, you will be will ing to guarantee whoever signs you up f irst an exclusive arrangement. You won’t perform f or any other clubs in their town throughout the year. You should reserve the right to do private events in town, but you won’t accept any off ers f or public appearances at competing clubs. That last clause will do two things. It’ll sc are the owner into acting quickly (before someone else books you), and it’ll tell him you won’t be available to him unless he agrees to your terms. Both will make it much easier to negotiate in the f uture. Finally, include in your package a contract for your perf ormance. In it you ’ll want to explain that you do expect them to provide housing f or you and your band. You might also include a clause in there that says the club is responsible f or buying dinners (at their restaurant) f or all the band members each night you perf orm. Finally, you may want to request a deposit on your cost. Depending on the part of the country you live in, this may or may not be the norm. There’s nothing wrong with asking f or a 50% deposit and including a clause in your agreement that states that if the club cancels without giving you a 30 day (or maybe 60 day) notice, you get to keep the deposit to help cover your expenses. Remember, you’re the talent that’s going to make it possible f or them to stay in business. There’s nothing wrong with setting the standards you’d rather perf orm under. Leave the show dates and times blank. If you specif y that “A 50% deposit is required in order to


validate this agreement” you’ll be saf e if you mail the contract out to them signed. Unless they can prove they paid you (which means they mailed you a check and you cashed it), they can’t hold you to the contract. Being able to sign your contract up f ront makes it much easier for them to simply sign it and drop it in the mail with the deposit. Give the club about a week to look over your material. Be sure you include samples of any posters, f lyers, and other material they’re going to be able to use to promote the show. If they haven’t called you within a week, you call back and check to see if they got your package. At that time, ask if they’re interested in booking your act. If they are, ask them to sign your contract and drop it in the mail with a deposit. Be careful here. It’s real easy to spend the deposit now and then spend the entire tour struggling. If you can aff ord it, just put the deposit in the bank and leave it there. Later, when you start the tour, use it as a buff er (use an ATM card if you need money). And try to live on the balance you’re getting paid by the clubs. If the club needs another contract for any reason, off er to fax one to them. Technically, a f axed signature won’t hold up in court, but people in the industry do it all the time, and nobody ever seems to challenge it. Once you start booking weeks, you may f ind you’ll need to do a bit of f lexing. If , say, you can’t f ind an interested club in one of the larger towns along the way, you may check to see if you can either skip that town and immediately move on to the next one, or maybe lower your price a bit and f ind a smaller club in or around that town that might pay enough to cover your expenses during that week. If you f ind you’re going to be in a town and have to pay your own expenses, pick up one of the local shopper type magazines (or the Sunday version of the local paper) and start looking around for hotels that off er weekly rates. You should be able to f ind a half decent one that’ll rent you a room for under $250 (depending on the part of the country you live in). If you f ind a club that can’t aff ord to pay f or your room, you might check the area and see how much it’s going to cost you to pay f or a hotel. If you feel it’s still within your budget, you can go on and


take the show. You might ask f or a little bit off the door to help pay your expenses. Once you book your tour, arrange to have an advance person go hit the towns a couple weeks before you get there. It’s their job to put up posters, f lyers, the works. Don’t tell the club you plan on doing this. If you do, they’ll assume they can cut back on their advertising budget and basically take money out of your pocket. Let them promote the way they would have anyway, while your person is busy trying to arrange radio appearances for you and putting out advertising all over town. If you can sell a good crowd, the owner will have no problem scheduling you in the next time you’re in the area. Be sure to have a door prize of some kind so you can get a good solid mailing list f or the area that’ll let you gather your own crowd next time you’re around. You might also consider f inding a local charity and off ering to give them all the money you make f rom poster and picture sales. You then sell pictures at a dollar a piece, and offer to sign them. Basically, you’re suddenly going to become the stars around town, and the fact that you’re giving money to the charity will certainly help to get your name in the local papers and radio. In the next chapter we ’ll cover all kinds of ideas on how to work the media, but f or now, just remember that getting the f ree publicity is your advance man’s job. Bef ore taking off on tour, gather the gang together and have a good heart to heart. Discuss the issues you might come across while on the road. Make up some general rules. No angry arguments, each person has their duties, what are your policies going to be about bringing home groupies, how about getting drunk or wasted bef ore a show? Figure out as many potential problems bef ore the fact and work them out. Being on the road can be a long, extended vacation or it can be hell. And it all depends on the attitudes you each agree to have. Bef ore loading up the band to take off , be sure what you’re taking is up to par. Do the clothes you wear look good enough f or a “professional touring band”? Does the logo on the side of your speakers need to be repainted? Make sure you’re sharp. Remember, this first tour is the make it or break it


moment. Every club owner along the way is hoping you’re good. Heck, they’re betting you’re good. Let them down and you’ve eff ectively cut your own throat. Do a good job, and you can plan on repeating the gig on a regular basis. The f irst one’s the tuff y. You had to work hard to book it and you’re being carefully watched all along the way. Af ter you pull it off , The second time’s a piece of cake. You’re simply going to call up and rebook. You’re then going to go back and do it all over again. If you continue to bring in the numbers, most of the clubs will be f ine with you coming back. You can probably afford to plan on traveling through the same areas maybe as much as twice a year. If you do it any more than that you’re probably going to become to common place. You won’t be as much of a novelty and you won’t draw as big a crowd. As you travel, be sure you actually schedule in leisure time. Give yourself time to go to the beach or to rent a boat at the lake and go f ishing. Do stuff that let’s you take a break. And look f or ways to enjoy what’s going on. You’re living every band’s dream. Don’t make it a nightmare. If you’re going to have to pay f or some of your hotels as you travel, keep your eye out f or the state welcome centers, usually f ound within 5 miles or so of the state borders. Go into the welcome centers and pick up the little travel booklets that list discounted prices on hotel. You ’ll usually f ind some of the best deals anywhere in here. Call ahead of time and make sure they have rooms available, and don’t f orget to negotiate. These guys are used to selling one room at a time, for, say, $32 a night. If you call and explain that you need 3 rooms, but normally only plan on paying $80 a night, they’ll probably jump on it. If you pull into a hotel and notice there aren’t many cars in the parking lot, that’s a good time to try and negotiate price. These guys know that a room that spends the night empty is simply wasted money. If half the hotel is going to be empty tonight, they’re probably willing to give you a good price just to make something off of it. Most desk clerks have been told they can lower their price down to a certain amount. Find out what it is and get the best deal possible.


You might also consider joining AAA. They offer excellent travel guides for the various towns that’ll give you some ideas of things to do, but more importantly, they’re the old timers in the travel industry, and most hotels will offer AAA discounts. Another option to consider when shopping for a hotel is their breakf ast policy. Do they include breakfast? And if they do, what’s on it? Paying an extra $5 per person f or a breakf ast that only ads up to a couple doughnuts and a glass of orange juice is hardly a deal. You can buy several dozen doughnuts and a gallon of OJ f or less than $10. If they offer a larger banquet, or a breakfast card at the hotel’s restaurant, now it may be worth it to pay a dollar or two more per person. W hile you’re on the road, someone has to keep track of business back home. Someone has to check your mail and pay your bills. Someone has to keep an eye on your phone and be available to negotiate deals with local gigs if they come up. Find a person you can trust (both to be dependable and to hear the details of your business). Give that person the key to your mailbox, and forward the phone to their house. Hopef ully you’ve arranged to have a cell phone. If you have, they can call you if something comes up that needs your personal attention. It might be a good idea to make it a policy to mail back some of the money you make each night to your account back home. It’s hard to keep money that’s burning a hole in your pocket. Many clubs pay you in cash. W alking around town carrying thousands in cash is more of a temptation than most can handle. If you open a specif ic account dedicated to paying b ills and working as an emergency buff er, you can give the person back home, responsible f or your bill paying, a checkbook they can pay bills f rom. If you really trust them (it’s someone’s spouse or close relative) you might just open the account in their name, so they can write checks. If not, you can simply sign a certain number of checks and have them f ill them out as needed. As they do, they need to list accurately where each check went and how much it was f or.


