Band Primer 2011

The following are articles written for the column ‘Band Primer’ for FOURTH COAST ENTERTAINMENT MAGAZINE.

-Feel free to leave your questions / comments-thanks!

    DECEMBER 2011-BEING A 1 PERSON BAND-PART 3-GUITARISTS

-Last month I started going into specifics in regards to being a “1 man (or woman BTW…) band”-which I started 2 months ago. Last month I focused on singers. This month I’ll tackle guitarists.

-In many ways, the guitarist without a band has the opposite problems of the singer. Most guitarists know how to write music (at least the guitar parts)-and/or write riffs (and no, just because you can come up w/ riffs doesn’t mean you can write songs per say) but draw a blank when it comes to writing lyrics and/ or vocal melodies. Learning how to do this is a good step in making you more than just “a guitar player.” The more you can do-and do well-the more valuable you become.

-One thing to note w/ guitarists-many have to learn how to “reign” things in a little bit. What do I mean? Many guitarists-especially in the jazz and/or hard rock/heavy metal field- seem to just play to impress other players. That’s nice and it has it’s place.If that’s what you want to do, fine. Realize though that just showing off one’s virtuosity can at times be very limiting in terms of who wants to hear it and / or which place is going to let you perform like that. In addition, how do you think the rest of the band will feel if you keep going into 5 minute (or longer) guitar solos-or solo anytime there’s an open space in a song? You might end up on stage just playing along to backing tracks like a karaoke player. Don’t forsake your technique though. There will be times when excessive playing will be needed for a situation (maybe in a studio session the producers wants a totally rippin’ guitar solo or a guitar clinic that showcases that type of playing).

-I would suggest guitarists 1st work on their singing. If the most you achieved is becoming a good backing vocalist, that still puts you further along the pack-plus you can get some possible recording gigs just doing b.vocals. Of course-solo acoustic gigs now open up as well. Then work on songwriting-where you learn that all the instruments have their place and it’s best to have everyone “pick their shots” instead of one person blowing their load constantly in an attempt to impress. This will also help when you do co-writing and / or writing for hire.As you progress, having a home studio & writing / recording / releasing your own songs now becomes viable. If your guitar playing is good, teaching others is another possibility. Also-try bass playing. Don’t be fooled though-many guitarists play bass like a low end rhythm guitar. They’re missing the point. While you can do that, playing bass is a whole different animal & approach. And w/ that (plus I’m out of space) we’ll get to bassist next month. Happy Holidays!

    NOVEMBER 2011-BEING A 1 PERSON BAND-PART 2-SINGERS

-Last month I gave a very general overview on how you don’t have to be sitting around waiting if you’re not presently in a full band. There’s many things you can do. Now I’m going to focus on individual roles-starting w/ singers.

-In some ways, the singer’s role in the band is the easiest-in some ways it’s the hardest. The singer does not need to buy any gear outside of a good microphone. Singers don’t even have to lug gear around-although some do help with set up / tear down of the PA at shows.They don’t have to buy strings, pedals. amps, etc. The main concern of a singer is upkeep of their voice so at show time it will do what it’s call upon. For those of you who have been in numerous bands, I’m sure you know that, for some singers, that’s hard enough for them to do. However, many times when a band falls apart a singer who only sings is pretty much helpless until they get into another full band. Many singers I know can write lyrics / vocal melodies but don’t know a thing about how to write parts for the other instruments-so they are stuck until they find someone who can do that for them. It doesn’t have to be like that.

-My 1st suggestion would be to learn to play another instrument-normally a guitar. Even if it’s just chords / playing rhythm. At the very least, you can go out and perform as a solo acoustic act. Learning guitar will also help improve your singing because your vocal now has something to anchor itself to-as long as the guitar is in tune of course. This will also be a big help in making demos if you wish to record stuff. If you have a demo w/ vocals & rhythm guitar on it, you can coordinate w/ a studio to hire the rest of the players and record your song. Now you have something to play to people when they ask what kind of music you do-and it also helps when you are looking to hire people for various things like recordings, live shows, etc. Ideally it would be great to have you’re own recording setup and do this yourself. Yes, that means investing in hardware / software, but many home studios do just this and can record up to broadcast quality. In addition, singers have an advantage w/ this method because they can do one of the hardest things when recording-writing vocal melodies / lyrics & singing them.

