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Being in a Band for Dummies

1. Material

The record you make and the songs on that record are the nucleus of your career. Everything you do revolves around those songs. And you're only as good as your songs. How you look, how you
fit into the scene, your IMAGE is secondary to what you're actually
playing.  And, if you want career longevity, you've got to write or co-write your own
material.  Oh, there are exceptions.  Very COSTLY exceptions. But, by writing your own material you give people a
chance to BELIEVE IN YOU!  Without revealing yourself, there's no hook.  
Revealing yourself in "Vanity Fair", or god help me "Us", is not like
revealing yourself in your songs.  Music has a power, a way of conveying
meaning that NOTHING ELSE CAN!  No image, no other words.  If you're
truly smart, just put out the songs and say very little. Work on your Craft.

2. Website

If you don’t want to do the smart thing and just create a My space page, then do your own website. Create a place where fans can rally, where people can discover your
music.  Be SURE the URL is your band name only that your site is not
hosted at another server and the URL is mac.com or msn.com or ANYTHING ELSE
dot com.  And, this site must be FAST!  And never run out of capacity.  
How the site itself looks is ALMOST IRRELEVANT!  One can make a strong
case that the fancier the site, the bigger the turn-off to the public.  
If you can afford a Flash programmer, what are your priorities?  Music
or image?  Your site doesn't have to be as basic as craigslist.org, but
Craig has got it much more right than wrong.  His site is intuitive,
and FAST!  You can find what you need immediately.  Which is why at the
top of your homepage you're going to have: Bio, News, Music, Tour Dates,
Message Board, Contact.  Put these in BIG LETTERS at the TOP OF THE
PAGE!  Don't make it TOUGH for people.

And, if you're VERY smart, you're going to give away MP3s.  Hopefully
on the homepage, with no click-through required.  That's the key, to GET
reason that at today's Internet speeds there's a delay, and most of the
streaming software sucks.  And NEVER have music launch with the site
itself.  This is anathema to the surfer.  If he can find your site, he can
find your music, assuming you make it easily locatable on your page!

3.  Empower Your Fans

DON'T create a street team.  At least nothing CALLED this.  Just give
fans tools to get the word out.  Make it easy for them to e-mail MP3s.  
Make it easy for them to communicate with OTHER fans.

And when you go on tour, EMPLOY YOUR FAN BASE!  If you've made it and
are flying, have them pick you up at the airport.  But, since you're
developing, have them host you at their houses.  For dinner, to SLEEP!  
This will be a story they'll never forget.  You can count on them
FOREVER!  They'll be HEROES in their town if you ever make it.  Let the hard
core into the gig for free.  And give a discount to others on your
Website.  And, at the gig, give them stickers, and posters, and any other
kind of memorabilia you can come up with.  People want a piece of you, it
helps them believe, GIVE IT TO THEM!

And put up an MP3 of the show on your site.  People want to remember
the gig THEY were at.  And, if you can afford it, give away music at the
show.  It would be best to allow them to plug their iPods in to get
tracks, but you can always give away CDs.

4. Embrace File-Trading

If you want to break an act, you MUST support P2P.  Because it spreads
the word that you're into spreading the MUSIC!  That THAT'S what's
important.  It's a signal for your fans to do their work, that you're
supporting them.  As for losing sales...  True fans want the CD anyway.  At
least for now.

5. Touring

If you don't play live, you can't make it in the new paradigm.  
Non-tourers should sign to a major label, and utilize their marketing dollars.  
Otherwise, buy a van and some gas, and hit the boards.  Play ANYWHERE
and EVERYWHERE you can.  Hopefully, multiple times/gigs a week.  Because
NOTHING builds a fan base like live shows.  People can feel the energy,
they can feel the MUSIC!  They have an EVENING, where they hang with
their buddies, and make new friends.  Every gig should resemble a night
at summer camp.  An indelible life-changing experience that you'll never
forget.  Start locally, and then build regionally.  DON'T worry about
conquering the whole nation, or world.  There's TIME for that.  Great
acts develop slowly.  AND, unlike in the olden days, with the Internet
and a mobile society, if you make it in one place the people from that
region will go to college or move elsewhere and create a fan base you can
play to live in this NEW market.

6. Radio

Don't pay anybody to get you on.  And don't service a station.  If a
station isn't coming after you, FORGET ABOUT THEM!  Except for
non-commercial stations.  Play ball with college stations, and public radio
stations that have music shows that expose your genre.  People who listen to
THESE stations BELIEVE IN THEM!  And thus, will be prone to believing
in you.  Sure, if a big station plays you, and if you're hot, eventually
they will, things are changing, SUPPORT THEM!  Go give an interview.  
But DON'T play the radio show/radio station concert/gig.  This cavalcade
of stars behemoth rapes you of your specialness.  You specialize in
blowing people's minds at a special event that burnishes YOUR image, not

And, support satellite radio (send THEM your music), and in the coming
years, Internet radio.  Sure, the footprint is now small, but so was
FM's in the late sixties.  XM is programmed by believers FOR believers.  
XM breaks acts.  Just VERY slowly.  But that's your strategy, so THROW

7. Never Sell-Out

It stops your fan base in its tracks.  Oh, you might get some casual
listeners exposed to your music, but the hard core will now be done with
you.  They thought you were THEIRS, but now they realize you're Madison
Avenue's.  No one's lining up to get endorsements from THEM!  The
corporations are the ENEMY!  If you switch teams, you're done!

Once you make it, your image is EVERYTHING!  It must be guarded
PRECIOUSLY!  You have to make sure people still believe in you.  Partying at
star waterholes, buying Rolls-Royces which are featured in
tabloids...you become a CARTOON, and nobody believes in a cartoon (other than the
REAL cartoons, like "The Simpsons", which have more credibility than
today's musicians).

8. Maintenance

A constant flow of product.  A new record a year at least.  Look at the
Dave Matthews Band, there's at least one authorized live CD package a
year.  Constantly give away new material on your Website.  Even DEMOS!  
Don't KEEP the music from people, GIVE IT TO THEM!  They want the WORK
projects along with the FINAL projects!

Don't repeat the formula.  Constantly evolve.  The Beatles taught us
this, and Madonna reinforced the paradigm.  If you're not growing, you're
losing your audience.  THEY'RE getting married, having kids, getting
fired, getting divorced, having grandkids.  Why should they expect you to
always look the same and play the same music?  The more normal you
appear, the more you write about your life or explore new musical styles,
the more people can relate to you.

9. The Game

Only the game is changing, the music remains the same.  It's about
sheer creativity.  Capturing lightning in a bottle and exposing people to
it.  The only thing that's different is how this exposure is

10. Find A Mentor

There are lots and lots of very talented people out there awaiting your call. I’m serious! Call Them! Ask for help. The worlds best athletes in the world need a coach. So do you if you’re serious.

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