There are a bunch of things that’ll all f all in place as you travel. Temperaments will start meshing better than they ever have in the past, you’ll soon get the setting up and striking thing down to an art. You ’ll eventually get used to being treated like a star, both by the staff at the location and by people who came to see the “touring band”. Heck, people will be stopping you around town to tell you they think you’re great. Most of the details will work out f ine. The one item you want to quickly move to the top of your list of priorities, the single most important item on your entire agenda has got to be having fun. Yes, it’s business and you’re p iling a bunch of responsibility on your shoulders, but if you aren’t enjoying the ride, it’s going to ref lect in your music, and the interaction of band members. Get the job done and do it well, but be sure, above all else, to have f un doing it.


Chapter Se ven

Working The Media If you’re really honest with yourself , you’ll realize that a lot of the motivation you have f or being in a band is self serving. You want to be f amous. You want your girlf riend to think she’s dating a star. You want the cashier at the grocery store to take your check without having to check your ID. And that’s okay. Heck, someone has to do it. W hy shouldn’t it be you? And if you really want to be famous, it almost certainly demands that you end up dealing with the media. Your music will need playtime, and you’ll need to do guest appearances. The local music scene will need to know you are both available and regularly appearing in all the right places. And there’s a long list of ways you can go about getting it done, so hang on, and let’s get busy. W e’re going to deal with the top 4 media outlet sources here, print media (newspapers, magazines, etc.), on line media (the internet), radio and television. But bef ore we dive into the individual mediums and the various options within each medium, it’s very important that you never lose sight of the fact


that in reality, a successf ul promotional campaign coordinates all your exposure. If a client sees your ad in the paper the same day he hears you on the morning talk show, now suddenly you sound like you’re everywhere. You must be important (read “famous”) if everybody wants to talk about you. So look at the various tools available in your quest for exposure, and then f igure out a way to best tap into as many of them as you can at the same time. Dedicating a month to getting in the newspaper and then shif ting your attention to radio is promotional suicide. You’d be much better off taking a month to caref ully plan how you’re going to do it all, printing up the press releases you plan on sending out, organizing the ads you plan on running, calling the contacts and arranging for interviews, all scheduled to begin on the same day next month. W ith that in mind, let’s break them down: As you promote yourself to the print media, there’re three entirely diff erent areas where you’ll want to aim your efforts. Most newspapers and tabloids include a “calendar of events”. It’s a single spot that allows local people to see what’s happening this coming week. It’s a very powerf ul source of exposure. To get yourself listed, simply call the paper and ask what they require. Some want you to mail in a notice once a week announcing what you’re doing that week. Others will let you f ax it in. A few even let you call in and leave your message on the answering machine. Most of them will require that you renew your listing, before a deadline weekly, so you might as well assign someone to do nothing but mail out the notices, say, every Monday morning. Do this with all the newspapers in town. Tell them where you’ll be this coming week. It’ll let the regulars, who don’t normally go see you, know there’s a concert going on somewhere. As a side note here, some radio and television stations also have community calendar segments. Most notably are the PBS and NPR stations. If they do, include them in your weekly mailings. It can’t hurt. The second place you can look for exposure in the paper is by buying it. Taking out an ad that promotes your show. Unless you’re doing real well, you probably don’t want to spend the money this typically costs. There’s too


many ways you can get f ree press f or you to have to spend $100 or $200 a week on an ad. If you are well enough known, and do enough shows to merit taking out the space, then be sure you buy it in bulk. Ask the paper to put you on a weekly contract that you plan on running indef initely. That ’ll drop your cost down considerably. You now have done two things. First, it’s bought you leverage you can use when talking to club owners. You can off er to use your space to promote upcoming shows. Unf ortunately, if you do this, chances are the club owner will si mply cut back on his advertising, assuming yours will just save him money. A better way to do this is to keep it quiet. Don’t say anything to the club owner. Let him do his normal advertising and you run your ad as well. Now suddenly the owner is going to f ind more people showing up than he’s used to and assume you’re a better draw than the rest of the bands. In the long run that’ll go much f arther towards repeat bookings. The f inal goal in your newspaper advertising campaign is to get articles written about you or the band. You do this by doing something that’s newsworthy. The fact that you’re another band, with 4 people, appearing in one of the clubs in town, playing the same kind of music is hardly news. Even the f act that you come out wearing diapers might get a reaction f rom the crowd, but will do nothing for the newsroom. It’s not about the kind of music you play, or how wild you act. It’s not about how of ten you do shows. The real issue that’s going to get you f ree articles is what you’re doing that interests the community. Suppose you agreed to donate half your take for the f ollowing month to help that homeless shelter downtown. You may walk out losing $1000, but you’ll get much more than that in f ree press. People around town will f eel you’re trying to help out, you’re the good guys. Reporters will want to know why you’re doing it, and the community will f eel you’re the kind of band they want to keep up with. How about doing the longest non stop concert in the history of your town (which will probably only need to run, maybe 6 hours). Offer a small percentage of your take to a local charity and do a 24 hour marathon of music. People will want to f ind out more. I mentioned earlier that location and kind of music don’t matter. And that’s true, at least as you get started. Once you’ve done a f ew of these


other packages, and more people get to know you, then you’re suddenly a local celebrity. Now you can plan on getting press every time you’re seen in public (but that’s way, way up the road, so don’t bank on it quite yet). The easiest way to visualize the impact you’ll have on the press when you send in your press release is to take a good, close look at the headline on the top of the page. W hat does it say? “Band W ill Appear At Local Club” isn’t going to draw too much interest. “Band Won’t Stop Playing” will probably get an editor to read the story about your proposed music marathon. The basic promo package here would be a press release, a bio sheet and a promo picture. The press release should be done up on a plain sheet of white paper (stay away f rom f ancy letterhead and photocopied pictures). On the top lef t hand corner of the page you’ll want to put, in tiny letters, a little caption that reads “For Immediate Release” or, if your press release is dated, this is where you state it by writing, “For Release On Or Bef ore June 22”. On the top right hand corner you’ll want to include a small, two line caption that reads: For More Inf ormation, Contact: Jeff Smith, (432) 1234567. Stay away f rom that typical who, what, where, etc. list. It gives most editors an excuse to glance at the sheet and decide it isn’t worth reading. All you want across the top of the page is the tiny release date and contact info. Then you want your headline. In bold print, across the top of the page, you want a one line caption that gets their attention. About 90% of the success of your press release will probably depend on how well you write this headline. It needs to shock, entertain or conf use the editor. It has to make it next to impossible to put the release back down. But most importantly, it has to be true. Don’t make statements like “We’re The Best In The W orld! ” unless you have a Nielsen Report in your hand that states that. Headlines like “Band On The Run” or “Big Band Does Little Concert” won’t cut it. They may be cute, but they don’t aim at a story. Headlines like “Band Takes It All Off ” that then tells about how everybody in the band is going to conf ess their drug habit at their next concert, and plans on making a commitment to stop immediately (including signing into rehab treatment if needed) will probably make national news. “Someone Shot The Band” f ollowed by a story about how you’re performing for a local blood drive would get the press’ attention.


