What You Need BEFORE Leaving the Rehearsal Studio
In a word: AWESOMENESS.
As an indie I go to a lot of local shows. I want to find and network with other bands, make friendships, and help support my scene. Some bands are great, some are good, and others are…’eh’.
The really great bands are firing on all cylinders. Great live show, great recordings, great merch table. The other bands always seem to be lacking in certain areas.
If the live show is THE most important thing for a band, then I think there are certain aspects, certain ‘Standards of Excellence’ that a band MUST achieve before stepping outside the rehearsal room. We just cannot afford to suck anymore, at all, no compromises. That doesn’t mean that you need to be perfect: to play a million notes a second, or whatever. Not perfection, just a commitment to excellence.
Here are a few Standards of Excellence I feel every band should consider the bare minimum before starting to gig regularly, if they expect to get results that is:
1. Tightness – the band must be tight tight tight. This falls mainly, I believe, on the drummer. There can be no wavering of the timing. Think ‘human metronome’, even if your music is very relaxed and you are playing behind the beat a lot. Once the tempo is set, you MUST NOT WAVER! The only fix, I believe, is to practice with a metronome 80% of the time, and 20% off. Of course, ALL the musicians must know their parts. My personal standard is that each member of the band must be able to play the entire tune, correctly, alone, without a recording or a metronome, from memory. You cannot fail if you have it down like that.
2. Pitch – Point blank, if you are singing, you must NOT be pitchy. If you are, then figure out why and fix it. You don’t have to be a musician to know when you hear something out of tune. Believe me, the audience knows, and no matter how much they love you, their ears and their brain are saying, ‘PLEASE MAKE IT STOP!’. If it means you need to get yourself some vocal lessons and/or in-ear monitors, DO IT! Backup singers as well. Guitarists, there is NO EXCUSE for being out of tune. Tuners are cheap cheap cheap, compared to losing all that merch sales because you were playing out of tune. Make sure your bending is accurate, that your vibrato is controlled (and please, SLOW DOWN YOUR VIBRATO), and don’t press the strings to hard and make them go out of tune. If your instrument won’t stay in tune, get a new one (not a used one, a new one from a bonafide music store). Change your strings often, at least before each gig. Yes, I know they cost money, but you will lose money just because you couldn’t spend $5 on a good set of strings. Drummers, PLEASE TUNE YOUR DRUMS…yes, we notice when your drums are not tuned.
3. Image – The first thing people know about your band is your name, and perhaps a photo of your band. These two aspects speak volumes about you before they ever hear your music, on-line or live. This is branding stuff. You are always communicating a message to your audience, live or digital. You must use that to your advantage and form an image that helps people get interested in you and your music. Some bands keep names when they should change them. They are not serving the band because they are not communicating what the band intends. Change them to speak a message, to entice people to want to listen to your music. And, of course, there’s your image. I’ve seen SO MANY bands hop on stage in street clothes or work clothes, not putting any effort into it. ‘Let the music speak for itself’ is not what the pros do. They pick their clothes carefully to form an image that says something about who they are and what sort of music they play. Be willing to make whatever changes necessary to form a congruent image of your band, speaking your message to your current and future fans, about who you are, and what sort of music they can expect to hear from you, live and digital.
4. Performance – If you are just going to play tunes, then don’t gig. Put a CD player on the stage, press play, and there you go. Your live performance must not be a bunch of deadish, stone faced, statues on the stage. Live performance is a VISUAL and AUDITORY experience. Work on it! Please!! Not talking choreography, but move around, and INTERACT with people. Create moments. And don’t just play a set of songs and then walk off the stage, do something fun and interesting, something you can’t get from listening to your CD. You should know exactly how much time you have on stage, and you must use that stage time wisely. You should not be trying to cram in as many songs as possible, play less songs and create more moments instead. I’ve seen bands that ask the engineer “how much more time do we have? Do we have time for a song or two more?” That is not pro. A Pro band will never do this because they’ve known for months exactly how much time they will have, and will rehearse a show, from beginning to end, for that time amount. Everything will be planned out, including that extemporaneous jam with the guest guitarist from another band. At this point, I will defer to the master Tom Jackson because all this is really his material. Buy his DVDs and live them as gospel.
5. Merchandise – Your merch table should NOT be a piece of cardboard with a price list written on it and stuff strewn about. It should be enticing, visually, so that people come and hang out there awhile. Mob mentality is that if something is going on and a group begins to gather, then more will come by. If some start buying and ask for autographs, then others will do the same. Your merch booth is your storefront and should not just be “the place you sell stuff”, but a meeting place off stage, the place where you hang out to meet and talk to people and get photos. Get a table cloth at the bare minimum; put some action on the table, lights, etc. One band I saw recently had a fold out Plexiglas case with their merch in it, like a department store, with light rope around it, and a computer screen with their web page, e-mail sign up form, and a video running in a loop. EVERYBODY was talking about how cool it looked and drew a lot of people to it. Only problem was, there was NOBODY WORKING THE BOOTH!!! They set up this awesome thing, and I actually had to pull the singer over as he was walking by to buy a CD from him.