-In addition, you can also do many other things. Some of them include getting jobs singing on people’s demos / recordings-whether it’s lead or backing. Getting connected w/ people who do jingles (commercials) on radio/TV/internet is another option. A 3rd can be to write songs for other people to use. If you get good enough w/ this, it’s possible to make a lot of money thru places like TAXI (www.taxi.com). Next month-Guitarists!


    OCTOBER 2011-BEING A 1 PERSON BAND-PART 1

-We all know it’s tough to be in the music business. Sometimes you can’t get people together just to jam let alone form a unit. And what if you’ve been in your scene for a long time, gone thru most of the players there, and can’t get into a band for whatever reason? What do you do? Many people just sit on their butts & just complain-turning bitter in the process. Many others quit. But there is another way. While you can-and should-keep working on improving your skills, you can also be a 1 person band-so to speak.

-What does that mean? Basically, you know how to play more than 1 instrument-and not just enough to get by either. This is the 1st step in not being chained to the notion that you have to have a unit of different people to be a band. There are many examples of 1 person bands. Nine Inch Nails is one of the most famous examples. Lenny Kravitz plays all the instruments when he records new CDs (save for some guests he invites-but he basically does it all himself), and there are more…

-Now, before I go any further-yes, there are limitations to this. The most obvious one is live performance. Unless you are doing a solo acoustic guitar act, it is hard to perform as just 1 person. Not impossible though-there are people out there who are doing it. Just Google it to find out. But my main point with all this is that you don’t have to sit around waiting to be in a unit again before doing something productive.

-Case in point:CAROLINE BLUE-my band-has had only 1 permanent member since April 2010-and that’s me. If other people are needed for live performance, I enlist from the pool of musicians that I know. While not as busy as a full band would / should be, CB has released new music & videos since 4/2010. And I still promote the band too-exposing new people to the music I even manage-from time to time-to get CB into the movie projects I’m involved in. When it comes to recording, my close friend Mike Merrifield (Joey Belladonna Solo Band) usually records the drums. I do the rest. I might also bring in some guest musicians for stuff like backing vocals but it’s mainly me. Videos I either use musicians or sometimes even actors that I know. Sometimes I don’t even need to show a “band” in them at all-such as in our video “Stay” (Paid The Electric Bill Mix). I’m not saying all this to brag about what I do, but to prove the point that just cause you can’t find a band to be in doesn’t mean that you can’t still be productive in some way. While it’s great to be able to just focus on one instrument & have a steady band-things change. It’s better to be prepared for those changes then to be caught blind sided (like I was years ago) when you find yourself without a band.

    -NO BAND PRIMER ARTICLES FOR AUGUST & SEPTEMBER 2011-
    JULY 2011-YOU TUBE-PART 2

-Last month I started talking about You Tube and how that, if you don’t have your band on this network, you should do so right away. Most people have a basic idea of how to use You Tube but for those who are new to it, here’s some tips to help you out.

-When starting your You Tube page, you first need to have a Gmail account. To my knowledge, there is no exception to this. When creating the name of your page, it’s best to use your band’s name. If you are a solo performer, use that. If it is taken, add something to make it stand out. For example, my band-Caroline Blue-had already been taken so I named the page CarolineBlueOfficial.

-Then you are led to a control panel where you can, to a degree,customize your page. For those who know how to do HTML programming, you can use this but I would suggest keeping it simple. The last thing you need is for someone to go on your page and then have, for example, no one able to read the text on it cause you decided to layer a multicolored picture as your wall paper and the text color doesn’t stand out.

-Then you upload your videos. I would suggest either having your most recent or most popular video on the main screen. If the most recent, make sure your most popular videos are listed in your “uploaded” column. There’s also a “favorites” area where you can list thumbnails of videos of your band from other pages-if they exist. Fill in all the basics like band bio,location,etc.

-You’ll notice 2 different areas-one for your “Friends” and one for your “Subscribers.” There is also an area that shows who you have subscribed to. With “Friends” it’s similar to My Space. You go to a page and click on “Add Friend” and if they accept, you have added to your count. While it’s nice to have a large friend count, it doesn’t mean you have that many people actively checking you out. “Subscribers” are those who click on your “Subscribe” button so they are notified when you have new videos, send out bulletins, etc. Don’t go all “My Space” with this though. Sending out 20 updates/bulletins in 20 minutes is annoying wherever it happens & being deleted is only a click away.One thing to note-You Tube only allows you to try to “add” about 10 people per hour so if you go that route, realize it’s slow & steady that helps to increase your count. More next month!