The release itself should NEVER be more than one page long. In f act, that’s one page, starting about a third of the way down the page, and double spaced. Not much room, is it? The good news is, your goal here isn’t to tell the entire story. THE ONLY PURPOSE f or a press release is to convince the reporter or editor that they should give you a call. All you need in your release is enough inf ormation to make it obvious that it’s worth their time to talk to you. Inf ormation about the abused kids at the center you’re supporting, and how one of you was abused as a kid should be enough to spark interest. Explaining that you plan on playing, non stop, until one of the band members f alls to the ground will make the marathon idea sound f ascinating. Just get their attention and convince them that they should give you a call. Remember ALW AYS to think f rom the readers perspective. You may think it’s great that you guys have been together f or 5 years, that means nothing to the general public. The f act that the lead guitar and drummer both tried dating the same girl before you guys got started, and couldn’t stand each others guts f or the f irst year you were together makes f or interesting trivia. Always ask yourself how you would f eel reading this stuff about a band you’ve never heard of (nothing personal, but there probably are a f ew newspaper readers out there that haven’t heard of you). You also need to include a general bio sheet. That’s information about the band, the various members and some of the more impressive gigs you’ve played. A sneaky way to sound important here is to put all your playing time together. If the drummer has been drumming f or 10 years, the lead has been playing f or 8, the base has done his thing for 12 and the singer has been singing f or 15 you can run a line near the top of your bio that reads “Nearly Half A Century Of Experience On Stage” and then go on to explain the exact breakdown. It’s the kind of stuff papers love to print. This bio has one purpose, and one purpose only. It has to justif y the press release. It has to make you an authority or a qualif ied spokes person for whatever it is you said on the press release. If you’re promoting a tour your heavy metal band is going to do of local senior centers (if you could tone your music down, that would be enough of a culture shock to get plenty of f ree press), you might include in your bio how Bobby worked f or a year as an orderly at a


senior center. The f act that Jim studied Psychology in college might be relevant. The fact that Tom majored in Animal Husbandry would do nothing but make Tom feel his name got listed (and waste valuable space). Finally you have your press shot. W e talked earlier about the importance of getting a good shot and how to go about doing it. Be sure your picture is newspaper quality, both in the quality of the picture you send in and the appropriateness of the pose. 4 guys mooning the audience may do great as a picture at the door of the “W e Be Crazy Bar” but it’s not going to make the Daily Press. The second place to go f or good exposure is the internet. If you don’t have a web site, get started by putting one together. There’s plenty of f ree web space out there. Take advantage of it. It helps draw crowds. Then be sure you get listed in all the local “what’s happening around town” bulletin boards. If you call your local Better Business Bureau or Chamber of Commerce, they’ll probably be able to tell you of any such listings. Your local newspaper probably has an online bulletin board as well. Find out what you have to do to list your event and have the same person that’s mailing out calendar listings to the papers plug in your listings on line every week as well. Many people go on line to f igure out what they’re planning on doing today. Finally we come to the biggie. Radio and television time. The good news is, what you do is perfect f or airtime. The bad news is, how you do it probably isn’t. Think about it. How many bands out there play exclusively to their own crowd? Their circle of f riends think they’re great, and their girlf riends attend all their concerts, but how do they look? How dynamic is their presentation? Unless they can really command the attention of a single person sitting in a room, chances are they aren’t going to do well on television. The typical television studio may look great when you watch it at home, but actually is little more than a warehouse with a small set in the corner and two cameras. Your entire audience will be composed of 8 or so people all busy doing their own job. And the “crowd” at home will usually be composed of one or maybe two people “sort of listening” as they munch on popcorn. You don’t have the


yelling mob making your every move look great. A station manager who agrees to put you on has to believe, without a doubt, that you can captivate the attention of anybody who hears you. Are you the kind of group a person would listen to by themselves in their car? Does your presentation draw the individual in? These are critical issues that keep the vast majority of bands f rom ever getting a chance to appear on television. Heck, even some of the “big” name bands, who go on because of their f ame, are often not allowed to play on the national talk shows. Yes, we want to hear what they have to say, and we want to f eel like we know about their lives, but the producers don’t want to risk having people switch channels by allowing them to perf orm. Make yours a marketable act. Be sure your lyrics mean something. W ork on the way your group interacts (the little jokes, the “other stuff ” that keeps you alive). There have been groups that have stayed very popular on the talk show circuit. Groups like the Smothers Brothers who did more comedy than they did music. People like Frank Sinatra whose voice was legendary and whose lyrics had something to say. MTV may have popularized a lot of the other groups, but that never got them any exposure on the mainstream media. Be realistic here. If you want to go big, you can either do it by commanding incredible mobs because of the promotion you’re doing, or by offering a show everybody likes, and the media is anxious to show off. Radio time in particular can make or break you. It breaks down into two categories as well. They can play your songs and they can interview you. Getting them to play your songs isn’t as hard as it sounds. Be sure you have a decent looking CD with your songs on it (we ’ll talk more about that one in the next chapter). Mail it out to the station. Actually, call the station and ask f or a list of programs. They’ll mail you a sheet of paper that lists every DJ and some of the other important people on the station. Gather up any publicity you’ve gotten in the past and put together a press package announcing the release of your new album, “Just Me”. Now mail a copy out to each of the DJ’s individually. Most won’t listen to it, but if you can get one of them to, and you’re half way good, it may parlay into airplay or an interview. You can also send out a press release announcing the release of your CD (af ter you’ve mailed it to them, so they vaguely remember the


name). Don’t just announce “W e Have A New CD” as your headline. That’s boring and self serving. Instead, try f inding what makes your music unique or personal and play off of that. A headline that reads, “Band Bears All” and then talks about how hard is was to put your feelings about the world into words will go much f arther. Or how about “Band Refuses To Be Heard” f ollowed by a story about how your music is only a gateway to a long list of stories you aren’t ready to share. That’ll get a DJ’s attention. It’s almost like a challenge f or a DJ to try and f igure out what those “hidden secrets” really are. But the real secret to getting local playtime is to get enough people lobbying f or you. As you f inish your concerts in town, do a heartfelt plea to the audience. Something along the lines of , “W e’ve pored our hearts out to you, and exposed our lives. You’ve been good to us and made it worth our time. I’d li ke to take this moment to announce that our new CD is just hitting the market. If you’d like a copy, it’ll be on sale af ter the show, but more importantly, I’d like to ask a f avor of you guys. W e just mailed out copies of our CD to all the local radio stations. It’s not easy competing with the million dollar ad agencies that promote those big guys. If you liked our music, do me a f avor. Call your f avorite local station sometime this week and ask them to play one of our songs. They’ll have every song on our CD. If you’d like a list of what songs they are, and the local numbers f or all the local radio stations, we’ve got a printed out sheet up here you can pick up. If you tell them you want to hear our music, they’ll probably listen. If you don’t call in and request us, we’re probably mailing out the worlds most expensive coffee coasters.” If you call in trying to fake being a listener, that’s generally considered to be in poor taste (not to mention unethical, and sure to eventually come back and haunt you). If someone who actually heard you in concert thinks you’re hot enough to call in a request, that’s perf ectly legit. That’s why the station plays the music in the f irst place, isn’t it? To give the local listeners what they want to hear? There’s nothing wrong with telling an audience that liked you that your CD is at the station and they don’t need to be shy about requesting it. Most DJ’s are forced to take a CD that was rated by several


