Last night I attended a stacked local show in support of Duck. Little Brother, Duck!'s current U.S. tour. During the band's set, an attendee - who, for argumentative purposes was a bit intoxicated - screamed out, "Sell me your music!" It's interesting to hear such a phrase in an age where no one gets money for anything, and everyone gets chicks, music, movies and most of their entertainment for free. The music fan wanted to give a touring band money. Think about that for a second. Think about the level that Duck. Little Brother, Duck! are at right now. Small touring bands don't pull much from merch, and the gas generally comes from the door or the bar percentage - and if lucky, a guarantee here and there.
The reason that fan's comment stuck with me the rest of the night was because of the news from Monday which Circa Survive had announced. After releasing their last album, 2010's Blue Sky Noise, on Atlantic Records, the band decided to take the route that mewithoutYou took earlier this year with Ten Stories and release their upcoming album themselves. While Violent Waves will be released in CD, digital and vinyl formats - well priced around your average record store pricing (the digital copy only $5) - the band released two "expensive" packages. One limited to 100 for $250 dollars and one limited to 11 for $750. Guess what, two days later I'm checking on them, and they're both sold out. But when announced, many were baffled at such a price for a bundle many of us couldn't begin to afford. Most bundles up to this point generally round out a little above $100 here and there.
As outrageous as people thought the prices were, they're really not as uncommon as some packages have been for Kickstarter projects over the years. This time, Circa Survive surpassed the investment and put up the front end themselves, looking for a bit of payback to cushion costs thereafter. Along with mewithoutYou, this may be the counter answer that naysayers against the idea of Kickstarter were hoping would eventually happen. It'll be interesting to see how many other established bands take stride in this direction. I say "established" because selling packages at those prices means you better have a damn good following. No new touring band is going to be able to pull off something like this model - it definitely takes a large fan dedication.
On Tuesday, before the show, I ended up taking an afternoon browsing the record stores around town and even stopping into Half Price Books to browse their $1.00 CD section. With a few purchases that afternoon from the trek, it made me wonder about "How much would I be willing to pay for this?" over and over in my head. Now, on one level it's because I have to make sure I have rent and then some extra in my bank account in a few days, but I also thought about how having backdoors like Mediafire and streaming systems such as Spotify has still changed the way I think about purchasing music. That in itself is very interesting to me. I wouldn't pay full price for Filter's Short Bus, but a $1 for a used copy? Sure. I wouldn't buy a first press of Converge's No Heroes at the prices I've seen on eBay or Deadformat, but $15 still sealed - I've got to snag it.
Those kind of thoughts run through my mind all the time. I wonder if I'm bastardizing the price of what I pay for any type of media not only because of personal funds, but how much it's actually worth to me versus how much it seems to be worth to others. What Circa Survive and mewithoutYou have done is tap into their fan base to see how much people think they're music is truly worth. It's a risk that has paid off for now. While I know some of you are saying, "Well, the same can be said for Kickstarter," the difference here is that the product is already finished. The band put up the investment - not the fans. It's a reminder that there are enough people out there saying "Sell me your music!" to keep great music alive. While there's a lot of "free" out there, some people still feel connected enough to a band and their music that they continue to say, "Take my money. Please!"
This week Colin Frangicetto of Circa Survive is laying down five tips for you up-and-coming bands out there.
I racked my brain for something to write about that might actually offer something useful to those who read it, so I thought about what questions people ask me the most at shows and in emails. Often it is something like, “How can my band be professional and get on tours?” or “How can my band get a record deal?” or “Where’s Anthony?”. Since I can never answer that last question properly, I decided to write about the things you shouldn’t do if you’re a band that’s just getting started. Take it or leave it suckers.
Disclaimer: No one can give you a sure-fire way to the top, especially not me. So, that means no one can tell you how to fail either. (This also means me, so don’t believe anything said in this blog.) This is meant for people who are dead set on trying to “make it.” My ultimate advice for anyone playing music is this: don’t try to “make it.” Make music because you want to, because you love it and absolutely need to or your head will implode. To increase your chances of finding success: work hard, stay humble, treat all people with respect and always have low expectations in order to consistently stay pleasantly surprised. The rest of this article is for you dopes that are convinced it has more to do with “promotion” and bullshit like that.
These are the top 5 beginner mistakes.
Making a "press kit" and sending it to everyone in the music industry...