    JUNE 2011-YOU TUBE-PART 1

-Back in the day, bands having music videos seemed like a dream, a luxury. They were usually paid for by the record companies-because, back then, they were the only ones who could afford the price tag of making one. How things have changed….

-Today, you can use your cell phone or camcorder (web cam?) & record live performance, interviews-even simple concept videos. You can also do more complex concept videos requiring more advanced software but even some lower end editing software can do a lot. So you make a video-next step is to show it. But where? Well, you could host it on your own site right? Not bad-but bandwidth usage costs from personal sites can add up. That’s when you go to the “free” sites-the most popular of which is You Tube.

-If you haven’t started to put videos of your band / music up on You Tube-I would suggest doing so ASAP. You want to reach as many people as possible and this is potentially how to do it.

-At the very least, there are 2 types of videos to put up. One is live performance video. Usually from a single source-this allows people who can’t make it to your shows to have the next best thing. Plus it allows them to watch it in the comfort of their own home. In addition,they can watch it again (& again) if they like it. Better-they can leave comments (although sometimes that’s not better, per say, cause you can get some really ugly comments as well). Then, after doing this, not only can you send out links to your page / videos, but you can get an embed code for the videos themselves and put that on your website-so now when people watch it, they’re using You Tube’s bandwidth-not yours. Whether it’s links and / or embedding, you can potentially promo your music anywhere that allows it via this method.

-The 2nd kind of video is for those who have audio recordings of their music. While it could be live tracks, it’s better to have studio tracks-the best that you can make. By using either a single picture (like a CD cover) or a slide show of different pics, you can sync your music to those images and-there you go-you have a video. This is good to have for people who may be interested in downloading your music and want to hear a studio version of it before doing so.

-Next month I’ll get more into You Tube like how to set up a page & more tips on how to make You Tube work for you.

-Also-I apologize for “BAND PRIMER” not being in last month’s issue. I got tied up with too many things and when I got the time to write, the deadline had already passes. I’ll work harder to make sure that doesn’t happen again. See you next month!

    -NO BAND PRIMER ARTICLE FOR MAY 2011-
    APRIL 2011-FACEBOOK-PART 1

-I believe it’s safe to say that the majority of the general public now has a Facebook page. More & more bands are leaving My Space & creating band pages on Facebook. If your band hasn’t-what are you waiting for? 🙂 However, running a Facebook fan page is not the same as running a My Space music page.

-1st you have to create a personal page on Facebook. That could be from a band member or someone the band knows & trusts (like a manager). Then you can create a “Fan Page.” So you get your basics set up & start friend requesting everyone in sight a la My Space right?

-Nope-it’s a little different on Facebook. On My Space, it was expected to have dozens & dozens of bands directly friend request you-even on a daily basis. On Facebook you can’t do that. In order to get people to add your band page, you have to use your personal page & utilize what’s called friend suggesting. You go to the band page & click on “suggest to friends”. A window opens w/ a thumbnail of all your friends in it. Click on the thumbnail-it turns a touch gray-& when you’re done clicking on all the thumbnails you hit “send.” This will send a message to all your friends marked saying that you are suggesting that they “like” your band. You can also ask people on your friend’s list to go to your band page & hit “suggest to friends” & have them do what I just described above-a great thing to have your street team do.

-Of course, you don’t want to do this too often. We can all relate to the band that sends out the same updates every 5-10 minutes and / or constantly hounds you to “like” their page / song / video / whatever. The thing is, Facebook was not made for musicians-it was made for Joe Public to network on. So,if you try hard sell tactics on people here, not only will they be resistant (for the most part), but they will either delete you or-worse-block you. When blocked, it’s like you no longer exist in their eyes. There’s no way to communicate w/ someone via Facebook who has blocked you-even if you’re both on the same thread. Neither of you will see the others posts. Pages can also get deleted if there are too many reports of harassment so be careful. Years ago I used to send out a lot of friend suggestions to people I saw who didn’t “like” CAROLINE BLUE and, for the most, some of those people just deleted me. Now I 1st do it when I get a new friend added. Then I make an announcement every January that I will be sending out another friend suggestion but it’s only once per year. You could probably get away with every 3-4 months-but that’s just me.