music stores in New York City and use that as a gauge to decide what to play. Local requests are f ar more inf luential than some impersonal “someone else told me your audience will like this” l ist. Another secret to getting your name out around town is to be sure you promote heavily at all the local record outlets. Go on and pay f or a nice cardboard CD display case. Then use it to promote your CD. Off er to leave a number of your CD’s on the counter at the local music stores on consignment. To do this you sign a contract that states you’ve lef t, say, 20 CD’s with them. They agree to sell them at the listed price and keep a commission f or every CD they sell (give them 50% or so). You check back with them weekly and have them sign f or any new CD’s you place in your display. Once a month you invoice them for the total number of CD’s they’ve sold (get a clerk to sign f or every CD that’s miss ing when you bring new ones in). If you do this enough, you ’ll start getting your name out. Even if you don’t sell a single CD, everybody will assume someone else is buying them when they see the display on the counter. Be sure you plug the counter displays during your shows. Mention that your CD’s should be available at all the local music stores. Having people come in and buy them is the single easiest way to get stores to allow you to keep them on the counter. Radio stations are in the music business. Every DJ in there has at least on music store where he or she’s a regular. If they continue to see your display (and people buying it) it won’t be as much of a shock when he gets a call asking f or your songs. Again, it’s part of the “complete” package. If you can’t f ind a good looking display box at your local box company (look in the yellow pages), you might try contacting one of the suppliers on line. One of the big ones is: Oasis CD Duplication, 657 Zachary Taylor Hwy, Box 721, Flint Hill, VA 22627, They specialize in making copies of your CD but offer a good selection of display boxes. Cactus Containers will cost you a bit more per box, but does excellent display units. You can f ind them at 684 Ranchero Drive, San Marcos, CA 92069,


Getting to appear as a guest on the air is a bit more diff icult. Bands are notoriously boring. It’s a f act. Most DJ’s cringe at the thought of bringing on 4 guys that are going to talk like 1 s t graders. But that’s the good news. Most bands are boring. If you can manage to work on your online presentation enough to really make time with you fun, you’re going to quickly become the only show in town. W atch the f ascinating guests on talk shows (stay away f rom MTV – that stuff doesn’t sell to the mainstream). W atch how guests on the tonight show, or the late show keep the audiences fascinated. Their honesty, their personality, the way they talk, the jokes they tell, the whole package. Pull out your video camera and do your own talk shows. Practice being funny. Listen to some of the talk radio hosts. These guys are capable of making non mechanics f ascinated with an auto show. It’s not because of what they say, it’s because of how they say it. Listen to how they have fun on the air, and how you, as an audience are invited to laugh with them. Practice being relaxed and out of yourself. W here bands are very diff icult to sell to on air personalities, comics get calls across the country for DJ’s begging to have them on as guests. The diff erence is how you come across. Comics usually make the DJ, and his audience, laugh. Bands usually want to talk about their CD. Get a good reputation of being f un to be with, and the local DJ’s are going to line up to have you on their shows. A little trick that’ll really make you the celebrities around town is to set up a partnership with one of the larger stations in town. Go down and talk it over with the station manager (or program manager). Off er to perf orm at all their live remotes for a low, set fee. Basically, if you typically work, say, for $800 a gig (4 hours), that works out to $200 an hour. Granted you have to set up and strike, but basically $200 an hour is the f ee most people will assume you’re charging. Suppose you agreed to work f or a radio station, every time they had a live remote, f or up to 3 hours. And you offer to do it f or just $100. Do you think they’re going to jump at it? The catch is, you want them to give you an extra $200 credit towards an advertising package you can use any time you want to. Now let’s look at what happens here. The station goes down to the bo wling alley that’s having a grand opening. They offer not only to provide 3 hours of


plugs by on the scene DJ’s promising f ree goodies and live airtime to anybody who shows up, but also, included, f or “just” $100 an hour, they’ll have you guys show up. They explain to the bowling alley that that’s less than half your normal cost. The bowling alley was probably going to have to pay f or entertainment anyway, so they’ll j ump at the offer. You’ll get just about enough to justif y setting up in money, but the rewards will be f ar greater than a full paying gig would have gotten you. The radio station is hoping their program will be a success, and will help sell other live remotes around town. How can they do that? Do you think they’ll draw a lot of attention if they say they’ll be at the bowling alley? Probably not. But suppose they mention that a band will also be there? Now it’s starting to get interesting. But not much. They need to somehow convince everybody that it’s not just any band. And how do you think a radio station would go about doing that? They’d invite you to be on the air, they’d start playing your songs, they’d mention your name every time they mention the live remote, they’d end up giving you, f ree of charge, thousands of dollars worth of f ree publicity. And then, the day of the show, when the DJ’s are sitting around trying to f igure out something worth talking about while a bunch of little kiddies are asking where the bathroom is, guess who the “celebrities” they can interview will be? Heck, if they can make you look good, it ’ll make them look good. They’ll get busy trying to convince your town that “The Star Chasers” are hot stuff , and will be around to meet you if you come down to the bowling alley before 4 o’clock. You couldn’t ask for a more powerful promotional package. And it only cost you a bit of your time, time you might have spent in your garage rehearsing. And it’s going to keep on happening. The same people listen to that station, and every time they do a remote, it’s going to be your show. And as an added bonus, a bit of icing on the cake, every time you do one of these gigs, you store away an extra $200 worth of promotional money. Once they make you f amous, and clubs around town are discussing having you come in, you can now charge them more because you’re more of a draw. And then, almost as an af terthought, you can either offer to work f or a drink percentage and all the door or off er to sell them on air advertising. Either way, when you do


your gig at the local club, you can now afford to advertise it heavily (based on the accumulated $200 bonuses). If you can’t sell out by promoting like crazy to the very people that have heard the station plugging you as the hottest thing in town, then maybe you should consider se lling used cars or something. Even if the station hadn’t plugged you at all, the added people coming in to your club show based on this added advertising would probably more than pay f or the extra $300 you would have made at the live remote if you had charged your “going rate”. Those are the tools. The trick is to work them together. Begin by ordering the display boxes. W hile you wait f or them to arrive, write up some good press releases, but don’t send them out, not quite yet. Call all the local stations and ask if they have a fax machine. It’s the industry standard for sending out press releases. Radio and television stations depend on the 20 or 30 press releases they get daily about news stories, or prof essionals capable of talking about things going on in the news to keep their shows lively. You’re going to offer to “spice things up” by bringing in a local f lavor. Collect the f ax numbers as you also compile a list of all the local newspaper and online bulleting boards. You might even call the local paper and f ind out if they’d be willing to trade advertising f or 4 hours of your time at their next Christmas party. Many wi ll jump at it. If they do, accept the trade, but keep it on the back burner f or now. No self respecting editor is going to run a story about you on the same page with a half page ad f or your band. It ’ll look like you traded the story f or the ad space. W ait till the f lame starts to get smaller, and then sneak in your paid advertising. Once you’re organized and ready to roll, find a larger local club and explain to the owner that you’re getting ready to announce your upcoming CD and plan on saturating the local media. Ask if they’d be willing to hire you now (at your going rate) with the understanding that 3 months f rom now you plan on 4 walling his club (paying rent and getting all of the proceeds). For now, explain that he’ll benef it f rom all of the promo you’re planning on hitting around town. Don’t tell him that you also hope to get his audiences ca lling in song requests and buying records at the local music store, but that will also f it in nicely with your overall package. Try to sell him on letting your run for


