In our first monthly column, we sat down with Tim Price – co-owner of Pricewar Music – who has worked extensively in the promotions, publicity and management fields with acts such as The Good Ship & Epicdemic…Over – as well as playing drums in local Brisbane cabaret act, Bertie Page Clinic.
With his diverse background and experience, we though Tim could best lend his knowledge to the following question:
“What is the biggest mistake that young bands make whilst trying to break into the industry?”
Words by Tim Price
I think this question has a couple of parts to the answer. The first and foremost thing that I think needs to be acknowledged is that all advice and tips and tricks mean nothing if you aren’t writing the best music you possibly can – all the advice I have ever been given, all the industry people I have been lucky enough to have a beer or coffee with, all the conferences, workshops and panels I have attended all repeat the same mantra – “have a great song.”
So, this column will assume that you are writing great tunes or at least the best possible songs you can be writing. Without this in place, your path is infinitely more difficult. There are a number of pitfalls and opinions on what constitutes that, but that’s for another blog. So let’s assume that you write really great tunes. From there, I think there are a few major mistakes young bands make while trying to “break” into the industry.
1. Have an internal band agreement/contract.
2. Have a plan. Don’t rush.
3. Your band is a business. Treat it as such and register it/structure it properly.
4. Have an audience/fanbase. This is your biggest currency.
These four things are the biggest mistakes that a young band in the early phases of their career can make, in my opinion.
1. Have an internal band agreement or contract:
Set these things down in stone – how the business is set up, how money is paid back if people loan money to the band, how money is split/who gets paid for what, what each members’ roles and responsibilities, what happens if the band breaks up. Spending time on these things prevents a lot of heartache and grief if this eventuality ever takes place.
Give some thought to how you split your songwriting royalties in APRA. There are two schools of thought on how to do this, song by song and giving percentages only to the people who actively write parts for that song, or splitting the song royalties evenly for every song written together. Both are valid, but here’s Rob Nassif from Gyroscope’s thoughts on why they split the royalties evenly and why he believes it has contributed to their longevity (they’ve been playing music together for about 15 years now). http://thehenhouse.com.au/2012/11/its-not-the-most-talented-bands-that-make-it-its-the-most-persistent/
2. Have a plan:
Too many bands I see on Facebook and playing live gigs around the place have the great foresight to record their songs – that’s great! But one thing that I can see is the big problem is that they spend all their money on making the record and save NOTHING for the inevitable tour and promotion/publicity cycle (advertising, film clips, great that needs to take place down the track. Have a plan and a budget for recording AND releasing the record.
Once the record is recorded, just throwing the tracks up on Facebook and getting your mates to like it and posting a soundcloud/bandcamp link all over the Facebook walls of media sites is not going to cut it as a marketing plan. That’s just a marketing plan – have a business plan as well! The gist of this advice is to spend some time on the business side of things as well as on the creative side, until you can attract a manager (see point 2). If you want to know when a good time to get a manager is… read this blog, it’s amazing and gives you the manager’s perspective on when they feel like they should take up new artists – A letter to all musicians from Meghan Stabile – http://www.culturefphiles.com/a-letter-to-all-musicians-from-meghan-stabile/.
3. Your band is a business:
Yes, Music is Art and making great art should be its own reward, I get it. However, I see many bands saying they don’t care about money or even some bands criticising others for taking payment to play gigs, saying that they are sell-outs or ‘whores’. I believe it’s a band’s prerogative to decide if they will sell or give away their recorded music (the way things are, recorded music, especially singles, are treated as promotional items these days), but in terms of playing live, if you entertain a crowd, you deserve to be paid.
It costs money for every party involved to even just play a local gig, fuel, posters, marketing dollars, drinks, food etc. So why turn away money that can help you get to the next town or put into the kitty for the next recording or filmclip or new gear to write that new song?
The moment you begin treating your band like the business it is, you will utilise the income a lot better.
4. Have an audience/fan base:
Building this over time with your live shows, marketing/advertising and songs is the best way of doing this. Active connection and engagement is key and social media is great for that and there are heaps of tools to do so, but it doesn’t replace just being a great person and talking with folks after a gig, having a drink at the merch desk or mingling with the support bands and hanging with them and their fans if you are in another town. Go out for a drink after the show with some crew who liked your show, give something of yourself to your fans.
Dallas Frasca, The Good Ship, The Beards, Dead Letter Circus, Strangers – these are all bands who do this EXTREMELY well – go have a look at their social media, their live shows, their e-mail newsletters – they connect well.
Kicking off that relationship is all important. Your fanbase and your ability to put bums on seats is your currency – it’s your ticket to support large bands, to get a manager/booking agent, label, publisher – without this, you are not much – your songs may be the best in the world, but if you have been a douche in the past to ANYONE, you might find yourself perpetually playing your “amazing” songs to pretty much no-one. The Artist-fan relationship is all important, treat it that way and don’t be arrogant, ever!
I hope these words are helpful – if you need any further clarification on any points, feel free to email me or check out your state peak body for music – they are a great source of information and are always, ALWAYS helpful – check out http://www.amin.org.au to see who your peak body for music is in your state!
Many thanks to Tim for his time, words and advice. You can contact Tim or check out his work at: http://pricewarmusic.com.au