A few years back, it was the standard thing to do. Every band had a package that included their demo, a glossy group shot of themselves awkwardly trying to look natural, a one page “bio” written anonymously by their de facto manager (otherwise known as singer's best friend) and a press page consisting of every mention the band received on Absolutepunk.net. It’s called a press kit, but talent agencies, management companies and record labels all over the world will often call it “unsolicited material.” This means that because they didn’t request it, they are not even legally allowed to open it. The days of sending stuff like press kits and demos willy-nilly all over the place are no more. I like to call the press kit “un-intentionally recycled paper” or the “money down the toilet” kit. For a band just getting started, your presence on the internet will function as your press kit until someone else makes it for you and solicits your material in the correct fashion. Don’t waste anymore of your money, time and paper! Focus on writing good songs the rest will follow.
Spamming other bands' Myspace pages...
We’ve all seen it… You go to the ‘The Faux-Hawk All-Stars’ Myspace domain to hear their new single, start scrolling down the comments and come across a message for you: “Hey there, you like The Faux-hawk All-Stars? Well come to our page and check us out, we sound just like them!” While Myspace may not be what it once was, it still is a place where a lot of people listen to their favorite bands as well as discover new ones. Besides being horribly annoying, there are a bunch of reasons not to do this. First, with all the spam happening on Myspace, most people will be so scared of having their account hacked that they won’t even consider clicking that link. Secondly, if they do follow your link, you have been downgraded in most people’s minds before they even hit play. By comparing yourselves to someone’s favorite band(s) you’re creating nearly impossible shoes for yourself to fill. You’re not the cool new band someone randomly discovered on Myspace, you are the band that dared to say they sound like The Faux-Hawk All Stars and failed miserably to live up! There are no short cuts here. If you want more friends on Myspace, go old school and manually add other bands’ friends who accept friend requests from bands. If for some reason I am wrong and this it in fact does help bands get fans… Please just stop doing it to our page. ^smiley face^
Booking multiple hotel rooms on your first van tour...
If it’s your first tour, then chances are you are traveling in a van (or possibly multiple cars). It is also likely that you’re getting paid somewhere between $100-500 dollars a night to play. This may sound like common sense to some, but you’d be surprised how many bands I’ve witnessed booking multiple hotel rooms every night extremely early in their careers. Don’t do it! Put a sign up at your merch table saying you need a place to stay. Then announce it on stage. You’ll be shocked at how successful this approach can be. If someone offers you a place to stay… be polite, don’t steal anything, don’t eat their food, don’t trash the place, and then stay in touch for next time! (Unless they wind up being brain-sucking zombies…promptly remove their heads from their bodies.) Another tip is instead of going to the drive through or eating out, go to the supermarket and buy pasta to cook at their place. Cook band meals every chance you get! Staying at people’s houses/apartments is not only way more cost effective then staying at a hotel, but you can make friends for life this way. In the beginning, every dollar counts, and when your transmission shits the bed in the middle of Odessa, Texas, you’re gonna be stoked you have that extra $2,000 bucks in the band lockbox. Challenge yourselves and make a 1-hotel room per week rule. When you do get that one hotel room...book it by “naming your own price” through Priceline….and use betterbidding.com before placing your bids. (Don’t tell Shatner I said that.)
Starting to play shows after you've written four songs...
This is pretty much the number one mistake I watch new bands make over and over. The reason why it is a mistake could be many things. Usually, it's because you are just not ready! Yes, your 20 friends that come will think you are great, but the rest of the audience will not be as kind. Even in the beginning, you want every performance to count. People are total dicks when it comes to first impressions. You suck once, you will be “that sucky band” when people see your name on a flyer from then on. Another reason is that it kind of nails you to a certain sound right away. A lot of bands are still finding their sound within the first 10 or so songs they write, and you want to have the ability to experiment with a bunch of extremes before you play to the public. When you’re just starting, you should be able to change your sound without having people criticize you. As soon as you start making fans, the clock has started and it’s not very easy to wind it back and start over. Of course it's awesome to play shows and there are exceptions to every rule, but if you are attempting to make your band a career, then you might want to wait until you are sure to blow minds.
Uploading your album to Pirate Bay as a popular band's new release...
I’m actually kidding, this is pretty fucking genius. (Unless you’re horrible.)
When did rock and roll stop being rock and roll and start being a game of indie bullshit? Seriously. Do you think our parents ever cared whether their favorite bands were part of certain labels or evolved their sounds for the better or the worse. Sometimes I like to believe that I'm part of the minority of critiquing assholes, when I really should be playing air guitar in my boxers and a shirt in front of my mirror like the millions of others in the world.
Right guys? Am I right?
After witnessing Coheed and Cambria's headlining tour last night in Austin, I'm prone to believe that I have lost a bit of my innocence in just feeling the rock and not judging every little bit of progression, or lack thereof.
Opening the show were Torche. Loud. Abrasive. Definitely something to wake the audience from any sort of boredom of standing in line outside the venue for the past few hours. Only issue with the set was singer-guitarist Steve Brocks lack of vocals in the monitor. But in the end, the key element to Torche is less the words and more the rock.
