1, 2, 3, 4…now let’s move on.
“Ask yourself: ‘Would I wear this [shirt]?'” (page 100)
While interning, I would often overhear Ropeadope big boss Louis speak with clients of his other business, Banzai and when discussing designs, he’d always say, “Would you wear this”, implying that if you won’t wear it, why would the fans? So keep both your personal preferences as well as the demographic of the fans in mind when deciding on merch designs.
“Create custom shirts for your biggest fans” (page 102)
I referred to custom shirts in this post, but let me expand on the band’s plans. The lead singer is personally designing and silk screening a limited edition t-shirt for the band’s subscription plan. Granted not every band has an artistic member, but if there is, it would behoove you to take advantage of that whether it’s t-shirt design, logo, cover art, or tour posters and don’t be shy that this bandmember made said design. It brings the musician closer to the fans. For example, if I had the money, I would buy a Jerry Garcia painting, but if it was some random guy painting the same painting, I probably wouldn’t…get my point. However, I wouldn’t buy one of his ties in a million years.
“First off, tap into any free resources you can find.” (page 102)
The author may be referring to designers in this quote, but it really should apply to anything: friends with vans, friends/fans who do web design, street teamers to promoter your shows, do social networking promoting yourself instead of hiring a promoter….free free free free. It’s tough to be a new band, so it’s most likely gonna be a while til you make some dough. Get the freebies while you can get away with it.
“Having a consistent logo helps people identify and connect with you and your music.” (page 103)
Logos add to your longterm branding, so pick one that is easily identifiable, unique, and fits your style. Today, on my way back from dropping off Arthur at LaGuardia for his flight to Telluride, I saw the new(ish) ads for Snickers. They could say, “EAT SHIT AND DIE” in that logo and you’d still know it was Snickers. That’s power. The key is transferring that power to your band’s logo whether it’s just a unique font or way of writing your band’s name or an authentic design.
Examples of successful logos:
“A cheap shirt could sell like hotcakes and be a walking billboard for your band.” (page 104)
Fans wearing your shirts is free publicity (in fact, they’re paying YOU). Fans wearing your shirts shows other people you matter. Fans wearing your shirts gets people’s attention. Fans wearing your shirts gets people talking. Overall, it’s a win-win situation, if the design makes sense and it’s at a price that people will pay.
“Look for a cool niche product that fits with you and your audience.” (page 106)
Always, think of more unique ways to sell your likeness. I have a friend who is developing an iPhone game application for his band. However, I have a friend who failed at selling light switch covers, despite my best tries at persuading him otherwise. But if you’re truly taking a risk on a product, DON’T BUY IN LARGE QUANTITIES.
“In order to make music your life, you need to make money with it.” (page 108)
I know a promoter, who I will never work with again. He puts on shows that look good on paper, but don’t sell enough tickets to grant all of those bands on the same bill. A couple months ago, he gave me less money than the guarantee we agreed upon. He responded, basically saying, “It’s all about the music mannnnnn.” It is and it isn’t, but one thing is for sure, I need to eat, I need to pay bills, I want to enjoy life with fruits I have earned with hard work and the same is true for the musicians I book. He’s a complete moron for entering the music business. Please please please realize that your band is a business, so treat it as such. If you’re a professional musician (either band or session player) money matters.
“Set up a monthly band tax that will help fund band activities.” (page 109)
I like this a lot. I once told a band that all lived together to put all their change in a band bucket after each day, like you did when you were a kid. This is good because it doesn’t seem like you’re giving anything at all and adds up to A LOT OF FUCKING CHANGE at the end of each month. However, with not realizing your giving, it’s not really a tax, so maybe forking over a 20 every month will seem more “taxing” and convey a certain level of commitment to the band.
“Keeping track of your money is crucial as you start making and spending more.” (page 109)
My buddies from college and I always rip on my friend Scott for being suuuuuch a huge nerd about accounting for where he spends his money. However, to be honest, when you’re on the road, it is tough to track expenses unless you’re being a “Scott” and keeping a spreadsheet on your phone of every penny you spend (note: I know not everyone’s band has someone with a smart phone, so a pad and paper will suffice). You don’t want to be in a situation where you have no band money for gas and you have to use someone’s personal credit card to pay.
“[Media] filter out the crap to help you find good music and, in doing so, amplify the careers of the
artists that do get through.” (page 112)
I remember reading an article on Man Man a couple years ago. While I was reading, I realized that I didn’t even have to have heard their music or know anything about them, to have a good idea of what they sounded like just by their responses. So think to yourself, do I act like my music? Do I talk like my music? Do I look like my music? Do I have an interesting story about how the band met or how a song was written or quirky experience from the road. These things stand out to the media and make them wanna hear what you have to say.
“Making Friends with Media” (page 113)
This is industry of developing relationship. Who you know is power, so don’t be like the aforementioned promoter and think it’s all about the music. No one’s gonna be able to hear your music if you don’t know the right people, so suck it up and act nice. You don’t have to be a sell out. In fact, stay true to yourself and who you are, but be vocal about it long enough for people to want to know more about you.
“Blogs exist to find stories that will interest them and their readers.” (page 113)
You can’t contact a blogger and be like, “my music is awesome. Write a good review.” If you email them with a generic email, why would they give a shit about you? They don’t know you and you sound boring, so with the quantity of submissions they get, why would they bother even listening. If you differentiate yourself with “your story”. it makes them intrigued to hear what you’re like.
“What are you going to gain from touring?” (page 116)
Don’t tour aimlessly. Don’t tour for the sake of touring. Have the foresight to sit down MONTHS (yes! months!) before you want to tour, write down where you want to go, who you know there, research what venues you can realistically play, research the local media, and more importantly what the purpose of this tour is…make money? get more fans? increase your street team? network with local industry folk? Make a plan and stick to it.
“Learn from mistakes without risking too much too soon.” (page 117)
You can’t predict everything on tour (i.e. that there’d be NO gasoline in Nashville), but there are things that you will fail at, miserably. However, realize that people make mistakes, but idiots repeat the same mistake time and time again. So learn from your mistakes, but realize that you WILL make them because, after all, that’s the fun of being on the road.
“Be persistent.” (page 117)
….with media, with talent buyers, with fans, with your music, with your bandmates! Be persistent! No one said you were gonna be famous after making a record. Some people get lucky, but most work hard for a long time, so breathe deep because it’s gonna be a long and bumpy ride to the top. If you stick to realistic goals without backing down and staying persistent, good things will come. You may not be a rock star, but who said being a rock star was so fucking good.
“As a safety precaution, always over estimate costs of gas, food, accommodations, beer, etc. and always underestimate your intake.” (page 119)
ESSENTIAL! There’s much room for error to be unrealistically optimistic about an uncertain and unpredictable future, so it’s better follow the advice of this quote than be stuck in Lincoln, Nebraska washing dishes to pay for your trip back home.