at least a couple weeks. Explain that even the people that see you this week will be impressed when they suddenly see your material all over town. They’ll remember having seen you and will probably want to come back, and bring a f riend, now that you seem to be the “hot ticket”. Once you’re booked, go on and get organized. Send out your calendar listings. Set up the live remote deal with a station. Go down and talk personally to the program manager. If he or she can sense that you’re f un to talk to, that the DJ will love having you on the air, chances are good they’ll be willing to help you announce your new CD. Give yourself a specif ic “kick off date”. And then go at it with all you have. Remember, fame is f leeting. Unless you keep the pressure on, it won’t take long f or you to become last weeks news. Do your CD. Organize the charity f und raiser f or the local “save the park” f oundation. Offer to do a f ree concert that’s only open to local veterans and their guests to help celebrate the 4 t h of July. Come up with ways to make your press releases sizzle, and keep them coming in. Bef ore too long, you ’ll be a local celebrity. If you’ve put together a tour, you might try mounting the same kind of package in the other towns. An unconventional band of 4 longhaired guys did that once in an insignif icant town called Liverpool. The locals are st ill talking about them.


Chapter Eight

Record Production W e hinted in the last chapter at the importance of having a CD. But that’s all we did. W e just barely hinted at how important it really is. This chapter offers more hints at how to use CD’s to market yourself and how to go about ending up with one. There’s plenty of “must know” information in here, so don’t skip it just because you have a CD you put together last year. I guess we should probably begin by admiting records are a thing of the past. Except f or a f ew DJ’s who like to play with them, records are antiques stored away in garages somewhere. W e’re entitling this chapter record production because most of the industry still calls it that. There’re “record studios”, there’re “gold and platinum record awards” there’re even “record labels”, but nobody makes records any more. So we’re really talking about audio cassettes and CD’s here. And that’s a big distinction. Records are hard to make. You have to own some serious equipment in order to end up with a high quality record. CD’s and audio cassettes can be produced at a relatively low cost by any dedicated hobbyist. W hich opens up a whole new dimension to the industry. Homemade CD’s. Are they as good as the larger labels? W hat are the advantages of making your own? W hy would anybody hold out until they are “discovered” by the big guys? W e’re going to talk about all of this in a moment, but f irst, let’s discuss the advantages of having your own CD.


Obviously, it’s good for your ego. Your mother loves to show it off down at the Bingo Hall and it makes you extra money at the end of a concert. But having a CD does much more than that. W e’ve already hinted at some of the advantages. If you’re hoping f or airplay at the local radio station, a CD is pretty much a must. If you hope to get represented by anybody, you better have a good CD. Agents aren’t too excited about walking up to a major casino or cruise ship holding a homemade cassette tape that has a couple of your songs on it. Having a CD, just be implication, makes you a star. The f act that your picture is on the J card of your CD, and that people can go into record stores and f ind it, makes you more than just some guys who worked up a song or two in the garage. It’ s possible to stay busy without having a CD, but it’s all but totally impossible to become anything other than a generic band working f or low wages without one. CD’s are pretty much a necessary part of any successf ul music career. And with the cost of high quality CD studio equipment constantly going down, it isn’t that unreasonable f or you to think about cutting your own. You can get a digital, top quality home studio f or under $500. And you’ll be on your way. No, it doesn’t mean you’ll hit the big time right away, but with the large number of bands that regularly cut their own, it’s not going to hurt your chances of getting a bigger contract. In f act, being able to hand an agent or record studio a CD, even if it’s something you put together yourself , shows you’re a bit more than a simple band. But if you plan on doing it yourself , don’t cut corners. You’d be better off not doing a CD at all before you put together something that looks sloppy or homemade. Go on and pay to have prof essional, 4 color J cards made up. You might even consider paying a company like Oasis CD Duplication (which we listed in the last chapter) to print up the labels, duplicate the CD’s and print your covers directly on the CD’s. Even if you recorded them yourself , this will give them the prof essional touch. Of course, for what it costs to rent a studio (some good ones in larger cities can run as low as $30 an hour), you might decide to pack up your gear and do it up right. You’ll get good music, in a room built for good acoustics,


without any chance of outside noise. And they’ll give you a top quality digital recording which will make the copying much better. Nothing is going to kill your image worst than to have a CD f loating around that just doesn’t sound that good. All the people who might look at the CD f or an audition of your band (the club owners thinking of hiring you, the music store owners, wondering if they should carry your CD, the agents, managers…everybody you come in contact with in the business) are going to listen to a bad CD and completely miss the music. So before you move on to the big times, and allow a major label to take your songs, you can either do it all yourself with your own equipment, or you could do up a prof essional CD at a studio on your own as well. Something you want to be very careful about when cutting a CD is to NEVER, EVER steal copyrighted material. It just isn’t worth the hassle. It’s a guarantee that you can never get too big. If you do, someone will pull out that one CD, and you’ll end up in court. Be sure you have the right to record anything you put on your CD. If it isn’t an original, contact the publisher of another CD who used that song and f ind out who owns the copyright. Contact that person or company and f ind out what you need to do to be able to use the song. Some labels will require that you pay a f ee. Some may f eel the song is old enough that they’ll just grant you permission. But regardless of how it happens, be sure you get a signed letter that says you can record the song and keep all the money you make f rom it bef ore you use it. Getting a stack of CD’s neatly sealed in their cases means nothing unless you can start selling them. If you have a web site, be sure you begin by listing it. You can also plan on selling quite a f ew at your shows. But don’t limit yourself to the old stand by’s. Find out who buys the music at your local music stores. If you put together a decent looking display, many of them will be willing to allow for your lack of f ame. A good looking package makes you look f amous. Try to get them to buy a stack of CD’s in the display f or a set price. At f irst they’re almost sure to say no. Large, national corporations do nothing but predict the sell ab ility