6. Professionalism – Don’t be a ‘rock-star’, please. Nobody has time for it. This is your gig, you are responsible for doing all the prep work and marketing to get people to the show. DO NOT BE ON TIME…BE EARLY. Be respectful of everybody at the gig. Do not break your merch booth down until the last attendee has left. Give before you receive. Help people out, they are all trying to make this their living too. The more you are professional and desire first to help others achieve their goals, the more ready they will be at wanting to help you out. Go to other bands shows and support them. Help out the new guys and get them an opening slot on your bill. More doors will open to you just by showing up and seeking to serve first before taking. And, be personal with people in the biz. Not everyone wants to think music all the time, they really want cool friends to work with. Be a good friend and it will be returned to you.
7. Recordings – This is one area that you cannot afford to compromise. Listen, if you can produce a great recording, a recording that is broadcast quality, ready for radio, in your basement….God bless you! But if you can’t, if it doesn’t measure up, then DO NOT RELEASE IT TO THE WORLD. I’ve heard some awesome bands live, and gotten their CD, listening on the way home…and it SUCKED big time. Am I going to go back to see them live….eh, thinking about it, but probably not. Am I going to tell all my friends about this new band…eh, probably not. Yes, getting a pro level recording is expensive, so the lure is to buy your own gear and DIY. Well…you have to then ask yourself, ‘do I want to be an artist or a producer?’ If you can do both and be good at it, again, more power to you. But don’t fool yourself. One of the primary means of marketing for any band, signed or unsigned, is word-of-mouth recommendations. That means file sharing. You actually don’t want, you NEED to have people like you so much that they rip your CD and share all the files with their friends. There is no better marketing than this. If your recordings suck, they will most likely NOT pass it on to their friends, and if they do their friends will probably not like it and not forward it on to their friends. Again, I know it’s expensive, but realize that if you want to make money, you have to spend money. You need to invest serious cash if you expect to make serious cash. A friend of mine named , once he got a producer and bit the bullet, actually got his music on Billboard’s Jazz charts. NO JOKE! Like…the next CD, radio spins (which also cost a lot of money for a radio promoter). No compromises, your recordings must by HOT or your fans will turn cold.
I know some of this material might be old hat to some, but the fact that many bands fail on these points tells me that we all might need a refresher. I pray that you sell a million CDs and go full time soon.
I wanted to share that I just hired Nashville Producer Eric Copeland from Creative Soul to record my first full length album!
Having my stuff produced by an experienced producer, in Nashville, with the Nashville sessions musicians…you know it’s going to sound OFF THE CHAIN! Wicked awesome, I’m so psyched.
I’m having a Celebration for it at my next gig at Chapala’s Blue Beetle Rock Bar in Burtonsville, MD, 30 September11. I’ll be treating everyone to some awesome chips and salsa and chili con queso. Chapala’s has great food, and is a really intimate venue for bands.
Mark your calendars and celebrate with me! There will be other bands that night too, so it’ll be a party all around.
Stay tuned for updates on the Album; I’ll be sharing the journey with blog posts and videos, maybe a few mixes and teasers here or there.
Seth Godin’s blog today is very inspiring to me. He talks about “the heckler”, that voice inside telling you “You’re not good enough,” or, “you don’t deserve this,” etc.
I’ve wrestled with this phenomenon for years. What’s worse is, as a Christian, sometimes I can confuse the “heckler” for God’s “still small voice”. I get depressed with thoughts like, “Your never going to be good enough.” and “Your too old, fat, hairy, _____________”. Then there are the more spiritually bent thoughts like, “Your so proud…you are not being humble.” or “It’s all about you, you selfish person,” which attack my sense of faithfulness and desire to honor God. It’s really a daily struggle.
I always thought about others, others who are where I want to be, and wonder if they ever thought those thoughts. I mean, how could they? They are successful, they didn’t let doubt cloud their judgment, but pressed through in faith and confidence, relentlessly, right? Well…perhaps not.
Perhaps they were just more successful at ignoring the “heckler” than I’ve been?
I had a great time at Guido’s! It’s a cool place, lots of people were there.
I want to shout out especially to the the David’s for hanging out with me. Jay even put his sound tech expertise to work and helped me set up the PA too.
Here are a couple pics of some new friends from the gig. They won a raffle for free T-Shirts and a CD!
Hope to see all my new friends at Guido’s again real soon.
The Monster’s of Shred are coming to Essex Maryland!
Matthew Mills / Marq-Paul LaRose (me) / Balor’s Eye and Spartan Death Kick
Sinix Rock Club
525 Eastern Blvd
Essex, MD, 21221
Buy your tickets today here: http://shredheart.eventbrite.com
Hey guys. Check out this video that my good friends BR MacDonald and Jeff Hardwick did at the Veteran’s Tribute show. Thanks to Josh Davidson of Be More Films for the clip.
This night was so AWESOME! The venue was fantastic and the artists were top notch. About 150 people showed; the place was packed! Josh Davidson took some great photos, check them out here on his facebook.
Drew Davidsen was great, and thanks so much for his band backing me up on my new song, “Homeward Bound”. I will be adding that to the rotation of new music to be released to my e-mail list. Just subscribe via the widget on the front page called “FREE DOWNLOADS!” to get it when it comes out.
Finally got some images on the site. Josh Davidson hooked me up with a photo shoot for these. Aren’t they sweet?
Have a good one!
Just got my ReverbNation connection to my Facebook connected to my Twitter connected to my….my….knee bone! Yikes!
Thanks for coming by and checking out my new website. Check back frequently as they’ll be lots of updates like gigs, CD specials, lessons, and who knows what else!