-More next month! BTW-this is now my 2nd year writing for 4th Coast. Go me! 🙂

    MARCH 2011-REVERBNATION-THE SOCIAL NETWORK FOR MUSICIANS

-The last few months I’ve been talking about the pros & cons of using MY Space-which used to be THE place to go for not only discover new music / bands but also all your social networking needs. The later is now with Facebook-with more & more people migrating to there daily. Worse, many bands are also leaving for a multitude of reasons. There are other sites a band can sign up for to help expose their music-but the one that I’ve seen come closest to classic My Space-and even surpass it in some areas-is Reverbnation.

-Sign up on Reverbnation is free & similar to My Space in many ways. People can leave comments / messages, you can have pics, a blog, music videos and a flash player for your songs-with a limit up to 8 MB. You can upgrade to Mega Song Storage for a yearly fee, but 8 MB is more than enough for most bands.

-So if it’s like My Space, why join Reverbnation? There are a number of reasons. With Reverbnation you can manage your mailing list-which can also be tied into a street team feature-without having to go to an outside service like Yahoo or Gmail. The also a feature where you can even message all your friends on My Space. The stats feature ties into almost everything you do on Reverbnation-which gives you a lot of info to work with. You can open a store here & sell merch, albums,downloads-even ringtones-all made up on your page (none of that Snocap stuff). There’s even a section where you can add your press clips.

-One thing you can’t do (that I know of) is to just add people at whim like you can on My Space.You can either post links from your Twitter / Facebook / My Space etc. asking people to join or send messages directly to listeners (yes-it’s not only just for bands) asking them to become a fan.

-Of course, you can’t discuss Reverbnation without discussing one of their best features-widgets. They were doing Widgets way before they became trendy. You can post them on other sites, blogs, bulletins, all over. It’s not just a simple player either-you can have mailing list sign ups, music videos, free downloads, your store and more in these widgets. Course, for the more advanced feature you need to sign up for “Pro” which costs a little but it’s not much-especially for what you get for it. Reverbnation also allows you to make an Electronic Press Kit (a la Sonicbids) as well as many other extra such as helping you build your own website, digital distribution, links to insurance quotes & much more

-While there are many social networking sites out there, Reverbnation is specifically made for those in the music business. It is what I call “Classic My Space (for bands) on steroids”. Check it out at http://www.reverbnation.com/ (and no, I’m not getting paid to do promo for them-HA!).

    FEBRUARY 2011-Thoughts on the “New & Improved” My Space

-My last few articles have been discussing the pros & cons of bands using My Space. Last month the “new & improved” My Space debuted & everyone had to adopt it-whether they liked it or not! The work done here was to at least get My Space back in the social network race with Facebook-ideally to equal or topple them. How did they do? Let’s see….

The Pros-it’s easier to add people. Just hover the mouse over any thumbnail-a window opens-click add friend-done. The music player now holds up to 100 songs & you have 2 folders-1 for all music & 1 for public. That’s good if you want to rotate songs-much better than having a limit of 10 songs. They also have Fanreach-which, I believe, is tied in with Reverbnation- the templates & operation are similar. I’m sure I’m overlooking more but that’s because of 1 of the cons. Speaking of which…

The Cons-one of the gripes people had w/ My Space was the amount of viruses that seem to float around. So then why add Flash-known to make it easier for viruses to flow? Most books on website programming/promoting say to use Flash sparingly-guess My Space didn’t get the memo. Now, doing things on My Space has slowed down considerably. Ideally, a site should be easy to navigate & quick to use. Not here. The text is smaller too & stuff is all over the place.

-Of course, this means it takes longer to read / post comments too.If you want to leave a comment, you have to get rid of the “Post a Comment…” text. Then you can post right? Nope-the “Post” button hasn’t appeared yet. So type your thing & click it when it appears right? Nope. Once the “Post” button appears, any text in the comment box is erased-fun times!

-The Stats are off too. Add 50 new people-your friend count will stay the same for awhile.You can link up you Facebook, Twitter & You Tube stats here-supposedly I guess. I tried to do that &, 10 minutes later, it was STILL trying to complete the task.

-I haven’t tried the video section but did look into the pics. You have more options but one that I can’t find is moving pics within an album. It used to be there. Plus the menus here are more Flash which means-you guessed it-going slower.

-I could go on but I have a word limit ya know 🙂 Although many people are deleting their pages, I would say to bands don’t delete your band page. They can still be of use-just not as your main site. Many bands have done-and still continue-to do this. You’re own website should be your main site & all the rest-My Space, Facebook, Reverbnation,etc.-should just be branches to the tree so to speak.

-NO FOURTH COAST ISSUE FOR JANUARY-

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