of major CD’s. You won’t stand a chance next to the national names. So chances are you’re going to need to settle f or off ering your CD’s on consignment. If you do, be sure you take the time to put, in writing, exactly where your display is to be located. Many store owners f eel they are much more interested in displaying the merchandise they’ve already paid f or and stand a chance of taking a beating on. It’s not uncommon f or consignment merchandise to suddenly end up in some f ar corner, hidden behind a sign of some kind. And then, when you come back a month later, the owner complains that he’s only sold 2 CD’s all m onth. If your display looks real sharp and the CD’s look as good as anything else in the store, try and talk him into letting you put them on the main counter somewhere. Explain that you’re willing to leave the stack with him, as long as he’s willing to guarantee them a fair chance of se lling. Once he agrees to it, insert in your agreement a line to the eff ect of “merchant hereby agrees that as long as there are any CD’s remaining in the display case, he will keep the entire display case, with any remaining CD’s in a location no farther than 15 inches f rom the main cash register. “ A little trick you might try when offering these packets is to always leave the display partly empty. If it comf ortably holds, say, 10 CD’s, then make it’s “maximum ” capacity 8. People may shy away f rom buying the f irst CD off the rack of someone they’ve never heard of . If it looks like a few people have already bought their copies, maybe it’ll be safe to try. Another point you want to work out up f ront is how much you plan on making on your CD sales. A couple of factors play in here. If you decide to sell your CD at a bargain, hoping to sell a lot of them, you may f ind yourself actually hurting your sales. W ould you consider a CD you paid $5 f or as anything worth listening to? All the “good guys” charge $18, $20 even $30 for a CD. Be sure your retail price is on the label, and price it just a tad bit below the market value f or big time stars. $12, maybe $14 may be good. People can easily afford that and it yells out quality. Once you decide on a retail price, be sure you offer the store as big a commission as you can comfortably afford. Figure out your total cost, per


CD. Give yourself a small prof it ($2 maybe $3 per CD) and offer the store the rest. You aren’t doing this to become f ilthy rich. Your main goal here is to get a lot of your CD’s out and around town. The more the dealer makes per sale, the more he’ll plug your CD. It’l l end up being played in the store and the display will always be prominently displayed. A 50% commission on a CD sale is about average. If the CD is reta iling at $12, then the music store should be making at least $5 or $6 each. Yes, you had to pay f or the CD, but they have to pay the rent, the salaries of the sales f orce, the cost of the ads in the paper, the electricity, the phone b ill, you get the picture. You can also carry your sharply displayed case to other shops around town and set up the same kind of deal with them. The hallmark shop in the mall, the restaurant down at the truck stop, the gif t shop at the airport. Any place that sells nick knacks or generic merchandise might consider making a pure prof it on a consignment deal. And whether or not they sell a single CD, you end up with all kinds of promotional “mini signs” all over town. Once you have a decent CD cut, its time to start promoting in serious. Give it a month or two to ride and see what kind of reactions you get. Get in the habit of letting people know they won’t hurt your feelings by being honest. The last think you want here is a bunch of well wishers ly ing to you about the quality of your CD. You desperately need to know the truth. Ask people to let you know. Get other bands to give you their honest opinion. W ait and see how well they sell down at the music store. W atch carefully to the reaction you get when you mail it out to the radio stations. If they don’t like it, don’t worry about it. You haven’t committed any great crime here. Caref ully analyze what’s wrong and work on it. Fine tune the CD until you have a guaranteed winner. Don’t just assume it is because your girlf riend told you so. Find out. If it’s passed the test of time. If enough people bought it and the reviews were nothing short of great, then it’s time to start sending them out to the big guys. Put together a special promo package designed specif ically to sell you as a band. It’s a lot like the one we did in chapter 2, only this one includes more quotes, a breakdown of how well your homemade CD is


selling in and around your town, a list of any radio and/or television programs you’ve appeared on and any larger gigs you may have played (f eatured act at the 1996 Arkansas Bluegrass Festival). Once the package is put together, start a marketing campaign aimed at getting your name out to the industry players. Mai l it to all the larger agencies that represent acts like yours, and f orward copies to all the major record labels that run your kind of music. Send it out to every music group or singer that plays your style (if they like it, they’ll remember how hard it was breaking in and may hand deliver it to the right people f or you). Saturate the market. Mai l it also to every radio station f or 400 – 500 miles of your hometown. You’re hoping, at the very least, that they’ll remember your name when you show up in their town. Your goal here is to get some exposure. It doesn’t matter if they actually play it or not, you just want them to know who you are. And the quality of your promo package will go a long ways in telling them if you’re a homegrown band or a bunch of guys serious about what you do. And then one day, on your way out to dinner, you ’ll get that incredible call. One of the “Big Guys” heard some of your stuff and decided to call about a possible record deal. W hat should you do? First of all, relax. If they’re calling you, chances are they have some reason why they think you’re good. They probably are going to want you to send off a demo tape. In as calm a voice as you can, tell them you’ll be glad to and get their name and address. As soon as you hang up, bef ore you start looking f or your CD, get on the phone and start calling some of the larger music agencies. This isn’t the kind of thing you want to deal with alone. There are a million tiny loopholes in the typical record contract that can get you into all kinds of trouble if you don’t know what you’re doing. How much of a royalty should you ask f or? W ho holds the copyright? W hat about f oreign publication rights? There’s all kinds of variables here that will all work against you unless you have someone who knows what they’re doing on your corner.


And even if the record label eventually decides you aren’t what they were looking f or, this could be your shoe in the door that ’ll get you moving in the right direction. W hereas most larger agencies would never let you past the receptionist as long as you were some local band in Thermopolis, W yoming, when you call telling them you just got a call f rom Mercury Records and they’re interested in getting your demo, you’ll probably f ind a top notch agent immediately assigned to represent you. Yes, they’ll probably end up with 20% of whatever you make, but 80% of $40,000 works out to quite a bit more than 100% of $10,000. Let them work the label. In f act, the very f act that an agent they know calls representing you will add a little clout to your package. You’re not just some hick band hoping to make the big times. You’re a represented band negotiating a contract. One of the little “tricks” a lot of the larger agents love to play is to put your contract up to auction. They basically send your stuff out to several record labels and get a lot of interest going. They then start pitting one label against the other. Now they have something to negotiate with. If one label won’t grant you international rights, maybe the other one will. Regardless, once several labels are in on the bidding, it’s a sure thing one of them will ulti mately end up with your record. So at that point you’re pretty much on your way. If you’re a group and have been playing together all along, you may be able to simply show up, record a record, and go home. If you’re a singer, or could use some extra instruments, the label can usually arrange for studio players to f ill in f or you. These are the old pros, the guys that regularly play music in the background while the singers of the world do their thing. W ork with them. Don’t be too pushy. Instead of insisting you know exactly how your music should play, be willing to get some of their opinions. Knock the tune around a bit and ask for input. You know what you’re looking f or, they know what sells. Somewhere in the middle is a gold record (or is it CD?) waiting to be cut. And you better get ready, because at that point, ready or not, you’re in for a rough ride. If you haven’t been using an agent bef ore, now’s the time to have a good long talk with the agency that represented your record. Find out if they can organize a tour to help promote the record as it’s coming out. Ask


if they can schedule appearances on TV talk shows and radio stations around the country (you can call in the radio interviews). Everything you did to promote yourself locally in the last chapter now goes into high gear as you start pushing for national exposure. But the real struggle happens just af ter your record hits the market. Now suddenly, everybody is expecting a second album. You put all your best stuff on the f irst, can you continue to produce? This is where f inding quality songs and good writers pays off . Some groups, like the Beatles or Elvis, seemed to be able to do just about anything on stage and make it work. Most groups aren’t that fortunate. The vast majority of them are cornered into trying to come up with more material that matches the quality of the hits they’ve been riding on for years. It’s not an easy call, not by a long shot. In f act, most bands that cut records never make it to the second one. A f ew do well on their f irst record, but one shot wonders are almost a staple in the industry. Knowing this now, bef ore you’re in the limelight, expected to produce, should give you something to think about. Back in the second chapter we talked about being sure you’re se lling quality and not just a single good sounding song. If you aren’t, then you should start working on a style and image you can carry to the top. Develop it now, before that record company calls and asks you to hang on to a raging bull. If you have the material and quality now, bef ore you get there, you’ll be ready when the time comes. But only if you’re ready now, when nobody but you knows why you’re taking the time to do things right.


