If it was the first Tuesday of the month, that must mean it was time for a meeting of the Mutual Admiration Society. Never heard of the MAS? Not familiar with the slogan "Bands Holding Hands Holding Bands"? Don't feel bad. This society is a recently formed one.
Spearheaded/hosted by Josie Fluri (New Roman Times), the MAS was conceived by Fluri, along with Devin Moore (Bloom) and Brad Kaschner (ex-Padallock Grafts) as a potluck dinner for local rockers. It's a simple and attractive idea: Bring a dish and, with all these other musicians around eating free food, you'll have the opportunity to pimp your own shows, get hitched to another band's show, trade gear, learn things and generally "network" without feeling like a dick.
Great idea, right? Well, Josie obviously thought so, and decided to host MAS meetings at her house. Musicians being musicians, though, very few got motivated to attend and the idea lay dormant for a while. But when Josie and bandmate/husband Dan Owens bought the bar space above Ballard & Corum and renamed it Red Light, Red Light, it was immediately apparent that they had a great new home for the Society. So, only a few days after a grand-opening party, the Society convened.
And people showed up. Lots of 'em.
I saw members of History, Country Slashers, Summerbirds in the Cellar, D Street, New Roman Times (of course), a band manager, a label owner, a radio station guy and my Orlando Citybeat doppelgänger, Bao Le-Huu. And I only stayed for a little over an hour. Apparently, after the Rilo Kiley show at House of Blues let out, the bar packed out with the rest of Orlando's indie-rock glitterati.
Vegetarian lasagna, brownies, salad, quiche and other musician-brought delectables weighed down a table, cheap drinks flowed from the bar, corkboards filled up with notices of upcoming shows, musicians needed and gear for sale. I'm not sure how much "networking" was done, but it definitely was the sort of community-building event that this city's music scene could use more of and I felt pretty privileged to be there.
ROCK BAND 101
So, bands can hold hands can hold bands, but if a band can't hold its own, then it doesn't deserve any help, as far as I'm concerned. I had a conversation recently with a promoter at one of Orlando's premier live music venues. He was bemoaning the fact that bands tend to be their own worst enemies when it comes to organization and professional interactions. Of course, he said, he didn't expect (nor want) bands to be businessmen, but "could they at least have a fucking phone number that they answer?"
"You know," said this promoter, "you should write a column about that."
Now, I hear that little gem a lot, but I must say that he has a point. Bands have so many options these days when it comes to getting their shit together Myspace, Sonicbids, $99 CD-R burners that there's really no excuse for even the most slack and disorganized of bands to have trouble promoting themselves. But apparently bands are still largely composed of musicians, and musicians are notorious for, um, overlooking the details. So allow me to impart a little bit of knowledge as far as absolute, ground-floor basics that every single band should have in place if they want to get the attention they so cravenly desire from promoters and from the press. For this first installment of Rock Band 101, I'm going to talk about your website. Pay attention.
1) Have a real website. Myspace is great, but it's also pretty annoying. Remember, Myspace was designed as a community/networking site. Thus, it's a great way to make new fans and keep those fans informed, but impressing your fans is only part of your job. Oh yeah: Flash is bad, HTML is good and music that plays automatically is obnoxious.
2) Have hi-res photos available. Every band needs to invest in professional photographs. There are lots of great band photographers around town and it's really not that expensive. (Don't let the drummer's girlfriend do it and don't forget, brick walls and staircases are not cool under any circumstances.) You need to have these pictures available on your website, in color and in high resolution (300 dpi). You wouldn't believe the number of bands I've had to minimize coverage on simply because I couldn't find a photo of them.
3) Have music available. Duh. Have high bitrate MP3s (128kbps or better) of at least four songs posted on your website. If you're mumbling something about "stealing music" right now, you should be so lucky as to have people trading your MP3s via P2P. 4) Have a decent biography. You need to have the basic facts about your band full names of members, instruments played, important dates, a discography available. You can present these facts in a witty or original way, just make them clear and accurate.
5) Have real contact information. I can't stress how important this is. So many bands can't wait to have their own firstname.lastname@example.org e-mail address, but they forget to ever check it. So include an e-mail address that you check at least once a day, and a phone number that someone answers (or at least checks the voicemail). When someone contacts you, respond quickly. Often there are deadline pressures involved with us writer-types, and when that promoter calls you about playing a show on short notice, you're not the only band he's calling.