Circa Survive hit the stage with a back line of mirrors. A novel idea, and one that worked well with the band's live show. It's a show that is more of an experience than ever now. Much of this is due to two things. The first is how the band are stretching out songs with intros and added lines. The second is frontman Anthony Green's stage presence and interaction with the crowd. "There is one dude in the back that is definitely not smiling. This song is for you brother," Green says with a smile on his face. At one point Green climbs across the stage pit and almost demands the audience to belt out one of the band's songs, microphone beating against his heart. No matter how you feel about the band's new album, they have certainly shifted themselves into artists that have completely submerged themselves in their music, and are intent on the audience feeling the same way.
I'm probably more guilty than anyone for turning my back on Coheed and Cambria. The Second Stage Turbine Blade is still one of my favorite albums of all time. I was a fan of the band's two follow-ups. My gripe was particularly with the band's last installment that felt less like an album that stood out like its predecessors. When it comes down to it, and especially with their latest, Year of the Black Rainbow, the band still know how to shred and write traditional rock songs in their own prog-rock right. Shred is what they did on stage. The night opened with "The Broken," as something was wrong with frontman Claudio Sanchez's guitar, throwing it to the ground, grabbing the mic and heading to the crowd. Pissed off for whatever technical reason, it seemed to fuel the set, and two songs in, made for a fire in "Everything Evil." As fist pumped in the air as the band closed their set with "In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3," the band retreated before coming back to encore with "Far," "Welcome Home" and "21:13."
In the end, last night's show made me feel torn between my age. In one sense, I feel like the old, stubborn bastard of a writer and critic longing for the feelings of music I once had. I think those feelings stem from the grace of discovering these bands so many years ago as a new sound, a bright color to my audible timbre. I feel young though, because like many of my older fellow journalists, I'm just now feeling the blunt of how the bands I once looked at as a discovery, have grown into bigger acts. Maybe it's a loss of intimacy that is the bitter bug gnawing at my back.
In the end, this is all just great rock and roll. Let's just enjoy it while we have it, and stop complaining about what it once was and is now. In the end, if the music breeds a passion and an experience, then enjoy the show.
Oh, nu-metal. Where have you been lately? I've longed for your bastardization of shoegazing 90's alternative with your hip-hop rhythms and abrasive "daddy" issues bled across your less than poetic Top 40 hits. I need another Family Values Tour 99' and a Hybrid Theory to fall upon my ears again.
Alas, I have another issue (not the kind KORN were talking about): it lies here. It's an existence that pokes needles at my spine and wears heavy on my head. I've even grown for a distaste of Kraft's individually wrapped cheese over the years. As I feel some relief with bands like Muse and Foo Fighters still holding great rock music together on a main stream front off the beaches of Normandy, I can't help but think there's still a sound worthy for the masses that's not as cheap as the local store's own individually sliced bread loafs.
Enter my week with Circa Survive's Blue Sky Noise already. With a jump to a major label, I think the boys have grown to make audible nuances of alternative growth ready for the masses without losing any integrity or recognizable stance of their beginnings. It will have some fans stand off to the side, scratching their heads for a few listens, while hopefully newer fans will embrace what the radio has delayed them from listening to for so long.
But aren't we the cool kids who knew first?
With a new class ready to take the rock radio reins -alliteration cheese- the community is about to lay their ears onto two bands who have already made their mark. One who have held attention and fans for some years now, and one that disappeared and are looking to return.
Deftones will release their highly anticipated return, Diamond Eyes, next month. From the first two tracks, it is, well, Deftones material. The vocals are feathering to fingernails scratching at chalkboards at a collegiate level. It's what we wanted, and for the most part, people seem pleased.
Then we have Far, returning to music after skipping a decade, with At Night We Live. Highly reminiscent of how I still feel about Filter's Short Bus, there's a sonic blast of guitar and vocals. As I'm brought back to what Far were known for, I wonder if kids will understand that now. If a band called The Smashing Pumpkins came along and released Siamese Dream today, is it the tree in the forest that falls and no one gives a shit, or is it still a necessity to fall and plug the oversupplying flood like a dam?
Like I felt a lot of the past few years' indie implements have been a revitalization of 80's synth and pop, it seems there are bands that still care about the songwriting and arrangements of mid-90's alternative sirens and to-the-point choruses. Maybe this is what we need right now. Maybe we need someone to show us that rock music isn't dead on a mass level -- maybe we just shot it in the face with all our high priced bullshit glam and what-thefuck-ever "artistic creativity."
It's just music. For so long I wanted the masses to hear it. Finally, I think they'll get their chance with Circa Survive and take in their past loves of Far and Deftones. At least they can have something with substance, and not substance abuse.