Chapter Ni ne

Playing For Money W e’ve come a long ways since we started this book. W e’ve talked about agents, managers, contracts, record deals, working clubs and traveling. And yet, we haven’t even touched on half the story. There are more than a f ew bands out there that do nothing but play clubs week af ter week. And, truth be told, they’re cheating themselves out of the lions share of the earnings in the industry. In this chapter we’re going to touch brief ly on a list of markets available to you if you’re willing to dig a bit. It’s a list of new places to work, and it’s a list with f ew bands competing for the position. Instead of lining up with another 30 local bands hoping to get a gig at the one club in town, you can always turn to any one of these ideas to get some extra work. Let’s begin with the seasonal work. Most bands have found a f ew extra gigs during the Christmas rush, but few actually promote to this market well enough to be able to charge what they should be charging. Remember, it’s all about supply and demand. If you get a call f rom the only company in town will ing to use you to do a show, You better instantly agree to whatever they have to offer. If , on the other hand, you happen to know there are 5 companies that all want your show on a certain Saturday night, now suddenly, you’re in a position where you can afford to negotiate. You might even be able to simply set your price, higher than the rest, and sit back and watch them f ight.


To sell Christmas season shows to the corporate market, you’ll need to get started sometime around April. Go down to the largest library in your town and ask for the guidebook of local employers. It’s usually published yearly by a local newspaper. It’ll list the top employers in town (it’s usually used by people looking for job). You’ll want to f ind the larger companies (the list usually shows the top 50 or so employers in any given area). If the company has over 100 employees, chances are, they do something for Christmas. Make a list of the individual companies, their addresses, phone numbers and how many employees they have. Call sometime around May and ask who’s in charge of their holiday event (be sure you don’t use the term “Christmas Party”, every now and then you’ll come across a Jew or other ethnic group that’ll take offense). W hen you f ind out who organizes the party, ask them if you can send them a promo package f or your band. Be sure you f ind out what day their party will take place. There’s usually only 6 to 8 weekend shows a year, and most companies want to use one of them. If you have a computer, be sure you get yourself a good database program (like Access), that’ll let you cross ref erence individual variables. As soon as you sell, say, December 12 t h , you’ll immediately want to call all the other December 12 possibilities and tell them you went on and took a show. That’ll warn them that they better start looking elsewhere. It’ll also score you some points. The company will assume you’re good (you were good enough to not have to wait f or them to make up their mind). Next year they might call you early to try and beat the rush. Af ter sending out promo packages, give the companies about a week bef ore you call back to f ind out if the package arrived okay. As soon as they conf irm that it has, ask if they’ve had the chance to look it over, and if they’re interested in discussing their event. They’ll probably tell you they need to wait f or a board or committee meeting to approve hiring you. Ask what date that’ll take place and off er to contact them a few days af terwards. Keep all the contacts happy and well supported. Remember, this is the same list you’ll be calling back next year. If they f eel you’re professional and ethical in all you do, they may decide to use you next year (specially if they aren’t pleased with the band they ended up with this year).


Many of this same group of corporations will also have several events during the year when they may f ind your services helpf ul. Conventions, elaborate training weekends, company summer picnic, etc. If you end up being booked on a particular date and have to call to cancel other possible clients, be sure to ask if they ever do any other events where they could use a band. The person in charge of the holidays will usually also know enough about the other events going on with company to be able to tell you what other events they put on, the dates, and who the contact person is. Get all that info and store it. Mark your calendar for 4 to 5 months bef ore each event. At that time you’re going to call back and explain that you’ve heard the company might be needing a band f or their upcoming “W e Thrive On Doing The Mundane” day celebration. Offer your services and get going. In some of these cases, you might even be able to cut a “package deal”. Basically, if they a to use you, say, 3 times a year, you’ll agree to give them a discount on this f irst show. Most companies will jump at that deal. Just be sure you get a deposit on all of the shows bef ore getting started on the f irst one. Another way to go about booking your holiday shows to call the Sales and Catering departments of larger hotels in your area. A lot of these guys and gals do nothing wait f or people to call in looking for space for an event. They then try and construct a “package” for them. Stuff like how many rooms they’ll rent for the night, what kind of f ood, etc. all go into the negotiations. If you make sure they have a f ull promo package available (be sure you drop off several), you can let them offer your services to their clients. They typically wil l do this and not charge you a commission. It looks good f or them to offer quality packages, and a good band would def initely be a part of what they’re selling. A little trick that works out well here is to offer to do your show f or the hotel employees in exchange for, say, 10 nights stay at the hotel. No, this isn’t about trying to accumulate a bunch of hotel nights, it’s about making the hotel f eel you’re worth something. Once you do your show for all their employees, and everybody is busy talking out how much f un they had and


how good you are, the sales and catering people will feel conf ident recommending you. The reason it’s usually safe to off er to give away your show to hotels is because they traditionally offer their holiday party when they’re sure nobody else will. Monday af ternoon, Sunday at 1 P.M.. They go out of their way to schedule their event when their employees won’t be busy working other parties, so you can pretty much assume their holidays won’t conf lict with yours. You’ll get a lot of mileage out of this deal, and a few extra hotel nights tossed in for good measure. Another very busy event in some towns nowadays is the Post Prom lock in parties. They usually take place between May and June of each year. High school seniors who are graduating are invited to an all night party designed to keep them f rom getting drunk or in trouble. If you start calling schools in September, just as they start the school year, and f inding out who’s in charge of the event, you’ll usually be able to get your name listed as a possible band. Again, be sure you mail in your promo package so you can give them a good idea of what you have to off er. One of the advantages of working the Post Prom parties is that the school usually repeats the party every year. If you did a half way decent job, chances are you’re a shoe in for next years event. It’s steady work without having to dig too deeply. High schools also coordinate class reunions. Again they happen every year, but each year it goes to a different crowd. There are usually organizations in most towns that put these reunions together. Find out who the person in charge is, and get a press package to them. If they like you, you can pretty much count on doing the job yearly. In fact, many of these companies coordinate several class reunions every year (f or different schools). Getting on their “A” list i s a great way to stay busy. Another very busy market is the wedding reception group. They all need to look good, and you can off er the “class” that sets them above the classic D.J. To break into this market, try printing up an elegant looking brochure specif ically designed for weddings (with pictures of your group performing during wedding receptions). Leave a stack of them at the tux shop, various print shops around town (where people would print wedding invitations), at


