OK, so you've formed your band (or found your DJ, or found the stool you'll be using in your solo act). Hopefully, you've practiced. And maybe you've even found the time to write songs that don't suck. So now it's time to become a rock star. If you pay attention to the advice of Orlando music veterans who've been there and done that, the odds against you might only be ... oh, a million to one. So get cracking, bucko, and remember Orlando Weekly when it comes time to give exclusive, post-breakout interviews.
Remember, you're going to have to be in a very small van for a very long time with these people. And just because they look cool doesn't mean they can write good songs.
Adam Gaynor, matchbox twenty: "One of the first things you need to do to get signed is focus on writing good songs with mass appeal. You can have the greatest hair in the world, you can have the greatest clothes in the world and have the greatest guitars in the world, but unless you start on the basis of good songs, it's all icing on a cake that was never fully baked."
Donovan Lyman, Blue Meridian: "Until a band has earned the opportunity to take their project to the nation and world, they are like a baseball club in spring training: hopefully honing their sound and, yes, even going through as many members as possible until a lineup exists that shares a lot of the same vision and level of dedication."
No. 2: Play some shows. Then play some more
It's nowhere near as hard to get a club to give you a chance as you might think. At first, the hard part will be getting people to come see your band. That's where posting fliers, harassing people on the streets and guilt-tripping your friends comes in.
Jim Faherty, Figurehead Promotions (and former owner of Sapphire): "[To] anybody who has a CD or has the gumption to play, it's pretty much open booking anywhere. Go to a club and say, 'What's your worst day? We'll make sure you've got a crowd.' You kind of work your way up to the weekends."
No. 3: Be prepared to do a ton of work all by yourself (and be prepared to lie)
Getting a website; maintaining an e-mail list-serve so your fans know when your next show is; finding independent distribution for your albums; keeping a constant tour schedule: It's simply Things Your Band Needs To Do 101. But if you really want to get attention, be creative.
Ken Chiodini, the Four Shames (formerly of The Hate Bombs: "[The Hate Bombs] started our own record label to look more legit. Record labels think, 'If someone put you out, there must be something to you.' We wanted to generate enough interest so someone would put our records out for us."
Mike Cortes, The Spitvalves: "We'd call up places and make up fake booking-agency names. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't. But it was better than just saying, 'We're in The Spitvalves.'"
No. 4: Play some more showsLocal club owners who know out-of-town club owners and out-of-town bands looking to trade shows can help you set up out-of-town gigs. And if the boss at your non-rocking day job won't give you time off to tour, threaten to write your first hit single about what an ass he is.
Jason Ross, Seven Mary Three: "Quit your bitching and hit the road. Beg for gigs."
No. 5: Get a manager and a lawyer, and make sure they know what they're doing
Find people who manage bands that are similar to yours. Then get your stuff into their hands (or the hands of one of their bands). Or just look for someone who wants success more than you do. Just don't do a thing without getting a lawyer.
Jeff Nolan, Double First Cousins (formerly of I Love You): "If you can scrape up the money to pay a good entertainment lawyer a retainer, as opposed to a percentage of your deal, the amount of money you save is tens of thousands. And that's money you put in your pocket."
A. Nicole Weaver, attorney who has worked for BMG and Sony: "Artists save money to make demos and promote themselves. They should also save money to hire an attorney."
Ross: "Every young band has one friend who wants to be 'the manager.' That's the guy who goes out there and makes it happen."
Steve Robertson, A&R rep for Atlantic Records (and former program director for WJRR-FM 101.1): "Just don't settle for your buddy you smoke bowls with because you want to be cool with them."
No. 6: Play some more shows (but not too many more)
Playing six shows per week in different areas is what pros do. Playing six shows per week in the same area is what amateurs do.
Robertson: "Don't over-saturate. You want [your shows] to be special, so [don't play] more than once a month in your market. But don't pass up a good show, like opening up for a national act."
No. 7: Make sure your publishing is yours (in other words, this is the one place you don't want to sell out)
Whether or not you sell any CDs, every time one of your songs gets played (whether it's on the radio or in a bar), you get paid ... just because you wrote the song. What's even better, if your publishing agent helps you hit the goldmine of television commercials ... well, then it won't matter if you never sell a CD. Just make sure to keep a firm grip on all your publishing rights.
Brendan Wood, a.k.a. Beef Wellington: "Publishing, publishing, publishing. It's my understanding that this is where the money is at. As long as your publishing is straight, you get checks to your mailbox. And a free newsletter!"
Nolan: "If you luck out and have a hit and you're publishing's sold, you're going to cry when you start to see the royalty checks as opposed to your buddy who had a hit and didn't sell and is driving a new car and you still got that broken down Pinto."
No. 8: Sign a deal (but read it first)
What do they call artists who don't retian a lawyer before signing a contract? Broke.
Weaver: "I had to negotiate ... a separation agreement with a label for a band that signed the most despicable contract I have ever laid eyes on. The band was so excited to see that any label had interest in their music that they failed to thoroughly read [the contract] and attempt to negotiate a decent deal. They simply signed the first draft of the label contract. Moral of the story: It is better to spend less money to keep yourself out of trouble than more money to get yourself out of trouble."
Vaughan Rhea, VonRay: "After signing to Elektra I must admit I was preparing myself for an arsenal of change suggestions. I was pleasantly surprised when it didn't happen. They did not like the fact that no one at the label (or anywhere else, for that fact) couldn't pronounce the name VonRa at first glance. That spurred on the only change of any caliber. A good writer allows everything around him to influence him, as well as the music."
No. 9: Keep it together long enough to get famous
Hey, remember that band that was super-talented, worked really hard, had a contract and almost made it -- except the lead singer blew his advance on heroin and died before recording a note?
You don't? Wonder why?
Nolan: "Watch the fucking drugs. I can't stress that enough. Don't romanticize being a fucking drug addict, 'cause it's easy to do in this world. When you first start doing it, it's fun and it's creative and it's fucking bohemian ... but in a very short amount of time, it does the exact opposite. You find yourself not playing as much, not writing as much ... and being two hours late for a gig while you were waiting to score."
No. 10: Do it 'cause you love it, 'cause it might take a while
Bands that get signed after their first soundcheck don't get any indie cred anyway.
Matt Bloodwell, Precious: "It's a matter of enjoying what you're doing and enjoying playing. As musicians, you really don't have a choice. It's a part of you. I've been playing drums since I was 7 years old, and I've been playing in clubs since I was 18. It's a matter of persistence. Dammit, I hope so."