all the choice wedding reception locations (hotels, that little cottage by the lake, etc.) and give a f ew to each preacher in town. They all are called regularly to do weddings and might have your brochure available when couples call. State fairs also book bands regularly. You’ll want to contact them about 8 months bef ore f air date and start negotiating. Most wil l want to hire you to do a single song (or maybe 10 minutes) on a stage somewhere. If you f ind out who the sponsors are f or the stages (it’s the Budweiser stage), you can call them and off er to do an extended concert. If they let you do it, you can all agree to wear Bud t-shirts, which is really what their into it for. Now suddenly you’ve become the Budweiser band, and as you go f rom f air to f air, you may be able to arrange to have a letter move ahead of you te lling the fair that you’ll be doing a 3 hour concert on the Bud stage. Keep up with the local department of recreation. They usually have something to do with street f airs, carnivals, etc. in your home town. All these events need entertainment, and if you can arrange to do your shows at a slight discount in exchange for the right to give out handouts promoting your upcoming show at the local club, they’ll probably jump at the chance to include you on their regular schedule. It wasn’t that long ago that all the Casino work in the country was limited to Nevada and Atlantic City. But things have certainly changed. Casinos are popping up everywhere where there’s a river or lake that can off icially keep them off state property. And every one of them has a serious need for entertainment, 24 hours a day. Try calling any casinos near you and asking f or the Entertainment Director. Explain who you are and the kind of music you do and f ind out if he’d mind if you send out a promo package. Be sure you get a def inite commitment on his or her part. These guys get tons of unsolicited packets a week. If you can’t f lag yours as being special, chances are it’ll end up in the stack of “maybe someday” stuff. If you have a sharp web site, this might be a good


time to mention it casually. If he takes the time to look at it before your package arrives, he might be a bit more motivated to hear what you sound like. Casino gigs can range f rom a duo singing oldies on a small platf orm in the corner of the slot machine area to a full orchestra doing a major show in the main ballroom. The advantage of these sate llite casinos around the country is that most of them don’t draw the crowds to merit the caliber of entertainer the MGM in Vegas might. Knowing that, casino entertainment directors aren’t quite as selective. They’re much more willing a to allow an unknown to get a break. Go in there, do a good job and you ’ll end up with all kinds of work. These guys have plenty of money. Just convince them you’re dependable and you can probably set your own hours. Another of ten ignored market is the Cruise Ship venue. Every cruise ship includes on board at least one major show room where they schedule occasional dances. W orking cruise ships is a very competitive market. You have to look sharp and play generic musi c (top f orties, oldies, etc.). People won’t be on board long enough to develop a f ollowing f or your personal stuff . The exception here, of course, is that truly f un groups (like the Smothers Brothers) who put on a show of their own tend to go over well. Groups that do musical bits without singing are also very popular with cruises that cater to several nationalities, where language is always a problem. The problem with working cruise ships is that everybody wants to do it, and the cruises know that. They don’t pay that well and often require band members to double as stewards or bar tenders when they’re not on stage. Another problem with cruise ships is that they ask for longer term commitments (usually 3 or more months). It may sound like an extended vacation, but to an entertainer it can be economic suicide. Not being able to keep up with your contacts and f ans for 6 months is a sure formula f or disaster. W hen you get back, you might as well plan on starting over. The upside of doing cruises is that all your basic expenses are paid f or. You may not be getting a f ortune per week, but you’re not having to spend any of it. W hen you walk off , six months later, you’ll end up with a half year’s worth of salary ready to use to get yourself going.


Any place where people are gathered is a potential market. If nobody else is doing it, it gives you the advantage.


Chapter T en

Thanks For The Memories You have the tools you’ll need to push towards the top. The day may soon come when you’ll be driving down the f reeway and suddenly you’ll hear somebody playing your song. You may get called to cut a record and move on to fame and fortune, but then again, probab ility says you’ll never make it. And it may not have anything to do with your talent. You may be a great band, with plenty of f resh, captivating material. But the world may not be ready f or you yet. Or you may get started on the f ast track only to f ind that your drummer f alls in love and decides he doesn’t want to go on the road. It’s a crazy business where the only sure thing is that there are no sure things. You can show up f or a gig only to f ind the club shut down last week. And then one day you’ll be sitting around in an old folks home somewhere. The guy sitting next to you will readjust his dentures as he brags about how he worked for Sears f or 28 years. That lady whose room is down the hall will smile as she mentions how she had a good, steady job that kept her at her desk f or 40 hours every week f or the past 46 years. One guy remembers meeting a president, another once traveled to Paris, and the English professor brags about f inishing his incredible novel. He then turns in shame as he admits it never got published. And then everybody turns to ask what you did with your lif e.


And you stop and thing about it for a moment. You remember struggling in a garage to get those chord changes just right. And you remember how good it f elt the f irst time you stood in f ront of a crowd and perf ormed. The warmth, the connection. It really didn’t matter how rich you were or what kind of car you drove. All that mattered was that you were with f riends, with people who paid to hear you do your thing, people who came to you to f ind an escape. And there in your audience were people who had worked for Sears f or many years, and there were secretaries with 40 years experience, and there were even a handf ul of world travelers. But when they came to the end of the day, when all their work was done, they used their hard earned money to come in and watch you do what you do. They lef t their homes and their jobs and they joined you f or a few moments. And you’ll think of the time the van broke down while you were on the road. You’ll remember f our guys keeping each other awake with their snoring. You’ll remember holding Tommy up while his drinking tried to buckle his knees. You’ll remember traveling 3 r d class across the country and having a blast doing it. And you’ll turn to the seniors waiting to f ind out what you did f or a living and you’ll tell them the truth. You’ll tell them you did exactly what you wanted to do. You enjoyed all the ups and downs along the way, and walked out a better person f or it all. A talk show host once asked Kenny Rogers what was the most exciting time in his lif e. W as it the moment he realized he had his f irst million dollars saved up? Did it come when he bought his f irst house, his f irst yacht? Of all the precious moments in his life, which ones did he treasure the most? W ithout hesitation, Kenny answered that his lif e was most complete, most exciting, when he was street performing back at his start. W hen he counted the penny’s being dropped in his had and hopped he’d make enough to be able to pay for one more week in his hotel. It was that time in his lif e when he pitted his talent against the world and kept on winning. The victories may have been small in the eyes of many, but to him, every one of them was but a step in the right direction. Kenny Rogers, who at the time of the interview was the highest paid performer in the world, most fondly remembered struggling to buy his dinner.


No, it’s not about becoming f ilthy rich, it’s about f inding out just how rich you are right now. It’s about realizing you’re doing what many can only dream about. It’s realizing that right now, where you are, you’re much happier than the likes of Elvis Pressley, Janice Joplin and a host of others who found that money and f ame weren’t the answer. Don’t ever cast your sights on fame and fortune. Those who have gotten there will tell you they miss the very struggle you’re going through now. Cast your sights instead on milking every day f or all it’s worth, on enjoying every tiny victory, and on creating the kinds of memories most will never understand. You may never reach the stars, but when you f inally sit, at the end of it all, you’ll know without a doubt that you’ve f lown much higher than most. So enjoy it now, while you can. W ork hard at it, and stay focussed on doing the best you can. But above all else, learn to appreciate what you’ve got right now, where you and the gang are right now. Those are the times Kenny Rogers, Elvis Pressley and Janice Joplin all wish belonged to them.

Copyright 2003 by Platinum Millennium, LLC. All Rights Reserved., The Industry Yellow Pages,,, 101 Music Business Contracts, and Music Business Millions are registered trademarks of Platinum Millennium, LLC. Al l ot her t radem arks are t he prop ert y of t hei r resp ect ed o wner s.


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inside information on how to be successful at making money for your music.